Trading Places

2 pro’s, 2 states, 2 fish of a lifetime

Florida Snook

Beneath the legendary Ten Cent Bridge in Stuart Florida, Captain Brian Barrera pitches his offering into the swift current below. “Just twitch it up and down and let it sweep,” says Captain Ed Zyak, while studying the side image of his Humminbird Helix where hundreds of pixelated snook appear scattered along the bottom.

school snook

Side image of Captain Ed Zyaks  Humminbird Helix


“Reel it up and cast again just past the piling and it should drift right into them.” This time after the DOA Baitbuster hits bottom, Barrera’s rod is violently struck, and the Texas native feels the power of a giant bridge snook. Zyak quickly maneuvers the boat into position, carefully avoiding the support columns while compensating for the powerful tide of the St. Lucie River, as the mammoth linesider heads straight for the concrete piling just as he predicted. Barrera counters with his rod, hoping to at least turn its head towards open water, and after an intense ten minute battle, they finally bring the leviathan shore side, where he excitedly hops off the bow to hold his lifelong dream of a forty inch snook. Forty two to be exact. The smile on his face is one of relief and gratitude as Zyak made good on his promise. “I told you we would eventually get one if we worked at it long enough,” said Zyak with a grin. “This is actually the fifth big one we caught this week,” added Barrera, struggling to lift the massive fish for a photo. “But they were nothing like this monster! It’s unbelievable, I owe you bigtime Ed!”

snook 1

Captain Brian Barrera with a giant 42 inch snook caught beneath the Ten Cent Bridge in Stuart Florida while fishing with Captain Ed Zyak in June

Texas Trout

Two months later and over a thousand miles to the west, Zyak is wading along the soft mud bottom of the Lower Laguna Madre near the southern tip of the Texas/Mexico border. Back-dropped with prickly pears and yucca, the 130 mile estuary is one of the top inshore destinations in the world, where tail chasers pursue schools of redfish and black drum year round. But it’s not redfish that’s led him half way across the country for. One of only four hypersaline ecosystems in the world, the dry semi-arid climate of south Texas, combined with only two inlets maintains the bay’s salinity to that of slightly higher than seawater, and like Zyak’s home-waters of Stuart and nearby Fort Pierce, the lower Laguna produces some of the largest seatrout in the world. Not to mention its Barrera’s home turf. And although he’s considered one of the Lonestar’s top snook guides, he’s well known for putting clients on some big Texas sized trout. “See how the mullet are tracking up around that spoil island?” said Barrera, as Ed and I hopped out of the boat to wade. “The big trout like to be near those cuts on the outgoing tide where the baitfish stack up.” Ed and I trudged through the soft mud watching the chain of baitfish looping around the shallow pocket. “Watch closely, cause they’ll hide in these mullet schools using them as cover while feeding on the crabs, shrimp, and sand eels they kick up,” he said, as they cruised past us. Seconds later, Zyak spots an extra-large shadow trailing just to the right of them. A quick cast ahead of it and instantly an enormous gator sized seatrout inhales his snake lure. “Fish on,” he says, as it thrashes the surface before quickly tiring down. “Luckily they don’t fight as hard or jump as much as they do in the wintertime, but they can still find a way of getting off if you’re not careful,” he explained, as the big fish practically swam into his hands. “You want to land them quickly especially in the summer months, as they can fatigue and die just from being out of the water for a minute or two.” At thirty inches long and with a tail that was partly missing, Barrera estimated the huge trout to be over thirty-one inches in length if the rest of its tail was still intact. “That’s what you come to Texas for baby!” he joked, as Ed hoisted the giant seatrout for a photo. “You the man Brian,” Zyak replied.”

sea trout

Captain Ed Zyak with a giant thirty inch plus seatrout caught while wading the lower Laguna Madre with Captain  Brian Barrera near South Padre Island Texas using a DOA Snakoil

What to Use

“During summer, I use a DOA 4” Bayou Tiger jerk bait rigged on a quarter ounce jig head for trout, mainly because that particular color looks just like a croaker when it’s underwater,” said Barrera. “But Ed caught a few of the big ones using a modified 7” version of their Snakoil in Arkansas glow rigged with a 1/16th ounce Owner twist lock 4/0 swimbait hook as an eel imitation, which was something they’ve never seen down here before.” For seatrout, Zyak and Barrera both use 7’6” G. Loomis E6x XF Inshore spinning rods matched with Shimano 3000 Stradic’s spooled with ten pound PowerPro braided line and a three foot 20lb. Seaguar fluorocarbon leader. “For bridge snook in Florida, I use a moderate heavy 7’ G. Loomis E6x rod with a 4000 Shimano Sustain spinning reel,” explained Zyak. “I up the braid and fluorocarbon leader to twenty pound PowerPro and 50lb. Seaguar Pink Label when jigging the bridges and inlets. My go to artificial lure for this is a DOA gold glitter / black back trolling BaitBuster.”

When to go

“July and August are the best times for catching large numbers of big trout in south Texas especially during croaker season,” said Barrera. “And February is the peak time for targeting those really heavy prespawn females still carrying their winter fat reserves.” Breeder sized seatrout are conditioned as a defense mechanism to kill croakers which eat the trout’s eggs during the spring spawn. And the bite really peaks throughout summer when the croakers are most prevalent. Summer is also prime time for those looking to land a giant snook in south Florida. Beginning in May and lasting through September within each of the inlets of the Treasure Coast, thousands of large breeder sized snook congregate to spawn. Once spawned, they migrate away from the inlet’s and move into the lagoon system under docks and nearby bridges where iconic locations such as the Roosevelt and Ten Cent Bridge in Stuart produce thousand of 40” plus slobs over the years as Zyak can attest to. “While our seatrout estuary is nothing compared to that of South Texas right now with all the Indian River lagoon’s water quality issues, the big snook are still here, and Summertime is your best chance for catching a fish of a lifetime.”

Dustin Catrett

For more booking information contact:

Captain Brian Barrera
South Texas Saltwater Experience
(956) 755-9413
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Instagram - capt_brianbarrera

Captain Ed Zyak
DOA Lures Stuart, FL
Phone: (772) 287-5001
Instagram - captedzyakfishing


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