News Columns & Blogs

Warmer water has snook ready to play

Yeah, it’s winter, but I doubt the snook know it.

One week, we have charter captains telling us to ignore the snook bite; but this week, it’s: “Go get ’em.”

Water temperatures had been so low that snook were hiding in their wintertime haunts up the river, in canals, and in shallow water.

Now that water temperatures have risen to around 75 degrees, snook reportedly are more than making up for their previous bait-shyness.

Capt. T.J. Stewart of Cast Away Charters on Monday reported that snook were fleeing out of their backcountry areas in the Manatee River and were loaded in the mouth of the river and in various parts of Terra Ceia Bay, slamming shiners. Each trip in the past few days he had caught two fish of 30 inches, and at least 25 per day.

In Sarasota Bay, Capt. Andy Cappar has noticed an increase in snook bites as well. They’ve moved out onto flats from Ringling to Whitfield Estates, all along the bars and cuts. Throw anything that looks like a bait fish.

Cappar prefers any sort of diving plug over a top-water plug. Of course, top-water plugs will work early in the morning, but after that, try something like a MirrOlure 7M series or MirrOmullet.

Of course, we’re talking about an expert fisherman here, not your average angler. Still, it’s a good sign that anglers can start scouting out some out-of-season snook. Most weather experts don’t foresee a strong cold front coming through this week, besides a very weak front that came through last night. It likely will not hinder the snook fishing.

A full moon a couple of days from now will only enhance the speed of the tide and entice anglers who love to fish for the noctournal-feeding snook at night.

The best times to fish for snook are at sunrise, sunset, and at night.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Research Institute snook scientist Ron Taylor said the reason for this may be that snook have high levels of phosphorous cells that help them see better with a small amount of light.

As usual, do not motor up on snook. They spook easily. Taylor said even the shadow from a seagull or pelicans that glides overhead can spook a school of snook. “Because they can’t see the sun,” Taylor said.

Taylor added that when water temperatures hover between 68-70 degrees, snook turn on. Below 68 degrees, snook get lethargic.

“At 65,” Taylor said, “they just loose all interest. Once below 56-58, depending on conditions, they get moribund.”

Moribund means the snook doesn’t move — the linesiders are in a stupor. And once the water gets below 55, the snook will die.

Snook, Taylor said, are like humans. When we’re too hot or cold, “we don’t really think about eating. We think about getting warmer or cooler.”

So from now on, when you want to know when the snook are biting, simply check the water temperature. If you find a spot between 68 and 70 degrees, the snook should at least be in a biting mood.