News Columns & Blogs

Are you ready for snook season?

We love their fury, those runs to the pilings or away from the surf, a line-frizzling frenzy.

Plus, they taste good.

Time to gear up for snook.

The linesiders are widely regarded as Florida’s No. 1 game fish, and with the tight regulations placed on them, it’s hard to argue that anglers love to beat them up. The season opens Sept. 1. Anglers on the west coast can keep one snook per day, between 28 and 33 inches. Licensed saltwater anglers must purchase a $2 permit to harvest snook. Snatch-hooking and spearing snook are prohibited, and it is illegal to buy or sell snook.

Most snook are either close to passes, in the passes or off the beaches right now. A few are reportedly moving into backwater areas, which would be quite early. The fact that snook will be wrapping up their spawn within the next month will not have much bearing on the fishing. Snook typically continue to spawn during the new and full moons of September.

If anglers have been keeping fishing logs, they can expect that snook will be in similar places on Sept. 1 as they were about two weeks ago. Tides will be similar.

If anglers want some big snook, the best bet may be dead bait, such as a mullet head, fished on the bottom. Old, fat snook are typically lazy and are rarely willing to chase down a live bait. Try a mullet head on a 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook. Snead Cut is always a good area, as is Longboat Pass. Also, as anglers are heading west on the Manatee Avenue bridge, just before crossing the Intracoastal Waterway, there are some deep-water areas that may be holding some whopper snook. Also try areas under the bridge near the South Skyway Fishing Pier parking lot.

The surf is a good place to target, with some bigger fish and a lot of smaller males. Fly-fishing with a glass minnow-type imitation should work, and if the water’s clear, anglers will want to go down in leader size. Fly-fishing works best in the surf because it allows for delicate presentations, and the smaller indigenous baits can be duplicated.

Anglers can also drift passes or bridge channels.

“I was just in Stuart last week,” said Capt. Rick Grassett of the Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, “and that’s something they do. They’ll take a (D.O.A.) TerrorEyz or a Bait Buster and vertical jig.”

Remember that when the weather cools later in the fall, snook will be on the move to backwater areas such as docks, canals and bayous.

Snook typically stage up, facing into the tide waiting to ambush bait. A good presentation puts a shiner or shrimp, for example, far ahead of the snook before it drifts naturally back toward the snook. If anglers are fishing around lighted docks, the cast should go well beyond the lit area and into the dark for a more stealthy landing.

Snook are very tide sensitive, so no matter what the season, look for water that’s either moving quickly because of the tide, or in areas near cuts or passes with a wind-driven current.

Nick Walter, Herald outdoors writer, can be reached at 745-7013.