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Capt. Andy McLean's Fishing Mate
All About Catching Snook!, Pg. 6
There's little doubt as to the most glamorous and appealing game fish of Everglades National Park waters. The tarpon makes a strong run for this honor, but the fish that most anglers really yearn to catch is the snook.
While it's true that snook will take many different baits and lures, no fish is more stubborn or unpredictable. The methods and baits that get a limit catch today may not work at all tomorrow. But anglers willing to play the odds, and play them with some patience, can be rewarded.
Prime season for big snook (10 pounds and up to, rarely, 30 pounds) is late spring and early summer when spawning activities draw them in and around the passes and deeper holes of the outside. The full moon of May is the traditional kick-off time, but in fact many big snook are taken well before that and the season may not get into full swing before June. In any event, the established system is to fish the deeper holes with live pinfish or, if you prefer artificials, to bump a bucktail or plastic-tail jig slowly along bottom. It also pays off to troll a deep-running plug through such holes and passes, or to troll a needlefish or ballyhoo rigged to a large feather.
When concentrating on the deep holes of passes. river mouths and outside channels through the flats, the lower tide phases are preferable-starting at the last hour or so of falling tide and continuing through the first hour or so of the rise.
The Snook Book by Frank Sargeant
CHAPTER 5: SKIPPIN' AND POPPIN' AND MANGROVE MIGRAINES, Pg. 45-47.
SCIENTISTS REMAIN AMBIGUOUS on whether it's possible for a mangrove to reach out and grab a snook plug. But personally, I'm convinced. I've seen them do it many times.
In fact, I suspect that the mangrove was genetically engineered by a crazed snook-plug manufacturer, for the express purpose of maximizing his sales. That's the only explanation of a tree that grows with its twisting, tangling, blankety-blanking roots sticking up in the air, instead of down in the ground where all respectable plants keep their privates.
Those roots are designed like Velcro, with millions of microscopic little hooks bio-engineered to perfectly fit the hooks on your plugs. Whenever the plant sees one pass close by, up go the roots, shooting out like the tongue of a giant frog, and snatch goes your $5.95 lure.
Did you ever notice how the thickest stands are always planted right over the best holes? You can't tell me somebody didn't put them there. Either that, or they grow each time they eat a plug. Do MirrOlures make good mangrove fertilizer? They're still doing the research on it.
Be all that as it may, not only snook but also a lot of other species of Southern fish love mangroves. Redfish and sheepshead are regular patrons of mangrove mazes, as are, obviously, mangrove snapper.
Extracting these creatures from the living fingers of the obstinate botanicals, however, takes some doing.
The problems begin with getting the lure into the overhung hidey-holes where the fish lie. Most productive mangrove shorelines are along channels and creeks, where deep, flowing water goes right up to the bank. As the limbs spread, competing for the sunlight over the open water, they reach out far from the actual shoreline to create a sort of artificial shore that may be 10 or 15 feet from the real edge.
Guess where the fish are?
Yep. They never see the light of day.
Mangrove migraines. A narrowing of the vision, and a feeling you're looking through a tunnel. Intense headaches. Vertigo.
The fish prowl in there, sucking crabs and killifish and other small edibles out of the roots. They're usually looking toward the shore, or parallel to it, rather than out toward open water. So that's where your lure needs to get in order for many of them to notice it.
In order to make the presentation, you've got to be an angling magician, capable of making your lure materialize in spots with about as much space as there is under the average living room couch It's impossible. And to make things worse, those big old hawg snook and yard-long reds like to get back in there and wallow and root and blow bait out on the bank, just to tease you. It's enough to make you take up golf.
However, where there's a will, there are greedy relatives. No--there's a way.
In this case, it's skippin'. Or poppin'.
Boris Arnov's Fish Florida Saltwater
Chapter 26, Snook; Rabalo; Saltwater Pike, Pg. 119
Along the Atlantic coast parallel to the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee locks control water drainage to the ocean. After much rain, usually near the end of summer, thousands of gallons of water are dumped daily into canals that empty into the Intracoastal Waterway, which eventually, through the inlets, carries the Glades' water to sea. As the water cascades through the locks, bait fish are carried along and in the resulting brackish water snook have a picnic eating their way through the sudden food bonanza. Anglers have a picnic, too. Fish, of course, when water is dumped, but your chances are best if it is early morning.
Natural Bait. Live shrimp are alright, but by far the best live bait is the gizzard shad, a small fish one must cast-net in freshwater. However, they do not easily survive transportation and must be kept uncrowded in lots of aerated water. An alternative bait is the freshwater shiner that can be bought in bait and tackle stores, but they don't live very long in the brackish water of a spillway. Use a 2/0-5/0 hook and impale a shrimp under the horn on the he and a bait fish through the upper back around the dorsal fin through the nose or lips. 20# line with a 2' 30#-50# leader is about right. Sometimes a float is used. Cast into the current at let the bait drift. A mullet head fished on the bottom works, too.
Artificial Bait. Although not as effective as natural bait in spillway, artificials do catch fish. Use a tout or a feather jig white with a red plastic worm tail; after casting, let it sink to t bottom and retrieve slowly.
The Snook Book by Frank Sargeant
CHAPTER 9: HEAD THEM OFF AT THE PASSES, Pg. 79-80
IN THE GOOD OLD days of snook fishing, some 70 percent of the annual catch came from the passes during the spring and summer spawn, beginning around the full moon in May on the west coast and extending through the end of August on the east coast. In those days, up until the mid-1970's when DNR biologist Jerry Bruger figured out that too many snook were being killed by fishing during the spawn, anglers from all over the country gathered in spots like Big Marco Pass and Redfish Pass, both in southwest Florida, in such numbers that the fleet of boats was similar to that swarming over the tarpon at Boca Grande. It was a great fishery, but like so many great fisheries unregulated, it invited overfishing.
With the closure of the spawning period a decade ago, most of this pressure disappeared. The prime spots in the prime times these days rarely attract a half-dozen boats. But for anglers who don't mind catch-and-release snooking, a visit to the passes in spring can provide some of the best action and biggest fish of the year.
Where To Find Spring Spawners
Among the most productive passes, on the west coast, are Stump, Gasparilla, Captive, Redfish and Big Maco. On the east coast, inlets from Sebastian southward all have snook pods in spring and summer.
Snook not only stack into the major passes during this time, but also school heavily in much smaller flowages, anywhere that strong tides will sweep the eggs into large bodies of water. The eggs need to be supported by strong nows for 18 to 36 hours to hatch, and these conditions are found in many of the larger bays on the west coast. Snook sometimes gather around the channels between small bayous and larger bays in remarkable numbers. The Port Manatee channel, in Tampa Bay, is locally famous for producing huge numbers of big fish. There are also good numbers at many of the small but deep channels leading from the estuarine bays into the larger harbors along the west coast, including the Joe Bay. Bishop's Harbor and Cockroach Bay channels on middle Tampa Bay, and the deeper cuts between most of the islands outside the Skyway Bridge on the south shore of lower Tampa Bay. Also good are the areas where causeways span this bay, creating stronger current flows.
Charlotte Harbor has spawning aggregations at the mouths of Bull and Turtle Bay, as well as in the deeper passes between islands in Pine Island Sound.
And on the East Coast, the fish often move out along the beaches adjacent to the inlets to drop their eggs.
Wherever you pursue them, the techniques for catching spawners are much the same.
Capt. Scott Moore's Snook Fishing Secrets by G. B. Knowles
Chapter 12, Light Tackle Tactics for Big Fish, Pg. 125
Today everybody uses light tackle for snook. Yet there are still many misconceptions about snook gear.
The most important piece of equipment for catching big snook on light tackle is the rod. Scott uses long stiff rods for several reasons.
First of all the whitebait that is so important to a successful snook trip between March and October can be easily thrown off when casting. Also catching snook over the clear shallow grass flats means keeping the boat as far from the fish as possible. Tuna towers spook flats snook. Boat hulls spook flats snook. Anglers wearing the wrong color of shirt or hat really spook snook.
Yet if you fish a tower boat, or have customers who show up at the dock wearing a pink shirt, there aren't a lot of things you can do about those problems, except stay as far from the fish as possible.
That's where the long, stiff rods come in handy. Such poles will cast a bait or lure a country mile with little effort. And that means throwing off fewer baits. Scott has experimented with several rods, and many will work. But his personal favorites are made by Daiwa, Penn and C. Loomis.
The long stiff rod is also a valuable tool when fighting the fish. Snook are famous for their fighting abilities. Hooked snook make strong runs. Their aerial displays would embarrass a sailfish. They use every part of their marine home to help dislodge a hook. And they usually succeed.
Snook have tough mouths compared with a trout, flounder or members of the mackerel family. Yet a snook's mouth isn't anywhere near as tough as the mouth of a permit, redfish or tarpon. The cartilage in a snook's mouth tears easily. Snook are lost to pulled hooks more than just about any other fish.
Consequently, Scott likes his anglers to take it easy on hooked snook and wear them out away from the boat. If you bring a green snook close to the boat the sudden burst of power that it puts on when it spots the vessel will often result in the hook pulling free.
The long rod also helps in fighting the snook gently. By keeping the rod between the ten and two o clock positions the angler can put steady, easy pressure on the fish without a lot of effort. Shorter rods mean more work for the angler and, therefore, the greater chance for a mistake.
The long rod also helps when the fish jump. Due to the ease that a snook's mouth tears Scott has developed a system for fighting these gamefish that parts company with techniques used for fighting most fish.
Tarpon, marlin and other aerial speedster present specific problems for the angler. When these gamefish jump their speed doubles as they soar out of water. Without the burden of water friction to slow it down a leaping tarpon's speed dramatically increases. And that can result in the line breaking, the hook being thrown, or the fish landing on a tight line - which also results in a lost fish.
To combat this problem veteran tarpon anglers bow and point the rod straight at the jumping silver king. But Scott says that's the wrong thing to do with snook.
"First of all, a lot of snook are hooked in very shallow water on light line. And that means you often can not tell the fish is going to jump until it's too late," Moore explains.
"But, even if you know he's going to jump, pointing the rod at the fish creates slack line. And if the fish is hooked in certain parts of the mouth the hook will most likely have begun to tear in the softer cartilage. If you give him slack line he will easily throw the hook.
Instead Moore insists that the proper way to address jump ing linesiders is to pull back gently on the rod when the fish takes to the air. This technique helps keep slack out the line and frustrates the snook's efforts to throw the hook. It's a very good technique for fly fishermen to master because the belly in the fly line also helps take up slack as the rod is pulled back.
The Masters Book of Snook, by Frank Sargeant
CHAPTER 12: FLY-RODDING FOR SNOOK Pg. 109-110
Catching a 30-pound snook on any tackle is a feat worth remembrance. Catching one on a flyrod is an angling achievement that many thought would never happen. But it did happen, a few years ago in Everglades National Park.
Fishing out of Chokoloskee, about 30 miles east of Naples, Captain Pete Villani and his angler, Dr. Rex Garrett of Sarina, Ontario, were poling down a murky tidal creek just after sunup when Villani spotted the tell-tale yellow dorsal and tail of a snook finning along at the surface.
"It had been unusually cold for April," Villani said. "The sun was shining on the shallow mud flats, and I think the fish was in there trying to warm up."
Garrett, an experienced fly-caster but a novice to snook fishing, presented a red and white deer hair MirrOlure Fly, a slider with weighted eyes, on 8-weight tackle.
"The fish ignored the first three casts," said Villani. "It sank out of sight on the third toss, and I thought that was it. But in a little while, it popped back up."
Garrett placed the fly just right on the fourth toss, and the fish took immediately. It was only after the battle went beyond 10 minutes that Villani realized how big the linesider really was. It scaled 30 pounds, 4 ounces-a new all-tippet record in the International Game Fish Association flyfishing division. The fish was 43 inches long and had a girth of 25 1/2 inches.
The snook was taken on 20-pound class tippet, and holds that record as well as the all-tippet record. It displaced a 27.5 pound fish taken at St. Lucie Inlet that same spring.
FLY TACKLE AND TACTICS
It's not likely that you'll get a 30-pounder on fly tackle, but snook readily take a variety of flyrod lures. While the record fish was taken on 8-weight tackle, many snook experts prefer 10 weight rods for mangrove country fishing because the added power gives some chance of stopping a fish from getting to the roots and cutting your leader. And, because the casts are often short and with little room for a backcast, overloading the rods with weight-forward 12-weight line is common. The heavier line makes it easier to flex the rod and make a good cast with a short length out the tip.
The Masters Book of Snook, by Frank Sargeant
CHAPTER 2: MASTERING THE TIDES, Pg. 25-27
Show me a master snook angler and I'll show you a guy who reads the tide tables before breakfast and maybe again after dinner. He may forget his wedding anniversary, but he won't forget the date of the spring tides in May. (This may have something to do with the high divorce rate among snook fishermen.) No fish are more reactive to tidal flow than snook. They depend on the flowing water to bring food to them almost like rainbow trout in a mountain stream. When the water isn't moving, they rarely feed.
But there's a lot to learn besides what time of day high and low tides come in your fishing area. You know the basics: tides are very long, low ocean waves caused by the pull of the moon and the sun. They're not evident at sea, but when they hit land the motion of the waves causes the water to rise and fall, and also creates tidal currents as the water flows over shallows and through narrow passages. Anyone who spends any time around the coast knows this much. But the flow varies dramatically based on the shape of the land it meets.
PLAYING THE TIDES
Tide heights are listed in distances above or below the mean low tide at a given spot -- the "zero" line. The greater the variations from zero -- that is, the taller the wave -- the stronger the tide flow and usually the better the fishing.
However, you have to take what the tides give you, and a great snooker plays the ebb and flow like a master violinist working through a symphony. (Or maybe more like a banjo picker working through "Dueling Banjos".)
Tides follow wider, deeper channels first. In a bayou fed by several tidal creeks you may see that the inflow begins on the main arm and is already flowing strong there while it's dead or even going out on the smaller feeders.
Time your fishing to take advantage of this, hitting the big feeder first, then the smaller ones as they "wake up" and begin to flow. The best fishing in all these small passes, incidentally, is usually on the downtide side of the points, that is on the inside on incoming water and the outside on outgoing water. These spots create eddies that allow the snook to avoid the flow, yet easily pick off baits swirled in. And if there happens to be a pothole curving around the point, as there often is due to current scouring, you've discovered a super snook spot.
The tide comes into an estuary in a plume that you can see on the surface when the water is calm. It has a rounded leading edge, and it stays discrete for a time from the residual water left in the backcountry on the previous low--differences in salinity or temperature probably account for the edge. Baitfish often ride this plume, and as it passes a feeding station snook begin to strike.
THE PULSE OF THE ESTUARIES
Tides flow in cycles or pulses within their larger movements. Particularly on the rise there may be an hour of strong flow, then a lull of 30 minutes to an hour, then another several hours of strong flow all within a given incoming tide. These are the reverse flows that swell to become full outgoing tides on four-tide days, but in the interim they're simply hesitations in the incoming flow.
Falls tend to be more straight ahead, which is why they are stronger and often produce the best action of the day, but they also have occasional "periods" when they slow down.
The fish usually respond to these minor changes; you may have hot fishing on the start of the rise, then a dead time, then another maJor feed. And when all the water dumps out at once, going from say a plus 2.9 to a minus 0.40, over three feet of water has to get out of the back country in a period of 6 to 8 hours.
This means strong flows for a long period of time, and that means you'll have lots of opportunities to throw to fish that are in a feeding mode. (Note that "strong" flows in snook country are not anything like strong flows farther north along the Atlantic Coast, where tide ranges of 8 feet are common. We're talking relative flows here, not absolutes.)
Backcountry Fly Fishing in Salt Water by Doug Swisher & Carl Richards
FAVORITE FORAGE OF SNOOK pg. 38
Since snook are usually the preferred target of anglers in the backcountry of the 10,000 Islands, we began our research with them. One of the very best methods of discovering favored baits is to observe and question local bait fishermen. Some of these guys are really shrewd and they know what works. We asked them, and the snook specialists almost invariably answered whiting (white bait or shiners, or bull shiners, or crickets). This got a little confusing, but it boiled down to the fact that these names are all local terms for the same forage fish, the scaled sardine (Haregulajaguana). These are small, elegant, silvery fish with a darker dorsal. They are very delicate, flat-sided, and shad like, with a deep belly and a flatter dorsal. They range in size from one-and-a-half to four inches, but one and-a-half to three inches are the best sizes for imitation in the backcountry. They are a member of the herring family, as are Spanish sardines and threadfin herring, all of which are relished. All possess similar shapes and coloration. These calorie-rich fish, if not always first, are very high on the preferred list for most inshore gamefish, with the exception of the bottom feeders.
Catch Snook! by Capt. Fred Everson
Tides, Solunar Influences and Snook pg.37
The more you fish for snook, the more you will appreciate the influence of tide and current and the movement of the sun and moon which are further related to the time of year.
Through long term constant, recorded study, tides are predicted according to the position of the sun and the moon in relation to the earth. Other factors that affect tide predictions are winds and weather systems.
Tide and current are often confused, but they are not the same thing. Current is horizontal flow of water; tide is its vertical rise and fall. Current is judged by speed, tide is judged by height.
In snook fishing, anglers look for peak current flow, which is essentially the greatest movement of water. When I am fishing flats for snook, I like to fish the second half of the falling tide for several reasons. Current flow is usually strong, and both bait fish and game fish are being forced out of the mangroves by the falling tide, and you can see fish moving better when the tide is low. I find it much harder to catch snook on a very high tide because they are dispersed over a much larger area, and they can hunt in the middle of mangrove structure where you can't get at 'em.
The perfect condition on most flats would be the second half of a falling tide with the current flow peaking around sun- rise or sunset. Moonrise and moonset, and the moon directly overhead, or directly be- neath the earth are also periods of activ- ity. You can buy solunar tables that will predict activity peaks. Florida Sportsman publishes this information in the back of their magazine every month, and Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine publishes a lot of detailed tidal and solunar information on a quarterly basis. (You can order directly at The "Catch Snook!" Book by Capt. Fred Everson )
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