Recently, Capt. Justin Rieger and I had the honor of fishing three generations of the Wetherald family on the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. They met us at the Sundance Marina in Jensen Beach before dawn, ready for some hardcore snook fishing.
Bob Sr. and his son, Bob spent much of their lives in Florida. Bob Sr. captained many a sportfisher in his career, and the Fishing Capital of the World can take some credit for giving rise to his son, who is one of southern Maryland’s best fishing and hunting guides.
Capt. Bob Wetherald is the owner/operator of Mid River Guide Service on the Potomac River in southern Maryland. Bob’s 8-year-old son, Dawson, came along and put on a snook-fishing clinic, even though he’d never caught one before.
We fished with live pilchards and thread herring along the seawalls, boats and docks. There’s a knack to fishing that way. You have to land the bait close to or under the structure. The hookset is not like most live-bait situations where you feed the fish for a while. You have to set the hook quickly, then there’s the difficult matter of getting brute-sized snook, trout and jacks out from the structure.
Dawson spent most of the morning showing his elders how it’s done. His first snook came off a seawall across from the St. Lucie Inlet State Park, in Stuart. When Justin landed it we realized his first snook was a really special fish. It wasn’t a common snook (Centropomus undecimalus), but a smaller cousin called the “swordspine snook.” The fish was a very large specimen for its sub-species. This area is about as far north as this mostly tropical species occurs, and we don’t catch more than a handful per year.
Dawson kept kicking his dad’s butt all morning, getting four or five fish ahead of the man who clearly had taught this kid to cast well and fight a fish skillfully. Mid-morning, he put a 31-inch snook in the box, which they enjoyed for dinner. A big fish broke him off in the pilings. He caught several other under-slot fish, and he added a nice jack crevalle to his life list as well.
Dad got on the board with a 27-inch fish, which stood as his personal best snook for about an hour. Around lunchtime, we found a slew of fish along a wall. After a gallant effort that nearly succeeded in wrenching the fish out from the dock, Bob Jr. lost a trophy-size fish. That happens a lot with this style of fishing. But he came right back and skillfully maneuvered a 37-inch fish from a really tight corner. That fish now stands as his personal best.
Granddad finished the day for us, somehow managing to pull a 15-pound jack crevalle out of the same tight corner. Those things fight like scalded mules, but Bob Sr. demonstrated 60-plus years of fishing experience by whipping it handily.
Justin and I were so thrilled to put three generations of anglers on a great day of fishing. There’s no better way to spend quality family time than on a boat with a skilled guide, so you can concentrate on fishing and fun.
This style of fishing for snook, jacks and tarpon, as well trout and redfish is productive year-round on the Treasure Coast. But it’s best April through the fall mullet run, which typically takes place in October. For up-to-date snook-fishing regulations visit the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website.