Capt Nathaniel Lemmon with a Volusia County Snook

Snook

Centropomus undecimalis , better known around Florida as the snook. There are actually 4 species of snook found in Florida. (Common Snook, Fat Snook, Swordspine Snook, and Tarpon Snook) A snook is easily identifiable by the dark black line that runs the length of its body on each side and the high divided dorsal fin. Their pike-like body is very light in color, generally olive with silver sides and belly and yellowish-green tail and fins. Ocean snook tend to be more silver while those found in the coastal inshore backcountry are darker.

Snook PictureSnook are native to the coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. They are highly sensitive to water temperatures, severely stressing in waters below 60 degrees. For this reason they generally are found south of Daytona Beach and Tampa in Florida, although catches in North Florida and Texas are not unheard of.

While snook are considered an inshore fish, they can be found in saltwater or freshwater and it's in this mix that snook spend a majority of their life. Young larvae that hatch near the inlets and beaches drift for several days before finding refuge in estuaries, salt marshes, creeks, mangrove islands and ponds. As early as 2-4 years old, 18-24 inches long, snook become sexually mature. Interestingly enough snook are hermaphroditic and will exhibit male-to-female sex reversal as they become older. This adaptation keeps entire populations from being wiped out when times get tough (i.e. cold weather, drought, or limited food sources.) This sex change usually occurs between 1 and 7-years-old. Because of this most of the larger, older adult fish over 30 inches are female and most of the younger, smaller adults are males. Upon reaching sexual maturity snook migrate each summer to inlets and nearshore waters to spawn. Spawning occurs each year from May through September.

Snook can live close to 20 years and reach lengths up to 50 inches. The average snook that anglers find attached to their line ranges from 2-5lbs. An adult snook can reach weights up to 50-60lbs in some parts of the world, even here in Florida. The current Florida all-tackle record is 44lbs and was caught in the Ft. Myers area. There have been snook caught in Florida over 50lbs, however none have been certified by the IGFA. The all-tackle IGFA world record is 53lbs and was caught 30 years ago in Costa Rica. Florida maintains a slot limit (28-32”) and also has closed seasons that protect snook during their most vulnerable time.

Snook are prized game fish known for their finicky behavior and powerful fights on light tackle. Equally as regarded, they are prized table fare. Sometimes they are referred to as the saltwater version of the largemouth bass on steroids. This is probably more so because of the type of structure they prefer and the techniques used to catch them, both of which are very similar to the largemouth bass. Once hooked, snook have the uncanny ability to immediately head for the sharpest structure they can find which spells doom for an angler with a slow reaction or response. If being wrapped around barnacle encrusted docks, bridges, or a mangrove isn't enough, snook possess razor sharp gill plates that will quickly break off any line that becomes wrapped around it. Snook can be caught using a variety of gear. They are a favorite of fly anglers and light tackle anglers using plugs, jigs, and soft plastics. They also can be caught using live bait such as pinfish, mullet, croakers, sardines, and herrings. Regardless of what used to pursue them, snook are very finicky and require a good dose of “teasing” in order to produce a strike. This finicky behavior is what drives “snookers” crazy and fuels an obsession.

While East-Central Florida may not hold the sheer snook numbers similar to what's found in South Florida, years of mild winters have steadily increased Indian River, Mosquito Lagoon and Ponce Inlet Snook populations. To our advantage, East Coast Florida snook grow faster and heavier than anywhere else in in the state. During the winter local snook holes routinely give up double digit days and snook over 10lbs. As spring and summer bring warmer water and more food, snook spread throughout the region and congregate in and near their spawning grounds. During this time of the year it’s common to find some of the year’s biggest snook hanging around inlets, channels and bridges. There are always reports of 45-50 inch snook being caught that push the 40lb mark, a true record fish for fish living on the northern border of their habitat range. As the annual fall mullet run begins to gear up, snook begin filling their bellies and migrating back to their over-wintering holes where they will hope to ride out the impending cold, in hopes of repeating the journey again next year.

Capt. Nathaniel Lemmon is a full-time snook guide who specializes in fishing charters for snook on the Indian River, Mosquito Lagoon, Spruce Creek, and around the Ponce Inlet backcountry. Snook of various sizes can be caught on these waters while fly fishing and on light tackle. Jigs, live bait, and plugs are all productive means of catching snook in Volusia County. Snook fishing charters run daily from any one of several launch locations within easy driving distance of Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Ponce Inlet, Edgewater and Oak Hill Florida.

 

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