Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sebastian Inlet Report


It's another beautiful morning at the inlet. Winds are blowing out of the West-Southwest at 5 mph, gusting to 8 and the water is calm. We have interesting cloud formations over the inlet with patches of blue sky. We expect another deluge late this afternoon like the one we experienced yesterday, but there is a chance of rain showers any time today. Go prepared if you head to the inlet.

This is a great time of year to head to the inlet or go out on the flats near the inlet. The fall mullet run has brought in some nice predatory fish. Lots of Reds, slot sized and oversized are being landed, most anglers are using netted finger mullet but some are being landed on top water plugs. Snook of various sizes are active, as are Tarpon. Mangrove Snapper, big Jacks, Ladyfish, Blue Runners and Spanish Mackerel are all making appearances at the inlet. Tommy Turowksi at the Sebastian Inlet Bait and Tackle Shop reported such a good Mackerel bite, that he sold out of Gotcha lures!

Our first photo today features 13 year old Jake Wyrick of Clermont. Jake was fishing the north jetty on Friday when he landed this good sized Jack using a finger mullet. That sized Jack puts up a big, fun fight and we know Jake must have had a great time pulling it over the rails!
Photo two is of Ian Alvear with a 28" C/R Redfish he landed Saturday off the north jetty. Ian was drifting a live mullet on the inlet side during the incoming tide when he landed the Red. The Red was released right after the photo.
Ruddy of the Orlando was fishing with friends on Saturday and they landed some real nice Reds, Jacks and Snook. We have more photos of their fishing expedition coming later this week.

Catch 365

"Flair-Hawk Rods"

Throwing flair-hawks for snook is addicting, and most anglers can't help but get hooked on the THUMP!  Catch a snook or two on a jig and you will be looking for just the right rod for your new sleep depriving habit.

Like all things fishing related, opinions vary on the best rod and reel setup for throwing flair-hawks; the following is a quick look at two combos that work well.

Bridge/Jetty/"Land-based" Jig Rod-  When we are out fishing from land at night we tend to break out the longer jig rods.  Stout graphite baitcasting rods in the 8.5-9' range paired with a heavy duty low profile baitcaster spooled with 30-65lb braided line gets the nod most of the time (Example: Cousins Tackle 8925 or Rainshadow 1088 paired with a Daiwa Lexa or Abu Garcia Revo NaCl).  Spinning rods in the same length are also popular with a good strong spinning reel spooled with 30-50lb braided line.  It becomes a personal preference on bait casting verses spinning tackle.  Baitcasting reels tend to be a little lighter in weight, offer good drag systems, and some cool casting advantages when you really get them dialed in.  Regardless of wether you chose bait casting or spinning reels, the long rod is important for getting good long casts.  Also, the long rod can save your fish when you need to reach under a bridge or steer a fish out of a bad area.  A medium fast action works well on a jig rod as it provides just a little time for the rod to load up and drive the hook home after a bone jarring THUMP!

Boat Jig Rod- The only major difference with the boat jig rod is the length.  The longer rods work on the boat, but the length can be cumbersome.  A 7-8' rod with the above mentioned specs does a nice job on the boat.

From Whites Tackle - Ft Pierce / Stuart

                                      photo courtesy of Beachwalker Guide Service
The beach fishing continues to be steady in the bait schools with as many tarpon,snook,and jacks as you want find the bait and you will find the fish.Inshore the snook and trout have been around the sailfish flats on the out going tide live mullet and top water have produced the best.The bridges have had a few snook around them at night first light jigs have produced the best around the bridges. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

From Capt Joe Ward @ Bait Shack - FT Pierce

INSHORE - As the weather starts to cool off some you can look for the fishing to get better. The schools of bait fish should be coming in the Ft. Pierce Inlet with plenty of action not far behind. 
The snook bite in the Ft. Pierce Inlet should be good for anglers using live baits like greenies and mullet and fishing them on the bottom at places like Judy Rock or the cleaning station and fish on the out going tides. Also, in the Ft. Pierce Inlet the Spanish mackerel and bluefish will be showing up and they will take anything shinny. Look for the trout and redfish in the deeper holes and channels around the flats. They will be taking a live shrimp fished under a popping cork and fish in 5 to 7 feet of water when the water starts to cool down. The local bridges should be holding some nice snapper, sheepshead and black drum. Try fishing a live shrimp on a #2 hook and a 1/2 to 1oz. weight. Around the South Jetty there should be some flounder on the beach side. A large live shrimp or mud minnows fished on a 1/8 or 1/4oz. troll-rite hook. In the surf the whiting & pompano bite should improve later in the month. Shrimp, clams or sandfleas will all be a good choice. 

Sebastian Inlet Report


We have another lovely morning at the Sebastian Inlet; it's humid but nice. Winds are blowing out of the Southeast at 3 mph and the water is calm. The water is on the murky side due to all the rains we've had lately.

From all the emails we received over the weekend and from talking to Tommy Turowski at the Sebastian Inlet Bait and Tackle Shop this morning, the fishing is hot, hot, hot!! Lots of Reds, slot and oversized are chasing the finger mullet, which are plentiful. Mangrove Snapper are still biting, along with Snook, Jacks, Spanish Mackerel, Ladyfish and Tarpon. There's a lot of fish out there waiting to be caught!

We received an update from inlet regular Mike Ricciardi who fished the north jetty Friday morning and reported a pretty crazy morning. Rain poured from 6:00 - 7:30 a.m. which made for a wet start to the day. Ladyfish were thick and dominated the bite for several hours between 5:00 - 7:30 a.m. The Snapper were slow to appear and although there weren't a lot caught but those that came over the rails were good sized, in the 13" - 15" range. The Snapper preferred small finger mullet which were easy to come by. Mike landed one that was 14" on a live mojarra. By 11:30, Mike was getting frustrated with just one Snapper in his cooler but the last cast before packing it in proved successful when he hooked up with a 24.5" Red. Dennis Campbell hooked up with a Red at the same time but his was 27.5" and returned to the water, he was using live mullet. Dennis landed two good sized Mangrove Snapper that morning as well. Shortly after, Bob Meerza of Orlando landed a 33" C/R Snook on the inlet side. Mike reported a massive school of Jacks in the 8 -10 lb. range made an appearance and were terrorizing the mullet as he was leaving. 
Our first photo features Mike Ricciardi of Vero Beach with a 24.5" Red he landed on a mojarra.
Photo two features Dennis Campbell of Sebastian with two good sized Mangrove Snapper.
Our last photo is of Bob Meerza of Orlando with the 33" C/R Snook that was returned to the water.

Catch 365

                       "Surf Spinning"

Interested in getting into surf fishing?  The following is a brief rundown on common surf spinning rod and reel combos and common uses for South Florida beaches.  Uses will vary depending on location.

1.  "Traditional" Surf Rod- 10-13' Surf Rod matched with a 6000-8000 size spinning reel spooled w/ 15-25lb monofilament line.  This long surf rod is ideal for those that want to cast a bait out, stick the rod in the sandspike, and kick back in a beach chair until a fish bites.  Pick the longest rod you feel comfortable with.  Longer rods provide a longer cast, and help keep line out of the water when the surf is up.
Common Uses- Bait Fishing w/ bottom rig.
Common Species- Pompano, Bluefish, Croaker, Whiting, Jacks, Blue Runner

2.  "Crossover" Lure/Bait Surf Rod- 8-10' Spinning Rod (Graphite preferably) matched with a 5000-6000 size spinning reel and typically filled with 30-50lb braided line.  This setup is ideal for those interested in being able to use both lures and bait.
Common Uses- Bait Fishing in calm conditions, throwing heavy lures(spoons, diamond jigs, poppers, etc), "bobber" rig (as described earlier)
Common Species- Snook, Tarpon, Blacktip Sharks, Jacks, Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel

3. Light Spinning Rod- 7-8' Spinning Rod matched with 3000-4000 size spinning reel and filled with 8-10lb monofilament or 10-20lb braided line.  This is a a setup that can be used for smaller lures or light bait rigs in calm surf conditions.
Common Uses- Summertime snook sight fishing, pompano jigging, throwing small spoons and gotcha lures, croaker/whiting bottom fishing, and much more
Common Species-Snook, Croaker, Whiting, Pompano, blue runners, bluefish, spanish mackerel

From Whites Tackle - Ft Pierce / Stuart

Inshore there has been a few reports of redfish around the Vero Shores area on the west side of the river on the outgoing tide in the mullet schools.The beach fishing has been steady from the south jetty to the power plant in the mullet schools moving down the beach.

Friday, September 26, 2014

From Todd / Eric @ Juno Bait -Juno Beach

INSHORE- The arrival of big schools of finger mullet inshore (pretty much from Stuart all the way to Palm Beach Inlet) has the inshore fish fired up.  Depending on where you find the mullet schools; snook, tarpon, redfish, spotted seatrout, jacks, and ladyfish will be taking advantage of the easy meal.  Getting a bite out of the middle of what often seems like a million mullet can be tough.  Try keeping your baits on the edge or underneath the school.  The other trick that  sometimes work is fishing something totally different around the school of mullet.  Many a big snook have slurped up a DOA shrimp crawled underneath a school of mullet.  Another good trick is to fish good looking ambush points(seawalls, bridges pilings and fenders, points, canal entrances, etc) where you don't see mullet schools.  Many fish, snook especially, are lazy and don't want to go looking for the mullet; and prefer to stake out and wait for the tide to bring the schools to them.  Live mullet, topwater plugs (Zara Spook and Rapala Skitterwalks), and Suspending Jerkbaits (Rapala X-Raps) are all good lures for this situation.  Throw your bait or lures up-current and bring them back with the tide naturally for some explosive strikes!

SURF/PIER- The surf and pier fishing has been very very good this week, with all kinds of action going on.  Finally seeing a good number of bigger mullet and the large predators are in them.  Look for big snook, tarpon, jacks, and sharks to be around the schools of silver mullet.  While they will feed on the schools all day, the best action tends to be early morning and late afternoon.  School of finger mullet are still around and they too are being followed by all kinds of predators.  The Juno Beach Pier is alive with fish right now.  In addition to the previously mentioned species; the pier is producing good numbers of spanish mackerel, blue runners, and some bluefish and pompano as well.  Beach shark fishing is heating up.  Fair number of pompano for this time of year around as well.

Catch 365

                         "Picking Out Pier Rods"

Many south Florida piers limit the number of rods an angler can take out fishing; with a three rod limit being a very common number.  The following is a brief rundown on the three most common setups carried onto south Florida fishing piers; and some of the more common uses for them.  Target species, weather, time of year, and many other factors may change these setups from time to time, but this general rundown will keep most of your pier fishing bases covered.   (From left to right in the picture)

1.  Heavy Bottom Rod w/ large capacity Conventional Reel.  This setup is typically a beefy 8-9' fibergalss rod(for strength) and a reel capable of handling 30-60lb test monofilament line.  
-Common pier uses include: snook fishing underneath the pier, casting out bottom baits(permit fishing is very popular), trolley rigging, or (on piers that allow it) shark fishing.  This setup is typically going to be your "big fish" rod and reel.  
-Crossover uses include: Livebait Rod for bridge snook fishing, beach shark rod, heavy boat bottom fishing rod(Very commonly referred to as a "Tortugas" style bottom rod"

2.  Long Spinning Rod / "Big Spinner"- A fairly heavy spinning rod in the 8-9' range matched with a spinning reel capable of holding a large capacity of 30-65lb braided fishing line.  This rod is usually graphite to keep the weight down and allow for better casting; but certain Calstar fiberglass blanks excel in this application and provide a little more durability than many graphite rods on the market today.
-Common Pier uses include: Throwing heavy cobia jigs, throwing heavy plugs(Like Rapala X-Raps) for bonita and kingfish, and flatlining for snook when they are feeding near the surface.
-Crossover Uses include: Flair hawk snook rod, beach plug rod, and very popular for cobia fishing in the boat when long casts are needed.

3. "Sabiki Rod" (although it is so much more...) is a 7-8' lighter action spinning rod matched with a 3000-4000 size spinning reel and either 8-10lb monofilament or 10-20lb braided line.
-Common Pier Uses include: "sabiki rod" for catching livebait, casting goofy jigs for pompano,  throwing assorted small plugs and jigs for mackerel, and many other uses where a small rod or light line is needed.
-Crossover Uses include: too many to list, bass fishing, inshore fishing of all types (wading or boat fishing for snook, trout, redfish, etc), summertime beach snook fishing etc...

From Whites Tackle - Ft Pierce / Stuart

The beach fishing the last few days has been good with the mullet and glass minnow schools with a bunch of tarpon and nice snook in them along with the jacks and bluefish to.Inshore the sailfish flats has had a few nice snook on them top water plugs have produced the best.The snook fishing around the bridges has been good at night on the outgoing tide with jigs and windcheaters.
photo courtesy of BeachWalker Guide Service

Sebastian Inlet Report


TGIF! We had some rain early this morning, it's clearing but is supposed to rain again this afternoon. Winds are blowing out of the Southeast at 10 mph, gusting to 12 and there is a moderate chop on the water. We have a similar forecast predicted for the weekend, showers and thunderstorms on and off. Sometimes fishing is fantastic in the rain, so go prepared for it and go out and wet a line this weekend!

Tommy Turowski at the Sebastian Inlet Bait and Tackle Shop said fishing was good yesterday. Mangrove Snapper, Blue Runners, Jacks, a couple of big Flounder and there was a real nice run of Spanish Mackerel in the afternoon. Tarpon are in the surf, and big Reds and Snook are out there, but not many have been coming over the rails, Tony Swiderski and Mike White of Sebastian both hooked up with Snook in the early morning, but both broke off. Snowbird Larry Olmsted is back from Minnesota and landed a 33" C/R that was returned to the water. 
Our first photo today features Nelson Haslam of Savannah, GA. Nelson was fishing the north jetty Wednesday morning when he landed several good sized Mangrove Snapper using live shrimp. 
Photo two features inlet regular Mike Ricciardi of Vero Beach with two real nice Mangrove Snapper he landed Wednesday morning using chunks of mojarra. One was 14.5" and the other was 13". 
Photo three features another inlet regular, Tony Swiderski of Sebastian. Tony landed his Mangrove Snapper Wednesday morning using shrimp. 
Fellsmere resident Anthony Nappo decided to give his hand a try at the Mangrove Snapper and landed several slot sized fish using shrimp.
Our last photo today is of Luis Segura of Palm Bay. Luis landed his limit of Mangrove Snapper and lots of Jacks Wednesday morning. He is featured with a Mangrove Snapper. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Catch 365

                "Personel Preference"
As we continue to roll on with a look at various types of fishing rods and reels; let's not forget the most important factor when picking out a rod and/or reel...the person fishing with it.  It is easy to read yourself in circles when it comes to fishing related things, and everyone has an opinion on what is or isn't the best choice.  Make sure that a rod and/or reel looks good to you, feels right, and falls in your price range; your the one that is going to be fishing it, make sure you like it before you buy it!

Sebastian Inlet Report


We have another nice morning at the inlet. We have some cloud cover, a nice breeze blowing out of the East at 6 mph, gusting to 8 and there is a moderate chop on the water. The NOAA forecast is calling for potential scattered showers and thunderstorms today, but hopefully it won't be as much as yesterday! 

Tommy Turowski at the Sebastian Inlet Bait and Tackle Shop reported that Spanish Mackerel, oversized Reds and big Jacks and Ladyfish are biting this morning. There are probably Mangrove Snapper out there as well, he just hasn't heard of any this morning. There was a good Snapper bite yesterday, so more than likely they are out there again today. 

We received an update from Meir Genoune of Boynton Beach who had his sons Leore and Eytan and their friend Steve King at the inlet early Sunday morning. They had heard that the Redfish bite had turned on and were on a mission to have Steve land his first Redfish. They netted plenty of mojarra and finger mullet in the Tide Pool but fishing remained quiet between 4:30 - 5:30 a.m. As dawn approached, the boys started getting busy landing some nice sized Jacks. After they had landed plenty of Jacks, they started focusing on their mission. It didn't take long before the first slot Red came over the rails at 20", followed by Leore's slot Red at 26.5". Steve landed the third slot Red that was 22". Mission accomplished! All the Reds were landed on finger mullet. They also noted that a handful of Snook with a few that were in the slot, Mangrove Snapper and slot sized Pompano came over the rails during their time on the north jetty. 
Our first photo features Leore Genoune and Steve King of Boynton Beach with slot Reds. Nice job guys!

Photo two is of Leore Genoune with a 26.5" slot Red.

Our third photo features Robert of Orlando who landed this Mangrove Snapper off the north jetty yesterday morning using a live greenie. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Palm Beach Report

Tarpon have really shown up along the beaches of the Treasure Coast, especially in the early-morning and evening hours. Some of the best action has been from 6-7 p.m., following the afternoon storms.
Mutton, lane and mangrove snapper are chewing around the St. Lucie Inlet, and the best bite seems to be during higher tides.
There is a ton of bait in the Indian River, which has made the night fishing awesome for snook and trout. Head for the docks! There are big snook on the west side of the river and the redfish are trickling in as well.
The mullet run is definitely underway along Jupiter, especially from the inlet, south to the 
Juno Beach Pier. There are tarpon (60-80 pounds) and huge numbers of bluefish in tow. The tarpon are on the outside edges and the bluefish seem to be more in the middle. There are some small snook along the beach as well.
Bait fish are also coming down the Intracoastal Waterway, and the snook are hitting around the bridges.
There is not shortage of bait in the surf along Palm Beach but it doesn’t seem to be attracting many snook or tarpon. There are a few being hooked here and there, but nothing consistent.
The same can be said along Boynton Beach, although a few jacks and tarpon have been caught in the Intracoastal between the Lantana bridge and Boynton Beach Inlet. There are snook around the bridges along with decent numbers of bluefish.

Anglers who are out on the water before sunrise are catching good numbers of bass. Some larger fish were also reported this week, including a few in the 6- to 7-pound range.
Bass are being caught out in open water and also along the outside edges, and experienced anglers are saying artificial lures are working better than live shiners. Plenty of fish are being caught on shiners, however.
The window for catching fish seems to be slowly increasing but, for numbers, you really do need to be on the water well before the sun comes up and be finished by 10 a.m.
report courtesy of Palm Beach Post     

Sebastian Inlet Report


We had a real nice morning at the inlet before the deluge set in. We had a lot of cloud cover, a nice breeze and a decent Mangrove Snapper bite. Several of our inlet regulars landed their limits of Snapper. There were a couple of Snook hook-ups but none came over the rails. Blue Runners were darting around and Jacks were plentiful. Most anglers were using mojarra, mojarra chunks or greenies for the Snapper, although there were a few (not as many) finger mullet in the water. Looking north, Tarpon could be seen rolling in the surf and it was suspected by a few that they were in schools of mullet. No Reds were landed, but yesterday Dennis Campbell landed a 22" that he kept and an 18.5" that he released. Also yesterday Mike White of Sebastian landed a Snook that was 32.5", (ouch) it was returned to the water. 
Our first photo today is courtesy of Mike Ricciardi of Vero Beach and features Richard Pearce of Sebastian who landed this 20" slot Red on Monday. 
Photo two was sent in by Matt St. Martin. Matt's dad landed this slot Red on Sunday using a clam. 

Catch 365

A quick look at blank action and blank power...

From Whites Tackle - Ft Pierce / Stuart

Inshore yesterday the fishing was good with the mullet run starting to get good with mullet to the north around Queens Cove and to the south around Bear point,The snook,jacks and reds have been in them live mullet or top water plugs such as the jumping minnow and the skitter walk have produced the best. The beach fishing has been steady with the mullet moving down there were reports of some tarpon and snook around Walton rocks at first light and right before dark. The south jetty has had a few snook at night on the out going tide on jigs white and blue has produced the best.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Snook Week #8

Catching Snook in All Seas

These four articles discuss the important challenges – and solutions – to catching fish in the Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall. They were written about the west central coast of Florida, but will largely apply for any place the species lives. Certain behaviors such as the spring spawn are consistent worldwide.

Catching Snook in the Fall

As the summer starts to cool off, and the fall approaches, the snook – like all fish – feel the change in season. They begin to prepare for what might be a very long and very cold winter, both of which the species has fortunately survived since the dawn of time. They are not quite as easy to catch as they are in the springtime, but they are easier to catch – and it’s more likely they’ll survive a good, gentle release – than in the summertime.

Where the Fish Are in the Fall Months

During the summer the fish were in and around relatively skinny water, where the water is relatively hot. That’s does not include the fish that are at the nearshore structure most of the year (except during the spawn). But nearshore fish, and fish that hang around the flats during the warmer months begin moving to where they’re gonna spend the wintertime.

Catching Snook on and Outside the Edges of the Flats

This is where you will find fish at the beginning of the spring when the outside flats are starting to warm up. Then they’re moving out of the canals and rivers to the passes and flats and beaches. At this time they’re moving back into those same spots. So beginning in late summer and early spring, you start to catch the fish near the outside edges of grass flats and outside mangrove growths. The fish are ready to get into outside/deeper water if it suddenly gets too hot, but they are getting ready to go inshore. That means they’re on the outside of their winter home – on the outside edges of the grass flats.

Catching Snook in the Fall on the Inside Flats

As the snook get ready for winter, and the water temperatures continue to drop, the fish get closer to where they ‘re going to spend the winter. They move from the outside edges of the flats onto the flats themselves, eventually hanging there for a transitional period. It’s at this time of the year – fall – beginners are most likely to be in a position where they can catch fish on flies. The fish are preparing to winter, so they’re eating almost anything, the water’s gin-clear, and although spooky, the fish are quite catchable on flies.

Catching Snook at River and Canal Mouths

As the season develops, snook are moving to the mouths of the canals, rivers, and even small springs and estuaries. You have to give thought to the shape of the area you’re fishing in. If the fish are definitely going to be in the residential canals during cold months (which they are), it only makes sense that they’re going to spend at least a little time able to ‘retreat’ to the larger flats they are coming in from.

An Overview of Catching Snook in the Fall.

Snook are aggressive predators, but they’re fish. They are big and challenging and very smart, but they’re fish, and because they’re fish they’re totally connected to the water they’re in, the air above the water, and everything down to the chemistry and salinity. So as seasons repeat so, too, does a snook’s behavior. In the winter, they’re laying deep inside and underneath residential docks, inside rivers, and as deep into the available “backwater” as they can get. As the water warms, they’re moving towards the passes and beaches, where they mate and lay eggs. When the water cools, they move back onto the flats, then to the mouths of the deepest backwaters – any access they can find – and stay there for a while. It’s then that you can catch fish in the fall – on those flats and outside the mouths of those winter haunts.
They are just fish. But arguably the best fish in the water to try – try, mind you – to catch.

Catching Snook in the Winter

In the winter, the fish are in one of two places. They are either back in deep nearshore water at relatively shallow wrecks, and natural and manmade structures. The second place you will find them is deep inside rivers, residential canals, and backwaters including the estuaries and springs. You will find them deep, careful, and not always hungry. You can catch them at night and you can catch them under docks in the middle of the day. Wintertime is snook time for some anglers – their favorite time to fish for the species.

Where the Fish Are in the Winter Months

When the water is cold, the fish avoid it wherever and whenever possible. If the water is below about 65 F, they become dormant, and when it gets colder then can die. A few years ago an extended freeze killed thousands of fish south of Tampa Bay, but the bay’s fish seemed to survive it fairly well. Regardless of whether or not the fish are threatened by extended freezes – they get as deep as they can and as near to warm and consistently warm temperatures.

Catching Snook in the Wintertime in Residential Canals

If you read the articles about catching snook in the spring and fall, you know that the fish are moving out of the residential canals and onto the flats (and then the passes and beaches) in the springtime, and back into those same canals in the fall, as water temperatures drop. By November and December, even in years where the water’s relatively warm all over – there are snook under the docks. The past 10 years or so have been pretty cool, and before that a warming trend kept big snook outside on the flats all year. Despite (supposed) global warming, we caught big snook more often inside residential canals than anywhere else. The docks provide a “roof” of sorts, the pilings plenty of structure, and they attract natural food in the form of shrimps and crabs. Add to that the fact that the dark (albeit oxygen and grass-limited) mud stays pretty hot when the sun heats it up, “December Docks” are very productive snook spots. Every dock in the state might – and often does – hold a snook.

Catching Snook in the Rivers and Estuaries in the Winter

As the water chills and eventually turns downright cold, the snook populations move into the rivers and estuaries. Why? Warmth and consistent water temperatures are the reason, of course. Water temperatures six or eight miles up into big rivers like the Hillsborough or Peace rivers in Tampa Bay or any major “feed” rivers on both coasts of Florida is roughly the same in December (by a few degrees) as it is in June or September. The fish know that. Most move up into those spring-fed (at some place) waters in the winter, and some live there all year round, just like they do in the passes to some lesser degree. Any fish that can handle brackish (mixed fresh and saltwater) and even – in the case of snook – freshwater – run up deep into the rivers. We have caught largemouth bass on one cast, and a dozen casts later a 20-lb. snook high up Florida rivers (the Hillsborough in the case of this story).

Catching Snook in the ‘Backwater’ in the Wintertime

What one person calls “Backwater” another might call “mangroves” or “back country,” but whatever you call it it’s the same – water on the high edges, or the southern or eastern edges of harbors, bays and pockets here on the west coast. On the east coast of Florida, look on the left/west side of deep inlets, pockets and bays. Backcountry can roughly be defined as the furthest place water touches land inside the big entrances, passes, bays and open water locales. They are deep mangroves, they can be small open bays, and they can be a small island deep inside an enclosed feed like Double Branch in west central Florida, or Indian Lagoon on the other side of the state. The same winter rules apply however; the fish are spooky, the fish can become very dormant in the coldest months, and the fish need to be handled with extra care because they’re cold.

An Overview of Catching Snook in the Wintertime.

The winter brings a lot of wind, cold rain, and cold air. The rich schools of scaled sardines we use in the winter are gone or at least hard to find and net (Sabikis in deep water are great in the winter for snook bait). Shrimp rule the day as far as live bait, although anything live – and sometimes a fresh piece of dead bait put near a dock for a redfish – will attract fish. Again, remember that whether you’re fishing for them deep in some mangrove islands or underneath the dock of a multi-million-dollar waterfront mansion, be quiet. They do not eat with the same intensity they do in the spring or again in the fall before they retire for the winter, and you have to approach, present the bait, and even fight the fish a little differently than at any other time of the year.
The best bet in the winter – of all the places we talk about – are docks at nighttime near lights. The best bait is live shrimp and the best artificial bait is one that can be presented and that smells and tastes and even acts like a live shrimp. Jigs on the bottom work well in the winter when you’re looking for that record (or first or thousandth) snook. They’re wonderful to find, catch, and release or enjoy on your table.
                                  Catching Snook in the Springtime

You can catch snook all year in many parts of Florida, but no time of the year are they easier to find or hungrier than then are in the springtime. If you know where the fish are likely to be during that change from winter to summer, you will find them biting and you will be able to catch one or more.

Where the Fish Are in the Springtime

Snook move all year. They are in one place in the winter, and when the season starts to change, they move. They’re moving from the deeper rivers, estuaries, and residential canals where the water’s the warmest. As the water warms on more open waters, the snook move out and can be found in the following places.

Catching Snook on and Outside the Edges of the Flats

The first place they start to show up when the water warms up is outside the deeper channels, rivers, and canals that they were in during the colder months. On the first days, they come out onto the flats close to the openings of the canals and backwaters. As warm days start running together, the fish move out onto the flats and into the deeper water of the channels. The best place to find them early in the spring are on the outside edges of the flats and edges of the channels.

Catching Snook in the Springtime on the Beaches

As the waters warm, the fish move onto the beaches, and might even be coming in for the late-spring spawn from deeper nearshore structure. We have certainly caught a fair share of snook in 30 feet of water (and deeper), and they could very well live in that deeper water in the colder months and move inshore – not from deeper inshore like most of the fish we target in winter months. There are many springs nearshore, where consistent temperatures arise from deep in the aquifer into the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At any rate, you can start catching snook in the middle of the spring – usually starting the second-or-third week of April – on the beaches. It makes for great shore fishing, and if you walk a mile of beach, casting in front of you and fanning the casts to cover the most possible water, you will catch a lot of snook on the beaches in the springtime. The fish often are running parallel to the shoreline, and in the slight trough that’s often formed by the flow running parallel to the shore.

Catching Snook in the Passes

Late in the springtime is the best time of year to catch snook, and while a boat sure makes it easier, what happens in the big passes is also happening on the beach. That ‘something’ is called “Balling”, or “Spawning Balls.” Part of a regular annual cycle of spawn, egg-laying, egg-placement, and the changing role of the embryo as it transforms to a living predator, spawning balls are huge round schools of snook that form in the big passes and off the beaches in late spring and into early summer. The schools are very active, and the fish very aggressive. They will hit almost any appropriate lure or bait, and they tend to size in large collectives. You will see a thousand 24 inchers one night, and a school as big or bigger with all the fish at 34” the very next night. You can read more about this concept in an article we wrote a while ago called “Catching Snook: Spawning Balls”.

An Overview of Catching Snook in the Springtime.

When the water warms, the fish begin moving towards the passes. Early in the spring they’re just outside the residential canals and at the mouths of springs, estuaries, and any pocket that held warmer water during the winter. They also start moving from nearshore wrecks and natural structure to the inshore spawning grounds in the passes and beaches. Early in the season they stay close enough to those canals so they can retreat in the event of a late-season cold front. They’re that smart and that accustomed to changing weather conditions. Once the water warms, they’re outside the flats and near the edges of the channels.
As the water warms more, the snook move to the beaches and the sea walls, edges, and structure near the beaches or near the big passes. Late in the spring and into the early summer, the fish “ball-up” in the big passes and close to area beaches (the same place they start showing up midway through the season).
Catch’ em in the springtime – they’re aggressive, hungry, and easier to catch then than at any other time of the year.


         Catching Snook in the Summertime

Of the four seasons that you can catch snook in Florida and other locations that the fish thrive, catching snook in the summertime is the toughest and most challenging. In some cases the challenge is for both parties – the angler and the fish.

Where the Fish Are in the Summer Months

Hot water is comfortable for the species. Not too hot, but very warm water – close to 90 F – is just fine with a 50-inch fish. We’ve seen and caught-and-released big fish in very hot water and in very hot air. That said, they’re not stupid, and if they can get a few degrees cooler, they’re gonna do it. They will not go dormant and stop eating on a 12” flat on a 98 F day like they will in cold water, but they’re gonna be in the shade if there’s any shade. That includes the shade of deeper water.

Catching Snook in the Summer in the Passes

When snook come out of their winter haunts (backwater, residential canals, rivers and estuaries) they hang on the flats, move off the edges of the flats, and eventually to the beaches and passes. If you ever read the story about passes, pockets, and points, you’ll know that anything where water is “choked” and then flows into the open Gulf (or an open bay area) is a pass in our eyes and most importantly in the eyes of the snook. The fish mate in those passes, but a lot of them stay there until the water gets too cold. You can catch big snook all summer in any of the big passes, and a lot of the small ones, too.

Catching Snook in the Summer on the Beaches

The same movement and behavior the snook exhibit in the big passes applies to the beaches, too. They come there to mate and lay eggs in the late spring and early summer, and even when the spawn is over (as late as August) a lot of the fish that already laid eggs or found their girlfriend-of-the-hour stay there. The water is moving hard (big currents in those passes, as you will know if you ever fished them), and the tide changes harder then it does in backcountry locations, which fill and empty more than they flow, and the food never runs out. Fish in the passes anytime of the year and it’s likely you’ll grab a snook or three, but the summer makes it hard to find fish in a lot of other common locales. The passes make it easy to find hungry fish even on the hottest of days, and they’re fun and beautiful to fish. Be careful of other boaters – and more importantly be respectful of other boats, anglers, or people floating on sticks if you’re fishing a pass. It’s everybody’s water – not just ours.

Catching Snook in Deeper Water in the Summertime

By deeper water we mean just that – deeper water. You will find deeper water in a couple of great and very productive snookie spots during the hottest of days. That’s nearshore. By nearshore we mean the same places we say the fish come from in the fall. We said that some fish spend the winters deep in the residential canals and rivers and estuaries, while some move offshore to relatively close structures – usually not much deeper than 35’-40’. Like their cousins that stay in the rivers all year, and can be caught in the winter, spring, summer, or fall, there are some fish that live on nearshore structures all year, leaving only when they want to mate during the spawn.

An Overview of Catching Snook in the Summertime.

The water is hot and the water is often gin-clear if it’s not dark and dirty from rainfall or lasting storms, and the fish are very spooky in the summertime. Even the fish that hang in the deeper channels on the edges of the flats and go onto the flats for food are spooky when they’re up-top or down-deep. Make a banging sound on your boat and it’s far more effective at scaring summer fish then deep-laying winter fish. So be quiet.
Bait is usually more abundant in the summer – live bait, that is. Shrimp are sometimes harder to find, and often smaller then they are in the wintertime. But overall you can find scaled sardines all over the place when the water’s warm, and using a castnet or even a Sabiki bait lure will produce excellent and productive live bait in the hottest months.
A final word on catching snook in hot water, and that’s on stress levels. There are some people that think you should continue to use relatively heavy tackle in the summer, so as to better land the fish quickly and release it quickly. Others say that fighting them on light tackle – very light – does no additional harm as long as you handle them properly. Whichever side of the argument you stand on is your choice. We mostly feel that light tackle does not kill fish, but not all our team members agree. That said, the choice is yours as long as you handle them gently.