The title of this report says it all…well almost. I went down to Forcheon with a good buddy of mine and the plan was to fish out of his big boat in the Gulf for mangrove snapper and maybe some chicken dolphin. I have never caught snapper or dolphin on a fly rod so I was pretty amped up to give it a try. After some great suggestions from renowned author, Pete Cooper, I tied a few flies that looked like some of the baitfish we were going to be using and was ready to catch a new species or two on my fly rod.
We were greeted Saturday morning with a few squalls off of Belle Pass but we headed east and skirted around them. The first rig we hooked up to produced a couple of Spanish Mackerel, a few hardtails, a some very hungry sharks. The water was pretty dirty and thoughts of catching fish on my fly rod quickly faded into the murky water that seemingly contained only very mean, toothy critters that were definitely not going to be on that evening’s dinner menu.
We decided to head ten miles south to another set of rigs that had been productive for my buddy a week earlier. The water was noticeably cleaner when we pulled up to this rig (about 90 feet deep) and one of our guys quickly hooked up on the fish we were targeting, a mangrove snapper. We were using live shrimp at the time and the fish wouldn’t touch any of the cut bait (Spanish sardines) or pogies (menhaden) we were offering. For a while, it was very exciting. If we cast a live shrimp anywhere near a leg of the platform and let the bait drop around 20 feet, we were sure to get a hookup on almost every cast. Pound for pound, I think a mangrove snapper is one of the strongest fighting fish in the sea.
The five of us began loading up the ice chest with some prime table fare. I personally had a lot of big fish break me off on my medium light rod with a Calcutta reel. When a mangrove snapper eats, it usually high tails is back to the rig. If hooked and allowed to do so, it can use the barnacles on the rig to cut your line like a razor blade. So, when you get a hookup, you have to get to the back of the boat quickly to pull the fish away from the rig. Then, you’ve got to get it on the boat before the sharks could eat it. This made for some fun, but challenging fishing.
At around 10 AM, with around 35 fish in the ice chest, I decided to try to catch one on my fly rod. I knew it was going to be a real challenge because the strongest saltwater fly rod I own is an 8 wt, which is too flimsy a rod to be able to horse a mangrove out from under its safety under an oil rig. Be that as it may, I was determined so I tied on a clouser minnow with a bit of weight on it. I was fishing with about a 15-foot leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon when I got my first strike. The fish hit my fly like a freight train and I wasn’t able to horse it back to the boat before it cut my leader like a hot knife through butter.
I tied on another fly and tried again. This time, I got a hookup but I could tell it wasn’t a mangrove. I never saw that fish before it pulled off but I think is was a hardtail and the hardtail got eaten off my line by a shark before I was able to land it.
I wish I could say that I had the patience to continue to fish with my fly rod, but the morning was getting late and hot and the rest of the crew was ready to call it a day with a total of 39 mangrove snapper and one almaco jack.
I was OK with that decision because I knew we would be out at the same rig Sunday morning and I would not fish with live shrimp until I had caught one on the fly rod! We had caught a box full of great-eating fish and even had the thrill of catching a few sharks and a huge Jack Crevalle.
We got back to the landing and I grabbed the fillet knife. I didn’t let go (kind of like a snapper) until I had filleted all the fish. I was looking forward to making my famous ceviche` with some of the fresh mangrove fillets. :)
Well, Sunday morning was a complete wash as we were greeted at 4 AM with a mass of angry thunderstorms, some of which were producing hail. We weren’t about to mess with “Mother Nature” so we cleaned up the camp and left early for Baton Rouge. My goal of catching a snapper on my fly rod will have to wait.
Moral of the story…1) don’t wait to try fishing with the fly rod when given the opportunity to do so. I should have gotten it out when the fish were in a feeding frenzy. 2) get a heavier fly rod. An 8 wt. rod is not match for a mangrove snapper, or any other toothy critter found in our Gulf of Mexico :)