Snook are an easy sell to tourists and locals alike, according to Tampa-based charter boat captain Mike Gore. "They'll bust a bait like a large-mouth bass and fight like a tarpon," he said. "There's really nothing like them."
Snook season reopens today after a long summer closure, and Gore, along with thousands of anglers like him, will hit the water from Crystal River to Everglades National Park hoping to land the fabled Florida linesider.
"They are hard to catch," said Gore, 44, who grew up fishing the flats of Tampa Bay. "But I think another big draw is that you won't find a better eating fish."
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, about 90 percent of all snook caught are then let go. The species is particularly hardy in this respect. Studies by state biologists show that 98 percent of snook, a higher percentage than red drum or spotted sea trout, survive upon release.
For decades, snook were not prized as table fare. They were called "soapfish" because when cooked with the skin on, the meat had an unpleasant "soapy" taste. But when properly cleaned and filleted, snook are the finest tasting of all inshore species.
Many anglers, even those who consider themselves conservationists, might keep one or two fish a year for the grill. State biologists are conducting a major assessment on snook stocks, and initial reports indicate that numbers are up....