Mangrove snappers are some of the biggest fishing fish in the world, and using mangrove snapper bait will help you to get the biggest fish possible. Live bait fish can be an effective lure and can catch bigger fish than artificial lures. Small shiny red fish like silverscale, Spanish mackerel, and threadfin herrings work well.
Larger pinfish like mullet, black eye, and black snapper usually won’t go for smaller flat fish bait. However, if you want to try small red and silver colored baits, they may work in some situations. Larger pike and bass will also be too big for some mangrove snapper; usually an inch or two smaller than the bait itself. So when you are fishing flats, remember that you need to use baits that fit the habitat and size of the fish you are after.
The best live baits in a mangrove environment are shrimps, crabs, and clams. Although shrimp do make good bait on occasion, your chances of getting chum will probably be minimal due to the extreme shallowness of mangrove flats. Also, shrimp will die off quickly once they get wet, making it a poor choice for an active bait. If you want to try shrimps, go with a live species like king or silver shrimp instead.
Another excellent option are sardines. Sardines are usually found on mangrove flats, but can also be found in other areas, like along the Intracoastal. They will work just as well as any other mangrove snapper bait. Just make sure you cast your baits to a deeper part of the body of water, above weed beds and deeper holes. Be sure not to cast on top of weed beds where predators might spot your baits, like woodpeckers.
Clams are another great choice, but be sure not to over-fish them. Clams come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, so there’s bound to be a few that are smaller than your typical mangrove snapper bait. You can, however, find many larger ones nearby. It’s best to use a treble hook for fishing in these waters, so you’ll get a larger catch.
Perhaps the best lure to use on mangroves is the frozen Spanish sardines. These fish tend to be slower moving, making them better choices for colder regions, but even in warmer waters, you can find Spanish sardines. This is because these fish thrive in cool waters, so they have a natural temperature regulating mechanism in their bodies. They are best suited to fishing offshore, where they can hide under shaded trees and wait for a passing baitfish to strike.
The best baits for using with Spanish sardines are jigs and flies. A jig head attached to a pre-rigged weight sinker works great for this type of fishing. Jigs can be found at most bait supply retailers, while pre-rigged weights can usually be found in tackle shops. Use a pre-rigged weight in shallow water, like around a mangrove and then let the fish get close to it. Once they knock the jig head loose, attach the weight to a drop line just below the bait and reel in.
There are many other artificial lures available, as well, if you’d prefer something a bit more fancy. However, if your money is limited, I suggest using live or semi-live baits for mangrove fishing. These are usually made out of a meat like shrimp lure that is tied to a thin plastic tube. Mangroves are a generally poor diet for shrimp, but a good imitation will still draw in your quarry.
The last type of bait that I’ll discuss are the frozen shrimp. Many people use these primarily in South Texas, but they are catching fish all over the world. Frozen shrimp can be bought at your local bait and tackle stores, as well as in large super markets. These are generally frozen at the manufacture, then picked up the next day and placed in a cooler for at least two days. This allows them to maintain their freshness for much longer than the lures used in mangrove waters. I’ve caught some great fish on frozen shrimp, and it can be an excellent alternative to lures.
If you decide that a shrimp rig is not for you, there are still plenty of mangrove shrimp to catch. Mangrove National Park is full of mangrove forests, and mangrove shrimp are abundant in the marshes there. You can usually find a good selection of shrimp by just walking the beaches and mangrove bays. Once you have caught a few, you can always add the shrimp to your bait arsenal, or try shrimp roe, fried shrimp, or even fried catfish.
Another favorite mangrove bait fish is the small mouth bass. These little guys are a bit more difficult to find, but you can be sure to catch a few if you’re willing to look. Small mouth bass can be found all throughout the bays, but they are particularly active during spawn time, which is the best time to catch them. They are easy to catch, but I prefer a chum bucket over the regular tackle box. The chum acts as a lure for the bass, and you can catch them more easily this way.