What better way to celebrate America's Great Outdoors month, the month of June, than by taking your favorite fly or light spinning rod for a walk on a Florida beach?
From Canaveral southward on the Atlantic Coast, and from about Clearwater Beach south on the Gulf Coast, stealthy anglers target snook in the surf suds. They're a tropical species that prefers the state's southern habitats, and the region is the only place in the United States, aside from a tiny fishery in south Texas, where anglers can catch this wary, hard-hitting and hard-fighting fish.
To ensure healthy future populations of the species, snook season is closed June through August on both coasts, because these are the prime spawning months. Some anglers quit targeting them, but a positive by-product of the seasonal closure is that anglers that just love the sport cash in on the best action of the year, as long as they practice catch and release.
On the Atlantic side, nearshore reefs play a really important role for snook and many other species. Snook love structure, and these reefs, which often are exposed right at the water's edge, provide cover, ambush sites and plenty of diverse forage. Make sure you work any dark patches of bottom carefully.
The reef at Satellite Beach is famous for its summer snook. Another good place for a walk is the beach south of Sebastian Inlet, leaving from the state park. Plenty of surf snook are caught in Palm Beach County, especially in the Juno Beach park area, and in the vicinity of the Lake Worth Pier. Farther south, Red Reef Park in Boca Raton is a good bet, as are the beaches near Broward County's inlets and piers.
In a nutshell, snook "aggregate" in large schools during the summer, usually in Florida's inlets and passes, where they spawn, typically around the full and new moon phases and at first and last light. Between these spawning events, they hunt for forage along the beaches.
There are a couple of strategies and tactics that work best for snook in the surf. If you're fishing during first and last light, make some noise on top with a surface plug or a popper if you're fly fishing. Once the sun rises high enough, after about 10 a.m. or so, you can see the fish swimming in the trough right off the dry sand, or out on the first sandbars. As long as the water's calm and the sun is out, you can sight-fish for these roving predators. Use light-colored jigs and flies that land softly, since these fish are easy to spook.
If you feel like relaxing in a beach chair, it usually only takes a toss of the castnet or two to fill an aerated bucket with croakers, whiting or other small baitfish. Just set them out behind a light sinker a short cast from the beach, and make sure you dig those sand spikes in well unless you want to watch a favorite pole go water skiing.
Check back later this week for details on great gear for surf fishing snook.