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Florida Fish Species Breakdown | Catching Snook in Florida

The How-To and Lures for Catching Snook in Florida

Snook is considered one of Florida’s most exciting game fish to target. Their cunning ability to elude coastal anglers while also being excellent table fare puts catching snook in Florida a top fishing choice for anyone that fishes in the sunshine state. Perhaps one of the toughest legs of the Florida Backcountry Slam, snook fishing will test your abilities while keeping you honest with your tactics.

Breaking Down Snook in Florida Waters

The common snook, like many saltwater game fish, has a distinct look. Their tapered head and snout along with a unique protruding lower jaw gives a snook a distinct and recognizable shape. With that said, a snook’s most distinctive feature is its black stripe, which runs the entire length of its lateral line. All species of snook have this black stripe. Their sides are silver in color fading to a dark gray dorsal back. Coloration can vary, however, based on the time of year and where you may be snook fishing.

Snook can be found in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean from the mid-Atlantic U.S. to southeastern Brazil. The main population of snook are concentrated around Florida, particularly in the shallow brackish waters of southern Florida. Snook fishing in south Florida is right in the heart of their range. Anglers can also find resident populations of snook on the Texas coast.

Snook range from 3- to 15-pounds. Large snook over 20-pounds can be caught consistently during the late spring season and when fishing deeper pockets of coastal waters. Anglers catching snook in Florida generally can expect fish in the 15- to 25-pound range, however, 30- to 40-pound fish have been landed, but they are a much more rare catch.

Similar to fishing for tarpon, snook provide a thrilling angling experience. They are one of the best fighting saltwater game fish on the Florida coasts, known for their long runs and jumps. They also provide a challenge to anglers, as they will commonly seek out cover and other underwater debris to try to avoid being reeled in and ultimately breaking you off. Snook eat extremely well and provide large fillets even on smaller fish. It is a mild and flavorful meat and tops many coastal anglers favorite fish list. A slot limit restricts the harvestable size of snook with a limit of one per day. The Florida snook season is spring and fall with most waters closed to snook fishing during summer months when fish are spawning.

How to Catch Snook in Coastal Waters

No matter if you are a seasoned Florida angler or a first timer, snook will test your patience, skills, and persistence. Catching snook in Florida is a challenging but exciting adventure. Here is how to catch them.

Snook are more active in low-light conditions such as dusk and at night. They can still be caught under sunny parts of the day, but outside of prime snook feeding times, they are much more difficult to get to bite. Snook are sight feeders and will sit in cover waiting to ambush prey.

Current is also a major factor for snook fishing in south Florida. Snook will use current around inlets and shoals to position themselves to ambush bait forced to them through changing tides and these coastal currents. Because of this, the best tide for snook fishing is an outgoing tide, especially one several days around a new or full moon.

The best time for snook fishing is April through October. Remember that much of Florida waters are closed for snook fishing during the summer months, which coincides with the spawning season. Focus on aggregations near the end of the spring season as snook start to group up for spawning. They will gather around the first current break inside major passes and other coastal current swells near cover such as docks, piers, and jetties. To find fish, most anglers chum with live sardines in these areas to locate groups. In contrast, you can search around looking for signs of surface activity that would indicate feeding fish.

Being patient is the key when figuring out how to land a snook. Minimize disturbance and work methodically over every piece of water that looks good. You want to use long casts because larger snook are boat-shy. Wading can also be effective where conditions permit. Finally, remember the key to catching snook in Florida involves three factors; (1) Current, (2) Structure, and (3) Lures.

Top Snook Fishing Lures

The Florida snook season allows anglers many different opportunities to catch them. You will find any number of anglers casting live bait, some throwing artificial lures and yet many others casting TFO fly rods trying to hook a big snook on a fly. So what are the top baits, lures, and flies for catching snook in Florida?

Snook on Live Bait

Fishing for snook with live bait such as sardines and threadfins work the best. In fact, just about any small fish on a snook live bait rig works well. Shrimp and crabs are other live bait choices many anglers use when fishing in coastal Florida. Chum is not necessary, but it is extremely helpful in finding fish and triggering them into feeding mode.

Artificial Snook Fishing Lures

Live bait may not always be an option or it may be a matter of preference to fish with artificial lures. No problem. Catching snook in Florida using artificial lures produces some of the largest fish. A bucktail jig is one of the more versatile lures for snook. Choose a white variation with a splash of color for contrast. Jerkbaits can also be thrown in various locations. These work when you have to fish at various depths to follow moving baitfish that snook are feeding on. Saltwater soft plastics like swimbaits are also a proven snook fishing setup. Colors that work well are all pink and white with flashy highlights of red or chartreuse. Finally, topwater plugs such as the full-sized saltwater Zara Spook can’t be beaten when fish are actively feeding near the surface.

Choices for Catching Snook on a Fly Rod

Many anglers choose a fly rod as their weapon of choice. Fly angling for snook can be tough especially when fishing thick mangroves or other heavy covers. One option is to add a heavy monofilament weed guard to your flies to help save them from snagging up and costing you a bunch of money. Foam poppers work well fished in and around this heavy cover. Other choices of flies include the Deceiver, Seaducer, Woolhead Mullet, and Bendback. If you are fishing in the flats, try muddlers and light-weighted Clouser minnows.

Snook are formidable adversaries on any type of tackle. This exciting game fish found in the coastal waters of Florida is a test for even the most experienced angler. Catching snook in Florida comes down to understanding them, implementing the right tactics, and putting the best snook fishing lures to work.

How to Complete the Florida Backcountry Slam

Florida Backcountry Slam | Tarpon, Redfish, and Snook Fishing

As an angler, nothing is better than pushing your angling abilities and knowledge to the test. In the backcountry of Florida, anglers are doing so with fishing slams. A slam when it comes to fishing is when you catch a certain number of species in an area. While it may not seem daunting, it can be extremely difficult to complete. 

In the Everglades of Florida, there are primarily two different kinds of slams. A Flats Slam and the Backcountry Slam. The flats slam involves catching a bonefish, a permit and a tarpon in a single day. 

The Backcountry Slam is the challenge to catch a tarpon, redfish and a snook in one day. Especially when throwing artificial lures or when fly fishing catching a redfish, tarpon and a snook in the same day is not easily done.

 

Watch & Observe Your Water

When a hurricane comes through the Everglades, it can give a system a fresh start. Though right after a hurricane is not advised to go fishing, the weeks and months after one can be phenomenal as the storm brings in new nutrients and typically a good shot to complete a Florida slam— a secret experienced anglers know.

On any day of fishing, especially after a hurricane that changes the waterscape, it’s important to observe your environment first. From there, an angler can develop a plan for how to fish. Observing the water first is especially helpful for determining which species to chase and how you are going to target them.

The Backcountry Slam 

1.      Tarpon 

Tarpon are a unique target in Florida’s Everglades and can grow from very small sizes to extremely large sizes. Especially when fishing with a flyrod, hooking and catching these aggressive jumpers can be an absolute blast. Even the small ones fight and behave the same way as a large tarpon would.

 

Smaller tarpon are more cooperative when it comes to biting and if you find one you are bound to find more as they are typically in big groups. Which in turn leads to multiple bites and an incredible day of fishing. 

They come in handy when fishing for the Backcountry Slam as they do everything the big ones do without an hour-long fight—leaving you with more time to find and locate snook and redfish. 

A favorable situation to catching is where current is coming out. If you move slowly and carefully on the water, the fish won’t feel you. In doing so, an angler can hit the mother lode right at the mouth of the creek. 

If you come in too hard or spook the fish on the outskirts, those fish will end up spooking all of them. And then its game over for that area. Be patient and you will catch a lot more fish.

2.      Redfish 

As the day progresses, and light becomes more overhead the tarpon may stop biting, providing the perfect chance to chase number two in the Backcountry Slam—the Redfish. 

Redfish are usually found the same way all the others are by observing the water. Looking for baitfish, or for sandbars is a good way to locate redfish. 

Though keep in mind after a hurricane it can be extremely important to adapt. Old sandbars could now be washed away by the storm surge, while new ones are formed in places they never were before. It provides a new learning experience as the topography has changed.

3.      Snook 

Snook are best caught last in your slam as many snook feed in low light as the sun is going down, and into the night. Casting plastic, especially plastic jerk baits along mangroves can provide success for snook but keep in mind that braided line is your best bet for landing one as large snook will run in and out of timber as they fight. Monofilament would break from sharp snagging branches and the power of a snook.

 

Covering ground is sometimes necessary to finding snook and the opportunity for both a small or trophy snook is there. As with the tarpon, not spooking the fish and being patient can provide the best results.

Fishing Arsenal to Get the Slam Completed

Fishing the backwaters in the Everglades can provide an experience like no other. Fishing the Slam for different kinds of fish species, however, requires an angler to be prepared and flexible. 

Having different leader material on hand as well as good pliers are essential. Being on the water all day to complete the slam, you may find the need to switch up leader line weight and repair any that have frayed from usage. Keep an eye on your line and re-tie with any frays or nicks in your line or leader. 

For fishing lures bring a large variety of plugs, jigs and soft plastics to find what each of the three species are eating on. Experiment with different colors to find what is working for that day and don’t be afraid to switch it up.

For fishing rods, the same is true. Bringing a variety of different weights and sizes ensures you have the rod to get the job done. Some of the best inshore fishing rods for this type of situation are the TFO Inshore Series. The finesse approach with light jigs is best suited for the TFO 2 power rod with a lighter tip comes in handy. 

To cast for snook under mangroves with soft plastics a 6’9” TFO Inshore 4 power rod works phenomenally. This rod is great for detailed casting but also has the backbone to get fish out of cover. Also having a 5 Power medium heavy rod for bigger plugs is good to have onboard. 

Keeping multiple rods on deck with different baits ensures that you are ready to go when the opportunity arises. Fishing and completing the Backcountry Slam is no easy task and any advantage you can get over the fish is vital to being successful. 

Few types of fishing Slams are more challenging or rewarding than the Backcountry Slam in the Florida Keys. Persistence, patience and a little bit of luck leads to one incredible accomplishment.

How To Understand A Fishing Rod’s Power

Identifying A Rod’s Power

To be a successful fisherman, it is vital that you understand what a fishing rod’s power is. Though many rods may look the same, they are actually quite different. Each rod has its own unique characteristics that apply to an application. One such characteristic is power. Understanding what power means is essential when choosing a fishing rod to buy.

Power is simply the amount of resistance the blank of a rod gives into flexing as you throw a bait. To identify what power a rod is, and other characteristics such as height, and action, look above the rod’s handle. Printed on the rod will be information about the rod’s specifications. Power can be identified in different ways, though typically it will be listed from ultra light (UL) to extra heavy (XH).  

Some rod companies, such as Temple Fork Outfitters, make it easy to identify a rod’s power by having their own simple coding system. TFO provides a scale from 1 to 7, with 1 being ultra light and 7 being extra heavy.

 

Identify What Power Rod You Need

After identifying a rod’s power and understanding the naming system, you must understand the application to figure out what power rod you need. As mentioned before, power is the amount of resistance a rod gives into flexing.  

A rod that is made with an ultralight or light power, such as the Temple Fork Outfitters Inshore 692, will flex with less weight. This rod is ideal for lighter lures such as a small 1/8 oz bonefish jig.  

The same concept is true for a heavier power rod like the TFO Inshore 795. A heavy lure, such as a large plug, is required to “load up”, or flex, a heavy rod. If you are throwing a light weight jig on a heavy power rod, the rod will not load up to launch that lure and you will find it difficult to cast at all.  

Likewise, if you throw a heavy lure on a light rod, it will feel clunky and slow. This is because the rod is over-flexing from the weight of the lure and lacks the “backbone” or power to get that heavy lure out there efficiently. Potentially doing so could also end up breaking your rod as the heavy lure overburdens the blank.

It is important when you rig your rods that you put the right bait with the right rod with the right application. Doing so means that you keep in mind what type of fish you are targeting. A heavy rod can handle the weight of a tarpon, or large snook bending the rod during a fight, just as it can handle throwing large lures. Whereas a light power rod would snap under the pressure, but allows you to feel more fight, and in turn have more fun, from catching smaller fish. 

Knowing what kind of cover you will be fishing in is equally important. If you are fishing heavy brush or around docks, a heavy rod is vital. A heavy rod’s backbone will help you pull fish out of that cover without straining or breaking the rod.  The same concept works the other way around; if you are throwing that 1/8 oz. jig for bonefish on sandy flats, a light rod would be the best application.

Now that you understand what a fishing rod’s power is and how to pick the right power rod for an application, you are certain to know which rod to buy and to find success on the water.