Most anglers think of fishing offshore when they think of snapper, but some species of snapper can be found in bays and estuaries that are found inshore. Mutton snapper and mangrove snapper are probably the most popular snapper that are found inshore in shallow water.
Many of the structures that are found inshore will hold some mangrove snapper. You can catch these fish around bridges, along mangrove-lined shorelines, around docks and piers and even in the surf. Anglers catch mangrove snapper with a variety of baits. Some of the best baits to use for mangrove snappers are live and dead shrimp, mud minnows, small pinfish, small finger mullet and small crabs.
Mangrove Snapper get their name because these fish can be found all over the mangrove-lined shorelines and islands. Mangrove snapper use the root structures of the mangroves for protection from larger predators and to find an easy meal. The roots of a mangrove tree can be huge. During the high tide, one large mangrove tree can hold dozens of mangrove snapper. The tidal changes before and after a high tide usually offer the best fishing in the mangroves for snapper.
Catching snapper in the mangroves is fairly easy. Most anglers will use a split shot rig, drop shot rig or a bobber. Live shrimp and cut pieces of shrimp work extremely well for snapper. When fishing the mangroves, you can catch almost anything that swims in there on shrimp, so don’t be surprised if you hook up with pinfish, sheepshead, jack crevalle, snook, redfish and sea trout while fishing for snapper. Most of the snapper will be smaller near the mangroves, usually under a pound, but you can catch some nice keeper-sized fish in the 1 to 2 pound range with an occasional big fish.
The inshore bridges are known as being good spots for snapper. Some of the larger bridges will hold good numbers of snapper as well as some big fish in the 5 pound range. Fishing the bridges can be tricky depending on the current, how many other boaters are around and how many anglers are fishing from the bridge above. If you can find a spot, most anglers will anchor to hold their spots near one of the pilings. Mangrove snapper relate to structure, so your best bet is to fish close to the pilings. Live shrimp and pieces of shrimp work well on a bottom rig or tipped on a jig. Snags should be expected, but if you fish with one rod and pay attention to your line, you should be able to keep the snags to a minimum.
The docks can be productive spots for mangrove snapper. The mangroves tend to hold more snapper than the docks will, but you can definitely catch some snapper off of the docks. For kids, the mangrove snapper is a great fish to catch off of the docks. If there are some snapper around the docks that the kids are fishing, the snapper will usually be in schools and they are very aggressive. A small piece of shrimp on a split shot rig will catch plenty of mangrove snapper if these fish are around. Most of the snapper will be under a pound, but they will be bigger than pinfish, which is what most kids usually catch around the docks. An afternoon fishing for mangrove snapper can be a lot of fun for the kids.
For the more serious anglers, if you are fishing with shrimp or live pinfish, you will catch many other types of fish around the docks such as sheepshead, redfish, sea trout and snook, but you may run into an occasional dock that holds some keeper snapper. When you find these docks, consider it an added bonus to dock fishing and remember the docks that produced because they will usually continue to produce in the future.
The piers are a good place to target mangrove snapper. Some of the larger piers that extend into deeper water can be very productive for bigger snapper in the 3 to 5 pound range. Expect most of the snapper to be just below or just over a pound though. You will usually have to sort through several smaller fish to find the bigger mangrove snapper. The piers do offer some good fishing though. Anglers target snapper with live shrimp, cut pieces of shrimp and smaller pinfish fished near the bottom.