At this weekend's 16th annual De Soto Fishing Tournament, don't be surprised if you hear that part of the winning catches came at night. The most hard-core anglers know that is when fish like big snook are most active in the summertime.
The De Soto Fishing Tournament is not one for the feint of heart. It's hot, and with heat, comes a long day on the water that can be slow and tough to stick out. Water temperatures have been creeping into the low 90s in the afternoons, making the flats more like a bath for both anglers and fish.
Even as waters have slowly cleaned the past few weeks following Tropical Storm Debby, anglers have been faced with the difficultly of extremely warm water temperatures.
This pushes fish off the flats in search of cooler water. Many times, the best bite is during low light or nighttime hours. Looking for trophy fish, many anglers will be heading to the cooler waters at passes and beaches where spawning snook aggregate.
Snook may not feed while engaged in spawning mode with the approaching new moon's outgoing tide. But they settle down and feed more actively as the nighttime sets in.
Contrary to popular belief, snook do not need light to feed. They will ambush bait in pitch black.
Big snook are needed to win the inshore division of the De Soto tournament. They garner the highest points of any fish in the inshore division. The De Soto tournament allows anglers to weigh in (or picture release) six fish, but only two of the same species.
Last year's winning boat, Team Action Yamaha and Capt. Jimmy Campbell, weighed in a 39- and 36-inch snook, which they landed at night. They also won the
junior division in 2010 with a 39-inch snook as their highest point fish.
In 2010, Capt. Scott Howell and the team of Suncoast Metals landed a 41- and 40-inch snook to claim first place.
In 2009, each boat in the top four of the inshore division had at least a 36-inch snook, with Capt. Brett Norris and team Rockbottom taking first place with a 36- and 34-inch snook.
Many offshore anglers will also be fishing throughout the night targeting swordfish and cubera snapper in the darkness. Last year's winning offshore boat, Jumbo Shrimp, and Capt. Paul Christie landed two cubera snapper at 78 and 70 pounds. In 2009, winning boat Seaveeche landed a swordfish to help them claim victory.
Offshore anglers will also be targeting the huge, crowd pleasing warsaw grouper, like the 280-pound fish that Capt. Tommy Butler and team Braggin Rights brought to the scales during their 2010 victory.
To see it all unfold, the weigh-in will be 11 a.m.-noon Sunday for the juniors division, noon-1 p.m. for the inshore division, 1-2 p.m. for the spearfishing division, and 2-3 p.m. for the offshore division at Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar at Tarpon Pointe Marina located at 801 Riverside Drive East, Bradenton.
If you can't make it, I'll once again be posting pictures and results as they happen at captainchappy.com. The full results will be in Monday's Bradenton Herald as well.