Capt. Griffin Deans named his charter business “Slot Machine Fishing Charters” because he enjoys clients catching slot-sized fish.
For snook, a slot-sized fish is between 28 and 33 inches. Normally, catching a snook this size is a bit lucky when the season is open because anglers looking for dinner harvest them. But that has changed with the recent closures of snook and redfish along the west coast of Florida.
In a strange scenario, Deans has been catching the same snook over and over, leaving him to hope the closure remains in effect.
“I think the closure has made fishing better,” Deans said. “We’ve caught a lot of slot fish this year. It’s definitely been a difference. There’s been a lot of 32-inch fish, and in previous years you rarely saw a 32-inch fish since people were keeping them. I say keep it closed a while.”
On a trip to Terra Ceia Bay in April, Deans put an angler on a 29-inch snook. He remembers the fish because it fought differently than most.
“It fought like a trout, just kind of came to the surface with his mouth open and doesn’t run for the mangroves,” Deans said. “Normally snook run to the mangroves and fight like mad trying to get away, but not this one.”
When Deans measured it, he noticed how skinny it was, and released it due to the seasonal closure to live another day.
“They probably would have kept it otherwise,” he said.
Back in that same spot, Deans caught the same fish again. And again. And again.
When he arrives at high tide, the same snook always seems to be waiting at his mangrove hole, and when a hooked whitebait hits the water a lucky angler gets to tangle with the celebrity snook.
“I’ve probably caught it 15-times!” Deans said. “It fights the same way every time and I measure it, same fish. You can tell by the way it fights when hooked. ‘There’s skinny’ I say. At one point I think I caught it 5 trips in a row, and the angler who catches it is always happy. A big snook in the mangroves is always a good catch. One slot sized fish can make a trip.”
Anglers both young and old, male and female, have had their photograph taken with “Skinny,” a snook who’s lucky the closure is right now.
“People say a lot of them die when you release them, but I think this is proof they don’t,” Deans said. “This fish has made a lot more smiles by being alive than any fish in the cooler ever has. We can go catch snapper and trout if people want dinner, let the snook be for a little. It’s much nicer to catch them!”
Capt. Griffin Deans can be reached through his website, Slotmachinefishingcharters.com.