Snook are abundant in (at least) the Southern half of Florida’s inshore waters. Although the range of these fish technically extends well into the northern waters of the State, most experienced anglers would advise that if a snook is on your radar, you should stay South. There, it is not uncommon to catch five to seven pounders on practically every excursion, regardless of time of day or, to a certain extent, season. This is true for both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, although there seems to be a bitter rivalry between the two camps as to which coast has better fishing. Our seasoned recommendation: try them both…multiple times.
As a general proposition, snook can best be targeted by searching for fast-moving waters near passes and inlets, where the larger fish can easily forage for food. These faster waters not only provide the best habitat for snook, but also allows for quick bait presentations and reaction bites–and won’t let the snook take advantage of its extremely keen sight to distinguish a bait or lure from its natural prey.
If you’re new to the species, start by fishing in areas where the fish have easy access to cover. Snook can be found hiding in grass flats, mangroves, oyster beds, and under bridges. Also, don’t just limit your search to saltwater– Snook can survive in both fresh and saltwater. In fact, some of the largest fish can be found (and caught) in brackish waters along the coast.
When searching for new spots, keep in mind that snook are wary of open water and rarely venture out, although they will be off the beaches in large numbers throughout the year. Generally though, snook can be found near any type of structure in the water where they feel safe and secure. Keep in mind that when you hook a trophy snook though, they will almost certainly try to get back into whatever structure they came from, and you’ll almost certainly lose your line if the fish drags it far into the mangroves.
Whether you are live baiting, using artificials, or chasing snook on the fly, there are a few stand-by rules that will help you navigate the species. First, always work your bait down stream. Snook will almost always be found facing the current head on. Second, these fish are spooky, so try not to make too much noise. That means whether you’re wading, paddling, or poling, you need to limit your talking and movement around these fish. Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you have a large enough set-up, with a full spool. These fish can get huge, and you don’t want to miss your shot at a twenty (plus) pounder because your tackle is too light.
Snook fishing tactics vary by season. From April to September, larger fish will migrate through estuaries, inlets, and bays, before progressively migrating into rivers and piers in search of cover under trees, mangroves, and other structure. One of the most popular and successful ways to target snook is by night fishing. It really is the greatest time to catch a huge Snook. If you want to increase your chances of catching a trophy, try fishing dock lights or other well lit areas (like bridges). While you can catch them on any number of lures or bait, we love to freeline baits back into the lights and then wait for a fish to emerge from the shadows.
If you’d like to target snook with your fly rod, fishing can be excellent near the beaches, particularly in the late spring and summer months.. Early mornings are best and you may have a shot at a large fish before the invariable crowds show up.