Snook are one of our top inshore gamefish in Southwest Florida. They are a predatory fish that can reach up to 4’ in length. They feed on a variety of species including pinfish, shiners, grunts, mullet, ladyfish, shrimp, and crabs. When hooked, they provide a challenging fight even for experienced anglers, making strong runs and jumps, and angling for cover and breakoffs wherever possible.
In my opinion, the best part of fishing for snook is the variety of areas in which you can target them.
Late spring to fall is snook time. These fish range widely throughout our Gulf of Mexico waters and inhabit the mangrove creeks and shorelines of the back bay. You may see them swimming along the mangrove shorelines near Sanibel and Captiva, or hiding just under the overhanging foliage. Areas with downed trees or shaded areas over the water are great places to check. In these cases, live bait tends to work best. You can cast ahead of the moving fish, or within sight of those holding in one place.
In the summer, it’s popular to sight cast to them along the beaches in 6” - 2’ of water as they trap smaller prey against the shore. Live bait, white jigs, silver spoons, and fly tackle all work well when they are near the beaches.
Year-round, snook can be found around passes, creek mouths, weirs, and almost any place that has good water flow in a tight area. Moving tides are crucial in these places. Nature is inherently lazy (life is more efficient that way), and these predators are often holding in eddies along the edge of flow areas just waiting for prey that is caught in the currents. Almost any bait can work if presented properly – I prefer “free-lining” or using a small splitshot.
Don’t rule out canals either – snook, like most fish, enjoy hanging out around structure, and casting artificial lures along the sides of docks or rock walls in areas with current can often produce bites.
Many large snook are also caught on cut bait in the hours around sunrise and sunset. Ladyfish and mullet are two bait species commonly used here.
Snook are very sensitive to water temperatures, so as our waters cool in the winter they become more lethargic. Many of them move to deeper areas, often with muddy bottom, that will keep a more consistent temperature. On occasion, we do still find these fish along deep mangrove edges and docks as we fish for sheepshead and cooler water species. Shrimp is a great bait choice in cooler water, as its slower moving – just as snook are when it’s cold.
If you're planning a vacation to the Sanibel area, consider making snook fishing a part of your visit. It is a great way to experience our local waters.