by Kirk Foster
Ken Meherg of Marsh Masters with a nice Mangrove
Photo by : Helmut Ermlich
Louisiana is well known for its outstanding fishing. From the lowly Redear to
the magnificent Blue Marlin, Louisiana boasts fishing opportunities that are
unmatched anywhere in the states, maybe the world. With so many species to
target, there is bound to be one that slips past our hooks.
Such is the case with the Gray Snapper. Also known as Mangrove or Black Snapper,
Lutjanus griseus is another inhabitant of the rich Gulf waters that touch
south Louisiana. Many coastal and offshore anglers have caught these hard
fighting, good eating fish while after better-known species. Large catches of
them are virtually unheard of, at least, until Capt. Bobby Bryan of Marsh
Masters came along.
Capt. Bobby Bryan is well know for his prowess on the Speckled Trout and Redfish
that inhabit the waters around Leeville, Louisiana. I've fished with him
numerous times and there are three things you can say about the man. One, he
loves to fish. Rain or shine, windy or calm, if Bobby has access to a boat and a
pole, you can bet he is on the water. Two, he is one of the most determined
fishermen I know. Don't tell him that fish can't be caught in Hell because he
will make the trip just to prove you wrong. The third thing, well, go fishing
with him and you will know!
Sammy with a Mangrove
Photo by : Helmut Ermlich
On calmer days, Capt. Bobby would venture out into the coastal waters outside of
Pass. Chasing after the Cobia that are prolific around the numerous rigs and
buoys in the area, Bobby discovered a little known fact: Mangrove Snapper by the
droves also inhabit these shallow water rigs. As determined a fisherman as Bobby
is, it didn't take him long to work out the process it takes to entice them to
Mangrove Snapper are smaller than their close cousin, the Red Snapper. The
Record for Mangrove is 14.1 pounds and was caught in the waters off Grand
Isle. They spawn June through August. Although juvenile Gray Snapper can be
found in shallow bays and the mouths of passes, the adults prefer a depth from
50 to 150 feet. They are structure orientated, never venturing far from the rig
or reef they inhabit, a perfect match for the rigs in the Bay Marchand and South
It didn't take long for Capt. Bobby to share his newfound delight with the rest
of his crew. Soon, the rest of his group of captains was able to bring home the
Mangroves. One problem, they could only get to them when the seas were calm.
Solution, get a bigger boat. As usual, Capt. Bobby doesn't do any thing small.
Along came Capt. Ken Meherg and a spanking new Pro-Sport 29' Catamaran.
Helmut holding a huge Drum
Photo by : Bill Healy
Capt. Ken isn't far off from his counterpart Bobby, sans the third thing I
mentioned earlier. Capt. Ken originates from the Florida Panhandle and has spent
thousands of hours on the Gulf. With that kind of background and the prodding of
Bobby, He had no other choice but to come down and assist with the offshore
Team RodnReel just had to see what this new cat was all about and try our hand
at the Mangrove Snapper. We arrived in Leeville Friday evening at the Marsh
Master's lodge and the talk soon turned to fishing.†
Capt. Ken told us he breaks down the Mangroves into three
sets. The first, he calls the Lookers. Lookers are the ones that come to
the surface and look at you. He says these are the hardest to catch. Mangroves
are notorious for being shy. They hang surreptitiously near something to hide
behind where they can quickly escape. To catch these, it takes a light line and
bait presented free lined. The problem is, light line is quickly shredded on the
structure. Landing these is a matter of luck.
The second group, the suspenders, are those hanging
well off the bottom but not up on top. These can be caught and are often the
brutes of the rig.† They donít
number many but are true, quality fish. On our trip, the biggest Mangrove I
caught was a suspender. Going around eight pounds, it slammed my rod to the
gunnels before I could fight back. It was amazing how that fish could strip line
off the Penn 8500.
Kirk with a "Suspender"
Photo by: Helmut Ermlich
The third group, he calls the catchers. These are
the ones that Capt. Bobby and Capt. Ken focus on the most. Drop the bait to the
bottom, reel up about five feet, and hang on! These fish bite readily and run
from 14 inches up. Using cut Pogies on a 5/0 wire circle hook, we caught the
majority of our 50 fish limit of Mangroves from this group.
Needless to say, we talked late into the night before
retiring. Ms. Juanita had us up bright and early for a breakfast of eggs,
sausage, and fresh biscuits. We would soon need the energy! We walked out to the
new cat and surveyed our ride for the day. The first thing you notice is how big
it is. There was plenty of room for fishing. Capt. Ken keeps a well-organized
boat. He even took the time to explain where all the life saving equipment was
We headed out of Belle Pass as the sun rose lazily over the
eastern horizon. One of the first things you will notice about this boat is that
it actually jumps on plane, well, more than any other catamaran I had been on.
It raised a good six to eight inches when Ken gunned the twin yammies.
We faced an ugly four to five foot chop but the boat cut it
well and we only had about six miles to our first stop, a rig in the Bay
Marchand blocks in 55 feet of water. Once there, Capt, Ken went to work cutting
bait and explaining what had to be done. Our lines were quickly over the side
and it wasnít long before the first fish of the day, a bull Redfish, came over
So you think Mangroves are for sissies?
Photo by: Helmut Ermlich
Thatís when you get to see the sportsmen that Capt. Ken
really is. Born and raised into farming, he learned that stewardship of a
resource is an important thing. He quickly unhooked the Redfish, used a
hypodermic needle to deflate the air sack, and carefully revived the fish before
sending it on its way. Whatís more, he did the same thing with the hundred or
so other fish to be released† throughout the day.
Bill with a beautiful Mangrove
Photo by : Helmut Ermlich
It wasnít long before we started boating the Mangroves. I
was quite impressed with how strong they are. Pound for pound, Iíd say they
fight twice as hard as their cousin, the Red Snapper. We also hooked many large
Drum. I guess they were Black Drum but looked unlike any Iíve seen before.
Almost colored exactly like Redfish, sans the spot, they had the barbels on
their lower jaw. There were no discernable stripes of black and white like
Iíve seen before. However, the 20-pound fish fought hard! They were released
with the same care Capt. Ken gave the Redfish.
We moved two times, putting Mangroves in the cooler at each
stop. The last one was the honey hole. The tide had been slowing and when it
switched, the fish turned on big time. The wind and the waves pushed us up
current from the rig while the current swung our lines closer to the rig. That
brought the bait closer to their hiding place and we quickly finished our limit.
It wasnít easy. Capt. Ken had us rigged with 80-pound Power Pro with about 20
feet of monofilament to the swivel. From there to the hook, 50-pound
fluorocarbon finished the connection. Many times, the hard fighting fish drew us
into the rig and sawed off the line on the cables and legs of the rig.†
This is all part of fishing for Mangroves.
We ended the day at 2:00 pm with our limit and headed back
to camp. Those 50 Mangroves filleted out to eight, one-gallon bags. Iím glad
the limit was ten per person. I donít think my arms would have taken much
more! It was definitely a great day on he water.
The Marsh Masters have discovered an untapped source of
pure fishing pleasure. With a ten fish per person limit of hard fighting fish,
accessible year round, and within a few miles of shore, you couldnít ask for a
much better time. Throw in the good Captains of his fleet, Bobbyís
irresistible ďcharmĒ, fine accommodations, and you canít help but have a
memorable and fun trip. They may have to change their name to Mangrove Masters!
For more information, visit the Marsh
Masters website, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call Capt. Bobby Bryan direct at (985) 396-2411