Snook On The Big Bend? You Bet–Provided We Have a Warm Winter!
Snook are probably the most fun and abundant gamefish in Florida. They run, they jump, and if you want to keep one for dinner during open season, they’re delicious to eat. However, they’re also highly susceptible to cold water temperatures and are some of the first fish to be found floating dead after a hard winter freeze. Warm winters in recent years have allowed snook to migrate north from Pinellas and Pasco counties (Tarpon Springs’ Anclote Key was the northern edge of their range for many years.) Now, with our recent warm winters, snook are regularly being caught well north of the Withlacoochee River in Waccasassa Bay and even as far north at Suwannee’s Salt Creek.
Snook are ambush feeders, and prey on small fish (mullet, pinfish and sardines) as well as crustaceans (crabs and shrimp). They will also readily attack artificial lures like the D.O.A. shrimp or slow-sinking MirrOlure Catch 2000s. Rigging is important, with stealthy knots (Homer Rhode or Uni Knots work well) and tough, invisible fluorocarbon leader (24-30#) a “must”. An interesting fact about snook is that they are picky about their prey. If you’re using live fish for bait, don’t rig them like you do for redfish (through the back or tail) but hook them through their lips. Snook attack from behind! And they prefer fast-moving water, especially when it’s washing baits off shallow flats or bars into deeper troughs.
In 2015/2016, Gulf Snook “season” runs from September 1, 2015 to February 29, 2016 and from May 1 to August 31, 2016. While you’re allowed to keep one snook per day, anglers are urged to have fun and release fish they catch. Just remember–one cold winter and the snook will again head south and away from our Big Bend waters!
Complete information about snook and other saltwater gamefish species can be found at www.myfwc.com/fishing