St. Pete Report By: Capt. Anthony Corcella

Summertime Snapper

It’s summertime, and that means it’s hot out! It’s hot for us and hot for the fish. Good thing there is an easy answer to the heat–fish at night. The Summer months mean nighttime snapper fishing is at its peak. These tasty mangrove snapper will feed ravenously during the night at the local piers, bridges, passes and Bay rock piles. While these wiley snapper are known for their keen eyesight, at night they let down their guard and feed like crazy.

Top baits include live or cut shrimp, live or cut small pinfish, live or cut small whitebait and other cut baits like bonita or threadfin. Most of the cut baits can be fished on a ¼ ounce jig or, a ¼ ounce knocker rig with a 2/0 circle hook. Fish the live baits on a slider rig with a ¼ ounce slip lead above four feet of 20 to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. You might get more bites on the 20-pound but might also be kicking yourself when you get broken off by a keeper grouper, cobia or an over slot release snook that hunt the same areas as the snapper. If by chance a goliath grabs your snapper, it doesn’t matter either way.

The best tide is incoming, carrying the cleaner water.  That doesn’t mean you can’t catch snapper on the outgoing tide. The bite is strongest around the full moon, but again, any moving tide will produce fish.

While the boating angler has more opportunities at bigger fish, land-based fishermen can catch their limits at most local piers or rock lined bridge approaches. The Skyway area is famous for land-based snapper. The lesser-known Bay rock piles will produce some spectacular fish–many five pound plus fish are caught weekly. Even the public fishing spots will produce a fine dinner’s worth of fish.

Bay snapper tackle and set-ups are the same as for trout, reds or snook. Use 7.5-foot 6 to 12 or 8 to 17-pound class rods, 15 to 20-pound braid on 3000 to 4000 size reels and, 20 to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader. 2/0 to 4/0 hooks and ¼ to 1-ounce leads (Skyway will need the heavier end) and a ¼ ounce bighead.

Snapper are notorious bait stealers. For the first timers, go with cut bait like pinfish or bonita. These baits will stay on the hook longer. Live bait can be king, so always bring as much of a variety as you can.