Over the past couple over years, catching a snook has been a real challenge for many recreational anglers. After all there were nearly one million snook that perished from that brutal winter in 2010 and it likely diminished the entire snook population of Florida by an estimated 40% or more! But now nearly four years later, I’ve begun to notice some improvement in the snook stocks along Florida’s west coast.
Since the spring, in my travels up and down the state both fishing and filming, I have witnessed good numbers of snook in many areas. But I’d be remiss if I told you every region had improved significantly. In some areas the recovery is still lagging behind a little bit… some of that is due to a diminished habitat (especially in metro areas). And, I’ve conversed with a number of other professional guides that are noticing the same progress with the snook in other popular fishing locales within the state. The snook now seems poised to make a comeback but only with a little more help from those of us who revere them the most!
With the snook getting some relief from season closures imposed by the FWC for three consecutive years between 2010 & 2013. And “Mother Nature” taking care of it’s own, banking on the snook’s unusual hermaphrodite qualities, the snook are starting to rebound and maintain breeding populations. But caution should still be the rule with these sub-tropical brutes of the shallows, we can’t take it for granted that the snook are all the way back… far from it.
There will always be the threat of another unseasonably cold winter freeze and the “red tides” that plague our state in the summer months; both scenarios take their toll on most snook populations. But with a little self-restraint by anglers on harvest numbers and the continued stock management that is currently in place, the snook should recover to pre-2009 numbers in just a few more seasons barring a catastrophic natural event. Again, the one factor we can control as anglers when it comes to the snook’s overall comeback, is to practice responsible catch & release of all snook!
Even though snook are fair game within the slot 28″to 33″ during the Fall (September through November) and then again in the Spring (March through April); I would encourage prudence to all anglers and simply treat snook as if the seasons are still closed. It’s the only way we can guarantee the fastest recovery and future of Florida’s most prized gamefish. I believe that the old days of catching snook so that they can be brought to a filet table is in the past… snook are way too valuable to Florida’s fishing economy! Anglers from all over the country & across the globe travel here to south Florida, to chase these unique and powerful gamefish because their numbers are relatively sustained here. Other than the very southern tip of the Texas coast, Florida’s is the recognized snook capital of the country and a highly valued commodity we have to protect!
My clients in particular have been catching snook with more regularity on charters in areas where just last year we caught none. These prominent predators add something to every fishing outing, often the highlight of the day. The snook’s aggressive ambush behavior and unpredictable runs once hooked is what draws anglers to the challenge of battling these “lions of the flats”. It’s exactly for that reason we need to put a higher value on the snook, there are plenty of other “fish of opportunity” that anglers can bring to the grill! My charters are catch & release only… hopefully others will feel this way to ensure more snook for our future. Remember, a snook’s lifespan is nearly 20 years… that’s a pretty damn big snook! And with a little help from all of us it’s going to be possible to catch more of these big linesider’s moving forward. In closing, the lesson we should have learned from the devastating snook kill of 2010 runs parallel to a lesson learned from this last serious economic recession which hurt so many of us financially. We need to employ some “good old” common sense to re-build a healthy sustained snook fishery and protect the estuaries where these fish thrive.
If you want to learn more about snook, or how you can get involved in securing the snook’s future; visit www.ccaflorida.org, www.mote.org and www.snookfoundation.org or better yet become a member of these organizations that respect our gamefish.
From Capt. C.A.Richardson’s poling platform…