Before proceeding to give you some Snook fishing tips, learning some basic information is necessary. The Snook is an inshore game fish found throughout the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It is a large fish notable for its protruding lower jaw and the black lateral stripe stretching from the back of the gills all the way to its tail. Its color is silvery green although some are a vivid yellow. The Snook is strong and sleek, and its weight ranges from 48 to 50 lbs.
When and Where to Fish for Snook
Snook season in the eastern US usually starts in September, and you’ll be able to catch most of the big Snook during the summer months. Generally speaking, the best time to get Snook is an hour before the high tide. However, it is important for the tide to be moving for optimal results.
Snook fish are usually found in mangroves, bridges and under docks as well as other inshore structures and cover. Snook usually stay in these locations because the lateral line gives protection and helps them detect prey even in dark waters. If you’re just learning how to fish for Snook, you can find them in saltwater and freshwater, and it’s also a good idea to look into river mouths because it’s where they usually stay.
The best place to fish for Snook is off the Florida coast as well as the Pacific coast and the Caribbean, although Florida is the best option if you’re after the big ones. However, a lot of the Snook there tend to be aggressive and intelligent so you need to be more patient.
Besides the aforementioned locations, Snook can be fished along the shorelines, inlets, passes, potholes and grassy flats. You can also hang around pier pilings or snags. Regardless where you decide to fish, do it during the summer months. If you’re a recreational angler living or visiting Florida, check out the fishing spots over at Tampa Bay along Florida’s central west coast. Among the most promising locations on the east coast are the Sebastian Inlets, Lake Worth and Jupiter.
Tackle and Techniques
Before you fish for these, keep in mind that Snook do not have any teeth but do have a pointy razor sharp gill plate. Make sure to always use caution when handling them.
Fishermen use different types of tackle, but it’s best to go with either a bait casting or light saltwater spinning configuration. 30 lb test of braid will be sufficient in most cases while a fluorocarbon leader around 15 to 40 pound test will do depending on the Snook size and the water’s clarity. Different types of hooks are available, but if you’re going to release the fish (as is usually the case), a round (circle) hook will be fine.
As to which technique is most effective, keep in mind that the majority of Snook are captured along docks and inshore structures, so set up your spot there. Second, remember that Snook are sensitive to tidal movements and that the tides play an important role. While some like to fish during the mornings, you can also catch plenty during the evenings.
Catch Snook at Night
Earlier we mentioned how important patience is, and that’s true regardless of the Snook fishing lures you’re using. For instance, it’s not usual to see people fish at night in Venice, Florida as it’s a good place to make a catch as any. On most summer nights you’ll see thousands of Snook under the docks, but no matter what bait you use, they won’t bite until the tide turns and they start feeding.
The key here, as pointed above, is the tide. If the tide turns the right way, Snook will come in droves and you’ll end up with a couple dozen or so in less than hour. But the moment the tide turns, the Snook will move away.
While spinning and bait casting tackle are the most widely used, saltwater boat rods are also useful especially when live baiting in inlets and passes. Also, you might consider heavier gear if you’re going to fish along bridges and piers. Some fishermen go for surf tackle especially when they’re along the beach, although you can go with casting gear as well.
Using the Right Lures
You will catch most of the Snook with plastic tails or bucktail jigs, although Gulp Shrimp and Jerk Shads will also do. As for the live baits, it will depend a lot on where you’re fishing, but usually live mullet, live shrimp and live pilchards will do nicely. If all you have are live sardines they will do too. The general rule though is you should grab some of the bait near the fishing spot you’ve chosen.
If you’re into fly fishing the best options are poppers and large streamers, but for hard lure casters it’s best to go with topwater plugs, spoons, jerk plugs or tail / plastic jigs. In addition to these you can also try any small fish or live crabs. You’re likely to have more luck with schooling baitfish like the aforementioned Pilchards.
If you’re after the big Snook, get large dead baits like Ladyfish or Mullet heads. If you’re using live shrimp, use a 10 to 20 lb. outfit with a 30 inch #40 shock leader. This should be fastened to a 2/0 or 1/0 hook, and make certain you weight the line with only the necessary amount of sinker so it goes down. If you’re using live fish like pinfish, menhaden or mullet, use the outfit given above but get a bigger hook to suit the bait.
Snook respond well to live and artificial bait, but generally it’s ideal to use artificial lures during wintertime and live bait during the summer. Your chances of landing a big catch will also increase if you fish when there’s a current especially in the outgoing tide. Apart from the locations mentioned, be sure to look in channels along flats, adjacent points along sandbars and island cuts.
During windy and cold days, look for a sand bar, or maybe a bayou by the bay, and arm yourself with some artificial lures and you’ll be set. As long as you don’t make too much noise when you approach, everything will be okay.