Someone once told me that if snook were as dumb as cobia, they wouldn't be half as much fun to catch.
Somehow I find that hard to believe, but the fact remains: Snook aren't dumb by any stretch of the imagination. On top of that, they're extremely wary and hard to catch, especially during the colder months.
Now that snook season is open until May 1, there are a few tricks to use to your advantage if you plan to target snook.
Right now, finding snook in a feeding frenzy is extremely hard to do. It's not impossible, but generally snook will feed during the warmest time of the day, when they're metabolism gets a boost from the warming water. Savvy snook anglers know that an increase in water temperature of only a degree or two can trigger feeding activity.
Another point to remember: Since the water temperature in the Tampa Bay area is still only in the low 60s, snook may only feed once or twice a week. The low water temperature slows down the digestion rate of cold-blooded creatures, notably subtropical species such as snook.
So how can one predict the best time to target snook? It's not easy. But, there are a few tools to use to help determine these times. One is to check the weather forecast, particularly, the long-range forecast. Pay attention to which day or days are going to be the warmest before an approaching cold front. These prefront conditions, where the barometer is dropping, are by far some of the best days to fish. And, if a major solunar period coincides during the midafternoon of any of those days, so much the better.
Unlike summertime, when snook seek out moving water, they do just the opposite during these cold-water times. They seek areas that have little or no tidal movement, such as the very back of deep residential canals. Some of the better canals are the ones that dead end to the north because they are the warmest. Small bays and bayous that are screened from the north wind are also good.
Now, let's pin down some of the best baits to use, artificial and natural, keeping in mind that snook feed on smaller offerings when their metabolism slows.
Slow-moving artificials, such as a jig, are a great choice in the winter. A jig is good for any time of year, for that matter, because of its versatility. Just remember to make a real slow presentation with it. Even if you think you're moving it too slow, slow it down. A 4-inch clear/gold glitter split-tail minnow is hard to beat. Get a jig of a quarter-ounce or less and you're ready to go.
For live natural bait, smaller shrimp are preferred. It's hard for a snook to pass up a free-lined shrimp drifting by its nose.
All fish are grubbers, and snook are no exception, so they'll take a fresh dead bait as well. Shrimp, finger mullet, ladyfish, and pinfish all are good choices.
Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376. If you've had a great day fishing from land, contact the lubberline at (727) 893-8775 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.