When Sept. 1st came four weeks ago, the usual buzz surrounding the opening day of snook season was not really there among anglers.
While the state opened the season for the legal taking of snook, many anglers haven't gone out of their way to target them for the dinner table.
There has been a renaissance of ethics among fishermen in recent years. Anglers want to catch the beautiful linesider, but as education has combined with conservation many choose not to keep one, even when it may fall in the tight 28- to 33-inch slot.
"No one right now is technically snook fishing for dinner," said renowned snook Capt. Scott Moore. "Most people are catch and release. On my boat, there is a two-fish limit and even then many clients don't want to keep fish.
"There are so many other fish to catch for dinner, and after the freeze the snook population has needed to rebound, and people want to see this fishery rebuild."
Moore's clients seem more interested in eating other fish, and mangrove snapper has been the go-to through the summer.
"I've caught a limit of mangrove snapper nearly every day. I've never seen snapper fishing as good as it is right now at any point in my life. It is also easier to catch a keeper gag grouper than a keeper snook if it's fish you want to eat. There's a million gag grouper out there. I've even caught them while trout fishing."
Moore said there are fewer snook around in the slot. Most fish that he and his anglers catch are either too small or too big.
"There's a great sign that a lot of smaller fish are around in spots. It takes a snook five to six years to become slot sized, and we've got a bunch of fish that will be there in a few years. The ones that make it to the slot seem to be caught and kept, and we need to make sure larger fish are around to produce more fish in the future."
Many anglers right now are finding that redfishing is the way to go in lieu of snook. This month has been one for the record books in terms of red fishing.
"The redfish have schooled up on every flat, and the fish are fat with lots of 8-pound slot fish being caught this year," Keith David Stonestreet said.
"Big schools of slot-sized reds," echoes Capt. Rick Gross. "Big schools of reds. Some are over 40 inches," Capt. Steve Brownlee said.
October should be good fishing all around, inshore and off. With such heavy rains the past few evenings, the fishing patterns will see changes as schools of bait adjust to the changing salinity. This summer's lack of rain has really kept fishing consistent. With so much fresh water in a short time frame, big changes could occur.
Offshore anglers can expect kingfish to arrive sooner rather than later, and gag grouper to be moving shallower with shorter days and dropping water temperatures.
Inshore redfishing will be good for the near future because there are so many fish around. Trout also will begin to bite more consistently as well, and the past few years have been exceptional for big trout during the cooler months.
IFA Sarasota redfish tournament:
1st place--Ron Hueston/Mark Brady 7.91/8.13-pounds: 16.04 total
2nd place--Michael Delagarza/TJ Stewart 7.62/7.77 pounds: 15.39 total
3rd place--Kris Howell/Brett Norris 7.92/7.17 pounds: 15.09 total
4th place--Brock Horner/Billy Alstrom 6.92/7.38 pounds: 14.3 total
5th place--JR Witt/Jason Tari 6.1/7.6 pounds: 13.7 total.