The answer here in Southwest Florida is quite simple…… Mangrove Snapper!
Although Mangrove Snapper are generally a small fish, they rank right up at the top of the list for white, sweet, flaky meat. Fried, baked, or broiled, mangrove snapper ranks as one of the most delicious species.
Mangrove snappers are typically found in and around the root structures of Mangrove trees or other near-shore structure. They generally patrol these structures looking for food, using the labyrinth of roots or dock pilings as protection from larger predators. They are typically grayish to coppery red. Some have a dark stripe running across their head and eye like a blindfold.
It’s no wonder mangrove snapper is one of the favorite species to catch locally for all who love fishing. They’re not the biggest fish in near-shore waters, but don’t try to convince a mangrove snapper of that. Despite their modest size, these feisty little fish bring a big-time attitude that translates into loads of light tackle fun. As far as keeping them locally, they need to be at least 10 inches long, and you have a daily limit of five per person.
They are called snappers for good reason. Keep your fingers away from their mouth…they have very sharp teeth and are very willing to use them. The upper jaw of a mangrove snapper has two canine-like teeth that are used to tear into their food. Once caught, their jaws will lock down hard on a hook. As the hook is being removed they snap their jaws open and shut with great force, often catching a careless angler by surprise.
The easiest way to catch them is using shrimp. Sometimes a half of a shrimp works better than a whole one. Their nature is to ambush and grab their meal, and run away from the other hungry Snapper before another one can steal it. Because of this behavior, it’s best to let them run for a couple of seconds before trying to reel them in so that they have time to get it down the hatch!
Get yourself a light spinning rod and reel, some small 2/0 hooks, and a pail of live shrimp, and give them a try. You will have a blast!
Captain Pete Rapps offers expert guided light tackle near shore and backwater fishing trips for anyone from beginner to seasoned pro. His trips and tours begin from Chokoloskee Island, which is just south of Naples and Marco Island in the Everglades National Park. Visit www.CaptainRapps.com for full details about charters, Captain Rapps’ Seasonings, recipes, and cooking videos on cooking local fish, along with Captain Rapps’ availability calendar.