Captain Larry L. Fowler
Florida Snook Fishing.
Nobody knows the Snook better than Captain Larry L. Fowler.
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Species of Snook
There are four species of snook found in Florida, but Centropomus undecimalis, or common snook, is the most common species of snook sought after by most fishermen. Some discussion has been had in scientific circles speculating that there are two distinct sub-species of C. undecimalis, with one sub-species being found in the Gulf and Florida Bay, and a separate and somewhat larger sub-species being found on the Atlantic coast north of Florida Bay. In Florida waters, the snook may grow to more than 48 inches and in excess of 40 pounds. A number of reports in recent years of snook over 50 inches have been made, including a 53.5 inch Snook caught in St. Lucie inlet in July, during the closed season.
Common snook live a long time and grow quickly, where a male might live 15 years and can grow up to a length of around 38 inches. Females live around 20 years and can reach to around 50 inches. A legal size female might be 4 or 5 years old, and a male a bit older.
Distribution and Habitat
Common Snook are found from around Cape Canaveral on the East Coast southward around the peninsula, and just north of Tampa Bay. In times of consecutively warm winters, their range may extend northward of these areas. Because snook are warm water fish, they become lethargic in waters less than 65 degrees, and begin to die in water of 50 degrees.
While snook are generally not thought to be highly migratory, they have been caught as far north as Delaware on the Atlantic. Cases of this happening are extremely rare. Snook populations exist in Texas, and along the coast of Central America. The largest Common Snook on record was caught off Costa Rica in 1973 at 53 lbs. 10 ounces. While this is the current all-tackle record, there are reports of even larger Common Snook in Florida waters, though none have been recognized by the IGFA. The Pacific Black Snook, also caught in Costa Rica, weighed in at 57 pounds, 12 ounces.
One the most productive Trophy Snook fishing areas is the Country of Costa Rica, where a number of resorts and guides specialize in trophy fishing. Snook are found in the Caribbean throughout the West Indies, but because this species is associated with landmasses that have freshwater rivers, it is principally a continental species, and occurs only on larger islands that have rivers, such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Cayman Islands.
While snook are occasionally reported on reefs offshore they are usually an inshore fish, and they like fast-moving tides and tend to "roam the shores" of inlets and estuaries. Snook may be found in salt or fresh water, and are tolerant of wide ranges of salinity. Snook are commonly found in the freshwater rivers and canals of Central and Southern Florida. They have a strong preference for mangrove shorelines and swamps and are known to be very habitat-dependent. Snook are object-oriented as well, and are ambushing predators. They tend to be found near piers, docks, submerged cover, or other features, which allow concealment from prey.
Gulf coast snook are not highly migratory. The young move inshore to estuaries and more mature fish move to spawning areas in summer, but they do not make significant long-distance journeys.
Some evidence indicates that Atlantic coast snook make longer migrations than Gulf coast snook do. Snook tagged on the East Coast have been caught in the keys and on the west coast and in Lake Okeechobee, having traveled the St Lucie-Caloosahatchee Waterway to cross Florida.
Peak daily spawning activity is keyed to tidal cycles and occurs in the areas near mangrove islands around the mouths of rivers or feeder creeks.
Major spawning activity occurs in late May, June and July, when daylight hours are long, and begins to slow in August and September. By November, spawning activity is usually completed. Individual females may spawn every two or three days and release about over one million eggs per spawning day.
There are no physical differences between male and female snook, so anglers cannot tell the difference between the sexes. The only way to tell is by the size. All big snook are females. Evidence indicates that all snook are male during their early years, and become females as they become older. Sometime between one and seven years and after the spawning season this change takes place.
Feeding and Fishing
Snook are carnivores and their prey is mainly a wide range of species of fish, crabs, and shrimp. Pinfish, Pigfish, Croakers, sardines, finger mullet, and other inshore fish are effective as bait for snook. Fishermen have their own preferences to artificial baits, and snook can be taken on a wide range, from topwaters, spoons, grubs, jigs, and other lures. Snook have strong jaws, and are capable of breaking artificial lures made of balsa and even plastic on occasion.
The snook hits bait very hard, and often will not let go for a few seconds while he crushes it. A common trait, when hooked, is for a snook to make for the nearest cover or object that can break or cut a line. Snook have a sharp edge to their gill plate and a sharp mouth, which can also cut a line. Leaders are a must for any success with snook.
Snook often become disoriented, and may die if not revived a bit before release. Simply hold the fish into the current and hold it lightly until it has regained its equilibrium. Carefully release it as soon as possible and current can revive the fish fully. Efforts to watch and be sure the Snook does not resurface should be taken seriously, as it is fairly common for larger Snook to swim a few feet and then come back to the top. It may be necessary to work with the Snook, holding them into the current.
If you must eat a snook, remember that you may keep no snook smaller than 26 inches or larger than 34 inches. During the closed seasons- December 15 to January 31 and the months of May, June, July, and August- do not keep any snook that you catch. They must be released immediately.
Note: Sources for facts in this article were gathered from several publicly funded informational websites, including articles by noted biologist Ron Taylor of the FMRI, and other publications.