It’s so fascinating how almost every morning a fleet of boats pile into Everglades City, heading to the boat ramps and leaving their docks in hopes of going out and catching a snook.
Although there are numerous types of fish to catch in the Everglades, snook is one of the most popular and the best to eat. Snook season is only a few months out of the year, this year it’s from March 1st until May 1st. Due to the horrific impact red tide caused on marine life last year, snook remain catch-and-release during season from the Hernando/Pasco county line to Gordon’s Pass in Collier County. This is one of the reasons as to why Everglades has been crazy busy with fishermen and women, because you can catch and keep them if they are the appropriate length.
If you’ve never seen a snook before, they are a greenish-gray color that fades to white. They have a thin, black stripe on their side that goes from their gills to their tail. They have a protruding lower jaw, a sloping forehead and a large mouth.
There are 12 closely related snook species in the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. Five of these species make their home in Florida: small-scaled fat snook, common snook, swordspine snook, tarpon snook and the large-scaled fat snook.
Snook tend to hide in mangroves, grass flats, bridges and oyster beds and are very skittish so if you’re wanting to hook one you have to be very quiet. We have a snook light down at our dock and almost every night my dad and I check the light. We have to practically tip toe across the boards and not talk so we don’t spook them. Under our light if we go at the right time of the night, there will be a cluster of snook piled on top of each other. Their diet consists of small fish, shrimp and crab. When fishing for snook, my dad and I usually use cut up ladyfish we previously caught, since that’s one of the best baits to use to catch a big snook. Fly fisherman like to use poppers and large streamers, whereas fishermen who like to use hard-lures generally use top water plugs, jerk plugs, mirror plugs and plastic jigs.
Snook position themselves so they are facing moving water that way their prey can be easily caught since they’re being carried by the current. To be able to keep a snook they have to be no smaller than 28 inches and no bigger than 32 inches. You can still catch them if they aren’t in this category you would just have to release them back into the water.
An interesting fact about the common snook is that they are born males but after they mature, which would occur when they’re around 18-22 inches and usually around 14 pounds, many of them become females. Larger snook are more likely to be females since the chances of them changing gender increase with their age and size. Very rarely they’ll turn back to a male.
Most of the females go offshore around November to live in deep water and return around April to spawn so that way they protect themselves from dying in the cold water because they can’t survive in temperatures under 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’ve never eaten snook before you’re definitely missing out! It’s by far one of my favorite fish to eat. Their meat is white, has a medium firmness to it and is best eaten fresh. You can fry, blacken or grill snook but my family’s favorite way is fried. You can also take the fillets to any of our local restaurants in town and have them prepare it for you the way you like it! If you want to catch a snook go ahead and get a fishing rod and find a quiet bridge or go out to the mangroves by boat and fish for one. Just be prepared for a good fight reeling them in!