Fishing & Boating

Sneak up on snook during open harvest season

We’ve been whipped around the bays and beaches during an especially cold winter, no doubt cancelling trip after trip, but hopefully, the best fishing is just ahead.

The best part may be that recreational open harvest season on snook is re-opening March 1 and will be open through April. Anglers on this coast can harvest one snook, between 28 and 33 inches, per angler daily.

Snook season closes May through August, and opens again from September through November.

March and April can be excellent months for snook and redfish.

Water temperatures are warming and bait is flowing, but as any experienced Florida angler knows, there are dozens of factors that go into finding the right spot and time for catch snook.

The most important factors in early spring fishing are finding water that is warm and moving, is near protected areas, and where bait is bunched up.

In the first part of March, snook may be moving up on flats, but they won’t be too far from protected water. These areas typically are where snook can go for warmer, deeper water, or close to structure.

Waters within 200 yards off Emerson Point is an example of an area that typically has all of the above factors. Terra Ceia Bay is loaded with bayous and islands that offer cuts for moving water and are close to protection.

Canals are a popular spot for snook to gather around dock pilings, but the linesiders typically aren’t there to feed, especially at the backs of canals. Moving water tends to move around the mouth of canals, making the mouth a better bet for a snook bite.

The time that tends to give an angler the best bet at a snook bite in early spring is in the afternoon when water has warmed to its peak temperature. Of course, for any species, it can’t be understated that the best times to fish are when the skies are pink – as the sun rises and sets. There are numerous theories as to why this is a transitional phase that increases a bite from snook fishing in Florida to trout fishing in Montana.

“The bait is gonna have a problem,” said Capt. Rick Gross of the charter boat Fishy Business. “Baits are gonna be disoriented and is start getting light or dark. They may not have had a chance to get where they want to be for protection around mangroves and around bridges. They night get caught off guard.”

Odds are, it’s also simply a predatory instinct.

Once you’ve found the right time, find the right spot. Look for moving water. Some anglers tend to look at the ripples on the water’s surface and mistake the wind direction for the direction of the tide.

If you’re fishing over turtle grass, a common way to see the tide movement is by the bending of the grass. But the best way is to read a tide chart and plan accordingly.

Finally, snook are nocturnal feeders and will be especially on the hunt at night. There are great Manatee County bridges to fish around from the Longboat Key Bridge to those bridges and railroad trestles in the Manatee River. Sometimes, the farther south you go for bridges, the better the results seems to be.

Tackle must be upgraded in these areas.

It’s recommended that anglers use 30-pound braided line and a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader when fishing the docks. Braided line is especially an advantage when the line gets wrapped around pilings.

As for bait, bring a little bit of everything.

Always match the type of bait that is in the water if possible. Snook can be picky, so an assortment of baits from white bait to shrimp and cut baits should be on hand for best results.

That said, it’s not easy to find a slot-size snook. But if you plan accordingly this week, you just might be ready to take home a flaky white snook fillet.