Catching the Silver Queen By: Rosemary J. White

There is nothing quite like the song of a big snook.  A screaming drag is music to my ears.  Her beauty and sheer awesome power distinguish her from any other.  She is the one fish that has challenged me more than any over the years.

She is a chameleon.  On the beaches she is light like the cerulean water and white sand, a reflective silver.  In the rivers, she is dark, tea stained like her tannin sanctuary.

The snook is twofold.  Prized as one of Florida’s most popular gamefish, because of its do or die fighting style, and as table fare, white, light and flaky.

I will not bore you with the one million and one ways to catch a snook, lord knows all you have to do is google that.  What I will enlighten you on is just a few simple things that have helped me to understand their behavior, and in turn educated me on how to hunt these trophies.    I will share some facts that I think are relevant and may allow you to think like a big snook, which might perhaps enable you to catch one yourself.

They are a unique species.  The common snook is the most abundant in the family of snook–it can grow up to 48 inches and more than 38 pounds.  They are a species that are moderately long lived, females about 21 years and males about 15 years.  There is no visible difference between males and females.  Snook are protandric hermaphrodites.  This means the males change sex from male to female.  This occurs during the fall after spawning season, and the age range is between one and seven years for this process to occur.

Snook are voracious predators; however, they are very sensitive to tides, weather and even have their own attitudes.  I have reeled in snook that have scared me with the look of rage in their eyes.  These factors can leave an angler very frustrated.  If you do not fish for snook in the correct way at the correct time, your chances take a flush down the toilet.  I do not believe in “luck” when fishing.  Skill is what will land you the snook of your dreams.  The most important thing to note is that snook orient themselves to face moving water, an ambush style of waiting for prey to be carried down the current.  This piece of information is what changed my fishing to catching.

Snook spawn on the new and full moons from May to September–bright yellow fins are an indicator of the spawn.  Another important take away, they feed most actively at night–this is why many pictures of big snook are at night, or in low light.   As robust as these fish are, they are a tropical/subtropical species, again very temperature sensitive.  If Florida waters remain below fifty-five degrees for an extended period of time, the snook will die.  Keep in mind that when the weather is too frigid, you might want to fish for grouper instead.

Of great significance is where snook live.  They inhabit beaches, mangrove forests, river estuaries, nearshore reefs and salt marshes.  They often travel up rivers into freshwater. If you can see a snook in the water, you are too late.  The snook saw you ten minutes prior.  Stealth is of the utmost importance.  That thick black line to which the name linesider comes from?  That is the snook’s lateral line and it aides the snook in “hearing” vibrations in the water.  Did you know that even when you are walking on land the snook can “hear” you?  I always tip toe to a land-based location for this reason.  Sometimes I even find myself holding my breath.   The same is applicable if you are in a boat.

If you are adept enough to hook a big girl, then that is when the true fight begins.  In my experience, the first thing she will do is jump, and I mean jump!  She will shake her head next to dislodge the hook that is in her mouth while simultaneously trying to cut your line with her razor-sharp gill plates.  If you make it past this point with her still hooked, when she lands you better hold on tight.  Her next maneuver will be to “run”.  She will go through any obstruction, debris, rock or bridge to fray your line or remove the hook.  If you succeed and land her, she is pretty much worn out at this point, save a couple heads shakes.

Another key factor to your success is tackle.  Your gear will depend on where and how you are fishing for the snook.   Big fish require bigger baits, bigger gear and heavier line/leader.  Bigger snook like to congregate around heavy structure such as bridges, spillways, rocks and trees when they are not spawning; therefore, my trusted line and leader is Yo-Zuri super braid and top knot 100% fluorocarbon leader to haul them out.  I almost exclusively use artificial baits when I target large snook–it provides more of a challenge and reward for me.   Big snook are extremely intelligent; actually, I cannot stress enough just how smart they are.  They didn’t get that big by being dumb.  Realistic baits and presentations are a must. I use Yo-Zuri hard baits, and Savage Gear/Tsunami soft plastics.

For me, catching a large snook is like the first time, every time.   If I could bottle the entire feeling of the hunt, I would be a millionaire.  Just as the catch feeling takes your breath away, for me, so does the release.  Perhaps the most significant take away from this little commentary is my thought on proper release.

Be very cautious with the jaw of a large snook.  Try not to hold her solely by this area and support her entire body weight as much as possible.  If in all the hustle and bustle her jaw is broken, chances are she will not survive to be caught another day.

Get the snook back into the water as soon as you have taken your photos, measurements, etc.  Make sure your hands are wet when you handle her.  Remember when I said snook face into the current?  This is the same way you want her back in the water to be revived.  Place her back in the water facing the current in a horizontal steady position.  Do not move her back and forth, let the water oxygenate her naturally.  If you have a thumb in her mouth, she will eventually clamp down on it, a good sign she is getting her wind back.

It may seem silly, but after I land a big snook, I say a little prayer thanking Mother Nature for the opportunity.  If you still don’t feel confident after online researching, watching videos and reading articles on how to catch big snook, say a prayer.  Works for me!