Updated: Jan 23
Summer time is in full effect, which means all the fish that were staged up in their winter holes have pushed out onto grass flats, open bays, beaches and passes. One of the most popular inshore species during this seasonal weather change is the infamous snook. This is personally my favorite fish to target year around but especially during these warm summer months. The snook is the ultimate predator no matter what size you catch them at. The initial drag screaming run, the head shakes and acrobatic jumps can surely get a persons adrenaline going.
Snook are a very aggressive fish when feeding and most of the time they are schooled up in large groups, primarily during the summer mating season. Current and structure are a must for this species and they rely heavily upon it. Whether thats fishing by a mangrove shoreline, rock jetties, bridge columns or on the beach you want to look for areas these fish can hide and ambush there prey. The snook because of there flat underside will sit most of the time on the bottom, which means they will tend to feed upwards or directly on the sea floor. They have large eyes and a lateral line that detects any vibration in the water, which to me makes them the ultimate inshore predator. They feed on a variety of popular baits including, pilchards, threadfin, pinfish, grunt, croaker, mullet, shrimp and all sorts of artificial lures.
There are many ways to target snook with live bait and artificial but these techniques and tactics differentiate year around. What I mean is there eating habits, migration patterns and there personality changes due to water temp, weather, and the availability of certain bait. To understand these details and scenarios this requires a lot of time and investment. You are going to have to dedicate days of the year to strictly exploring new areas from a boat, land, bridge and beach. most likely you'll have days with nothing to show for but don't ever be discouraged because once you're dialed into the fish and you found there pattern they won't stand a chance. To make this even easier on yourself record your days in a fishing log. I always record every detail about my day on the water, the weather, the location, the tides, live bait, lures and of course numbers of fish caught. This is almost a way to cheat and by the time your out on the water next you'll know The Who, what, when, where and how!
Lets talk summer time Snook! Like I have previously mentioned this is my favorite time of the year for this species. When I think of summer snook fishing I imagine myself walking slowly down the beach while drifting a fresh croaker along the sandy drop off. This has to be my favorite way to fish for these over slots and my number one bait choice when available. Snook are very abundant this Time of year along beaches, passes, rocky points and jetties. What do all of these areas have in common? Current and Bait! I always find myself utilizing the same techniques for this time of year and they never fail me.
Favorite live bait choices:
When I am fishing strictly for snook in the summer I will most of the time use Croakers and Key West Grunts. Occasionally I will have to use pinfish for a last resort but they do work as well. These quality baits are abundant on the flats mostly in sandy potholes mixed with reef patches and they are easy to catch. The day before my trip I will always drop a few pinfish traps and I will also hook and line a few dozen of these baits and keep them in a bait pen. To hook and line these baits you'll need a little bit of squid and a small J hook and split shot rigged on your lightest rod. Now with this bait selection you are going to want to fish deeper water such as beach ledges, passes and rock jetties. Since snook like to lay flat on the sea floor, sometimes it is hard to get a bait down to them. However, Croakers, Grunts and Pinfish are a bottom bait and will always run down to the sea floor. Depending on the amount of current in your location you might have to use a simple split shot or fish finder rig because the bait has to be on the bottom.
I will also use pilchards during the summertime for snook. A bait that is also plentiful this time of year in pretty much every location along the coast. A good size pilchard is candy most of the time to these fish and having a few in your live well or bait bucket won't hurt. I tend to use this bait when I am fishing shallow sandy flats around beaches, passes and jetties. For me using this bait means I am sight casting pods of snook in crystal clear water. This is a fun, exciting and visual way to fish for absolute monsters on the beach!
Main spots and areas:
Like I have said a few times the best areas for these fish in the summer are beaches, bridges, passes and rock jetties. I fish these locations quite heavily because of structure and current. My preferred tide is during the major of either the outgoing or incoming tide. I have most of my success fishing the outgoing during the day and the incoming in the night time. But as long as there is good water movement snook will usually be feeding. Snook are also a nocturnal feeding fish so getting to these locations sun up or sun down will give you a huge advantage.
Favorite artificial lures:
When it comes to throwing artificial lures during the summer time for Snook I always have a few go to baits. I will always have first light buck tail jigs on hand as well as the famous spooltek in the 4 & 6 inch fatty and I will also have big bomber plugs. However, it depends where I am fishing and how I need to be targeting these fish that determines what I tie on.
when using first light jigs you will normally be fishing in heavy current around bridges, passes and rock jetties. It obviously depends on the water movement and depth but I like to throw an ounce and a half to two ounce size just to make sure the lure is getting to the bottom. You can throw lighter sizes like an ounce or even a half ounce if the water is moving slow and also if you're sight casting from the beach. When fishing this lure you can drag the jig on the sea floor and you can also do a double twitch to give it that up-down motion. For colors I most of the time throw the chartreuce red tail combination but I will also throw a white and red tail combination if I am in clear water. Also if you like to fish in the late night like myself purple and black combinations can get the job done.
The spooltek has a wide range of color combinations and to be honest I have caught fish with every color. My favorite go to colors are the four inch pearl and purple and the six inch fatty purple. What’s awesome about this lure is you can work them in every water column because of the weighted head. However, they are expensive lures so always be aware of the location you are fishing and be careful when dragging these baits on the bottom in a rocky area. I will usually keep these lures off the bottom regardless of where I am fishing and only because I like to match the pods of bait fish in the area.
I have recently added big bomber plugs to the arsenal because I have encountered locations by passes and rock jetties where the snook are feeding mostly on the top. Using plugs such as a bomber, yozuri and rapala allows you to work these lures slow and fast towards the upper water column. The colors I use with these plugs are chartreuse, greenback combinations and red and white.
Tackle is key:
When fishing for these monster snook in the summer time it is very important to beef up your tackle. You have to remember most of these fish are females that are breeding during this time of year. Having a heavier rod and reel combo is going to allow you to bring these fish in a lot quicker and in return they won't be stressed out or harmed when you're releasing them. These are very powerful fish regardless so making sure you have a stout rod and a reel with enough drag pressure is necessary anyways to have a chance for a picture. I catch myself using my tarpon combos sometimes but I’ll tend to throw a 8ft med-heavy rod matched with a 5000 or 6000 spinning reel outfit. I will have anywhere between 20lb-40lb braid and then 40lb-60lb mono. If I am fishing live bait depending on the size of the bait I will have anywhere from a 2ot-4ot circle hook.
Thats a wrap! I hope I covered summer time snook fishing well enough for you to get out there and be successful. if you have any questions, concerns or anything at all please comment below and send me a message via email or social media. Also if there are any inshore fishing topics you would like me to discuss don't hesitate to ask!