The first thing you learn fishing in the Keys is that a successful snook fisherman must be smart, skillful, patient and above all persistent. Every angler wants to land a lunker, but a trophy specimen while fishing for snook can be particularly elusive.
Florida Keys fishing is famous for tarpon, cobia and bonefish, but nothing gets the blood pumping like snook fishing season. If you want to go fishing for snook, you’ll find the largest specimens on the flats and deep in the backcountry of Everglades National Park.
Anglers booking Florida Keys fishing charters will find that snook can be caught on a variety of live and artificial baits. The top Florida Keys fishing guides understand that while there are many factors that influence inshore species–water temperature, moon phase, barometric pressure–the most important is tide. Anglers armed with a little local knowledge can head off on their own but the chances of success are much higher if they contact one of the more reputable Florida Keys outfitters such as those found at the Hawks Cay Marina.
The best snook fishing guides, including Mike O'Dell aboard the Right On, provide light-tackle half and full-day excursions. Jeff Malone of Tarpon Time and Mike Kasten of I’m Hooked are masters of live-bait fishing. Mike O'Dell, with his 24-foot Yellowfin, can take larger parties deep into Florida Bay.
Snook, or Centropomus undecimalis, feed when the water is moving. The reason is simple: an outgoing tide flushes baitfish off the grass flats. Snook, like most predators, try to expend as little energy possible in pursuit of prey, letting the tide do the work. Many anglers compare snook to largemouth bass because both species are structure-oriented and often lurk along shadow lines and drop-offs to ambush prey. Snook are notorious tackle busters, like tarpon, and if timed right, both species can be caught on the same trip.
While snook can be kept certain times of the year, most conservation-minded anglers practice catch and release. Studies show that 98 percent of snook survive after they are returned to the wild. Anglers can help ensure the survival of this prized sportfish by setting the hook quickly so the fish does not swallow the bait. If possible, keep the snook in the water and use a pair of pliers to remove the hook. Barbless hooks simplify the process. Handle the fish as little as possible to increase its chance of survival.
If you want to take a photo to show the folks back home, do so as quickly as possible. There is no greater thrill than fighting a big snook then watching it swim away unharmed.