Updated: Nov 18
With hurricane Irma gone but not forgotten parts of south Florida begin to put the pieces back together. Being an angler a majority of my life it was really tough to see the Florida Keys, one of my favorite fishing destinations destroyed in some areas. However, it gives me relief to see the angling community come together to make the Florida Keys a paradise again. You can never fully prepare for such a natural disaster so I hope all the families affected by this storm are safe and come out even stronger!
With that said weather patterns and seasons are slowly starting to change in Florida. It is the later part of summer and fall will begin to make its way soon enough. These factors have already began to change up the inshore fishery on both coast. Certain species are beginning to fade away from the beaches, passes and make there way towards grass flats, canals, bridges and docks. Redfish are still very abundant on the flats but the main focus for most anglers right now are Snook. Snook season is in full affect and the fishing has had a tremendous start. From September 1st until December 15th an angler is allowed to take one fish per person home a day. However, the size limitations are different from the Atlantic side to the Gulf side. For a snook to be legal on the East coast the fish has to be 28-32 inches and for the west coast the fish has to be 28-33 inches. This species is very protected because of the massive freeze and fish kill we had years ago. The Snook population was hit hard so FWC is very strict during this season. As an inshore angler this is my favorite species to target year around and it gives me comfort to see the huge comeback from this species not only with the quantity but the quality of fish as well. It is our duty as anglers to respect and protect these fish and there fishery so future generations can experience the same thrills.
Like most species Snook change their locations and feeding habits based on seasons and weather change. As we begin the summer to fall switch most of the fish you saw on the beaches, passes and bridges will have began to move backcountry. These fish had a busy summer mating and are now looking to fatten up for the winter time. There will of course still be fish around the beaches and passes but most of these fish will be looking for grass flats, mangrove shorelines, potholes and residential canals and docks. The water in these areas is usually a little darker, which holds the heat better as the water temperature cools off. Also since these fish are looking to feed heavily the backcountry holds an unlimited supply of bait. Of course for me my first choice of bait are pilchards or greenbacks. As long as there isn't any dramatic change in climate these baits will be plentiful all over the flats. If you get a live well full of these baits you can surely setup in an area and chum these fish boat side all day long. Along with pilchards, Snook will target mullet, pinfish, shrimp and most artificial lures. Fresh frozen cut pins, mullet, and threadfin have also become a popular choice. Especially when these fish are cold, lethargic and want an easy meal. All of these bait choices can produce great days on the water but it is important to have a few of these options available to see what exactly they’re targeting.
Me personally, I usually throw all artificial baits during this time of the year. I am a huge artificial enthusiast and fooling a Snook with this technique provides an addicting adrenaline rush. Throwing artificial baits has its advantages and disadvantages this time of year but most days can allow for a great bite. A few disadvantages for me are when these fish are really picky with what they eat and when they are acting super lethargic and make no effort to chase a lure. Since Snook have a tendency to act these ways it is always good to have live and cut bait around also. However, I believe there are more advantages to throwing artificial during this season. You have the ability to throw a different variety of baits that can imitate exactly how they're feeding. For example if Snook are busting on the surface you can throw a topwater and you also have subsurface baits and of course baits you can work slowly on or towards the bottom. My main reason would have to be the quantity of cast made compared to live bait. With artificial lures you can make as many cast as you want and fish a wider range of areas. Another term for this is power fishing and this is quite popular this time of year. Power fishing is fan casting the flats in every direction until you locate an area where fish are stacked up. Utilizing this technique allows you to get a better understanding for new spots and areas too fish as well.
As always the best times to fish are sunrise and sunset especially for Snook. Since Snook are normally a nocturnal feeding fish low light conditions can make for a great bite. Thats not to say you can't catch fish mid day but you might have better action early morning or evening. With that said it also depends on the tide and current. Snook are an aggressive species and like to hide in areas where they can ambush their prey. If I am fishing an incoming tide I know the water is going to be high enough where these fish can hide under mangroves and bushes. So normally I will spend most of my time fishing under the mangroves and targeting spots just out front. I will typically throw weedless baits so I don't get hung up in the trees and target areas that hold current. these fish will hide around corners and edges and literally wait for prey to swim right in front of there face before striking. Now as the tide starts to go out I change up my tactics and I know these fish are going to move out front on the flats and also look for deeper pockets, edges and potholes to stage up in. With a low tide its almost predictable where these Snook will be located. I will usually throw two different types of baits, a soft plastic I can work mid water level and then a soft plastic I can bounce on the bottom. Since the water is low using a bait that can stay mid water level is affective and can imitate a bait relocating to deeper water. This can create some awesome reactions strikes similar to a topwater. When I target Snook on ledges, troughs and in deeper pockets I will bounce a soft plastic right off the bottom. I will have the ability to work my baits slow and fast it just depends on how the fish are feeding. I will also use topwater lures to target these fish. The best times to throw a topwater are during low light conditions so early morning and evening time. It is very tough when the sun is high because topwater baits look unnatural and a fish can detect that. I wouldn’t necessarily say topwater baits are tide dependent, however you need to fish an area with a water level anywhere from 1-3ft. Any deeper then that then it is very unlikely a fish will travel the distance to strike on the surface.
To finish up I just want to mention some of my favorite artificial lures and soft plastics for when I target Snook on the flats. I always try and match the hatch and there feeding patterns. Another important thing is to use different colored baits based on the water clarity. For example if the water is super clear use a bone color or a natural colored bait. If the water is darker I will usually throw something with purple and also new penny. My go to soft plastics are Zman and Monster 3x baits. There durability is amazing and I can sometimes fish an entire day using one bait. They have a lot of great colors and there baits have really good action in the water. When I fish a hard bait I really have a lot of success with mirrolure. There suspending baits and topwater baits make a lot of noise and have a lot of movement in the water. I will always try to have one of each tied onto a rod so I can cover every part of the water column when I am fishing an area. Obviously there are hundreds of different baits out there but these are a few of my favorites. If you want to know more details about the colors and types of baits I use exactly from these companies then please reach out. I hope you enjoyed this read and as always if you have any questions please feel free to send Twin Tails an email or message!