In South Florida, the snook unequivocally sits at the top of the inshore target list. One of the most sought after species in Florida, its tenacious reputation has also earned it followers around the world -- anglers who refer to themselves as ''snookers.'' Yet the snook is no pushover. These fish frequent heavy structure, and they are absolute masters of their environment. Hooking them is one thing -- landing them is another.
Most people think a snook is a snook when, in fact, 12 different kinds inhabit both the Atlantic and the Pacific. We could not, however, find any records of anyone catching one on fly in the Pacific. That said, most anglers agree that all snook behave similarly no matter where you fish for them.
Snook generally can be found in a variety of inshore and coastal waters and can tolerate a huge range in salinity, including almost completely fresh water. But they are not tolerant of cold water at all. Indeed, they cannot survive water temperatures below 60 degrees for long, though they will easily tolerate water into the 80s.
The keys to locating them are simple: Structure and current. Snook prefer relatively shallow areas of heavy structure, including anything from mangroves, seawalls, bridges and shallow reefs, pilings and wrecks to submerged rubble. The other key is moving water. ''If you don't have moving water, you aren't snook fishing,'' says Matt Bagley, who specializes in snook fishing along Florida's southeast coast. ''Even so, despite the large currents that come with the full moon, I don't like fishing right after the full moon because the fish gorge themselves.''
Bagley also does most of his fishing at night. ''Snook prefer quiet conditions, and they tend to spook easily with lots of boat traffic. At 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning that's not a problem, and since snook feed primarily at night anyway it just makes sense.''
Tom Mohler, who guides along Florida's west coast, agrees. ''Summertime has perfect conditions for sight fishing for snook under lighted piers at night, when there are fewer people looking for them. But moving water is definitely the key. If the water's not moving at one location, its best to just pick up and move on,'' he says.
While snooks feed most actively at night, that doesn't mean you can't catch them during the day. ''You just have to remember that snook have very sensitive eyes, so during the day they will stick to the dark side of a shadow line along structure,'' says Bagley. Mohler also points out that along the west coast of Florida, July and August are the perfect times to walk the beaches early in the morning looking for snook in the surf. ''Daytime is also the best time to find snook during the winter, when they are out looking for warmer water. I prefer not to stress them when it's cold, though,'' he says.