The other day, I went to see some friends that live an hour inland, on Lake Okeechobee, and spend most of the summers fishing and otherwise having fun on Hutchinson Island, in Stuart. There was a passle of kids running around with buckets and shovels. They'd caught several sargassumfish, a species of frogfish that hides in the golden matts of "seaweed" that come ashore driven by the sea breezes.
One dad by the name of Joe Roth had brought a much more sophisticated toy to the beach--a G. Loomis baitcasting rod in the medium-heavy class. Joe had a bucket full of live bait procured from one of the pods moving up and down the beach, trying to dodge diving pelicans and marauding snook. Joe and his daughter, Nicole, caught two snook in the thirty minutes I spent visiting with the families. One of them weighed every bit of 15 pounds. Thanks to polarized sunglasses, I could see these gamefish swimming very close to the beach in small pods.
Snook are a species unique to Florida in the United States, except for a tiny fishery in southernmost Texas. They are one of our most famous celebrities, thanks to their wilyness, their muscular assaults on lures and bait, and their acrobatic fighting abilities. They are beautiful, and delicious, though seasons, size limits and bag limits are tight to protect this treasured resource. There are lots of ways and places to catch snook, but one of the most exciting snook fishing opportunities is catch them from the beach.
You can fish the relaxing way, as Joe was, with a bait out under a sinker, and the rod in a sand spike. You'll catch a bunch of species that way, besides snook. Or, when the water is clear as it was that day and the sun is high, you can hike the beach in search of the fish, and sight-cast to them. Flyfishermen--this is one of the most extraordinary sight-fishing opportunities known to the sport. And it's almost as much fun with a light spinning rod and a small jig.
On the Atlantic Coast, they are found in strong numbers from Cape Canaveral south through the Keys. They spawn in the summer months in and near the inlets, on the full and new moons. You won't typically find many snook along the beaches during the spawning periods. It's between these moons that the fish move up and down the beach in search of food. Look for small baitfish, and some areas with hardbottom--a most ecologically important type of reef--close to the beach.
A few favorite beaches include Satellite Beach, those accessible from Sebastian Inlet State Park, Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, Ocean Reef Park on Singer Island, the beaches south of the Lake Worth Pier, and the beaches on either side of the Boynton Inlet.
If you're going for a walk, make sure to bring plenty of water. Fly anglers, a stripping basket and intermediate-sink line is advised. Small bonefish flies with heavy eyes work best. For those fishing with a spinning rod, try a small white or pink bucktail.
Snook fishing is all catch-and-release during the summer spawning months. The season re-opens September 1st on the Atlantic Coast. Click here for the complete regulations.