Snook (Centropomus undecimalis), also known as a linesider, is one of my favorite fish to target. These fish are targeted from South Florida up to Jacksonville, on the east coast of Florida, and have spread to the panhandle on the west coast of Florida. These fish are everything an angler can dream of. They are fast, strong, intelligent, hard fighting, and if they are caught at the right size, in season, they are very tasty. Snook numbers were decimated several years ago, due to extreme cold temperatures in Florida; they are perhaps one of the most temperature sensitive species we have. However, several mild winters, added protection, and a few good seasons of breeding have helped numbers increase and our snook fishing has been on fire! For those of us who like a hard battle, it is tremendous news.
Snook fishing in my area is a little different than south Florida, where it takes place in mangrove creeks. Here it is usually along the main channel, near docks and other structure. Snook love structure! Mainly an ambush predator, they lie in wait for some unsuspecting baitfish, shrimp, or crab to come cruising along. Then they rush forward, suck the offering in, often creating an unmistakable "pop", and rush back to cover. Yes, snook are the ultimate ambush predator and take full advantage of their biological design and their intelligence. Knowing they are an ambush predator gives one an insight on the requirements to locate them and catch them. The fishing requires precision casting, working structure and locating the eddies caused by dock pilings, mangrove roots, canal mouths, oyster bars, rocks, ledges, and anything else the fish may use for cover. After presentation, this fishing requires the angler to be on guard, ready at any second to begin the fight. Snook hit fast and hard. One second your fly or lure is coming to you, subtly working through the current and the next millisecond, it stops dead and you feel the weight of the fish. This is the moment the angler must be prepared for, because even a two second hesitation can mean the difference between success and failure. Once the fish feels the hook, they will have one thing on their mind: ESCAPE! Snook are well prepared for this battle. They have thick tails which give them unbelievable power for their size; even small snook are able to pull drag, bend rods, and make themselves seem three times bigger than they are. Snook know every inch of their lair; they know where the pilings are, the rocks are, the edges of canals or ledges are, and they know if they can get back to these areas, they win. Lastly, snook have gill plates as sharp as razors and they are not afraid to use them; when taken in more open water or when pulled away from cover, they flare their gills, shake their heads, and attempt to cut the line attached to them. The angler's job is to prevent all of this. The angler must have quick reflexes, stopping the fish from running to cover. The angler must have the will power to bring the fight to the fish, pulling, using the rod to counter every movement the fish makes, never letting up for a moment, because the snook won't. It's a battle that will test you, sometimes it will break you, but every success will make you a better angler and bring a smile to your face.
No, snook fishing is not for the weak at heart. But if you are like me, or Lefty Kreh, memories of snook fishing will bring a smile to your face, make you dream about them, make you long for every opportunity to fish for them, and make you improve your angling ability to the best it can be, for the added chance to land them. Snook fishing is on fire right now, so come join me for a day that you won't forget! But don't wait too long, cooler days are coming and the snook bite will slow down. The time is now!
Tight lines and screaming drags: Captain John Tarr
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