Summer Time Snapper Bounce
Hopping around from spot to spot or wreck to wreck is how I deal with the coming summertime snapper fishing. Current is key but it doesn’t have to be smoking just as long as movement is going on.
I’ll start off looking at productive areas in 65 to 85 feet of water along the reef. If there is current normally I’ll mark concentrations of snapper on my bottom machine. It seems to me that (daytime) summertime snapper lose interest pretty quickly about hanging out in the upper water column for long.
Now the small fish (juveniles) will stay around all day for free goodies but the mature ones not so much.
Forget the normal chum bag and go with one of the metal cages with 20ft of line on it. The snapper will stay longer and feed more aggressively 15 to 20ft down than in the hot water on the surface.
Use of light jigs or a conventional fish finder rig with a light wire circle hook and whatever fresh bait you have will get the bites. I think of summertime reef fishing like small patch reefs and don’t stay in one spot long. If the bite slows down pull anchor and move on to another spot. Hitting multiple areas in one day allows you to learn a lot about which areas produce with certain current conditions.
Note what the tide is doing when setting up. With the Gulf Stream 30 miles south all summer the current on the reef in the lower Keys can get pretty stagnate. When this happens unless you are close to a large gap or channel ie; Boca Grande or Key West Harbor to the west or Bahia Honda to the east, it can seem that zero current is the norm. These huge channels have an awful lot of water that moves through them as the entire Gulf of Mexico tries to get through these gaps in land mass, the affects to the fishing on the reef to the south of them is easy to read. The myriad of smaller channels between these locations which is more typical of the keys simply don’t have such a large amount of water moving through them and are a little harder to see the affects 5 miles south of them on the reef but it does. I prefer to fish a large falling tide but that’s not always possible. If scheduling a trip permits I try to catch an early morning falling tide.
Between the cooler water and some water movement the snapper activity should be better than in the mid-day sun - both me and the snapper will be looking for cooler places to be at noon.
It is easy to read when the mangrove snapper spawn is going to start. As I clean fish at my home marina I note the numbers of mangroves that take care of all the fish scraps, their numbers seems to dwindle to the point that no fish over 10 inches remains. They are all gone, it doesn’t take long but they are gone.
They all have headed to the reef or deeper patch reefs to make babies.
The same grey snapper that won’t eat and ignore every bait with the lightest rigging in the canals and channels are now ravenous. Once in large concentrations they will eat, in fact fight over every offering on heavy leader offered. Give your chum time to do its job before targeting the larger models, 5 pounds or better, with a palm sized pinfish or grunt. I find this bait the best simply because it will make it past the smaller fish. These bigger fish won’t normally be visible so getting the bait fairly close to the bottom will get their attention. Don’t forget to be mobile as the larger fish will smarten up and lose interest fairly quickly.
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