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.