Snook fishing in the Gulf Coast one of the most sought after species, and is a Florida favorite. Snook are most active from April through November, but can be caught year around. Found along the beaches, passes, throughout the estuaries and all the way inshore to fresh water, snook are caught on a variety of live baits, lures and flies. It is not uncommon to catch snook from 15 to 30 lbs during in the spring, summer and fall months. Snook are listed under ” game fish status” in the state of Florida and are protected by strict size and bag limits as well as closed seasons to preserve this prized fish.
The Snook has a most distinctive body shape, featuring a tapered head and snout, underslung lower jaw, large fins and, most distinctive of all, a promi- nent black stripe running the full length of the lateral line. The stripe is present in all species of Snook. Coloration is generally dark gray to black on the dorsal surface, shading to silvery on the sides.The fins are yellowish. With many inshore fish, the coloration may vary with season and habitat. Snook of inside waters usually have darker sides.
SIZE: Generally, the size range is from 3 to 15 pounds. Snook weighing 20 to 30 pounds are not unusual on either coast, especially around inlets and passes during the summer, when spawning takes place. A number of Snook topping 40 pounds have been caught over the years on both coasts, and the maximum may be 60 or more.World record 53 pounds, 10 ounces; Florida record 44 pounds, 3 ounces
FOOD VALUE: Snook are proportionately very thick through the shoulders, and their fillets represent a higher portion of total weight than most other fish. The fillets are mild yet flavorful and are ranked at the top of nearly everyone’s list of favorite fish.
GAME QUALITIES: One of the best for all-around fighting ability.The fight is usually featured by several long runs and a few jumps. Small Snook leap high in the manner of Ladyfish, while the really big females manage to clear only about half their bodies. Snook also are past masters at utilizing shoreline roots or any other obstructions to their advantage.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Even though spinning and bait- casting tackle are the most used, light saltwater boat rods get plenty of action, particularly when live-bait- ing in passes and inlets. Even heavier gear often gets the call for fishing from piers and bridges. Surf tack- le can be useful at times, although surf Snook are usually close to the beach, in easy range of casting gear. Fly fishermen take their Snook on large streamers and poppers, for the most part, while hard-lure casters rely heavily on mirror plugs, buck- tail and plastic jigs, jerk plugs, spoons and topwater plugs. Any small fish makes good live bait, as do live shrimp and crabs. Schooling baitfish, such as Pilchards, work wonders as both live chum and bait. Large dead baits fished on bottom take some very big Snook; best are Mullet heads and Ladyfish heads or halves.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing; Casting; Trolling; Drift Fishing.
RANGE: A tropical species, Snook are found on the larger islands of the Caribbean, includ- ing Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.They are absent from the Bahamas, except for an occasional straggler in Bimini. In Florida, they are largely confined to about the lower half of the Peninsula. However, a few succes- sive years without damaging freezes will send them spreading northward, particularly on the Atlantic Coast, where they have been fishable even around Jacksonville at times. On the Gulf side, the Homosassa River seems to be the limit of their range, although wandering individuals are caught in the Panhandle on occasion. Even on the lower Gulf Coast, occasional freezes kill many Snook. Serious kills are far less common on the Atlantic side, where deeper, warmer water is closer at hand to pro- vide a haven.
HABITAT: Snook are fished in a variety of settings—mangrove shorelines; grassy flats and potholes; passes and inlets.They love to hang around bridge and pier pilings, or any kind of snag.They also are excellent surf fish in many areas.