How To Catch Snook
Snook are one of the most popular game fish in Florida. The possibility of hooking into a big slob of a snook is the stuff of most Florida angler’s dreams.
While you can almost always find snook on a fishing trip, they do have a few tendencies that make them difficult fish to catch. From being picky eaters to having seasonal feeding habits, sometimes it can take a lot of effort to nail a big snook. In this article, we’ll be going over everything you need to know to get started snook fishing.
Getting to Know Your Target
The first step to successfully targeting any fish is learning about it. Here we’ll discuss some basic information about snook, their habits, and where you can find them.
Snook are one of the best fighting inshore species. They have huge shoulders proportional to their body, with large filets of meat on each side. Their population has recovered after being decimated by a cold spell that killed off large sections of snook in 2010, and are yet again a common inshore game fish.
Snook have long bodies with big heads. They’re typically gray or silver in color, with a blakc lateral line running the length of their body. They have a huge mouth that they use to suck in prey very similar to bass.
Snook are prized not only for their tasty meat but also their fighting ability on hook and line. They tend to go on long runs and launch themselves out of the water similar to ladyfish and tarpon. It’s not uncommon for them to fully clear the water, shaking their head and spitting out your hook.
Where to Catch Snook
Snook range throughout most of Florida and have a very small isolated fishery located in Texas. They love to spend time around mangroves and river mouths, but you can find them running along the beaches as well.
Snook Behaviors of Note
Snook tend to spend all their time in warm water, avoiding cold water at all times. They tend to spend most of their time near sheltered areas like mangrove roots, docks, pilings, and brackish water.
Snook are a really skittish fish. They’re easily scared off by noises and big shapes in the water, meaning approaching them and your fishing presentation is very important. Once hooked, they tend to run directly into cover. You’ll want to pull them away from it as quickly as possible so you can avoid getting tangled up.
Snook’s appetites change based on seasons. In warmer months they feed voraciously, but in colder months their metabolism slows down and they’re harder to tempt into striking. Snook are very sensitive when it comes to their environment, and while they can tolerate a variety of salinities, they will move if conditions become unfavorable.
Snook Preferred Food
Snook diets correlate directly with their size, meaning that as they grow they eat larger and larger prey items. This even includes other smaller snook that happens to be wandering by. Menhaden, mullet, and pilchards are some of their favorite snacks and make great live baits.
Snook Fishing Tactics
Targeting snook is usually a matter of sight casting or tossing lures and live baits into likely fish areas. In this section, we’ll go over the basics you need to know about fishing for snook.
Let’s get started.
Best Areas and Times for Snook Fishing
Snook are found in their biggest numbers on the Southern half of Florida. They spend time in salty nearshore waters and brackish bays. Look for them around structures, like grass flats, mangroves, potholes, and dock and pier pilings. Remember that they’ll avoid cold water at all costs, so spending time in water below 60 degrees Fahrenheit is a waste of time most of the year.
You’ll want to fish normal tide timings for snook. Fish the hours just before an incoming tide and the hours before an outgoing tide. Night is also a great time to fish for snook, as they tend to hang around dock lights and they move towards the surface to feed at night.
Smaller snook are amazing fun on light tackle and fly rods. Anything under 20-pounds will put up a hard fight without breaking you off. If you’re targeting fish over twenty pounds, a medium-heavy inshore rod and reel combo is plenty.
Line-wise, braided lines work well and won’t scare off the fish. 10 and 20-pound lines should be enough for fishing out on the flats. If you’re worried about them pulling you into the structure, use a 30-pound braid and a tight drag to pull them away from cover as quickly as possible.
Most snook weigh between 5 and 15 pounds, but fish exceeding 20 to 30 pounds aren’t an uncommon sight. The largest snook ever caught was nearly 54 pounds, and it’s theorized they can grow to be over sixty if they live long enough.
Good Rig Choices
The best leader style for snook is a fluorocarbon line. 20 to 30-pound is great for fishing around flats, but you may want to up it to 50-pound if you need to drag them away from structures or are fishing off of a bridge. Use a section of this line for throwing live baits or between your lure and mainline to give you some shock absorption on their huge strikes.
Snook tend to feed on other fish, and so lures that mimic their prey and live bait are the best ways to tackle them. Large flies that mimic minnows are a good choice, as are jig heads on paddletails, bucktail jigs, and diving lures.
Live baits like bull minnows, pilchards, and finger mullet do extremely well. You can use them to live chum as well to bring snook to you. For larger snook you just use slightly larger live baits, or big cut baits like the heads and halves of ladyfish, menhaden, and mullet.
Pro Tips and Tricks
#1. Cast your bait up-current.
The best approach for snook is to allow your bait to drift by them as naturally as possible. Trying to throw a lure at its face is likely to scare it, so you want to cast away from them and make it seem as natural as possible when your bait comes into their view. The tide should do most of the work, and once your lure passes them they should go for it.
#2: Vary your approach based on the season.
In warmer months you should be using fast moving lures and live baits to get snook to bite. You can even use topwaters and flies to great effect. In colder months you want to slow down your approach, with slower retrievals to make them feel like the chase is worth their energy.
#3. Don’t ignore the beach!
Snook will commonly pass by beaches in search of food. You can use normal surf fishing rods to tackle them, but they’re almost always in the casting range of shorter inshore rods. In the shallow water right next to the sand it’s easy to sight fish and cast directly to the snook you’re after.
#4. Fish Dock Lights
Just like redfish, snook are attracted to dock lights at night. It isn’t uncommon for groups of twenty or more to be hanging around these spots, so when you’re fishing at night it makes an ideal spot to check for snook of all sizes.
#5: Work your rod properly.
When a fish jumps and head shakes it isn’t uncommon for the hole in its mouth to enlarge and the hook to pop out. This will eventually happen to you, but you can do a few things to mitigate the risk. Keep your line as tight as possible, especially on jumps. When the fish breaks the surface, you should also lower your rod tip and pull sideways to help keep that tension on.
Top Picks for Snook Gear
Of course, any time you want to go fishing, your gear choices are essential. Using the right gear can not only increase your chances of success but make your trip more enjoyable and fun. Here are our top picks for snook fishing gear.
Best Option: Daiwa Saltist Inshore Medium Light
Lighter rods are a ton of fun with snook, and this one will handle the most common sizes you’ll run into. It’s a great quality rod that won’t overpower the smaller snook, making sure you can enjoy the great fight it will put up.
Best Budget Choice: Berkley Inshore Spinning Rod
The Berkley Inshore Spinning Rod is one of the most comfortable-to-use rods you can find. The lightweight rod features a fantastically comfortable handle which is perfect for long days casting lures. It’s a great option for any fisherman who spends long days on the water but wants a rod on a budget.
Best Option: Penn Spinfisher VI
Again I’m going to put the Penn Spinfisher as your best option in a reel. It’s hard to beat the sheer quality, power, durability, and price on these reels. You’ll be reeling in fish for years to come with a Spinfisher, all with minimal maintenance. For snook, a 3500 to 4500 is ideal, but use a 5500 when targeting the big slobs.
Best Budget Choice: Shimano Sedona FI
Shimano is a quality brand, and their Sedona is a great budget inshore reel. The compact body is a great fit on a lighter rod and it’s anodized gears will stand up well against salt and spray. The gearing has plenty of power for its size, so you’ll be able to drag snook away from cover and get them to your boat.
For whatever reason, white lures tend to work really well on snook. This includes white flies, soft baits, and diving lures. These white paddleshad are a great option you can throw on a jig head. Let it drift slowly past a snook hople and be ready for a bite.
Bull minnows and pilchards are the best live baits you can use for snook. Pilchards are an all-around fantastic live bait and bull minnows tend to live longer than others on a hook.
When going for a big snook, use half a mullet, ladyfish, or menhaden. The head half tends to do better, but big snook (over twenty pounds) will snap these up from the bottom.
For larger cut baits, a Carolina rig is one of your best options for sitting it on the bottom. Otherwise, the best kind of rig you can go for is a simple length of fluorocarbon. Either attach a lure to the end or a live bait weighted down with a split shot. You want these to drift in the current, so no need for a heavier weight if you aren’t using cut bait.
Snook are some of the most fun fish to catch in the world. They put up a nearly unmatched and exciting fight for their size, and watching them blow up on topwaters or leap from the water is an entrancing way to spend your day. With a variety of ways to target them, you’ll never get bored snook fishing. After reading through this guide you should have a good idea of how to get started going after snook of all sizes.