When John Bozenhardt needed to run his boat Monday, he did what most anglers would do — throw a few rods in for the quick trip.
“We just decided to bring some lures out and troll to see what would hit,” Bozenhardt said. “It was right around the major feeding period and before sundown.”
With gag grouper season coming to a close next weekend, Bozenhardt was in search of another for the table. He headed to the edge of the Tampa Bay shipping channel and deployed deep diving plugs. It’s a strategy that has yielded gag grouper up to 32 inches for him in the past.
As he made a pass over a fishy area about 30 feet deep on a channel edge, the red and white Mann’s Stretch 30+ was hit.
“I kept the boat in gear, and the fish didn’t put up much of a fight at first,” Bozenhardt described. “Then it came up and I saw the big open mouth. I knew exactly what it was.”
To Bozenhardt’s surprise, it turned out to be a large snook. He worked it in the boat, snapped a picture, and released it to fight another day.
“It’s probably one of the 10 biggest snook I’ve caught in my life,” he said. “I’ve actually caught snook there before while fishing for snapper during cold February days. Maybe the water stays a little warmer? I don’t really know why they are there since it’s so deep.”
Breeding-size snook are actually more common in deep water than people realize.
Divers have spotted large snook as far offshore as the Florida Middle Grounds, which is about 120 miles west-northwest of Bradenton. More commonly snook are seen on nearshore reefs and wrecks in the summertime. But like their inshore friends, getting these large snook to eat is a hard, meaning most anglers will never know they are there.
Perhaps it’s as much luck as skill, but anytime a large snook is on the line an angler must be doing something right.
The surprise is something cool for sure, and a present Bozenhardt won’t soon forget.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data