Mangrove Snapper Fishing in Florida

Mangrove Snapper Fishing in Florida, a Complete Guide

Many anglers enjoy mangrove snapper fishing in Florida. Mangrove snapper are a very popular and highly desired fish species. They put up a great fight, especially on light tackle. Mangrove snapper are abundant and found throughout the entire state of Florida. Large boats and fancy equipment are not required to catch them. Finally, they are terrific eating! Many anglers consider mangrove snapper the finest eating fish and saltwater. They are also known as “gray” snapper and “mangs” for short.

Florida gray snapper

One of the keys to the popularity of mangrove snapper is their availability. Mangrove snapper are found in just about every saltwater environment along the entire coast line of the state. Snapper will be caught on the flats along mangrove shorelines, bars, and over grass flats. Structure such as bridges, docks, seawalls, artificial reefs, and natural rock ledges will also hold plenty of these tasty saltwater pan fish. Anglers can find current Florida snapper fishing Regulations on the FWC website.

Top Florida mangrove snapper baits

While mangrove snapper can be taken on artificial lures, the vast majority of fish are caught by anglers using natural bait, either live, fresh cut, or frozen. The list of baits that are effective for snapper fishing is long. Mangrove snapper have a varied diet, which is one of the keys to their success and abundance. They will feed on just about any type of crustacean or bait fish that they find.

mangrove snapper fishing in Forida

The number one bait for anglers fishing inshore is shrimp. Anglers are successful when pursuing mangrove snapper using both live or frozen shrimp. Depending on the circumstances, both can be equally effective. Live shrimp work best when fishing for snapper on the flats. A naturally swimming shrimp free lined on a hook will seldom be refused. Both live and frozen shrimp works fine when bottom fishing around structure.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

More mangrove snapper baits

Live bait fish are also a very effective bait and often times will catch larger fish. Small shiny fish such as scaled sardines, Spanish sardines, and threadfin herring work very well. Anglers often use these species to chum snapper into range as well. Small pin fish, grunts, and finger mullet will also catch plenty of fish. Larger pin fish and mullet are often too big for most mangrove snapper, which average a foot or so. However, these larger baits can be cut up into strips or chunks and are a top mangrove snapper bait.

chumming with live bait

Frozen bait is used successfully from mangrove snapper fishing in Florida as well. Top frozen baits include squid, shrimp, mullet, and any other baitfish that is common to the area being fished. Frozen Spanish sardines are the top frozen bait for anglers fishing deeper water offshore. Squid is a very effective inshore mangrove snapper bait. Many anglers find the convenience of using frozen bait to be a big advantage.

mangrove snapper fishing in Florida

Catching mangrove snapper with lures

While the vast majority of mangrove snapper are caught by anglers fishing with live or frozen bait, they will take artificial lures. Many an angler casting a shallow diving jerk baits such as a Rapala X-Rap or Yozuri Crystal Minnow for snook and redfish has been surprised by a feisty mangrove snapper which devoured the bait. Small plugs which mimic the size of the available forage such as finger mullet and scaled sardines work best.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Jigs are another lure that will fool the wary mangrove snapper. Inshore anglers do best with soft plastic baits on a light jig head. Scented baits such as the Gulp line of baits are particularly effective. Offshore anglers use heavy bucktail jigs often tipped with bait or special flutter jigs to catch snapper and deep water.

Mangrove snapper fishing in Florida, rigs and tackle

 

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

Most anglers mangrove snapper fishing in Florida use tackle that they already have. The same inshore spinning rods that are well suited for speckled trout and redfish will do fine when fishing for snapper. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium action spinning rod. With a 3000 series reel and spooled up with 10 pound monofilament or braided line works great. The same applies to offshore; medium-sized spinning tackle and light conventional tackle work well in deeper water around heavier structure.

gray snapper fishing

When it comes to terminal gear when mangrove snapper fishing in Florida, less is definitely more. This is especially true when fishing in clear water. A 2 foot fluorocarbon leader is generally used, with 20 pound test being a good place to start. A #1 live bait hook or a #2/0 circle hook will do well in most snapper fishing applications. If the bite is slow or fish are seen that won’t take, anglers will often times have to lighten up the leader and maybe drop down on the hook size.

Florida mangrove snapper rigs

There are several rigs that have proven to be very effective when bottom fishing for mangrove snapper and other species. These include a free line rig, high/low rig, Carolina rig, and knocker rig. These four rigs will cover just about every snapper fishing situation and each has its conditions where it performs well.

Mangrove snapper

Free line rig

The free line rig is the most simple and basic of all rigs. It basically consists of a hook that is tied onto the end of the leader. The hook is then baited with a live or cut bait and then cast or free lined back out behind the boat towards the structure. A split shot or two may be required if current is present to get the bait down into the strike zone. This is a very effective rig when fishing structure and flats in shallow water.

bottom fishing rigs

High/low rig

The high/low or “chicken rig” as it is known by some locals is an excellent choice when bottom fishing for mangrove snapper using a vertical presentation. The multiple hook suspend the bait at several different depths. This can help determine which depth the fish are feeding at. It works well when fishing from an anchored or drifting boat as well as from peers and bridges.

Carolina rig

The Carolina rig, also known as a sliding sinker rig, is an excellent all round choice for just about any snapper fishing application. An egg sinker is threaded onto the running line followed by a swivel. A leader is tied onto the swivel, then the hook is tied onto the other end of the leader.

fishing for snapper

The beauty of this rig is that the snapper can pick up the bait and move off a bit without feeling any resistance from the weight. Also, while the sinker sits on the bottom, the bait will swing seductively and naturally in the current. This presents a very natural presentation that fish find difficult to resist.

Knocker rig

The knocker rig is similar to the Carolina rig, with one exception. With the knocker rig, the sinker is installed on the leader just above the hook. Then, once the hook is tied onto the leader, the sinker actually rests right on the eye of the hook. This is an excellent choice when fishing rocks and other structure where hangups are common. The sinker will actually slide up the line and then back down, knocking the hook loose.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Another advantage of this rig is that the angler knows when the sinker is on the bottom, the bait is on the bottom as well. There are times when it is desired to keep the bait right on the bottom in a specific spot as opposed to with a Carolina rig, where it is allowed to swing with the current.

Mangrove snapper locations and Techniques

Mangrove snapper can be found in just about any Florida saltwater environment. Anglers will find them in a foot of water on the shallow grass flats as well as out in the open ocean or Gulf of Mexico in very deep water. Structure is the key when it comes to locating mangrove snapper. This structure takes many forms, however.

Snapper on the flats

Mangrove snapper get their name for their affinity for mangrove shorelines. This is a terrific environment which attracts just about every inshore saltwater species, including mangrove snapper. Mangrove roots offer protection and forage. The best sections of a mangrove shoreline to fish are those with slightly deeper water. Even a depth change of a foot or two can make a significant difference in an otherwise very shallow area.

Both sandbars and oyster bars will hold mangrove snapper on the flats as well. In the Florida Keys, these are called “banks” in our prime snapper fishing areas. Once again, slightly deeper water and a depth changes the key. Bars tend to be shallow on one side that drop off sharply on the other. The deeper edge of the bar is generally the spot that will hold fish.

Mangrove snapper will also school up over the open grass flats. Grass is the key to life on the flats in Florida as it holds a wide variety of forage. Mangrove snapper will often find a slightly deeper depression, also known as a pothole, to gang up in and wait in ambush.

Catching mangrove snapper on the flats

Mangrove snapper fishing in Florida is fairly straightforward. For the most part, it consists of positioning the angler, whether in a boat or from land, up current of the structure that is to be fished. Then, the bait is cast or floated back towards the structure with the current. This results in a very lifelike presentation.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

In most instances, live bait produces better than frozen bait fishing for snapper on the flats. They can tend to be spooky, especially in clear water. Live shrimp are a top bait, as are small bait fish such as pilchards, sardines, finger mullet, and silver dollar sized pinfish and grunts. However, this does not mean that mangrove snapper cannot be caught using frozen or cut bait on the flats.

Free lining the bait is an excellent option when possible. As in all fishing, the less weight required to get the bait down into the strike zone, the better. Again to stress the point that in shallow, clear water, snapper can be spooky. Lighter leaders, smaller hooks and less weight and terminal tackle will usually result in more success.

Fishing for mangrove snapper in passes and inlets

Passes and inlets are great spots to target mangrove snapper. These areas have good current flow and normally and abundance of structure. This combination results in a hot spot for mangrove snapper and other bottom species.

Sarasaota mangrove snapper fishing

Most Florida inlets and passes have residential docks which will hold snapper. These can range from being in a couple of feet of water to over 20 feet deep. Bridges are also very good man made structures that hold a lot of fish. Many inlets and passes have long rock jetties as well. These are fish magnets! Mangrove snapper are just one of the many bottom fish that will hold in the structure.

Tips for fishing passes and inlets

Boat positioning is crucial when it comes to fishing for mangrove snapper and passes and inlets. In most instances, anglers are fishing from an anchored boat. Drifting can be effective, however it often results in snagging lines. It is best to fish passes and inlets during periods of low title flow. Fishing can be very difficult and even downright dangerous when the current is running strong. This is particularly true during periods of heavy boat traffic.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

The best approach is almost always to anchor up current of the structure to be fished. This is true whether it is a bridge, or pier, dock, submerged a ledge, or a rock jetty. Anglers will need to experiment with the right amount of weight that will be required. Generally speaking, using just enough weight to hold bottom is ideal.

Several rigs can be used when snapper fishing in passes and inlets. If the water is shallow and current is slack, anglers can free line a bait. However, most often the Carolina rig or knocker rig will work best. Just about any bait can be used in the spots to catch fish. Successful anglers bring several baits and experiment to see what the snapper prefer that day.

More inshore snapper fishing spots

Anglers mangrove snapper fishing in Florida will find these tasty and hard fighting fish just about anywhere there is structure. Bridges, seawalls, artificial reefs, submerged rocky ledges, wrecks, docks and piers are some of the more popular places to find mangrove snapper inshore.

Many of the techniques used when fishing passes and inlets relate to fishing inshore structure as well. Current will dictate where on the structure the fish will locate and how the baits should be presented to them. Once again, boat positioning is crucial to success.

Mangrove snapper fishing without a boat

While boats are convenient, many anglers do quite well mangrove snapper fishing in Florida without one. There are countless places were anglers can fish from shore and do well. All that is really required as a little bit of depth in some type of structure. Jetties at inlets and passes usually offer public access to these excellent fishing spots.

Docks are excellent spots as well, as long as the angler has permission to use them. Bridges are another excellent spot to access some good mangrove snapper fishing. However, laws and restrictions vary in safety can be a concern. This is especially true when fishing at night.

Wading the grass flats is also an option when it comes to mangrove snapper fishing without a boat. The best spots are usually where there is a depth change, a pothole, or some type of structure including docks and rocks.

Mangrove snapper fishing offshore

Many anglers mangrove snapper fishing in Florida choose to do so offshore. And for good reason! While inshore snapper fishing offers good action and fun fishing, anglers seeking trophy mangrove snapper will do best to head out to the deeper water. Mangrove snapper are found in the offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico on just about every type of structure unimaginable.

Offshore bottom fishing in Sarasota

 

Artificial reefs and wrecks are great place for anglers without a set of bottom numbers to begin their mangrove snapper fishing. The spots to get a lot of pressure, however, as the locations are publicly posted. Anglers who go light on the gear will lose some fish to the structure but will also usually catch more fish.

Successful anglers take the time to find their own unique bottom fishing spots. Mangrove snapper relate well to smaller breaks and hard natural bottom. The spots can be a bit more difficult to locate on the bottom machine. However, once some of the spots are located, anglers can have productive snapper fishing spots for many years to come. Once a ledge or area of rocky bottom is located, anglers should search in that general area as often times more of these types of spots can be located.

Snapper movements

Mangrove snapper will also migrate closer to shore and then further offshore, depending on the season and location. If fishing is slow at a proven spot, it is best to change depth when moving to the next spot as opposed to a lateral move to a different spot in the same depth. This will more quickly determine the depth that the fish are holding at that particular day. Generally speaking, the fish move offshore when it is hot or cold and are closer to shore when water temperature is moderate

Just as when fishing inshore, boat positioning is crucial when it comes to bottom fishing offshore. It can also be a bit more complicated in deeper water as wind and tides will affect the position of the boat. Experience is a great teacher! Once again, the general rule is to position the boat up current of the spot to be fished.

Best baits for offshore snapper

While live shrimp can certainly produce for anglers mangrove snapper fishing offshore, bait fish and cut bait are more often used. Larger snapper tend to be caught on live bait fish and chunks of bait. Also, these baits tend to be hardier and stay on the hook longer. Shrimp can attract pesky bait-stealers.

Texas flounder fishing

Frozen Spanish sardines are a very popular bait for anglers bottom fishing offshore. Anglers fishing for snapper generally cut a sardine into three or four pieces. However, anglers targeting trophy fish can cut the tail off and lower down a whole sardine. Is important to thaw out frozen sardines and other frozen bait and saltwater. Thawing frozen bait in freshwater will result in the bait getting mushy.

Many anglers catch their bait on the way out to and offshore fishing spot. Live bait often produces best. Tossing a cast net in the shallows and catching several hundred scaled sardines or threadfin herring will give anglers both fishing bait and chum. Ballyhoo can be caught in a cast net as well as with very small hooks. Sibiki rigs are used around channel markers and hard bottom to catch bait fish as well.

Chumming is a productive technique when fishing for mangrove snapper

Chumming is a very productive technique used by many successful mangrove snapper anglers. It can be as simple as dicing up a few shrimp and tossing them out behind the boat to get fish in the mood to feed. Both inshore and offshore anglers use live bait as chum to excite and attract fish. Frozen chum is very popular as well.

Frozen chum is usually in the form of some type of oily fish that is ground up and frozen. It is then placed in a mesh bag and as it thaws the chum is dispersed throughout the area behind the boat. This type of chumming is most often done offshore and is extremely effective in lowering mangrove snapper and other species to the boat.

Inshore and offshore anglers anglers often chum with live bait fish. This is a bit of a specialized technique that requires a cast net, the ability to throw it, and large recirculating live well. However, the effort is often worth it as this is an exceedingly effective technique for mangrove snapper and just about every other saltwater species. Handfuls of live bait fish tossed out behind the boat, often times crippled before hand, will usually draw fish behind the boat if there in the area.

Snapper bite at night!

Fishing for snapper can be extremely effective at night as well. In fact, many experienced anglers schedule their offshore snapper fishing trips during the full moon’s in summer. This results in a very unique type of fishing trip. Along with being quite productive, anglers escape the heat and sun of the midday hours.

Anglers mangrove snapper fishing in Florida in the inshore waters have known for a long time that snapper feed at night. Lighted bridges and docks can be very productive. The same basic boat positioning, rigging, and fishing techniques that apply during the daytime will produce at night as well.

In conclusion, this article on mangrove snapper fishing in Florida will help anglers catch more of these tasty and hard fighting saltwater fish!

Flounder fishing in Florida, an Angler’s Guide

Flounder fishing in Florida, an angler’s guide

Flounder are a very popular inshore game fish. Anglers flounder fishing in Florida enjoy both the battle and some delicious fillets!

Flounder are the perfect bottom dwelling ambush predator. They are the most numerous species in the flatfish family, which includes fluke, halibut, soul, and turbot. Flounder lie on their sides in the sand, often times buried with only their eyes looking up. Any bait fish, shrimp, or other prey that comes within range can be instantly devoured.

flounder fishing in Florida

Most anglers flounder fishing in Florida will catch the southern Gulf flounder. These are easily identified by the three black spots on the back in a triangular shape. Southern golf flounder are similar to flounder found throughout the world, they just prefer the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico and southern Atlantic Ocean.

North Florida offers great flounder fishing

While southern Gulf flounder are found throughout the entire state of Florida, the northern half of the state does seem to offer better flounder fishing. This is largely due to cooler water which the flounder prefer along with ideal conditions. Title creeks and rivers in Northeast Florida are ideal flounder habitat.

Fishing for flounder

Flounder have an interesting life. They are born like most fish and swim vertically with an eye on each side of their body. As a mature, flounder start swimming on their side and the eye that was on the bottom migrates around so that both eyes are now on the top of the fish. It then spends the rest of its life swimming on its side, with both eyes looking up.

Flounder habits

While flounder do prefer to bury themselves in the sand and lion ambush, they are also structure oriented. This sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but it really isn’t. Typical structure that Florida anglers fish on a daily basis will hold flounder. These include bridges, rock jetties, docks, oyster bars, rocky ledges, and artificial reefs. The only difference is that flounder will often stage right on the outside edge of these structures were sand is available.

Texas fishing tips

Flounder are opportunistic leaders. They prefer live forage including bait fish and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. The most effective baits are live minnows and shrimp along with artificial lures that mimic this forage.

Flounder tackle and rigs

Anglers flounder fishing in Florida did not purchase any special tackle. The same light to medium action spinning tackle and light bait casting tackle that is used for other forms of inshore fishing will work fine. A 7 foot medium action spinning rod paired with a 3000-4000 series reel is a fine all round combination. Light conventional tackle is a great choice when drifting and strong currents or went fishing around heavy structure.

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Many anglers choose to use braided line due to its sensitivity and zero stretch qualities. However, monofilament line is fine as well, it really just is a personal choice. With both lines, a leader is required. A 2 foot long piece of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader is a good all-around choice. The leader can be attached using a knot such as a blood knot or double Uni Knot or by simply using a number 10 black swivel. The hook or lure can then be attached to the end of the leader.

Anglers can read a detailed post on the best flounder and fluke fishing tackle in the link to the article.

Flounder fishing rigs

Anglers flounder fishing in Florida will do well with a couple simple rigs. Flounder fishing does not need to be complicated. Flounder are caught in Florida by anglers using both live bait and artificial lures. The number one artificial lure by far is a jig as it can be worked on or close to the bottom where flounder feed.

bottom fishing rigs

Split shot rig

The simplest flounder fishing rig is the basic split shot rig. A # 1/0 live bait hook or a # 3/0 circle hook is tied onto the end of the leader. Split shot is used to get the bait down to the bottom. Obviously, this rig is best used in shallow water or in mid depths with very little current. The required weight can be easily adjusted as it is a simple matter to add or remove split shot as required.

Knocker rig

The knocker rig is a very effective rig for anglers flounder fishing in Florida. A sliding egg sinker is threaded onto the end of the leader. The hook is then tied on. The sinker will slide down and ride right on top of the eye of the hook. This looks a lot like what bass anglers call “Texas rigging” when fishing with plastic worms.

bottom fishing

This rig has several advantages. If the hook snags, the sliding weight can help dislodge the hook, knocking it off of the snag. This is how the rig gets its name. It is very quick and easy to tie into chains weight. Finally, with this rig anglers can be sure that when the weight is on the bottom the bait will be as well.

Sliding sinker/Carolina rig

The sliding sinker rig, also known as a Carolina rig, is a very popular and versatile all round bottom fishing rig. With this rig, the sinker is threaded on ahead of the swivel. The leader is then tied onto the other end of the swivel, followed by the hook. Anglers often times make this leader a bit longer than normal, up to 4 feet long.

Sarasota flounder

 

The beauty of this rig is that when a fish picks up the bait, it will not feel the resistance of the weight. Also, with the longer the leader the bait tends to flutter up and move around, making it more naturally appearing. Anglers will even sometimes at a small float a foot above the hook to lift the bait up.

Spreader rig or High/low rig

The spreader rig, also known as a high/low rig is most often used when fishing for other bottom fish. However, it can be effective for flounder as well. This is especially true when flounder are active and feeding a tad off the bottom.

3 Way rig

fishing for river catfish

The 3 way rig is an excellent choice for anglers drift fishing for flounder. It consists of a three-way swivel which is tied to the terminal line. A short dropper is added to the second ring of the swivel which then has the weight tied on. Anglers fishing in areas with a lot of snags often use lighter line so that if the weight does snag the rest of the rig can be saved. A 2 foot to 4 foot leader followed by the hook is tied onto the third ring of the swivel.

Flounder fishing with artificial lures

While most anglers associate flounder with live or cut bait, many a Florida flounder has fallen victim to a well presented jig. Jigs are by far the most effective artificial lore for anglers flounder fishing in Florida. The reason is quite simple; the jig can be worked right on or near the bottom, which is the strike zone in which flounder feed.

Sarasota bottom fishing

Both buck tail jigs and soft plastic grub’s on a jig head are extremely effective on flounder, and just about every other inshore saltwater species. In fact, many flounder are caught by anglers pursuing redfish, speckled trout, and other species on the flats. A white buck tail jig is incredibly effective, particularly when -tipped with a small strip of cut bait or a small piece of fresh shrimp.

Soft plastic grubs on a jig head are very effective as well. A 3 inch to 4 inch shad tail or a shrimp tail bait on a 1/4 ounce jig head is an excellent all round flounder fishing lure. Scented soft plastic baits such as the Gulp line of baits work very well, especially when the bite is a little tough.

Flounder fishing techniques

Many anglers catch flounder while fishing for other species. However anglers who specifically fish for flounder do change their tactics just a bit. The key difference is understanding how flounder relate to structure and cover. Like most fish species, flounder will generally stage on the up tide side of cover or structure.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

As stated earlier, they will generally be in that transition zone where the structure changes from a rocky bottom to a sandy one. This is true on the open grass flats as well. Flounder will most often be found in Sandy potholes as well as on bars where the grass transitions to a sandy bottom.

Bottom fishing for flounder with live and cut bait

Most flounder are landed by anglers fishing with either live or cut bait on the bottom. This is fairly simple fishing, yet very effective. Anglers working a specific piece of structure most often anchor. The best technique is to anchor up current of the structure to be fished. This allows the bait to be floated back naturally to where the fish should be holding.

As with all bottom fishing, the best approach is to use the minimum amount of weight required to reach bottom. If the bait actually moves or drifts a little bit with the current, so much the better. This just results in a more natural presentation. However, anglers do need to be wary of hanging up if the bait drifts too much.

Light tackle bottom fishing tips

The amount of weight required can vary from just a couple of split shot for anglers fishing a dock in shallow water with little current to several ounces when fishing a bridge or other deep structure in swift tides. The sliding sinker rig and knocker rig are good choices when bottom fishing for flounder in deeper water.

Anglers can also choose to drift fish for flounder. This is an extremely effective method when flounder are scattered over a large area. Generally speaking, the best areas for this type of flounder fishing are sandy flats between 5 feet deep up to 20 feet deep. Patches of grass or hard bottom will increase the odds of success. The three-way rig works best as it offers a natural presentation it allows anglers to quickly and easily change weights to match the conditions.

Flounder lures; jigs are best

Flounder fishing with artificial lures is actually fairly similar to those using live or cut baits. Most anglers pursuing flounder with lures do so while drifting as opposed to anchoring. This allows them to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. Anglers drifting deeper flats or working structure such as bridges will do well vertically fishing, bouncing the jig off the bottom as the boat drifts along.

Those flounder fishing in Florida in shallower waters will do well by casting their jigs out. Anglers can use a trolling motor to work a row of docks or a shoreline while casting the jig out to likely fish holding spots. Jigs are also effective when cast out in front of the drifting boat on the open grass flats. Depressions, pot holes, and edges of bars are prime spots.

Top flounder baits

Flounder are opportunistic feeders and can be taken on a variety of natural forage. Small bait fish or minnows are top choices. These can include finger mullet, but minnows, threadfin herring, scaled sardines, as well as small pin fish and grunts. In many cases, anglers will have to catch their own live bait fish, though there are some shops that sell them.

Live shrimp are a top natural bait for flounder and just about every other saltwater species. One benefit to live shrimp is that they are available year-round at just about every bait and tackle shop. Anglers fishing with live shrimp will have to be prepared for the myriad of other species that will intercept a shrimp meant for a flounder. However, this is not a terrible problem to have!

Cut bait can be extremely effective when flounder fish and as well, particularly off the surf and in deeper areas with a bit of current. A strip of cut bait will move seductively in the current while also emitting sent which will attract the flounder. Just about any legal fish can be cut up and used as bait. The white belly sections are often best. Frozen squid is a top flounder bait and is readily available. The best approach is to use a strip of bait 3 inches to 5 inches long and and inch or so wide that tapers to a point.

Best spots when flounder fishing in Florida

While southern Gulf flounder are found throughout the entire state of Florida, the northern half of the state does seem to offer better flounder fishing. This is largely due to cooler water which the flounder prefer along with ideal conditions. Title creeks and rivers in Northeast Florida are ideal flounder habitat. Expansive shallow water flats in both the Gulf of Mexico and inshore bays provide the perfect place for flounder to flourish.

Tidal creeks

Tidal creeks are outstanding spots to search for flounder and other species. Northeast Florida is well-known for these types of creeks and rivers. Tides are extreme in this area! However, title creeks can produce flounder throughout the state and all year long, with the exception of very warm periods.

The best time to fish for flounder in title creeks is on a high, outgoing tide. On the high tide, flounder and other game fish will move up on the flats to feed. As the tide turns to go out, fish will stage at the mouse of feeder creeks and drains and ambush prey as it washes out with the current.

Both live bait and jigs work well in this situation. Most anglers drift with the current in search of fish. Once a decent concentration of flounder is located, anglers can anchor and work the area thoroughly. It is important to be careful on these outgoing tides so that the boat is not left high and dry. Extreme tides in Northeast Florida can vary as much as 10 feet in a six-hour.

Docks

There are untold numbers of docks in the state of Florida. Docks can be found in backwater canals, passes and inlets, and on flats. Anglers can choose to anchor up current of a dock and pitch live or cut baits back to it. Another effective approach is to cast jigs or live baits while working a row of docks with the trolling motor. This method will help anglers eliminate unproductive water more quickly.

Bridges

Bridges are flounder magnets! They generally have all of the ingredients required to hold fish. Often times, the water is deeper and the tides are swifter and areas were bridges are built. Abundant structure from the pilings and reinforcing rubble below offers perfect fish holding habitat.

Anglers can drift bridges while working jigs or natural baits on or near the bottom. Many anglers also prefer to anchor up current of bridge pilings and float natural baits back with the current. Both of these methods can be quite effective. Those who decide to anchor need to make sure that they are doing so legally, staying out of the main channel and knot tying up to the bridge pilings themselves.

Inlets and passes

Many flounder are caught by anglers fishing inlets and passes. Pass is just another term for an inlet that is used on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Inlets are natural fish highways that connect the open waters of the golf and the ocean with the in land bays. They are natural spots for flounder to congregate and feed.

Many inlets have rock jetties extending along the mouth of the inlet. While anglers fishing these areas will inevitably snag quite often, it is often worth the effort as these are prime fish holding locations. Fishing at periods of low current such as the turn of the tide will help reduce snags. Docks and bridges are often found in inlets and passes as well. Anglers can also drift the open pass or inlet. However, this is discouraged during periods of heavy boat traffic. Also, anglers should never try to anchor in an inlet or pass when strong currents or heavy boat traffic is present!

Flats

Many a flounder has been caught by anglers fishing the flats in Florida. Oyster bars are prime spots to catch a flounder, particularly where they drop off into slightly deeper water. Depressions in grass flats can hold flounder as well. Sand bars that drop off into grass in deeper water are prime spots, particularly on a high outgoing tide.

Anglers can do well catching flounder using live bait on the flats. However, this is a situation that is made for artificial lures. Anglers casting jigs can cover a lot of water and thoroughly work the prime spots. The best approach when using live bait is to free line a live shrimp or bait fish using a small split shot if required.

Flounder for dinner!

While flounder are fun to catch, they are prized just as much or more for their value on the dinner plate. Flounder are considered one of the best eating fish on the planet. They are a very mild fish with white flesh and are quite delicate. Most recipes go light on the spices and breading in order for the taste of the flounder to come through. Flounder can be baked, broiled, or fried. They are not the greatest candidate for grilling due to their delicate nature.

However, flounder are a bit difficult to clean. This is due to their unusual shape. The best approach when cleaning a flounder is to lay it down and make the first cut right along the backbone that goes down the center of the fish. The fillet knife is then worked along the bones from the inside working out towards the edges of the fish. Many anglers make the mistake of discarding the flounder after removing the top fillets. This is a mistake as the underside, or white side, of the flounder has plenty of meat as well. Anglers can find current Florida flounder fishing regulations on the FWC site.

In conclusion, this article on flounder fishing in Florida will help anglers catch more of these hard fighting an incredibly tasty bottom dwellers! It is a favorite species on fishing charters!

Tarpon Fishing in Florida, an Anglers Guide

Tarpon Fishing in Florida, an Anglers Guide

Many saltwater anglers consider tarpon to be the ultimate challenge. Anglers tarpon fishing in Florida relish the opportunity to sight cast to tarpon that average 75 pounds and go up as high as 200 pounds. Tarpon are available to anglers along the entire Florida coastline. However, there are some areas that are well known to produce tarpon. Also, while tackle, rigging, and techniques are similar, each area has subtle variations that anglers use to be successful.

tarpon fishing in Florida

Tarpon can not tolerate cold water. They spend their winters in the mild waters of the Florida Keys and the Caribbean. As it warms up, fish will migrate north along both coasts of Florida. On the east cost, tarpon can be found as far north as North Carolina. On the west coast, fish will be found along the entire Gulf Coast.

Tarpon fishing tackle

Many anglers opt for spinning tackle when fishing for tarpon in Florida. There are several reasons for this. Surprisingly, tarpon often feed on smaller baits such as live shrimp and crabs. These do not weigh very much and spinning tackle allows anglers to get the bait out a reasonable distance. The same principle applies to anglers casting lighter artificial lures towards rolling tarpon as well.

tarpon fishing in Florida

7 foot to 8 foot heavy spinning rods with a fast action are the best choice when fishing for tarpon in Florida. The soft tip allows for those lighter baits to be cast out, while the stout butt section gives anglers the power they need to fight a huge fish. The rod is paired with a matching real, usually and the 6000 to 8000 size. Most anglers opt for braided line in the 50 pound range as it allows for longer casts and more capacity on the spool.


Conventional tackle for tarpon

Conventional tackle can also be used as well. Anglers use conventional tackle when fishing for tarpon in Florida in a couple of different circumstances. Vertical presentations are used in passes and inlets, no casting is required as the bait or lure is lowered straight to the bottom. Conventional rods are also a good choice when fishing live or large cut baits from either an anchored or drifting boat.

Many saltwater anglers already own a conventional outfit that it will be fine for targeting tarpon. As was spinning rods, longer rods in the 7 foot to 8 foot range with a fast action work best. Reels are generally spooled up with 50 pound braided line.

Fly fishing for tarpon is extremely popular as well, particularly in the Florida Keys. The shallow, clear water and abundance of tarpon make it a prime spot to target these trophy fish. However, they are difficult to hook and land! 12Wt outfits with a floating or intermediate sink tip line work best.

Tarpon fishing techniques

There are several productive techniques for anglers tarpon fishing in Florida. These include bridge fishing, beach fishing, inlet and pass fishing, and Flats fishing. While many of the baits, lures, flies, and tackle can be used wherever tarpon are found, each type of fishing does have different techniques that are proven to be successful.

Beach tarpon fishing

Tarpon fishing can be incredibly exciting! Standing on the bow the boat with your finger on the line in the bail open while waiting for the tarpon the surface can be nerve-racking. Then, the fish surface and the crab is tossed out just ahead of the school. The line gets tight, the fish leaps up out of the water, and it is fish on! However, there can be hours and hours in between when this happens.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Beach tarpon fishing is not for everyone. It is as much fish hunting as it is fishing. Anglers get out on the beach just before first light. They sit patiently, 100 yards or so offshore. Then everybody just looks. Schools of tarpon can be seen moving through the area. They can also be seen milling or “daisy chaining”on the surface.

Once the tarpon are sighted, the guide must determine the best approach in stock the fish. Using an electric trolling motor, the boat is eased into casting range. There is a lot that goes into this. The guide must determine the direction the fish are moving in the speed at which their doing so. Also, the interval between their surfacing is a huge component.

When everything goes right, the boat will be in a position where when the fish surface the anglers can get baits in front of the fish. The optimum opportunity would be a very slow moving school that is just easing along and staying up near the surface. This will allow the guide to put the boat in the proper position, resulting in an easy cast for the angler.

 

Tarpon fishing hooking techniques

Tarpon bites can be surprisingly subtle, given the size of the fish. This is particularly true when casting to milling fish. Often times, the slightest tick or bump is all that will be felt. It is actually a lot like largemouth bass taking a plastic worm. The bite is easier to feel with fish that are moving as normally the line just gets tight and moves off to the side.

We don’t set the hook when of tarpon takes the bait. This is difficult for many anglers to not do. The technique when employee when a tarpon takes the bait is to keep the rod tip low and just real as fast as possible. Once a line gets tight and the fish is taking drag, the rod tip is raised.

Sarasota fishing excursion

Now comes the hard part! There is a saying, “bow to the Silver King”. When the tarpon jumps in the line is tight it will often throw the hook. So, the angler must be ready, and as soon as the fish clears the water he or she takes the rod tip and points it right at the fish. This will result in the fish jumping on a slack line. This is something that only comes with experience.

Florida beach tarpon fishing tackle

Spinning tackle is used on the majority of tarpon fishing trips when fishing the beaches. The reason for this is the need to make a cast. It is simply difficult to cast a 3 inch crab or small bait fish using heavy can conventional tackle. These spinning outfits are quite beefy, though.

7 foot to 8 foot spinning rods mass with 6000 series and larger reels are the preferred outfits. Reels need to have smooth drags, large handles, and substantial line capacity. If there are any weak spots in the tackle, tarpon will find them. These fish put an incredible strain on the line, knots, and tackle, so it all needs to be in tip top shape.

tarpon fishing in Florida

Terminal rigging varies by preference as every angler has their favorite. The first choice is whether to use braided line or monofilament line. Most anglers have now switch to braided line. Braided line can last all season and not twist up like monofilament line. It is also thinner, resulting in longer casts. However, it does not have the stretch, which can sometimes be a good thing with a tarpon on.

A leader of some sort is used when Sarasota tarpon fishing. When using monofilament line, I like to double about 6 feet of the running line using a spider hitch. Then, I attach a 30 inch piece of 80 pound fluorocarbon leader and a hook. No weight is used, with the exception of times when the crabs are really small. A pinch on weight may be required in this circumstance.

Rigging for tarpon fishing

Just like everything, hook choices vary depending on opinion. Tarpon are large, in a large hook is required. However, just like in all fishing, it is best to match the hook to the size of the bait and not the size of the fish being pursued. A #4/0 octopus live bait hook is a good all-around choice. Many anglers prefer circle hooks, in which case a #8/0 works well.

I still prefer the use of the conventional “J” hooks when tarpon fishing. I have not seen my hookup ratio chains with the use of circle hooks. Also, circle hooks are much meatier and sometimes putting one through a crab will kill it. Circle hooks are great choice when fishing larger live baits or cut bait on the bottom.

Anglers using braided line will need a longer leader, generally 6 to 8 foot. They can then attach the leader to the braided line using a double Uni knot or knot of choice. Since there is very little stretch when using braided line, the drag setting is critical. If it is a bit too tight, the line will break almost immediately.

Conventional tackle can be used for beach tarpon

Not all anglers use spinning outfits, however. Some guides in anglers prefer to anchor and put a spread of baits out behind the boat. These anglers normally choose to use conventional tackle as there really is no need to make long cast with light baits.

While it is not quite as exciting as stalking the fish, it has several advantages. Several lines can be placed out at once, some on the bottom and other suspended under floats. This obviously ups the chances for a bite. Also, the heavier tackle allows the angler to put more pressure on the fish, subduing it in a shorter amount of time. This is better for both the fish and the angler.

There are several different approaches when using this technique. Some guides in anglers just choose a spot, anchor up, and sit there all morning. Others will employee the same site fishing method mentioned above. However, they try to get way ahead of the fish and anchor. They then deploy the spread and wait for the fish to come to them.

Beach tarpon fishing baits

Anglers can use live and cut bait using this approach. Some anglers go to the trouble of catching a lot of bait. They keep some of the bait alive, but most of it will be used is chum. Then, once anchored up they put a couple live baits out and a couple chunks of the dead fresh bait on the bottom. Then, a lot of the bait is cut up in the small pieces and tossed out into the water as chum to attract the tarpon and get them in a mood to feed.

A 3 inch blue crab is undoubtedly the top tarpon bait in Sarasota. These little critters are in high demand in May and June and can cost up to five dollars a piece. However, they cast very well, and live a long time. Most importantly, tarpon love them. The hook is carefully inserted near one of the tips of the crab.

Live bait fish account for many anglers Sarasota tarpon fishing. The number one live bait fish is probably a threadfin herring. These, along with cigar minnows, pin fish, and blue runners are caught using a Sikibi rig while out on the beach searching for tarpon. Live bait fish can be either free lined or fished under a cork. Corked bait fish are a great option when the fish are not showing on the surface very well.

Most of the fish will be moving from north to south. This is especially true early in the year. After the full moon in June, more fish will be seen heading northbound. It seems as if they are heading to the mouth of Tampa Bay to feed.

Beach tarpon fishing etiquette

Tarpon fishing is very competitive. Unfortunately, there can be confrontations out there. There are some rules of etiquette that most of us follow. Some anglers don’t know these or can get caught up in the heat of the moment as it is very exciting. Here are a few rules that we all try to follow.

  1. there is a slot that the fish usually swim in, from 100 feet out from the beach to about a half a mile from the beach. Whenever possible, try not to run at high speed on plane in this area. This is especially true early in the morning. Boats running over top of the fish will put them down and they won’t show or eat.
  2. Most fish will be moving from north to south. If you see fish coming in there are no boats between you and the fish, just sit there and let the fish come to you. This usually works better than charging up on them.
  3. If another boat or boats is working a school, give them room. It is okay to stay where you are and if the fish come to you take a shot. But don’t drive in on a school that other anglers are working. The exception to this is when they waive you in.
  4. Some anglers choose to fly fish for tarpon. This is very difficult as they need to get fairly close and need the right kind of fish. Give anglers flyfishing a school a very wide berth or better yet leave them alone to work the school.
  5. Do not cast your line over top of tarpon that are moving away from you. This never works, all it does a spook the fish. If they get past you, give them time to put some distance between you and the boat. Then, idle around in front of them giving them a wide berth and set up again.
  6. Once a tarpon is hooked, try to get it out of the school as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is difficult. But, the quicker the the fish can be pulled out of the school, the better chance anglers down the beach have of hooking a fish.

Bridge Fishing for Florida Tarpon

Bridges are tarpon magnets. Strong tides create a swift current and boats anchor near the bridge and float live mullet and other live bait back behind the boat. This is actually a fairly relaxing way to fish and really does not require great skill on the part of the angler.

When a giant tarpon takes a bait, it is game on! Often times the guide will have a quick release clip from the anchor line. This will allow the boat to chase the fish, increasing the odds that it is landed. Many times the tarpon will head under the bridge and will be successful and breaking off on the heavy structure. This is just part of the game. Once the fish either escapes or is landed, the boat is idled back to the anchor ball and the process repeated.

Anglers tarpon fishing in Florida around bridges also do very well at night. Tarpon will tend to congregate in the shadow line that the lights from the bridge create. Both fly anglers and spin fisherman will be successful casting flies, live baits, and artificial lures around bridge pilings, fender systems, and in the shadow lines.

Fishing in passes and inlets

This type of fishing is not for the faint of heart! Local tarpon anglers, especially some of the guides, will be quick to let you know that you are in their way. There are a lot of boats in a small area and it can get crazy when multiple fish are hooked at once. Novice anglers will do best to sit back a bit and watch and see how the other boats interact before jumping into the fray.

Anglers use both live bait and artificial lures when tarpon fishing in inlets and passes. The top lure is a jig with a grub tail. These get down deep where tarpon are located. Current can be swift and often heavy jigs are required. Many anglers use break-away jigs where the weight comes off when a tarpon eats it. This is safer and results in more fish being landed.

Top live baits include crabs, large shrimp, and whatever bait fish is available in the area being fished. Crabs and shrimp will produce either free lined near the surface with the current as well as fished deep. Bait fish are normally fished near the bottom. Once again, the rig is set up so that the weight breaks free.

Hill Tides

There is a neat bite that happens occasionally, called “Hill tides”. These are strong afternoon outgoing tides that occur several times a month. A small purplish crab called a “pass crab” gets caught up in the strong current. Tarpon feet heavily on these crabs as they are easy prey.

The technique is fairly simple. Anglers use a debt net and scoop up a dozen crabs or two for bait. Then, either look for feeding fish or just set up a drift and free line the baits out behind the boat. When the bite is on, the fishing can be incredible. Anglers do need to be careful of the afternoon thunderstorms. This is big open water and it can get nasty quickly.  Current Florida tarpon fishing regulations can be found HERE.

Tarpon fishing on the flats

Pursuing tarpon on the flats is both challenging and rewarding. Hours of staring into empty water will be required to get a high percentage shot. Tarpon on the flats will often string out, swimming head to tail in a line. This makes a good presentation more difficult as the cast needs to be perfect.

Tarpon will move in defined paths at times. Top spots are edges of flats, channels, bridge lines, and deep shorelines. Tides will certainly influence these movements and only experience will provide this knowledge.

Top Florida tarpon fishing spots

Tarpon can be caught along the entire coast line of Florida. However, there are areas that are more productive than others. Florida will be broken down into areas and each section covered separately. While many of the tactics that are effective on tarpon will produce throughout the entire state, each region does have some subtle differences in techniques and tactics.

Tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys

When anglers think about tarpon fishing in Florida, the Florida Keys often comes to mind. This is perfect habitat for the Silver King! Flats around the shoreline of both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastline. It is a common sight to see an angler perched on the bow waiting for an opportunity while the fishing guide stands on the polling platform to put the boat into proper position.

This type of fishing is as much hunting as it is fishing. Patience is definitely required! There will be plenty of days when conditions are less than ideal and fish are difficult to spot. Also, there will be days when the fish either aren’t there or just won’t eat. These are the reasons that anglers consider it both a challenging and rewarding style of fishing. Most often fish are seen in small bunches known as pods that range from a half dozen fish to 30 or so. However, single fish will be spotted as well as huge schools at times.

Both fly anglers and spin fishing anglers achieve success when targeting tarpon on the flats in the Florida Keys. Seldom is conventional tackle used as long casts are normally required. Fly selection varies with each guide or angler having his or her favorite patterns. Anglers spin fishing generally use large hand picked shrimp or live crabs, though small bait fish can be used as well.

Tarpon fishing in the Ten Thousand Islands

The Ten Thousand Islands are a very unique place. It is similar to the Florida Keys and that there are countless square miles of shallow flats that will hold tarpon. However, the water is not nearly as clear. This is due to the flow of freshwater from the Everglades. This water is tannin stained and looks a bit like coffee or root beer. The result is that tarpon are much more difficult to see here than they are in the keys.

Fortunately for anglers, tarpon have an unusual habit; they often roll on the surface and gulp air. Tarpon are a prehistoric fish species that have an air bladder. This is a result of juvenile fished often times growing and stagnant backwater areas that are devoid of proper oxygen content. When the surface is calm, rolling tarpon are very easy to spot from a long distance.

Once fish are spotted, the lure, bait, or fly is cast out in front of the fish in hopes of a strike. Artificial lures and flies are allowed to sink a moment or two, then are retrieved back using twitches with a pause in between. Live baits are allowed to swim naturally. Most often the fish will be found as single fish loosely grouped in an area.

Larger schools of tarpon will be found out and slightly deeper water off of the outside barrier islands. Anglers fish for them using the beach tactics just as they do throughout the state.

Tarpon fishing Florida’s west coast

Tarpon show up off the west coast beaches in early to mid May. They normally stick around until late July. In the early part of the season, they are usually bunched up in larger schools. This is particularly true as we come up on the full moon. Tarpon school up on the moon and then move offshore to spawn.

By early July these larger schools have broken up. The fish also don’t surface quite as well and there will be a lot of singles and doubles seen. However, these late-season fish bite better than do the early-season larger schools. I suppose it is because they have completed their spawning run and are more focused on feeding.

Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande

Boca Grande is world famous for it’s tarpon fishing. Tarpon school up in huge numbers in the deep holes in Gasparilla Pass. They do so in preparation for spawning, which they do offshore on the full moon. Anglers fish near the bottom using a vertical presentation. Night fishing on outgoing tides offers great fishing with less pressure and cooler temperatures.

Afternoon outgoing tides can be strong. These are known as “Hill Tides” and the action can be fantastic as pass crabs caught in the current flow are helpless prey for the feeding tarpon. Anglers need to heed safety concerns including the strong current and afternoon thunderstorms.

Tampa Bay tarpon fishing

Speaking of Tampa Bay, an interesting fishery has developed over the last few years. Huge schools of tarpon seem to be congregating there at the mouth of Tampa Bay just off of Bean Point. Locals call this “Boca Grande North”in deference to the famous spot about 50 miles south of Sarasota well-known for its tarpon fishing. The fishing is very similar as fish school up in the deep hole, spread out along the beach, and feed on afternoon “Hill tides”.

Homasassa tarpon fishing

Homasassa is a place for fly anglers seeking a record tarpon or fish of a lifetime to try their hand. Be forewarned, these fish are tough! Days may go by without even a decent opportunity. However, those anglers who persist may be rewarded with a trophy fish.

Several factors contribute to this challenging fishing. It is a very large area for one thing. This simply makes finding them more difficult. Tarpon in this area seldom roll, similar to Keys tarpon. The water is clear, but much of the bottom id grass or dark. This makes spotting fish more difficult. Finally, west winds will cause a chop, further making spotting fish tough.

East Coast tarpon fishing

Tarpon migrate north along the east coast of Florida, starting in spring. These are fish that spend winter in the Florida Keys and points south. Typical beach, inlet, and bridge fishing techniques are used successfully. Tarpon will stage in inlets, but not as prominently as on the west coast.

In north Florida near Jacksonville, tarpon are caught by anglers using shrimp by-catch to chum up fish and also used as bait. This is a bit less exciting than sight fishing, but it is a very effective technique.

In conclusion, anglers tarpon fishing in Florida will find this article helpful in catching a silver king!