Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Spring snook season offers anglers a fun challenge

By DAVID A. BROWN | Times correspondent

When folks head out for a road trip, one of their first moves is to stop and grab some food. Snook are not so different, and in the spring, these feisty fish chow heavily in preparation for an upcoming journey. ¶ Traditionally in the winter, linesiders tuck themselves into the backwater solaces of coastal rivers, creeks and residential canals, where warmer, more stable water helps them survive the cold months. When spring ushers the fish outward, they emerge fixated on feeding. ¶ The reason: They're planning a road trip.

A destination

Actually, the snook's trek isn't that far — usually just a few miles from spring haunts — but the significance is undeniable.

Snook move to coastal passes and adjacent beaches from May to September for their annual spawning rituals. Before leaving the inshore shallows, they'll eat gluttonously to fill up their energy supply for the summer procreation.

Not all snook make this trip. Juveniles remain in the nearshore shallows. Nevertheless, feeding competition ensures that all will gobble whatever they can get their jaws around during spring's transition.

Spectacular battles filled with stubborn runs, aerial acrobatics and lots of head-shaking fury reward those who learn to pattern this gamey opponent.

Dinner menu

Spring snook fishing epitomizes the angling axiom of "match the hatch." Offer fish what they're already eating and yours is an easy sell. For snook, that means scaled sardines — "whitebait."

March has an explosion of these plump baitfish throughout the North Suncoast region, and if you can sling a castnet, you'll often fill your live well in a few throws.

Chumming with canned cat food or a mixture of jack mackerel and wheat bread lures voluminous schools of baitfish close to an anchored boat. When the little fish come together in a tight knot, toss a quarter-sized wad of chum into their midst to hold them in place long enough for a net throw.

Pinfish usually respond to chumming, and several often turn up in castnets. Their sharp dorsal fins make them tricky to hold, but pinfish make fine snook baits. Holding a dozen or so in your live well allows you to try something different if the snook turn finicky.

Food presentation

Cast your snook baits on extra-sharp, short-shank 2/0 hooks set through the nose or through the soft fleshy area behind the pectoral fins.

Free-lining affords the most natural appearance, but don't discount the value of corking live ones. Hanging baitfish beneath floats keeps them in the strike zone longer.

Snook readily gobble live shrimp, but pinfish, puffers and other bottom pests will nip at the soft crustaceans. Rigging shrimp on a 1/8- to ¼-ounce jighead — set through the tail — and hopping them across the bottom minimizes such theft.

For artificials, use something that imitates the abundant natural forage. Swimbaits, soft plastic jerkbaits and white or chartreuse bucktail jigs do a good job of impersonating baitfish.

Holding power

Spring snook will test your tackle, so gear up accordingly. Seven-foot medium-action spinning rods with flexible tips and plenty of backbone will do the job. Ten- to 15-pound braided line with 24 inches of fluorocarbon will stop most area linesiders.

A 20-pound leader will suffice on open grass flats, but go with 30-pound fluoro when fishing mangrove edges, docks or any other structure that a cagey snook could use to sever your rig.

Check your leader after every fight and retie if you find any burs, nicks or scrapes. Such damage weakens the leader and makes it susceptible to breaking — usually right as you're about to subdue a trophy fish.

Frayed leaders look funny in the water, and the damaged points can betray the stealth advantage of fluorocarbon.

Revive and release

Snook yield tasty white filets, and during the open season (March-April, September-November), North Suncoast anglers can keep one snook per day, as long as it measures 28-33 inches. But many fishermen release snook.

As with any catch-and-release scenario, hold your snook by the bottom lip at boatside and move the fish through the water to wash oxygen across its gills. The larger the fish and the longer the fight, the more revival time you'll need.

Snook have a unique way of letting you know when they're ready to go — their toothless jaws will clamp around your thumb. When this happens, loosen your grip and the fish will dart away within a few seconds.

A released snook might need an hour or so to nurse its bruised ego, but with proper resuscitation, the fish will swim away and get right back to the dinner table.

Spring snook season offers anglers a fun challenge 03/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:29am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium

    Bucs

    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  2. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem

    Bucs

    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  3. Matt Peca making case for Lightning spot

    Blogs

    Center Matt Peca said he didn't read too much into the fact he was the only Lightning player to appear in each of the first three exhibition games.

    But Peca, 24, loved it.

    Matt Peca won nine of 10 faceoffs Friday, a skill the Lightning badly needs.
  4. Bucs players respond to Trump comments on anthem protests

    Blogs

    President Donald Trump shared his thoughts Friday night on NFL players protesting during the national anthem, suggesting that NFL owners should "fire" players who kneel during the anthem in protest. His remarks are alreading drawing responses from many NFL players, including some Bucs.

    Bucs players Mike Evans and Jameis Winston stand with coach Dirk Koetter during the national anthem in a game played in San Diego last season.
  5. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018

    Blogs

    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    Catcher Wilson Ramos connects for a two-run single in the fifth inning against the Cubs on Sept. 20, 2017.