Written by: Captain Doug Howard @offthechazzfishingadventures
Snook fishing in Florida is the most fun and exciting inshore fish to target during our summer months. Florida has many regions, each with certain tactics and approaches that bring success and create lifelong memories. Today, I will break down some tactics and tips I use as a guide taking clients fishing for summer snook here on the Nature Coast of Florida.
When and Where?
Early morning. Why? Because even though they are not as sluggish as Redfish during the dog days of summer, they will still naturally feed better like most inshore predators in low light. This will also be your best chance to catch a Snook on topwater. A black and gold or bone white color combo will usually work best.
Don’t forget to try to fish in the afternoon bite. You’re looking for days that have water moving closer to sunset. When a lunar transit is timed with the sun setting or rising, that makes for an epic fishing session.
Where? If water is moving choke points. Certain wind directions will affect which spots hold fish better than others. Too much water moving can hurt you more than help, especially if you’re a guide like me who only offers artificial lure fishing.
The faster-moving water will move your lure quicker out of the strike zone, minimizing the time the Snook decides to pursue or intercept. If you’re lucky enough to make that sight cast or blind cast right in front of his ambush spot, you’ll get that instantaneous reaction hit that all anglers love and hope for when on the water.
When the water is not moving, look for shallow pockets off the choke points and mouths to side creeks when fishing the Nature Coast. These make for good ambush spots and offer protection from apex predators like dolphins. To maximize that approach, you should creep in using a push pole.
But if that’s too difficult for you, look for those early morning positive low tides that will allow you to get in a little further on your trolling motor. A longer 7’3 to 7’6′ rod with a lighter line 10lb or 8lb braid will allow you to cast further into those pockets.
Truly, nighttime Snook fishing will always be your most productive and produce your largest fish. But utilizing this early morning approach and afternoon coupled with a predawn launch when fishing sunrise, you can still have a productive day of Snook fishing and not be out all night from 1am to 4am.
I run a four-rod setup with each rod set up technique specific. For topwater, you want a 6’6′ medium power/fast action stack with a 10lb braid on a 3000 series spinning reel. The shorter rod length helps you walk the dog much easier and does not have the rod tip smacking the water.
Braid at this thickness is thin enough to help your casting distance but strong enough to muscle a fish and hold up to the abrasion your fishing line endures during a day of backcountry Snook fishing. My other go-to for summer Snook fishing is my larger soft bait rod, which is usually a 7’2″ in length with medium power/fast action matched with a 2500 series spinning reel loaded with 8lb braid.
I am typically throwing 5″ to 4″ soft bait paddle tails or soft jerk baits rigged weedless and sometimes weightless. When paired with the right rod power and action, the larger soft baits perform flawlessly here on the Nature Coast when fishing rocky karst formations, which make up a large part of our coastline. You get a much more enticing lure action and less chance of snagging, which equals more time in the strike zone fishing and less time going in trying to unsnag your lure.
When fishing smaller 3″ and 3.5″ paddle tails or tiny soft baits, I look to my 7′ medium-light power/fast action rod. It will be paired with a 2500 series spinning reel filled with an 8lb braid, and I am using quarter ounce weedless or 1/16 to ⅛ jig heads. This setup is also light on the angler and helps with fatigue during a long day of non-stop lure fishing.
The next setup would be my spoon/hard bait rod. This setup is usually a 7ft medium heavy power/fast action paired with a 2500 series spinning reel using 8lb to 10lb braid. You’re looking for more power to launch that spoon and hard bait.
Do not forget a gold spoon when summer snook fishing. It can save the day in low light, and once that sun comes out you want to be switching to a white spoon. Trust me.
Leaders and length?
I have a different approach to leader diameter and length than most anglers. Let’s keep it simple but highly effective; here’s a misconception that using a longer leader will spook a fish less. This may be true in fly fishing, but using spinning reels and bait cast reels it’s not as applicable.
Why? This fish already knows something is up by feeling the vibrations in the water using its lateral line. Just like your lure making a vibration, so is your braided fishing line. And using a longer leader requires FG knots, or similar ones, which take time to tie and wear out the braid part of the connection going in and out of guides.
Keep it simple. Use a double uni-knot with 12″ of 25lb fluoro and 5″ of 30lb fluoro attached to the lure. This offers a transition in profile from your braid connection and extra thickness at the connection to the lure to help prevent getting cut off by the Snook gill plate. This length of leader casts easily and doesn’t require being reeled in through a tip.
Fishing Guide, Captain Doug Howard:
Capt. Doug grew up fishing all over Florida and is the owner and operator of Off The Chazz Fishing Adventures, located near Homosassa, Florida. Specializing in guided trips inside the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge using only artificial lures. Captain Doug has spent a lifetime fishing everything from daytime swords to tarpon.