**Attention: as of May 2021 Catch-and-release only measures for Snook have been extended through May 31, 2022, from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County, including all waters in Hillsborough County. These are proactive measures due to impacts of red tide in this area. Since Snook is closed annually from May 1-Aug. 31, this fishery will reopen for complete harvest on Sept. 1, 2022.**
The Common Snook is a popular saltwater fish in Florida; some may even say it is the year-round king. Snook fishing is great year-round in local waters, especially the inshore waterways. Locals or experienced anglers also refer to these creatures at Ravillia’s, Robalo’s and Linesides.
The game-fish quality of this species is one of the best for year-round catches. However, if you wish to fish them on either coast you will need to wait for either the fall or spring seasons to open. Once caught, cook it up and it’s almost guaranteed to become one of your favorites!
What does the Common Snook look like?
Luckily, Snook have a rather distinguishable body style. Their heads taper down to a pronounced snout with an under-bite and large fins. To help the non-angler types, Snook are also famous for the prominent black stripe that runs from the top of their heads to the end of their tails. This black stripe will be visible on all types of Snook throughout Florida; it’s the one solid aspect that you can’t miss.
The colors of the Common Snook are simple but attractive. The tops of their heads and along the tops of their backs tend to range from dark gray to black, which then fades to a light silver along their sides. The sliver body with yellow fins will make these fish stand apart from other species.
The average size for any given year-round catch is between 3-15 pounds. The heftier fish tend to be caught around summer near the inlets and can average as large as 20-30 pounds. The size doesn’t seem to differ much from coast to coast; wherever you set your line, you have a chance to catch yourself a large one!
Rules and Regulations
Snook can be caught year-round in local waters, but in state and federal waters, Snook is regulated by two regions; the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico. NO commercial fishing is permitted during any part of the season. State waters run from shore to 9 nautical miles on the Gulf coast and from shore to 3 nautical miles on the Atlantic coast. Federal waters run from where state water ends to about 200 nautical miles out.
Gulf, Monroe County and Everglades National Park all have the same regulations for Snook. The season is closed from Dec. 1st – end of February and again from May 1st – August 31st. The Snook must be at least 28” and no more than 33” in overall total length. The bag limit is low for this species, with a limit of 1 per recreational harvester.
The Atlantic state and federal waters regulations are enforced for Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimee River as well! The season on the Atlantic coast is slightly different with closed sessions from Dec. 15th – Jan. 31st and then June 1st – August 31st. Over on this side of the state your catch must still be no smaller than 28” but also can’t exceed 32” in total length, so you lose an inch in these waters. Unfortunately, the catch limit is still 1 Snook per angler per day on the Atlantic coast.
To fish on your own, whether from a pier, the shore or your own vessel, you will need to have a recreational fishing license with an additional Snook permit. While there are plenty of various hooks, lines and lures to be used, this is the only method of fishing allowed for catching your Snook. No nets or traps allowed.
Where can I find plenty of Snook?
Florida Snook tend to stay around the southern half of the state, on both coasts. In years when the water doesn’t get too cold, they can be found as far north as the Homosassa River on the Gulf Coast and up towards Jacksonville on the Atlantic coast. It’s not set in stone that they can’t be fished for in the panhandle, it’s just highly unlikely that you will catch a Snook that far north. Year-round fishing for this species can be fruitful, just take a trip down south to guarantee your catch.
Speaking of trips, if you would like to go even further south, the larger islands in the Caribbean house some decent Snook fishing. Cuba and Puerto Rico are said to have plenty of Snook swimming in their tropical waters. If you are looking to visit the Bahamas, we are sad to report you will likely not find any; they are virtually absent from those tropical waters.
Now that we have talked about the physical location, let’s talk about the habitats Snook like to hide around. Passes and inlets are generally a popular place to snatch your Lineside. Don’t forget about the elusive mangrove shorelines and grassy flats.
Pilings are also a popular place for Snook to hangout, whether fishing from a bridge or a pier. Luckily for locals, Florida’s waterways are littered with piers and bridges. Snook can be caught all throughout the day near bridge pilings and piers, but if you really want to up your chances, try fishing at night. Fishing at night when the pilings are illuminated draws some of the Snooks’ favorite bait, which in-turn draws them directly to your baited hook. Drop a line and see how many you can snatch up.
If you want a more casual fishing trip, setting your line off the beach can also be a fruitful endeavor. For best results, fish off the beach from early spring all the way to the end of fall and either just after dawn or just before sunset; just beware of your fellow swimmers.
Tips & Tricks for catching your Snook
If it’s a fight you are looking for, Snook will give you one of the best. Snook fights consist of some jumps, head yanks and many long runs. The smaller ones will make high leaps while the larger female fish will only be able to get about half their bodies out of the water, with the larger males making grander leaps. Also, keep an eye on their utilization of obstructions to get you caught up or to snap your line.
Still-fishing, trolling, drifting and casting are all effective methods of catching your share of Snook. Some of the most popular methods tend to be bait-casting, spinning gear and live bait. If fishing from the beach, simple casting gear will work. Fly fisherman like to stick with poppers and large streamers. If you are fishing in grass flats, try using 10-15 lb test, use 15-10 lb test near docks or mangroves and 30-40 lb test near large structures with fast moving currents.
Artificial lures are a safe go-to when Snook fishing; live bait is not necessary. When fishing in shallow depths such as 2-5ft, try using jigs, crankbaits, and swim baits. When near shore or in less than 2 ft of water, try using suspending twitch baits, soft jerk baits or topwater plugs. If fishing in waters deeper than 5 ft, try using swim baits, large crankbaits and heavy bucktails & jigs.
Even though live bait is not necessary, if you have the time or money to catch/buy it, there are various baits to choose from. Shrimp, crab, and pinfish are some of the top choices. Any small fish will work when trying to catch this game fish. You can use bigger dead bait to catch the larger fish on the bottom, such as ladyfish halves and mullet heads.
How to cook my Snook
Most people who aren’t avid anglers have yet to experience the taste of Snook. Have you ever noticed that you can’t ever find this fish on seafood restaurant menus or in a meat market? This is because it is illegal for restaurants to serve Snook or for meat markets to purchase or sell it. So, the only way for you to be able to enjoy a meal of it is to either catch it fresh yourself or ask one of your fishermen friends to catch/make it for you. Either way you decide to do it, Ingman Marine highly recommends you try it at least once in your life.
Snook provides one of the largest overall fillets once cleaned and skinned. With a mild flavor, this white fish can be cooked in many ways and pairs well with various flavors. This versatility will make this one of your favorite fish choices. If you can manage to get your hand on some fresh Snook, check out some of our yummy recipe ideas.
One of our favorites has been a simple pan seared Snook, and if you want to get bold, you can pair it with some delicious seafood risotto. This white fish can be cooked in so many ways. You can steam, broil, pan fry, stew or bake this fish into your perfect dish. This light, mild fish pairs well with many flavors, such as lemon and butter or Asian, Cajun or Indian-style seasonings. Serve it up with some white rice and you have a meal to die for! Keep in mind, in most white-fish recipes, you can simply replace the main fish with Snook or any other white-fish you may have on hand.
Snook can be caught year-round and as long as you have the proper gear, place and ambition, you can be sure to catch your dinner in no time. During the proper seasons, take your shot on both coasts and try early in the day or late in the evening to have the best opportunities. Try switching between live bait, dead bait and artificial bait. Cook your catch up as fresh as possible and try all kinds of fun recipes. Snook is considered one of the best game-fish and one of the most populous species. The Ingman Marine team wishes you the best of luck!