Snook are found mostly inshore around all types of cover and structure. Bridges, passes, bays, backwaters, tidal creeks, rivers, mangrove-lined shorelines, docks, piers and the beaches will all hold snook at some point throughout the year.
How to Catch Snook
Fishing the tidal changes is key to catching snook. Some charter captains say that if you’re not fishing moving water then you’re not catching snook. You can catch these fish on a variety of artificial lures and live baits. Some of the best lures to use are soft plastics, topwater lures, jigs, spinnerbaits, spoons and jerkbaits. As far as live baits go, a live jumbo shrimp or pilchard will almost always get bit when snook are feeding. Because snook are nocturnal feeders, the best times to fish are in the morning, evening and at night.
Snook taste great and because of their large fillets, you can easily fry, grill or bake these fish. Make sure you know the current fishing regulations before you decide to keep a snook. There are often closed fishing seasons that allow anglers to still fish for them, but you have to release the fish immediately after catching them.
Snook Fishing Seasons
It is common to see open and closed fishing seasons for snook. Closed seasons are very common, especially after some of the cold winters that have led to huge fish kills. During a closed season, you can still catch snook, but you must release them immediately after you catch them. The closed seasons are in place to ensure a healthy population of snook for future generations. Make sure you check your state’s regulations before you go out and fish for snook. The regulations will vary by state and often can vary from the different regions within the state.
Snook move into the passes and at the mouths of rivers, tidal creeks, inlets and canals to spawn. In Florida, snook usually spawn in the summer months when water temperatures rise into the mid-70s. Because snook move into these areas in such large numbers, it is only natural that anglers will flock to the passes to target these fish. At times, snook can be tough to catch during the spawn, but these fish will be feeding in the passes and you can have a lot of success if you fish during lowlight conditions on a tidal change. Live bait and artificial lures will work well for these snook in the passes.
Cold weather and snook do not make a good fit. In colder water temperatures, snook do not do very well. When water temperatures dip below 60 degress, the fishing can be much more difficult and as the water cools in the mid to low 50s, there is a good chance that some snook will die from the low water temperatures. When the water temperatures get cool, snook will move into the canals, rivers, near freshwater springs and warm water discharges to seek out the warmest water they can find. The fishing for snook will usually be better later in the day as the sun warms up the water temperature a few degrees. Live baits such as shrimp and pilchards are tough to beat when the water is cold.
Water temperatures can have a huge impact on snook. In colder water, snook don’t do very well at all and it is common to have winter fish kills if water temperatures drop into the mid-50s. As water temperatures drop into the low-60s and upper 50s, the bite will slow down tremendously. As water temperatures cool during the winter months, snook will seek out the warmer water temperatures in the tidal creeks, inlets and canals.
Snook do very well in warmer water temperatures. Snook will be very active with water temperatures ranging from the 70s up into the low 90s, which is why much of the better fishing for snook is in the southern part of Florida.
Fishing the inshore waters can be very good for snook fishing. Snook are known for being found throughout the bays, inlets, tidal creeks and just about anywhere inshore where they can find an easy meal. Snook love docks, mangroves, bridges and any other type of cover or structure that can be found inshore. We have a very detailed inshore section if you want to learn more about snook.
Snook are common around many of the fishing piers, especially at night on the piers with good lighting. During the day, snook will hang around the pilings and in the shade underneath the pier as they wait to ambush bait fish. Schools of snook can often be seen swimming around the piers. These schools of snook may not hang around the piers for long, but they will definitely grab an easy meal as they swim by.
At night, snook will often be found in the shadow lines as these fish wait in anticipation for the bait fish to move into these lights. Snook feed aggressively on bait fish around the lights. The piers that don’t have great lighting will attract some snook as well, but the lighted piers tend to hold more fish throughout the night. Live bait, topwater lures, jigs and spoons can all be very effective for catching snook around the piers. Just make sure you have a pier fishing net so you can lift the bigger snook up onto the pier without losing them.
Surf fishing for snook can be one of the most exciting ways to target snook, although, most saltwater anglers never target snook from the surf. Some of the best times to fish for snook on the beaches are during the summer. When anglers think of surf fishing, they think of standing on the beach and casting into a steady flow of good-sized waves. In many of the popular fishing destinations in southwest Florida, you can find snook roaming the beaches with very minimal waves. At times, the water will be so flat that you will feel like you are on a small inland lake rather than the ocean. Sight fishing can be a blast in these areas, but make sure you are cautious when walking the beach. Snook will often be laying just off the beach in only a foot or two of water and they will spook easily.
The better surf anglers will cover a lot of water searching for these fish with topwater lures, jerkbaits, swimbaits, spoons and other fast-moving lures. While covering water, these anglers are always looking through the water to make sure they don’t miss some of the shallow water snook. The plan is usually to move quickly, but quietly in search of aggressive snook and larger schools of snook. If you don’t find the schools of snook, you can still catch a lot of fish if you cover enough water. Sight fishing with fly fishing gear can also be a lot of fun on the beach.
Some of the best places to fish for snook from the surf are in the passes and there are several passes throughout South Florida that offer some excellent shore fishing. The early morning, evening and night are the best times to fish. Just make sure to fish during a tidal change. Moving water is key. Incoming tides and outgoing tides are productive times to fish. During slack tides, you may want to take a break and go grab a sandwich….we’re serious! The fishing gets tough when the water stops moving.
The tides play a huge role in how active snook will be when you are fishing inshore, from the surf and the piers. The tidal changes will provide better fishing opportunities than the slack tides. In some places an incoming tide may offer way better fishing and in other places, an outgoing tide may provide the better bite. Each situation can be very different, however, make sure to fish during these tidal changes with moving water for better success. The bite can be pretty tough and sometimes non-existent during the slack water times when fishing inshore.
Low light conditions are almost always better when fishing for snook. So that means morning, evening and night will usually offer the best fishing opportunities for snook. This isn’t always the case, but the majority of the time, this will be the case.
The time of the year will definitely affect where and how snook are going to be caught. In some areas, the fishing will be extremely tough in winter due to the low water temperatures. Searching for these fish in the tidal creeks and backwaters as they warm up later in the day will be one of the better ways to catch these fish as the morning bite may be non-existent especially during a cold spell. In the spring and early summer, the fishing can be flat out awesome in most parts of Florida that have snook fishing. Mid summer can be a little difficult as water temperatures get very warm and then the fall bite picks up again before winter approaches. If you go way south though, you can find good snook fishing year round. Some of the areas in south Florida will provide great fishing in the winter time.