By RANDY ROCHELLE
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 30, 2001
On recent trips grouper bite has been a little off, but snapper has been red hot. Next time you're heading offshore try one of the wrecks in 90-140 feet of water. You can find a few listed on a local fishing map sold at tackle shops and marine stores.
Anchor up-current and put out a block of chum. To catch yellowtail snapper, cut up some small pieces of squid, shrimp, sardines or other frozen bait. Use a 1/0 live bait hook tied to a 3-foot length of 20-pound leader. Tie the leader directly to the main line using a double surgeon's knot. Fifteen-pound spinning gear works best. Hook a small piece of bait and let it drift back with the chum. Let the bait float back as naturally as you can. When the line starts to peel off the spool, close the bail and start reeling. If the currents are running a little strong you might need to add a couple of split shot weights to the line to help pull the bait down faster.
For mangrove snapper use chunks of frozen bait or, better yet, live white bait. Tie a 1/0 to 2/0 hook onto 4 feet of 30- to 40-pound leader. Tie on a No. 5 swivel to the leader and mainline with a 1- to 2-ounce slip sinker. Drop the bait until the sinker is on the bottom. If the bite is slow, put a weight in a separate chum bag, attach a string to it and lower within a few feet of the bottom.
Once you hook a snapper, it's important to get it to the boat quickly; amberjack, goliath grouper (jewfish) and 'cudas will make a quick meal of your snapper before you can.
- Randy Rochelle runs Islander Charters in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 528-1213 or by e-mail at Islandercharters@ij.net.