Down in Central Florida, about an hour north of Tampa, we met up with James Sauer, ANGLR Expert, to get some insight into snook fishing tactics. Besides taking a short break to pursue teenage dreams, Sauer has been a fisherman his whole life, and an avid one at that for the past 15 years.
What Is It About Snook Fishing That Draws Anglers In?
Snook are extremely smart fish, and they’ll fight like nobody’s business. They’re just pure power! When you get a snook on the line, they’ll grab that bait and sit there for a second before running the opposite direction. They jump out of the water with a powerful headshake, making them a really exciting catch.
Snook Fishing: Where to Look
Snook are around our area all year long. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) keeps a close eye on these fish placing two closed seasons on them each year. While you can’t always take them home, snook can be caught no matter what the fickle Florida weather has to bring.
Depending on the water temperature, snook generally stay in the same area most of the year. Many of my areas are spring-fed salt water with natural springs that pump in fresh water. So when it’s extremely hot, they’ll push back into the spring areas to remain in about 72℉ water. The same thing happens when the water turns much colder. They’ll push back towards the springs where there’s a more consistent water temperature.
They seem to like fast moving current, be it in spring water, or open water.
Before I head out, I usually have a pretty good idea of where I’ll go. I look at online maps and mark spots in the ANGLR web app, then look at the tide frames. You want to look for corners; points where there is lots of fast-moving current.
They’ll sit on the backside waiting to ambush the point where baitfish swim past.
You’ll usually find snook as deep as 10-15 feet, or shallower. I’ve caught snook fishing in as much as 20 feet and in as little as eight. It really depends on the area, and how much baitfish there are. It’s pretty straightforward. If you find a spot where a little creek comes out into a bigger body of water and there’s a hard current, they’ll be waiting in that corner for baitfish to come by. They’re opportunistic feeders, so if they see one come by on that corner, they’re going to be attacking it.
Also, if you’re snook fishing at night, the residential canals and docks usually have green lights in some spots. Snook will hide just outside the green light and wait for baitfish to come into the light, then they’ll swing in and grab a couple before swimming back out again. I’ve caught some of my biggest snook off of a dock under a green light at night.
Gearing Up For Snook Fishing
Snook like to feed on bait fish like pinfish, whitebait, greenbacks, or pilchards. They’ll also eat shrimp.
I only use artificial baits when I go snook fishing. I just don’t usually throw live bait, just as a personal preference. Many anglers will use live pinfish, whitebait, or greenback. You can put it underneath a torque-based reel or depending on how deep the water is, you can free-line it on 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook and let it float through the current so there’s more of a natural presentation as it’s floating by.
I like the walk-the-dog style topwater as well. That’s my go-to for snook. I prefer those with a red head and white body or just pure white. If I’m using soft plastic, I’ll use a white-colored fluke. If they’re in the deeper 15- to 20-foot water, I’ll use flarehock or bucktail jigs and get them off the bottom.
I mainly use spinning rods and reels, but some like to use baitcasters like they use in freshwater. I use a 7’-7’6” rod from medium to medium heavy and 2,500 to 4,000 size reel. I prefer 15-20 pound braid. Depending on the area, my leader will be 20-30 pound fluorocarbon or monofilament.
Snook Fishing: Landing a Snook
You’ll feel a solid thump as soon as they take the bait. Then, one of two things will happen: they’ll either take it, and sit there for a second, or take it and immediately take off. The minute they takes off, just give them drag. Usually the mid-sized snook (in the 24-30-inch range) will come up and start jumping like a freshwater bass almost immediately. Some will even come completely out of the water. The bigger ones or a heavy breeder female can’t get their whole body out of the water, so will just come up and head-shake.
They act just like a bass, so they’re often referred to as salt-water bass. Many of the same tactics you use on largemouth bass will work when snook fishing as well.
One thing that you definitely want to remember is to not let any slack get in your line when fighting snook or when they jump. Their gill plates are razor sharp and will break you off with no problem. When the line gets wrapped around their gills, it frays until the line is cut and they’ll break off and swim away. Always keep the line tight when reeling them in. That’s one of the reasons they’re targeted so much: because they’re such a challenge to catch. You really have to know what you’re doing, or you’ll get broken off 9 out of 10 times.
That being said, don’t ever grab one by the gills, or you’ll filet your hand faster than you can imagine. You lip a snook like you do a bass.
They can sometimes tire out easily because they use all of their energy in the fight. By the time you get them to the boat, they’ll be pretty much worn out, so you can lip them to get them up into your boat.
When you’re ready to release them, it’s imperative that you wait until they’re ready. They’ll suck on your thumb for a little while until they’re ready to leave, just holding onto your finger. Slowly rock them back and forth until they’re ready to go. When they are, they’ll kick off on their own.