It’s been more than six years since the December and January freeze killed a large percentage of the snook population. Now it seems like they are getting back to the levels of pre-freeze and fishermen have noticed the increase.
One of the best signs is the amount of big fish anglers have been catching. Throughout the summer tournament series, many top anglers were reporting they caught plenty of over slot-sized snook, which are breeder sized to repopulate. Some said it has been the best season of big snook fishing they’ve ever experienced, high praise for a fishery that’s been on the rebound as it’s been restricted by tight regulations.
I’ve seen my share of big snook as well. I would say the fishery is doing well when you see big fish in a variety of places in the same day. Some are still on the beach, plenty are still in the passes and more groups of linesiders have been moving onto the flats as the days get shorter.
Anglers targeting snook for the dinner table have taken advantage with the recent season opening on Sept. 1 as well, looking for their one per person per day slot-sized fish between 28 and 33 inches.
One thing I’ve been impressed with is the amount of shore bound anglers who have been catching slot-sized fish. Between bridges, piers, beaches and other spots that provide structure and moving water, a boat is not needed to catch big snook.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from the best shore anglers targeting linesiders that all anglers should pay attention to:
▪ Fish low light. Get out early, or stay out late. Try to avoid the middle of the day unless it is overcast or rainy. During September it’s hot and snook are lazy when they can be.
▪ Fish big baits with natural presentations for bigger fish. Pinfish, grunts, shiners, ladyfish, etc., are often best for big bites. If you catch one where you are fishing, that’s probably what the snook want to eat. In a strong current, make sure baits aren’t spinning and appear natural or keep them moving with the tide.
▪ Find the structure or contour changes with bait. Try to find where birds, mullet or other small fish are causing the most commotion. Around passes, bridges and piers, there’s a good chance snook are nearby when the bait is there.
▪ Finally, stay silent. This applies to all fishing. Silent is not only being quiet with noise but stealthy and not creating shadows from the sun or lights. Snook are smart — if you can see them, they are aware of you.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data