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Feature Stories 2011

Volume 2, Issue 2, August 2011: Full Moon Mangos – Snapper Bite Explodes Under Illuminated Night Sky

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Welcome to the August, 2011 issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT. This month's story is also featured as a print article in the Angler XTRAS section of the August 2011 Saltwater Angler Magazine, pg. 20.  In this issue, we take a trip offshore with seasoned diver/fisherman, and owner of Mangrove Marine, Captain Michael Irvin in his gorgeous 32” center console Cape Horn powered by twin Yamaha 250s.  This boat got us quickly on a variety of live bait then out to the snapper grounds for a dusk ‘till dawn adventure that left us achy and fatigued but with boxes full of fish.  Most of my mangrove snapper fishing career has been done on the flats, around dock and bridge pilings and over relatively shallow inshore reefs.  This trip would be drastically different though, putting us in 100 feet of blue water where the bite was strong and the fish were fat.  On top of the great catch, we were lucky enough to have just what we planned on, a beautiful, rising full moon shining down on near glass-like water.  That, and a slight ocean breeze made for ideal conditions in an otherwise brutally hot 2011 summer.  There’s no doubt about it, one way to beat the mid-summer heat is to fish at night.  Unless shark fishing in local passes, fishing at night is something I rarely do.  That will change!  In addition to the welcomed breeze and cool down, the competition for spots is just not what it is in the middle of the day.  We say maybe two other boats’ lights in the distance.  These variables came together to make this trip one of the best offshore experiences of my life.  So enjoy the ride as we head out in the dark, due west to some of the most productive mangrove snapper fishing grounds in the Gulf.


Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)

Full Moon Mangos – Snapper Bite Explodes Under Illuminated Night Sky

By Joshua W. Broer

Despite potentially bad weather on the horizon, myself and three other good friends had a full moon mangrove snapper trip planned for weeks.  We knew that the mangrove, or, as the slang goes, “mango” bite was on fire, and would be especially productive during the full moon.  Leaving the dock at 5 p.m. with no plans to return any earlier than sunrise the next morning, we idled slowly down our canal in a 32’ beast of a boat with twin 250s to boast.  Soon, we were confident, we’d be putting the hammer down on fat mangos in 80-100 ft. of water.  That’s exactly what we did.

With baits deployed just before sundown in approximately 80 ft. of water, the bite was initially slow and discouraging.  Our arsenal of bait:  live threadfins, pinfish and scaled sardines, and box after box of frozen sardines.  Eventually it would all catch fish.  The scaled sardines (whitebait) and frozen sardines would prove to be the go-to bait of the trip though.  Watching the sun dip over the horizon, we headed for deeper water.  Slowly and methodically we watched the bottom machine in the 90-100 ft. range of water until we saw the bottom machine explode with fish.  The moon slowly rose, big and bright, and began to illuminate the night.

The change in depth would be the key to success on this trip.  The 100 ft. mark proved to be the depth that held all the mangos we could handle and large, fat fish they were.  The bite came so fast and furious at that depth, as well as fish holding half way down in the water column, that it took almost two hours before we even thought about deploying our green glow light.  This, we hoped, would bring the fish even higher in the water column and perhaps allow us to free-line our baits to mangos at the top.  And although we were never able to get that surface bite, we were treated to an all-night dance of schools of squid darting to and fro around the light.

Though we had not yet reached our bag limit, the box was beginning to swell with beefy three to four pound mangos.  That was our mission.  The fish box, however, was also getting filled with some of the fattest slot-size red grouper I have ever had the pleasure of wrestling up.  In addition to our pile of mangos, six reds, a handful of beeliners and vermillion snapper, a nice trigger fish and two Key West grunts, all contributed to our count.

From small ledges to hard bottom, we continued to spank these fish on most of our drops.  Only one fish eluded us though, and that was the American red snapper whose season would end in just two more days.  Our trusty captain, Mr. Michael Irvin of Mangrove Marine, soon changed that when he hooked into one pig of a fish that steadily pulled drag and kept him bent over the gunwale in a tug-of-war which lasted for a solid five minutes.  Though we were on a mangrove snapper hunt that night, this beautiful red snapper sealed the deal and gave us all a reason to rest our muscles ,minds and tackle.  Two of the crew soon slipped off to sleep in order to rejuvenate for the morning bite.  Daybreak came fast and, very hot!  We continued to fish for a short while until the morning heat did us in. 

A few key things to remember about offshore mango fishing are the following.  Do it in the summer, in deep water, and try for that full moon.  These fish were chewing like crazy and had giant stomachs to prove it.  Fish at night.  With fewer boats on the water and a pleasant late night sea breeze, we fished comfortably and mostly had the water to ourselves.  Most importantly – downsize your tackle.  The most bites came with a modest 30 lb. test fluorocarbon leader, only 2-4 oz. of lead depending on the current, and small circle hooks in the 2/0 to 3/0 range.  Remember that it’s the law to use circle hooks when reef fishing now so leave those j-hooks behind.  Have that swim-bladder vent tool at the ready at all times too in the case that your fish is unable to make it to the bottom.  And you can never have enough ice.  Because with coolers full of full moon mangos, keeping them fresh until hitting the dock is a must.  The bite’s on y’all.  Go get ‘em!