The first time that you hook into a nice Snook will be a moment that you’ll never forget. Before you know it, half your line is screaming off your reel, as it drags your line through the mangroves; Your heart starts racing, and your adrenaline starts pumping. You fight to gain control of this monster fish before it breaks the line and then pop, it’s gone. On the other hand, even better yet, you wrestle it back out of the structure and land your first Snook! Once you’ve experienced the thrill of this sportfish, you will be hooked like the rest of us.
Snook fishing is one of the most challenging types of fishing that you will ever try. Fishing for Snook is not going down to the fishing hole, tossing a bait in the water, and waiting for a bite. If this is what you want to do, then you need not read any further. However, if you like a great challenge with unbelievable rewards, then you’re in the right place!
If you are lucky enough to live in South Florida year round or even part time, you can practice fishing for Snook. It is true that the more you go, the more you know. Many anglers have spent years learning how to fish for the elusive Snook, and most of them will tell you that they are still learning every time they go. This is not for the weak or narrow-minded person.
Snook are a gamefish found in the waters primarily from central Florida south due to water temperature. Water lower than 60 degrees for any length of time will kill all species of Snook. As water temperatures drop in the fall and winter, Snook will move into backwaters and up rivers for warmer water. They need these warmer waters to survive. In the spring and summer, when the water is warmer, larger Snook will be found in the passes, inlets, and beaches. Some Snook fish will stay in the backwaters, but most of them will move into open water to spawn and feed.
Young Snook start their life in the backwaters, around mangroves and structure. In these sheltered areas, these juvenile Snook find safety and food until they reach a size where they can venture off into open water. However, you will also find that even large Snook and other types of fish think of structure as safety.
There are about five different species of Snook in Florida and Texas waters that we know of at this time. Common Snook are the largest of the species and the most targeted by anglers. Other species include the Large Scale Fat Snook (also known as the Mexican or Guianan Snook), the Small Scaled Fat Snook, the Tarpon Snook, and the Swordspine Snook. Snook are also called ‘Linesiders’ for the predominant black lateral line that runs down both sides from gill to tail.
Snook are protandric hermaphrodites, which means that they hatch as males, but in one to seven years, the majority of Snook fish will switch to females. This means that the largest of the pair is the female and that almost all keeper Snook are females. If the female Snook dies, the reproductive male will change into female, and find another Snook to be its mate. This is the reason why Florida has strict regulations on size and limits, to protect the breeding females and the continuation of the species for generations to come. It is also not worth the fines and possible jail time to be caught with an undersized Snook, or keep one out of season.
If you are planning a visit to South Florida but have no boat and have no idea about fishing in Florida waters, then I strongly advise that you hire one of our many fishing guides to give you a great day of fishing. Most fishing guides will ask you a few questions to determine your fishing abilities. They need to know your level of fishing so that they can give you a great day on the water. If you have no experience, they may advise that you spend the day targeting another species of fish, but perhaps work you into being able to catch a Snook. Please understand that fishing for Snook is challenging for even the most seasoned of anglers.
Bait casting rods, Spinning rods, Fly rods, and even Deep-sea rods can all be used as tackle for Snook fishing. Knowing where and when to use the proper equipment is important. When you are fishing for very large Snook on bridges or in Passes or Inlets, you would want to use heavy gear such as Deep-sea gear. On bridges, you need to be able to get these fish out from the pilings, and possibly fight strong current in the water. In Passes and Inlets, you want to be able to keep the fish from getting into structure, but you also need to be able to land the fish in a reasonable amount of time. Fighting a fish for too long will weaken the fish to where it does not have the strength to survive after it’s released. Also, if you take too much time, predatory fish such as sharks may attack your fish before it’s landed.
Bait casting and Spinning rods are what most Snook angler’s use. With this equipment, you can get live bait and lures into the places where Snook hide, such as mangroves and under docks and any other kind of structure. Snook like to lie in wait for their next meal to swim by. Fly rods need room to use, so in back waters this can be very challenging, and should only be used by someone with fly-fishing experience. However, in open flats and when beach fishing, this can be very exciting.
When it comes to fishing reels, you should always use a saltwater reel. Saltwater will eat up your equipment very fast, so getting gear specifically made for this will save you money in the long run. Size your reel for the line size that you will be using, and match that to the fishing rod. If you talk to a local tackle shop and let them know what you are fishing for, they can help set you up. For a beginner using a Spinning rod or Bait caster, you should not spend over $200 for a rod and reel combination. If the salesperson is trying to get you to purchase top of the line gear, then go someplace else. When you know that Snook fishing is something that you will make part of your life, then you can make the investment into buying the proper gear and purchase quality fishing gear that you know will last.
Fishing line for Snook fishing is very important, as it can be the difference between catching a Snook or not. Snook have very good eyesight. If you can see a Snook in the water, chances are very high that the Snook has already seen you. Most backwater Snook anglers use braided fishing line due to its strength and size. Braided line can handle structure like mangroves and docks better than Monofilament line of the same size. This gives you a better chance of getting the Snook back out of the structure before the line breaks off. Braided line is also thinner than Monofilament line, so you can put more line on your reel and subsequently cast much, much farther. The bad thing about Braided line however is that Snook can easily see it underwater, and this can and will make a Snook not hit your bait. So what you do is use a leader made of either Monofilament line or Fluorocarbon line. One to two feet of either of these clear types of line will separate the bait from the Braided line enough that the Snook will now go after and hopefully eat the bait. If you choose to use Monofilament line or Fluorocarbon line instead of Braided line, then you do not need to use a leader.
The type of bait you use for Snook fishing is very much determined by where and how you are fishing - Remember to match the hatch. In other words, match the type of bait that the Snook in the area are feeding on, and use that. Live baits that attract Snook include Shrimp, Greenback minnows, Pinfish, Finger Mullet, Crabs, and cut bait to name a few. Young Snook primarily eat crabs, minnows, and shrimp. Large Snook eat fish such as Pinfish and Mullet, and of course larger crabs.
Lures are also a great way to fish for Snook. Topwater Lures, Suspended Lures, Deep Diver Lures, Soft baits, Jerk baits, Silver Spoons, Gold Spoons, Bucktails, nearly all kinds of Lures can and will work for Snook when they are used properly. Again, try to match the hatch. New fishing lures are coming out all the time from manufacturers, and it’s always good to try new things. Snook don’t eat the same thing every day, so the same lure won’t work definitively every time.
There are several things to consider when deciding where to fish for Snook. Weather conditions and water temperature play a big part in where the Snook are, and if they are feeding. If you see no bait, the chances are high that you will not see any Snook around either. Snook tend to be around Bridges, Docks, Mangroves, and other structures like Seawalls and Rock Jetties. During spawning season and summer, you will find them in Passes/Inlets and cruising the beaches looking for food. In the winter they will go near power plant runoffs and deep canals to try to stay in warmer water. Snook will also go into fresh water like springs and rivers.
You do not have to have a boat to fish for Snook. Many anglers find areas like bridges, fishing piers, and even empty lots on canals to go Snook fishing. Many anglers are now starting to use Kayaks because you can get into places that most boats cannot. Moreover, think of the money that you save on gas and you get a good workout. But with a boat, Kayak or even wade fishing, it is important to get to know the waters around you, and learn the current laws and regulations. Safety should always be number one.
This is just a small amount of information to help you in understanding what it takes to be a successful Snook angler, and to help you to decide if this is something that you may want to try. The best advice that I can give you is to not just jump in and spend a lot of money on Snook fishing gear, and then have all that gear sitting around in your garage never to be used again. However, if you do end up doing that, you can always send it to me - I like new gear! One final note: Us Snook anglers are a little bit crazy. If you do get hooked into Snook fishing like many of us have, you will find that you will do some pretty stupid things just because you think that you heard a Snook pop some bait. You’re going to figure out some crazy way to hang under a bridge or climb over some mangrove island to try to drop a line on it – You’ve been warned!