Snook make a comeback after 3-year closure
Snook season will come to an end May 1 and with it goes the prospects of a snook dinner — at least until September, when season reopens for this highly desired species.
Snook make great adversaries and table fare.
But, don’t let that discourage you. The snook bite is the best it’s been since the freeze of 2010. You can still go and enjoy catching the popular game fish, you just have to let them go. And, to tell you the truth, after the three-year closed season we had on snook, I’m seeing more and more backwater fishers practice catch-and-release all year long. I guess they just got used to letting ’em go.
It’s clearly the best snook bite since the freeze. We had numerous days this season with catches of at least 30 snook. Slot- and over-slot fish were in the mix, but the sheer numbers of smaller snook were a welcome sight for eager flats fishers looking to get their fix.
A good example of this was a morning I spent chartering Cal Broek of Michigan. We arrived at “the spot,” a small mangrove island adjacent to a deep edge, just after sunup. The tide was swiftly moving in so I quickly anchored and started chumming. Immediately we heard pops and splashes under the mangroves as hungry snook inhaled the shiners.
After hooking up plenty of fish, the tide was coming to an end with the bite, so we seized the opportunity to hunt another spot and pulled anchor.
The tide had begun to change and was flushing out on the targeted shallow grass flat. As the outgoing tide flowed over the flat, it dumped into a deep pothole, which created a perfect ambush point for hungry snook.
Again, we rallied on fish for more than an hour. My clients even managed to get a slot-sized snook to enjoy for dinner and an over-slot fish for a quick photo and release.
Although snook season will be closed until September, they’re still biting. By practicing catch-and-release during the closed season, anglers will easily transition into the re-opening of snook season in September.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing offshore this past week. By fishing ledges and reefs with live shiners and shrimp, Girle is guiding his clients to keeper-size mangrove snapper. Limits of these tasty fish are hooking up with the biggest coming in at 18 inches.
In the same areas, Girle is finding king and Spanish mackerel. The feisty migratory kings are ravaging free-lined shiners right behind the transom of the boat. Expect to catch kings of 15-20 pounds.
Moving inshore, Girle is finding redfish on grass flats adjacent to mangrove edges. The fish are responding to live and dead baits. Live shiners are a good bet, although fresh-cut chunks of ladyfish will get the bite.
Finally, spotted seatrout are still on the rampage in Sarasota Bay. Girle is catching fish well over the 20-inch maximum. Again, live shiners are the bait of choice.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishing this week may require patience and determination. Pier fishers are trying a number of tactics to get a bite.
Live shrimp fished under the pier are producing sheepshead, black drum, flounder and a few early-arrival snapper. A small split-shot placed 12-inches above the hook will complete your rig. Simply hook a shrimp and cast it as far under the pier deck as possible.
The use of artificials, such as speck rigs and silver spoons, is resulting in Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and the occasional blue runner. Remember, these fish love to chase a bait — so a fast retrieve is in your interest.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is hooking up respectable numbers of flounder from the flats of Tampa Bay. By using free-lined live shiners for bait, Gross is finding flat fish in lengths up to 22 inches.
Snook and redfish are being caught over the grass flats. Snook seem to be abundant during strong outgoing tides, especially in the afternoon. As for the reds, Gross is finding concentrations of fish on shallow flats where oyster bars and mangroves are present. Both species are being caught in the slot.
Finally, spotted seatrout are finishing out the day. On deeper grass beds, Gross is working sandy potholes. Live shiners free-lined through the potholes are producing slot- and over-slot trout for his clients.
Capt. Aaron Lowman out of Island Discount Tackle is fishing inshore this with good results. A variety of backwater species are inhabiting our local flats and Lowman is capitalizing on the opportunity for his clients.
Snook are being caught along mangrove edges and shallow grass flats. Live shiners free-lined along the edges of the bushes are producing the bite. Fish up to 30 inches are the average catch.
To find a redfish bite, Lowman is dock fishing in residential canals and along the Intracoastal Waterway. Reds are being caught along with flounder and jack crevalle. Again, live shiners are the bait of choice.
Lowman also is catching limits of spotted seatrout throughout Sarasota Bay, mostly over sandy potholes. Free-lined shiners or shiners under a popping cork are proving successful.
Capt. Mike Greig has been tearing up the fishing with clients hooking up large cobia — several catches of 60-plus pounds. He also found success on permit using pass crabs for bait. And his bait business has gone viral. Don’t forget to make a reservation for your bait well black out.
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