Fishing for Snook in the Everglades National Park
Guiding anglers to snook on fly or light tackle in my opinion is the ultimate challenge and perhaps the most rewarding. My skills as a fishing guide and "explorer," are put to the test more so than with any other gamefish. The fight of the Snook is the reason for the pursuit. These fish are almost always found near some kind of structure and will use it every chance they get.
Snook in the South Florida region average five to twenty-five pounds, even larger snook can be found fishing in many locations around Florida. However the sight fishing and fly fishing opportunities available in the Everglades National Park are second to none. The areas that I choose to sight fish for snook are generally best in the early fall to late spring. The labyrinth of shallow sawgrass and mangrove lined ponds, winding creeks and small bays of the uncharted Everglades are the first areas to warm up after the cold fronts in the fall and early spring. This is partially due to the clear yet slightly darker tannin stained water which warms up quickly... a good thing for snook fishing. There is also an abundance of aquatic growth providing habitat that perhaps insulates and protects baitfish and snook from the colder Winter water temperatures, retaining warmth longer on sunny days. I've seen lots of snook and redfish lying dead still with their tails poking out of this "insulation" on cold days.
Over the years in South Florida's and the Keys there have been documented fish kills due to water temperatures dropping into the low fifty's. During these periods, expecting the worse I have traveled deep into the Everglades only to find no dead fish in this unique environment. The numerous cold fronts also serve as a feeding mechanism. The combination of the driving northerly winds preceding the strong northeasterly winds as the high pressure builds, is the key. The water is driven out to the west of the Everglades by the high winds and the water levels are additionally lowered by the high barometric pressure, flushing out hoards of baitfish to meet Mr. & Mrs. Snook.
The minimal tidal range in this environment play a minor role as it relates less to vertical water movement and more to the accompanying moon phase and the snooks nocturnal feeding habits. This is contrary to what most snook fishermen believe - that the full moon is best, which is true if you are fishing at night, or if you are fishing in cuts or passes influenced more by current. I prefer the 'new' and 'first quarter' moon phases, especially during a warm-up after a cold front. During these periods the current is almost always outward regardless of the tide phase as a result of fresh water runoff and the northeast winds "pushing" the water off the shallow everglades.In the summer, high water temperatures leach the oxygen levels and lead to the lack of aquatic growth. These same productive areas are sometimes barren in the summer, entire bays turning desert-like in a matter of weeks. It is at this time the snook move towards the relatively cooler water of the larger bays, mouths of tidal rivers and off the gulf beaches, offering additional snook fishing opportunities - leaving only isolated resident populations behind with the summers mosquito's, gators, gar, bull sharks, cooters and Eastern Diamondbacks.
Notes on Snook Fishing
Guiding for snook on fly or light tackle in my opinion is the ultimate challenge. My skills as a fishing guide and "explorer," are put to the test more so than with any other gamefish. Veteran anglers whom have caught their share of bonefish, tarpon and permit seem to be drawn towards the snook as the final sight fishing frontier. Maybe it is because of their spectacular habitat; snook seem to be more selective, finding out of the way spots void of boat traffic and humans - not to be mistaken for the urban snook, a whole different critter which can be found in residential canals and under bridges just about anywhere in South Florida. They are the same species but I choose to fish for "rural" version of snook in the most remote and seldom traveled areas I can find. If it is hard to get to, a snook can find it. They can be bonefish like in their stealth, tarpon like in their acrobatics and toughness, brown trout like in their intelligence.
Snook are around all year in South Florida, however my favorite time is between late Sept. and mid April, but not limited to, on occasion, any month of the year. The water is rich with oxygen in the Fall through Spring due to the aquatic plant growth, thus holding all kinds of baitfish, including brim, Mayan cichlids, tilapia and bass. Here, the formidable largemouth bass can be referred to as a baitfish!
Fishing Gear For Snook
Fly Fishing Gear
Level of difficulity on fly - intermediate to expert.
- 8 to 9 weight floating or clear floating lines. On some occasions a clear sink tip or Courtland clear floating line can be a better choice for wary fish than a traditional floating line.
Leaders for Snook
- I use a variation of the standard IGFA big game leader with 12 or 16 pound class tippet. Including the butt section, I generally tie these leaders from 8 to as long as 10 feet. In my opinion you can increase hookups by lengthening your shock tippet from the standard IGFA 12 inches to as long as 30 inches. The advantage here is less visibility between knots and also gives you ability to clip off a damaged fly or a couple inches of scuffed leader and re- tie without having to trash the entire leader.
- I use Seaguar fluorocarbon for a 5 to 6 foot butt section, I use the same for the 18" class tippet. I then use Seaguar fluorocarbon for the 30" shock tippet.
- Recommended fly patterns range from "Deceiver" type streamers, baitfish patterns, toads and poppers, tied on 1/0 hooks. Weed guards are sometimes necessary in areas with lots of trees and deadfall. If you are interested in bringing your own snook flies please call or email for more detailed info... I'll give you an idea on what type of flies, colors and hook sizes will work best.
Spin and Plug Fishing
Level of difficulity on spin and plug - novice to expert.
- Rod and Reel Ten to twelve pound test plug or spin will work great for snook. In my opinion, there is nothing more exciting than a topwater take by a snook... Zara Spooks, Jumping Minnows, and propeller plugs such as Torpedo's work great. Texas rigged plastic jerk and paddle tail baits such as Baa Assassin, Gulps and Zooms, bass tubes, jigs and worms are also part of the arsenal. Traditional bucktail jigs, shallow running plugs and spoons will work as well.
- I never was a big fan of braided line such as Power Pro until I used it just once for big snook on a gnarly mangrove shoreline. #4 braid used with 30 to 40 pound test Flouro leader, in my opinion is a great application for these types of strong and more abrasion resistant lines.