Snook Around Sebastian Inlet and the East Coast

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Fishing for snook? Here are the best spots along the east coast.

As the first rays of sunlight sparkled the wave crests, I squinted to keep an eye on my bobber as it floated out with the tide. I'd arrived at the north jetty of Sebastian Inlet several hours earlier in order to catch the change of the tide and felt excited at the prospect of dueling with one of the giant snook that often haunt this inlet.

Enduring precious little action save for the intermittent splash of a leaping mullet or squawking of a gull, I began wishing I was home fluffing up my pillow when suddenly the bobber disappeared from view. I grabbed the rod in a nanosecond and set the hook.

Bingo! A massive line-sider responded with a half-bodied leap, frothing the surface as it shook its head. I let the snook run with the current away from the jetty, then it turned around and charged straight back. I cranked as quickly as possible to take up the line slack and rejoiced when I once again felt solid resistance.

A small gallery of anglers formed behind me to watch the show, including one annoying fellow who barked out play-by-play updates to no one in particular whenever the berserk fish changed direction or broke the surface. After enjoying about 15 minutes of the snook's acrobatic jumps, slashing headshakes and powerful runs, I worked the fish to the bridge net and someone hauled it upwards. A scale registered the weight at a shade under 20 pounds - a personal best - and then I quickly lowered the snook back to the water so it could live to fight another day.

Located about 35 miles south of Port Canaveral on Florida's east coast, Sebastian Inlet - day in and day out, year after year - probably yields more huge snook than anywhere else in the world. The north and south jetties allow those without a boat to fish the mouth of the inlet, but a boat definitely provides more versatility.

When I fished here recently with Terry, a guide and local tackle-shop owner, we found the mouth too choppy to safely navigate his skiff. Instead, we fished channels and flats inside the inlet and caught a grab-bag of redfish, trout, grouper, snapper and tripletail - nothing big, but the action kept our rods bent. Terry also recommends fishing the catwalks under the A1A bridge crossing the inlet, putting you into great snook and flounder action.

Sebastian Inlet has long been a well-known area for fishing and clamming, but not many people realize that in 1715, 11 ships of a Spanish treasure fleet sunk north and south of the inlet during a hurricane. Known as the Plate Fleet Wreck, huge numbers of chests filled with silver coins and bars dispersed in the sifting sand until treasure salvors found much of it in the 1960s. Visiting fishermen should plan a side trip to marvel at the fabulous treasure exhibits at the McLarty Treasure Museum a mile and a half south of Sebastian Inlet on A1A, or the Mel Fisher's Treasure Museum on U.S. 1 in Sebastian on the mainland.

North of Sebastian Inlet, anglers from Amelia Island, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Daytona Beach will enjoy winter shots at trout, redfish, black drum, sheepshead and pompano, with cobia and wahoo offshore. In spring and summer, look for more wahoo as well as kingfish, tuna, tripletail, snapper, dolphin, marlin and sailfish.

To the south, from Cape Canaveral, Melbourne, Sebastian Inlet, Fort Pierce, Stuart, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, the crosshairs in cooler months will be on grouper, cobia, kingfish, blackfin tuna and sailfish, as well as pompano, snook, trout and Spanish mackerel. In summer, be ready for permit, snook and tarpon, plus offshore battles with wahoo, dolphin and an occasional blue marlin. Lake Okeechobee will give up some huge bass - some in the double-digits - during the early spring spawn. Canals and lakes will offer crappie, bluegill and pickerel, while peacock bass in South Florida ponds and canals will provide first-class contests year round.

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