Catch More Snook!
One of the most prized and sought after gamefish in South Florida, the common snook, can sometimes be frustrating to catch. Many days of setting out on the water to catch a prized fish end in failure, but there are some tricks and techniques that can help you to improve your odds of bringing them boatside.
Most people are not aware that there are actually four species of snook that call Florida home; swordspine snook, fat snook, tarpon snook, and the common snook. Chances are you have caught more than one of these species, but they look so similar that you probably had no idea. As the name suggests, the one most typically caught is the “common” snook. In addition to being the king of the backwaters, snook are an extremely versatile species and can be caught in virtually all waters including freshwater rivers, estuaries, bays, canals, passes and even offshore reefs and wrecks. Each environment requires a different approach to fish them.
In the backwaters, they can be fished with live or artificial bait. Although there are a lot of options for baitfish; mullet, whitebait, threadfin herring, or pinfish are your best bets. When fishing the mangrove islands or flats, your best bet is to use about 36 inches of 30-pound fluorocarbon leader underneath a popping cork with a 1/0 Owner circle hook. Obviously you can adjust the length of the leader dependent upon how deep of water that you are fishing. One common mistake that many anglers make is to use too much tackle. Snook are incredibly smart and have very sharp eyesight. Adding things like swivels only increase the unnatural look of your presentation and should be avoided. Many anglers like to use shrimp, and although they do work, it is typically the smaller sized snook that will take a live shrimp.
If you are more of an artificial fisherman, then you have many options to choose from. Although most lures will catch fish, there are some that are far more productive than others. Topping the list of my artificial arsenal, is the DOA shrimp. These are the lures that I grew up on, particularly the “rootbeer” or “night glow” series. Jigs work very well also. Big HawksTail jigs work very well when bounced across the bottom in deep channels and passes. As far as plugs, I have the most success with the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow, however I will always choose live bait over something designed to mimic it. Probably the most fun and exciting way to catch big snook is using topwater plugs. The slight twitch of your bait is instantly turned into a chaotic scene as a large fish pummels it from below and will send any anglers heart racing. My favorite topwaters in no particular order are the Zara Spook, Chug Bug, and Skitterwalk. Of course all lures come in a variety of colors, however many of them are designed to catch fishermans’ wallets and not fish. The most successful colors are white/red, bright pink, bright chartreuse, and believe it or not purple. I have no idea why fish like these colors so much, but an entire tackle box full of lures with almost all of the paint knocked off of them from fish strikes is my evidence.
If you prefer to fish offshore, then snook are still within your grasp. The nice thing about fishing for snook on the reefs and wrecks, is that you very rarely catch one that is under the slot size. In fact, more often than not you will get frustrated that all of the fish that you are catching are way to big to keep. When fishing the reefs, I tend to shy away from artificial lures due to the fact that the fish are sitting down on the bottom. Your best bet to land these fish, is to use a 1/2 ounce or one ounce egg sinker with a minimum of 50-pound test fluorocarbon leader with a 3/0-5/0 circle hook. As far as bait of choice, it’s hard to beat a live threadfin pinned to the bottom, but pinfish or mullet will work just as well. Remember that the fish offshore are bigger, so smaller offerings like shrimp or whitebait won’t entice your trophy snook, but instead will be annihilated by snapper or smaller reef fish within seconds. There is also a fine line between what is big enough and what is too big when fishing offshore, not because the snook won’t eat it…but there are other monsters that live in the same area that will get to it first. Goliath grouper and barracuda like to hang in the same areas as the offshore snook, so a bait that is over twelve inches long should be avoided. Your optimal sized bait should be somewhere between six and ten inches long.
As far as what time of day to fish, both day or night work well. During the summertime it gets incredibly hot at midday, so fishing in the morning or evening are your best bets. Nighttime fishing is also extremely productive, especially for giant fish, as long as you can bear the seemingly endless army of mosquitos and sand flies.
Different times of the year also make a difference. Absolutely the best time of year to fish snook is the summer. This time of year they will be in the backwater, on the reefs, and my personal favorite, moving down the beach foraging in the troughs less than two feet from shore. Once fall rolls around, they move to the beaches and passes to spawn, and targeting trophy fish this time of the year is very productive. During the winter the fish move farther back into the rivers and canals to stay warm and don’t start to return until spring. Targeting fish in snook lights is a great way to get your snook fix during the winter.
Every seasoned angler has his own tricks of the trade when it comes to catching snook and you could literally write an encyclopedia on how to land monster linesiders. Applying the techniques described in this article won’t work for everyone, but they absolutely work for me and should help increase your capabilities when fishing for Florida’s most prized gamefish, the snook. Catch ‘em up!
Captain Billy Norris
Pale Horse Fishing Charters