If you’re interested in fishing for mangrove snappers in Southern Florida, I can tell you that the Boca Coast, that fishing paradise stretching along the complex shore between Sarasota down to Fort Myers, is the best place to try your luck.
But “luck” is hardly the word, really, when pursuing mangrove snappers in this vicinity. The Boca Coast has one of the highest concentrations of this fish species in the world, and if you know where to look and how to bait them, a good day’s catch is extremely likely, even for a novice.
About Mangrove Snappers
Before pursuing your quarry, you want to have at least a basic understanding about them. The first thing to know is that mangrove snappers are among the most delicious fish you can catch in the Gulf. Their flesh is flaky and light and tastes incredible whether baked, broiled, pan fried, or deep fat fried.
The fish can grow up to 35 inches long, and the record-setting weight is 44 pounds. But most snappers are 16 inches or shorter, which is still a very sizable fish and enough to give you a great fight reeling one in.
You will find mangrove snappers in almost every habitat along the coast, from canal to grassy flats to wide open water. Deep-water snappers can live as far down as 590 feet on the ocean floor, but luckily for anglers, they can also be found as shallow as five feet.
Where Is the Best Mangrove Snapper Fishing?
As an experienced fishing guide in the Boca Coast region, I am constantly taking tourists with an itch to fish out in search of Mangrove Snappers. I focus on inshore fishing, which is what this region is mostly known for, rather than fishing deep in the open water. This allows use of a smaller boat and less cumbersome tackle.
In my experience, the best mangrove snapper fishing takes place in such locales as the island-village of Matlacha, off the large, southerly Sanibel Island, in Estero Bay, and in the long delta of the Caloosahatchee River by Fort Myers. Of course, there are other hot spots, too many to list.
Fishing Strategies for Mangrove Snappers
My first advice is to try fishing the mangroves first. At high tide, you can get up close to the mangroves on the right side of an island or along certain shorelines. There will be sudden drop offs, sometimes, from a couple feet to six or eight feet or more. Unsurprisingly, “mangrove” snappers do congregate in and around the mangroves, and you can easily catch them at eight to 14 inches long for hours on end.
When skimming along the mangroves, I move slow and quiet, and stay attentive. I am looking for any movement in the water that might be caused by a school of mangrove snappers. Often, you can spot their movements from under the mangroves. Then anchor the boat a bit back and cast upstream so your line drifts slowly into position.
As to bait, these fish are not too picky. They will strike at a great variety of baits. That said, a still-live shrimp on an otherwise empty hook is probably the best bait. Frozen shrimp, minnows, and even squid are also very good choices. A red-and-white jig and certain lures can work well too if given lots of movement on the way back to the boat.
If you want to see some action inshore with mangrove snappers, I can accommodate you in grand style. Besides the use of my boat and fishing tips, the main advantage I bring you is the detailed knowledge of the best locations and strategies for fishing each spot. If you find yourself touring the Boca Coast and want to experience its famed inshore fishing in pursuit of mangrove snapper, be sure to book a trip with me!