After the saltwater flats, my favorite place to fish is among the mangroves. Mosquitos and saltwater crocs be damned.
Their tangled underwater root system and structures create an environment and ecosystem unlike any other in the world, and present very unique challenges to fishing.
The mangrove ecosystem 101
Mangroves live along shores, rivers, and estuaries in the tropics and subtropics. Mangroves are remarkably tough. Most live on muddy soil, but some also grow on sand, peat, and coral rock. They live in water up to 100 times saltier than most other plants can tolerate
Mangrove forests also provides habitat to a wide array of wildlife such as birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals and plants. Coastal mangrove shorelines are often important spawning and nursery territory marine species including shrimp, crabs, redfish, snook and tarpon. They also help protect low-lying land from storm surges and climate change.
Branches of the mangroves act as bird rookeries and nesting areas for coastal wading birds including egrets, herons, cormorants and roseate spoonbills.
Some of my favorite fish call the mangroves and the flats around them home. Snook, tarpon, redfish, bonefish, mangrove snappers to name a few.
Many will live either among and around the mangrove roots and underwater system or use the mangroves as cover to ambush prey that venture too close. While others like to lay off the mangroves and forage for crabs or baitfish that get swept out on an outgoing tide.
Either way there is always a buffet of prey for a predator to chose from. Once hooked, all these fish will make a strong run towards the mangroves and once there, they are as good as lost.
Fly fishing, spinning or bait casting all work and all have their pros and cons. Getting close into the mangroves can bee tough for a fly. Best bet on fly is an 8-weight saltwater outfit.
For spinning fear, First off, braided line is a must when fishing the mangroves, they all cut and break mono or chaff it so bad that a fish will break it. If fishing with bait, circle hooks are preferred, it’s easier to catch the fish and also easier for the fish to throw the hook if he gets tangles up in the mangroves.
Accurate casting is key to success. You will have to get your bait or lure as close to the mangroves or right inside a hole as possible, the closer the better. Try hitting a target the size of a mailbox surrounded by trees from 20 -30 feet. repeatedly all day.
Many times snappers will crush the bait as soon as it hits the water as will jacks and other fish. This is fun and can be annoying if your targets are snook, hence topwater lures are preferred over bait.
The mangroves support a plethora of other wildlife from birds such as ospreys, great blue herons, egrets, etc, to crocodiles, crabs and spiders and snakes. I have even seen bald eagles in the branches of the mangroves and manatees chilling in the creeks formed by the mangrove ecosystems.