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These snapper can take the heat

By RICK FRAZIER
Published September 3, 2006


It's surprising to hear anglers talk about putting away their equipment during the heat of summer. Talk of fish not biting because the water is too warm has always been puzzling as extreme conditions don't affect all fish. More anglers, it seems, are affected by the heat than the fish.

Species such as mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and sharks are very active during these warm periods and eager to bite your hook, providing you're willing to put the time in.

Mangrove snapper can be found around seawalls laden with rip-rap or rocks. Locate the ones with rocky walls next to deep water. Check one of the many bridges that span the waterways. The rocky seawall that runs around the land where the bridge starts is the place to fish.

These inshore snapper aren't as large as their gulf counterparts and most of the catches will be a pound or less. What they lack in size they make up in numbers. Mangies are a schooling fish. When you find them, they're abundant.

Some of the better live baits for snapper are small threadfin herring greenbacks, scaled sardines (whitebait), pinfish, Spanish sardines and shrimp. Cut bait doesn't seem to draw the same excitement, but frozen minnows - not shrimp - will do the trick too.

A light bottom rig or a free-line rig with a No. 1 or 1/0 hook is all that is needed to catch snapper. Make sure the leader is fluorocarbon because snapper are wily and leader-shy, especially if the water is clear.

There is a bag limit of five snapper per person per day, with a minimum length of 10 inches. As of July 1, the total length measurement is from the most forward point of the head, with the mouth closed, to the farthest point of the tail, with the tail compressed or squeezed while on its side. For more information go to myfwc.com.

For line-pulling, drag-screaming action, try sharks. They are inshore everywhere, especially small bonnethead and blacktips.

Find schools of baitfish and these sharks aren't far away. Bridges, piers, docks and seawalls are your safest and best bet.

When using whitebait, sardines or greenbacks, corked rigs are superior to free-lining. Sharks are opportunistic, they're looking for the one bait that is the easiest to catch. The cork or float will keep the minnow from swimming deep and escaping the strike zone.

Add a short piece of No. 2 wire to a long-shank 1/0 hook on your rig when chasing sharks. The wire will aid in preventing cutoffs and tail-whipping. Tail-whipping occurs when the shark turns quickly and the line brushes up against the rough skin or tail, causing the line to chaff and ultimately break.

State law allows the harvest of one shark per person per day when not in a boat. There is no size limit on bonnethead or blacktip sharks.

Spanish mackerel are abundant and can be caught from the Gandy Bridge to the Fort De Soto piers.

Silver spoons or bright flashy plugs are all that is needed (a piece of No. 1 wire leader too, unless you don't mind losing fish). Some anglers believe that a piece of 30-pound monofilament leader is all that is needed. That's fine for a 1- to 2-pound fish hooked shallow. But what happens when that 4-pounder swallows your spoon? Well, you've just lost that $4 spoon because its teeth did a number on the mono leader.

Be careful when harvesting Spanish mackerel. Schools of juvenile king mackerel are mixed in. Some will not have the recognizable lateral line mature kings have. But, juvenile kingfish have brown spots; Spanish macks have orangish-yellow spots. Spanish have blue-green back; kings have an olive color back. And if you're still not sure, Spanish have a tall black dorsal fin; kings have a short, almost transparent dorsal.

Macks have a generous bag limit of 15 per person per day with a 12-inch minimum length. Mackerel are measured from the tip of the jaw or tip of the snout with closed mouth to the center of the fork in the tail.

Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376. If you've had a great day fishing from land and want to share it with readers, contact the lubberline at (727) 893-8775 or e-mail captainrick@luckydawg.com