Common Snook, Fat Snook, Tarpon Snook, SwordSpine Snook
Snook are inshore fish with an attitude. They are generally a golden yellow color with a dark black lateral line (stripe) running the length of their body. Their mouth is similar to a largemouth bass’ size & shape, yet their gills are razor sharp so watch out when handling these guys.
Most anglers don’t know about or haven’t caught the four species of snook in Florida. In East Central Florida waters we have a lot of common and fat snook. More frequently found in South Florida are the tarpon and swordspine.
Snook are revered as one of the most prestigious fish to catch, partly because they tend to be finicky about how and when they will approach a presented bait but mostly because of their fighting tactics (which seem unfair). But if you want to tangle with a fish that’s’ bound and determined to give you a brutal fight… SNOOK is your fish.
Varieties of Snook Species in the Atlantic
From central Florida south, usually INSHORE in coastal and brackish waters, along mangrove shorelines, seawalls, and bridges; also on reefs and pilings NEARSHORE. They are generally low-light or nocturnal feeders so get up early or fish at night for these large inshore predators.
Snook fishing in East Central Florida is most often during the late spring, summer and fall months and starts to fade into the colder winter months. During the winter months, snook head south to look for backwater areas with water temperatures that are more favorable. Don’t look for snook to be active feeders during the winter months of January – March unless we have prolonged warm fronts or Indian summers that bring the snook into a more active feeding cycle. During the spring snook are migrating toward their summer June-August spawning grounds along the beaches near inlets and ports. Snook often stage between their winter holdouts and the spawning grounds on spoil islands, docks, and structure before heading out to meet their mates on the beach.
Backwater snook can be fished for with a wide variety of artificials from jerk baits to top waters and plugs, much like bass anglers do around shorelines and structure including mangroves, stumps, docks, etc.
Saltwater flats often hold nice sized snook, look for baitfish, the nearby structure including dropoffs or mangrove shorelines or docks. Fish for backcountry snook with live bait like pilchards or greenies or subtle shrimp or baitfish imitations. Remember that snook like the comfort of structure and can feel vulnerable in the open flat. Often snook has to be excited with live chum to get them to cooperate in open water flats.
Inlet fishing is usually done at night with live bait by drifting during the preferred tide phase (typically outgoing) or throwing plugs like bombers, Rapalas or other baitfish imitations. This type of fishing is not for the novice and can be very challenging on the angler. You often break off and must have above average skills when fishing in heavy currents at night during the outgoing tides and fall swells.
Snook spawn primarily in summer; cannot tolerate water temperatures below 60 degrees F; can tolerate wholly fresh or saltwater; schools along shore and in passes during spawning season; feeds on fish and large crustaceans.
Snook in East Central Florida has many different habitats and conditions that make them an excellent target for anglers looking for variable ways to catch this elusive fish. Juvenile fish can be found in the estuaries, canals and backwater areas almost all year long. While not as prestigious as large breeder snook, they are none-the-less enjoyable to catch and will bite on everything from bait casters to flyrods and everything in between. Sucker Juvenile snook with artificial’s and they readily take the live bait as well.
Big breeding snook spawns on or near the beaches of Central Florida and always have a passageway or access to the beaches or inlets available to them. The only time a breeder snook gets caught in the backwaters here is because it’s a more cooling transitional period usually. Canaveral snook spends their winter months in the Port under docks, piers and around other structure like boats and pilings. You often see them hanging around the lights at night in small and large schools. Catch Sebastian Inlet Snook in the inlet itself during the summer and fall months, and many of the larger snooks migrate south to Jupiter Inlet or hunker down in the fresh warmer water of the Sebastian River a short distance away.