Snook Fishing Tips - How to Catch Snook

How to Catch

Tackle & Best Bait for Snook

Top 10 Tips Tackle for Snook
Where to Catch Live Baits
Ask a Captain Q&A Best Lures

Each of the pages we’ve created about how to catch snook cover specific factors and skills that will help you understand the basics about catching this challenging warm-water species. They are the favorite target of many professional anglers, and as long as we protect the species, harvest only fish we intend to eat, and carefully release the ones we don’t want to put on our tables, they’ll be around forever.

Florida Snook Season

Inshore snook fishing.

You will find snook in different places at different times of the year. They move – or actually migrate – within a very small region. Some fish stay in one place all year. These places include rivers and deep water nearshore.

In the wintertime, the fish are either deep inside residential canals, estuary systems, rivers, or on nearshore structures in twenty or more feet of water. In the early springtime, the fish begin to move out of the residential canals, rivers and estuaries and onto the flats – but they remain close enough to retreat in the event of common late-season cold fronts.

As the water warms, the fish move out onto the beaches and into the passes as the spring develops. In late spring and early summer they’re in the passes and on those beaches spawning. Once the summer wanes, they move back to the edges of those flats, eventually onto the flats themselves, then to the mouths, and eventually to the inside again. Some move out into deep nearshore structures and can be caught at either man-made or natural nearshore structures.

Where to Catch Snook

Big Snook caught in Tampa Bay, Florida.

The “When to Catch Snook” tells you where they’re going to be at different times of the year. But with the sole exception of the spawning balls that appear in open and structure-less water, they are aggressive predators that hide behind things and wait for baits to come past their mouths. When the bait does, they expand their gill plates rapidly and suck the water – and the live or dead bait – into their gullets.

That means that in the springtime, even though they’re mating, they’re likely to be mating near structures. For example, near the big bridges or near anything sticking off the beaches. Structure on the beach includes the common trough that runs through the beach a short distance from where you’re able to stand. The drop-off – and it is almost always there – can be as little as one foot or so. But the fish will be moving in that slightly deeper ‘channel’ in a parallel line about 10-to-30 feet from the edge of the surf.

In the wintertime when the fish move deep into the backwaters, you will often find them near and under large residential docks. They are also comfortable deep inside mangrove islands and structure, and in rivers alongside banks and near the bottom, lurking near everything from old cars to shopping carts. Natural limestone ridges that are exposed on the bottom of deep channels also hold fish.

In the spring and summer, fish the beaches and the passes. In the summer, fish the flats and the edges, and the beaches and passes. In the wintertime and starting in the late fall, fish the residential canals, rivers, and if it warms up, fish the mouths.

Snook Fishing Tackle

Beach fishing for snook.

Generally speaking, a seven or a seven-and-a-half foot fast-action spinning rod, and a matching reel with great and smooth drag is the best all-around rod and reel combination for catching snook. In the wintertime – or near the deep fish in the nearshore water – heavier tackle will catch more fish.

Best Line and Leaders for Snook
  • Spinning Tackle

    Spinning rod-and-reel combos will meet just about every condition, but certain times bring very large fish and very difficult structure. Fishing with large live baits, for example, underneath wintertime docks, or fishing in deep nearshore water over invisible (except on a bottom finder) structure can call for heavier equipment, and can benefit from using “Casting” equipment.

  • Casting Rods for Snook

    A typical casting rod is seven to eight feet long, can easily handle 30 or 40 pound line and equivalent leader, and most importantly provide an incredible level of lift, or leverage. Many serious pros fish with these ‘trigger’ rods almost exclusively all winter.

  • Fly Fishing for Snook - Fly Rods

    Anglers use them to present tiny and light weights simulating baitfish, shrimp, and even crabs. Flyrods of eight, nine, or even ten weight are perfect, with heavier rods – as big as the 12-weight tarpon and billfish rods used for really big fish – are suited for snook fishing under many circumstances.

    Line weights range from a normal 20-pound braided line used on those fast-action spinning rods, to fluorocarbon used for both line and leader on heavier (and not so heavy) casting are great. Each condition could use different rods, but again, that seven foot or seven-and-a-half foot spinning rod with fast or extra-fast action is the best all around rod for catching snook.

More on Best Rods and Reels for Snook

Best Bait for Snook

Snook fishing with live shrimp.

The best bait for snook are called grunts. Caught on grassy flats, the noise that the small fish make are dinner bells for hungry snook, and if you can find and catch them they will catch snook when nothing else will.

That said, shrimp are easier and almost as effective to use as any live bait. Our personal favorite bait – scaled sardines – are not always available, and are not necessarily the best bait for catching snook when they’re under docks (sardines escape quickly and easily from underneath those docks). Scaled sardines and almost any other bait fish – and dead things like squid strips and mullet fillets – will catch snook, too. It’s all in the presentation.

More on Best Live Bait for Snook

Best Snook Lures

Snook caught with topwater artificial lures.

Lures for snook range from topwaters that bubble, spin, pop, splash, and generally disturb the surface. Called “Floating” lures, they sit on the surface, and when you retrieve them, make noise that attract the fish.

The second kind of lure to consider is called a “Suspension” lure. They sink – or float – to a predetermined depth in the water column. Snook are “superior” fish, and look up in most situations to find bait (up and to the side, but not as often to the bottom below them). That means that suspension baits – which require some skills to properly present and successfully fool a predator like a snook – will work better if they’re worked at or sitting higher in the water columns. Lures with lips that dive when you retrieve them are better if they’re the kind that float when you slow down or stop them.

The third kind of lure is lures that sink, and they certainly work on snook. Many large fish are caught in cold (or hot) weather when the fish are low in the water column because of temperatures. Jigs with lead (or new environmentally friendly metals) heads are very popular, and if you attach any one of many available soft and hard baits where the body of a bait or crab or shrimp would be, they can produce incredible results. Fish will even hit them with no tail, but the additional component can add much greater action and available smells dramatically improve their effectiveness.

More on Best Lures for Snook

Snook Fishing Tips from the Captain

Captain David Rieumont with a big snook.

Our popular Ask a Captain, with locally renowned Captain David Rieumont, is a one-stop resource for all your Florida fishing needs. Included are some question and answer features from fishermen on how to catch more snook.

  1. What are the best lures for snook and redfish?
  2. Can you give me some night dock fishing tips for catching snook?
  3. How would I catch snook, redfish or bass in brackish water?
  4. I can't catch a big snook. What am I doing wrong?
  5. How can I catch snook on the bottom in 10 to 15 ft of water?

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