Capt. Pete Rapps
Well, there are so many techniques and ways to catch a Snook that the answer is not all that cut and dry. To really be able to effectively target Snook, you have to know their habits, eating patterns, tides, water temperatures, moon phase, and a few other things. They migrate and move around a lot so you have to know where they typically spend time during different times of the year.
Since we are now about to enter summer here in the 10,000 islands, I would recommend that you fish the outside points of the mangrove rivers where you have good water flow during the outgoing tide. Although you can catch them in a few different areas this time of the year, including offshore wrecks, drop-offs around the near coastal oyster bars, and the near shore mangrove islands and rivers, the outside points of the mangrove rivers will be a great starting place.
Pick a point where you can physically see the water moving with the outgoing tide. Make sure that point has a deeper drop off under it, and your target fish will be hiding in the eddy justaround the back side of the point. Snook are a very smart fish, and will sit and wait in that eddy where the water is sitting still, looking for bait to be flushed past their noses. They will sit still in that eddy, conserving energy, and will ambush their food in a swift lightning fast strike. This lightning fast strike is why so many people are addicted to catching Snook. When hitting your bait, they will hit with great speed and strength, and will jump and try to get back into the protection of the mangrove roots where they will try to bust you off.
For bait, I would suggest you start with live bait like live Pilchards or Thread Herring if you can throw a cast net to catch them. If you cannot throw a cast net, go get some good size live shrimp from your local bait shop.
As far as gear, you will want to use a medium / light casting or spinning rod reel combo, with anywhere from 10-20lb braided line, and a 30-40lb fluorocarbon leader that is about 3-4 feet long. The Fluorocarbon leader will be virtually invisible under thewater, and will give you superior abrasion resistance to the Snook’s sandpaper teeth, and will hold up better than standard leader to the sharp mangrove roots. The braided line will give you additional abrasion resistance to the sharp mangrove roots and will hold up 10 times better than monofilament. You will need to use circle hooks for the live baits. The size of the hook will be determined by the size of the bait. You do not want a hook that is so big that it will overweigh your bait, and you do not want one that is so small that it will not hook a fish. For instance, If I am using live Pilchards that are about 3” long, I will typically use a circle hook around a size 3/0.
You can vary casting the bait out into the moving water either totally natural without any weight, or try a little lead split shot to sink the bait some if the water is moving real fast. If you like to use a cork or float, try setting it to a depth of about 3’ to start with. Your strike will be right ator near that eddy where the snook will be quietly waiting to eat. If you do not get hits as your bait goes past that eddy, try casting right into the eddy and let your bait go down in that slack current. When a fish strikes, start reeling in fast! You do not want to jerk and set a circle hook. Their design automatically sets the hook as soon as the fish turns and starts running away from you.
Like I said, the Snook are in other places this time of the year, too. Start with the eddies! If you want some one on one lessons, let me know. We do a lot of instructional charters.
Remember that Snook are “catch and release” only for another year due to the big freeze and Snook kill here in January 2010. Please be sure to check current regulations at www.myfwc.com.
This month through June I will be in Big Pine Key to get in on the annual Tarpon run at the Bahia Honda Bridge. I still have a few openings left for my Florida Keys Tarpon-only charters so drop me a line and let’s get you hooked up to some giant Tarpon!