Snook season reopens throughout the state Tuesday. Some diehards will be on the water at 12:01 a.m. hoping to catch the first snook of the season.
By all accounts, snook stocks appear to be in good shape. The Gulf Coast hasn't had a Red Tide or hard freeze in several years.
"Recruitment (of young fish into the fishery) has been good," said Rick Roberts, executive director for the Snook Foundation. "But that is not the problem."
Roberts, like most conservation-minded anglers, is worried about Florida's fishing future.
"In some areas we have lost 50 percent of our mangrove shield," he said. "There will be no snook fishery if we do not do something to protect these nursery areas."
The Snook Foundation, founded 11 years ago by William R. Mote of the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, is an alliance of inshore anglers dedicated to the enhancement and preservation of the fabled Florida linesider.
"Our biweekly, online Angler Alert has more than 60,000 subscribers," Roberts said. "We try to be the voice of the fishermen."
In recent years, the Snook Foundation has worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, as well as county and city governments, to ensure that fisheries habitat is taken into consideration during environmental permitting of state shoreline development projects.
"We are not antidevelopment," Roberts said. "We just want to make sure it is done in a responsible way."
Poaching a problem
Roberts said that most fishermen follow the complex rules and regulations that govern the snook fishery. But poaching, he said, is still a problem.
An example: On Monday, an 18-year-old St. Augustine man was jailed after authorities caught him possessing snook out of season for the second time in three days.
According to the FWC, Robert Carl Mock III was turned in by an angler who called the agency's Wildlife Alert Hotline.
The caller told authorities that he saw a man who had four snook in the back of his pickup truck at Matanzas Inlet, according to a FWC news release. The caller described the truck and the license plate number.
By the time the officer got to the inlet, the truck was gone, so he went to the suspect's home and found the snook in a cooler in the back of a pickup truck that matched the caller's description, the news release stated.
Mock and two friends had previously been ticketed by FWC officers Saturday for possessing snook during the closed season and exceeding the bag limit. So on Monday, rather than write Mock another ticket, the FWC officer took him to jail.
The maximum penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor is a $1,000 fine and one year in jail; for a second-degree misdemeanor, the maximum is a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.
If you see someone violating fishing regulations, call the Wildlife Alert Hotline toll-free 1-888-404-3922 or go to www.MyFWC.com and click on the Wildlife Alert graphic. Callers may remain anonymous.
Did you know?
Snook get plenty of attention, but they are not the most popular sport fish in coastal waters.
According to a recent angler survey by Southwick Associates, a Florida-based company that has done extensive work for the FWC, 29.5 percent of anglers target spotted seatrout. Red drum are next at 29.2 percent.
Snook is 10th with 9.8 percent, behind flounder, striped bass, "any saltwater fish that bites," bluefish, "other fish not on this list," grouper and mackerel.
Maybe that is because snook are so hard to catch.