Catching Snook in the Rivers
Snook are arguably the most popular saltwater inshore gamefish, and for a good reason! Snook grow large, fight hard, take artificial lures, and are fantastic table fare. There several different techniques that anglers can use to target snook such as fishing docks at night, sight fishing on the beaches, working mangrove shorelines, and working passes and inlets in the summer. However, my personal favorite technique is to target snook in rivers.
Understanding Snook Migration
Snook make a distinct seasonal migration. In the cooler months, snook migrate up into area creeks, rivers, and residential canals. This is especially true if it has been unseasonably cold. They do this to escape the temperature extremes of the exposed flats. Snook can tolerate a wide range of salinity levels and can live in fresh water. They are one of the few fish species that migrate into fresh water for reasons other than spawning.
Florida river waters are dark and most have deep holes. This results in the water temperature being significantly warmer than the nearby bays. Here on the west coast of Florida where I live, the Manatee River, Myakka River, Peace River, and the Caloosahatchee rivers all have winter snook migrations.
There are several aspects of river snook fishing that I find appealing. The scenery is stunning! It is also easy and relaxing fishing. Anglers ease down the river with the current, casting lures towards the shoreline cover. It is quiet and serene. Most rivers are “No Wake Zones.” Gators, birds, and other wildlife are seen. Rivers also offer protection on windy days.
I prefer casting artificial lures when river fishing. Lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. Anglers will normally be more productive covering as much of the river as possible. The best spots in a river are almost always the outside bends. These spots usually have a deep hole created by the current along with the submerged cover.
Plugs are great lures for targeting snook in rivers. They cast well and run at a good depth. Plugs will dive down a few feet, yet run above the submerged cover. They elicit reaction strikes and the hook-up ratio is good. Anglers can cover a lot of water with these lures. They are also effective when trolled.
My favorite lure for snook fishing in rivers is the #10 Rapala BX Minnow in gold or firetiger. There are plenty of fine plug manufacturers as well, and they will all produce river snook. The plug is cast out and retrieved in using an erratic retrieve with sharp “twitches” and a pause. Snook will often hit on the pause as the plug sits there motionless. Also, fish the lure all the way back, strikes often come right at the boat!
Soft plastic baits are also effective baits in rivers. They are a better choice once a productive area is located and when anglers want to slow down and work the area thoroughly. However, they do hang up more often. 5” to 6” swim baits on a 1/16 ounce jig head or a swim bait hook work well. Dark colors work best with “Golden bream” being a proven color. These can be reeled in slowly and steadily or with a more erratic retrieve.
Understanding tides and techinque for catching river snook
The fishing technique is pretty basic. Anglers drift with the current, whether it is river or tidal, and cast the lures towards the shoreline. This fishing has a “freshwater” feel to it. As mentioned earlier, outside bends in the river are the prime spots. In fact, anglers should choose stretches of the river that are winding and twisting. Long, straight stretches are generally less productive.
Tides are a critical factor when river snook fishing, but it can be tricky as the tide tables have no correction for that far upriver. The best approach is to add a couple of hours to the closest posted tide times, but only experience will give an angler the tide correction factors. Outgoing tides are preferred as the river current, and tide current will be going in the same direction.
Trolling is another easy technique that allows anglers to cover a lot of water and help to locate snook. Plugs are perfect for this; they float on the surface, then dive down several feet. This is a proven technique for anglers in canals on the east coast of Florida.
Other fish species will be encountered by anglers river snook fishing. Largemouth bass, jack crevalle, redfish, catfish, and gar are some of the species that will hit a plug or jig meant for a snook. So, if you are looking for something a bit different, maybe even “Old school,” give river snook fishing a try!