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Snook

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Indian River Snook

Shallow Water Fishing in the IRL Florida's East Coast

Friday August 18, 2017

Growing up on the Indian River Lagoon or Intracoastal Waterway on east central Florida was an experience that allowed me to learn about one of Florida's most enjoyable and challenging gamefish... The elusive snook. In spanish snook is translated as "rabalo" and this sporty fish is found from South America all the way north to Florida and in several gulf of Mexico areas. The Indian River Lagoon on Florida's east coast holds a large percentage of North America's snook and if an angler studies thier habits and knows their life cycle, much can be learned and acquired from studying and pursuing them in and around the shallow water lagoons and inlets connecting the IRL (Indian River Lagoon) to the Atlantic Ocean.

Where Are IRL Snook?

One thing that I can claim knowledge of as I've guided anglers fishing over the years is the understanding that most gamefish, including snook have a life cycle centered around the spawn. However there are two other main variables and one minor one when locating snook during different times of the year. Bear in mind that I am not writing about juvenile or pre-breeding aged/sized snook, I'm generally speaking about 28 inch fish and above.

Three Main Variables to finding Snook and many other gamefish. One minor variable...

Sex or Spawning: Snook spawn on the beaches during June, July & August. Your biggest snook and breeders can be pursued on the beaches near inlets, ports and bays.

Comfort: Snook are sub-tropical to tropical fish and stress out during winter, thus the closed January and February months in Florida. Some snook migrate south and others find shelter in fresh water rivers and their mouths where the water is typically stable all year long.

Food: Find food and you'll find fish... Makes sense right? Snook are predators and are almost always thinking of calories. Fall mullet run, pilchards and other bait runs will attract snook.

Habits: Snook and other gamefish will often visit areas out of habit. Their logic seems to mimic this..."There was food here a couple of weeks ago... I'll visit again and check it out".

Where are the snook in August?

What Do You Catch
Indian River Snook With?

Many guides are strictly artificial anglers and this can lead to missed opportunities when it comes to snook on the flats. Yes! Snook will eat artificials many times but more often than not they prefer a live finfish like a mullet, pilchard or pigfish. It's not often that Captain Richard goes out fishing without catching at least a few live baits along with an assortment of artificials. Snook can be a stubborn fish when it comes to strikes, especially during mid-day as they are more known for nocturnal feeding.

Artificial Snook Lure

You can read more about snook on our snook species page and while snook are often not as abundant in the Mosquito Lagoon they are more prevalent down south near Cocoa Beach, Port Canaveral and Sebastian where anglers can target snook almost year round during the right conditions. Typically the Mosquito Lagoon has snook as an opportunity fishery rather than a targeted species. But when there's snook on the flats are along the mangroves on the Mosquito flats during the warmer times of the year. Lookout! You're in for a fight!

Indian River Lagoon snook in Central Brevard can be caught around docks, mangroves and shallow water grassflats around sandbars and oyster bars. Big snook are likely to be found in the lagoon between spawning and winter spots in the spring and fall. During the summer snook spawn on the beach and during the winter they hunker down or migrate further south for milder temperatures. Throwing plugs, flies and jerk baits under docks in the early morning or night produce great results and for anglers with accurate cast. Live baiting over tidal flats can produce awesome shallow water explosions and big snook during the premium tides and season. If you're looking to catch snook in the lagoon strictly then think about fishing during March thru May in the south Brevard County and Vero Beach area. Summer can bring some fair snook fishing in the Haulover Canal in the northern part of the county.


Snook are inshore fish with an attitude. They are generally a golden yellow in color with a dark black lateral line (stripe) running the length of their body. Their mouth is similar to a large mouth bass' size & shape, yet their gills are razor sharp so watch out when handling these guys.

Most anglers don't know about or haven't caught the four species of snook in Florida. In East Central Florida waters we have alot of common and fat snook. The tarpon and swordspine are more frequent in South Florida.

Snook are revered as one of the most prestigious fish to catch, partly because they tend to be finicky about how and when they will approach a presented bait but mostly because of their fighting tactics (which seem unfair). But if you want to tangle with a fish thats' bound and determined to give you a brutal fight... SNOOK is your fish.

Varieties of Snook Species in the Atlantic
Common Snook
Fat Snook
Tarpon Snook
SwordSpine Snook

From central Florida south, usually INSHORE in coastal and brackish waters, along mangrove shorelines, seawalls, and bridges; also on reefs and pilings NEARSHORE. They are usually low-light or nocturnal feeders so get up early or fish at night for these large inshore preditors.

Snook fishing in East Central Florida is most often during the late spring, summer and fall months and starts to fade into the colder winter months. Typically during the winter months snook either head south or look for backwater areas where the water temperatures are move favorable. Don't look for snook to be active feeders during the winter months of January - March unless we have prolonged warm fronts or indian summers that bring the snook into a more active feeding cycle. During the spring snook are migrating toward their summer June-August spawning grounds along the beaches near inlets and ports. Snook often stage between their winter holdouts and the spawning grounds on spoil islands, docks and structure before heading out to meet their mates on the beach.

Late summer and fall produce some of the best fishing for snook at locations like Sebastian Inlet, Port Canaveral or Cocoa Beach.

Backwater snook can be fished for with a wide variety of artificials from jerk baits to top waters and plugs, much like bass anglers do around shorelines and structure including mangroves, stumps, docks, etc...

Saltwater flats often hold nice sized snook, look for baitfish, nearby structure including dropoffs or mangrove shorelines or docks. Fish for flats snook with live bait like pilchards or greenies or subtle shrimp or baitfish imitations. Remember that snook like the comfort of structure and can feel vulnerable in the open flat. Often snook have to be excited with live chum to get them to cooperate in open water flats.

Inlet fishing is usually done at night with livebait by drifting during the preferred tide phase (usually outgoing) or throwing plugs like bombers, rapalas or other baitfish imitations. This type of fishing is not for the novice and can be very challenging on the angler. You often break off and must have above average skills when fishing in heavy currents at night during the outgoing tides and fall swells.

Snook spawn primarily in summer; cannot tolerate water temperatures below 60 degrees F; can tolerate wholly fresh or saltwater; schools along shore and in passes during spawning season; feeds on fish and large crustaceans.

Remarks

Snook in East Central Florida have many different habitats and conditions that make them a great target for anglers looking for variable ways to catch this elusive fish. Juvenile fish can be caught in the estuaries, canals and backwater areas almost all year long. While not as prestigious as large breeder snook, they are non-the-less enjoyable to catch and will bite on everything from baitcasters to flyrods and everything between. Juvenile snook are suckers for artificial's and readily take live bait as well.

Big breeding snook spawn on or near the beaches of Central Florida and always have a passageway or access to the beaches or inlets available to them. The only time a breeder snook is generally caught in the backwaters here is because it's a cooler transitional time period usually. Canaveral snook spend their winter months in the Port under docks, wharfs and around other structure like boats and pilings. You often see them hanging around the lights at night in small and large schools. Sebastian Inlet Snook are caught in the inlet itself during the summer and fall months and many of the larger snook migrate south to Jupiter Inlet or hunker down in the fresh warmer water of the Sebastian River a short distance away.

Articles and Photos about Snook

Sebastian Inlet Snook Fishing
Catching Breeding Snook on the Beach Video
Port Canaveral Snook Fishing
IGFA World Record Sized Snook
Night Snook Fishing in Port Canaveral
Double Hookup Snook
Beach Snook From Boat
Kids Catch Snook
Big Snook On Beach
Father Son Snook Fishing
Mosquito Lagoon Snook
Daytona Snook Fishing
Orlando Snook Fishing
Canaveral Snook Fishing
Cocoa Beach Snook Fishing
Indian River Snook Fishing
Indian River Rabalo Fishing

Regulations

Not less than 28" or more than 32" Atlantic - Not less than 28" or more than 33" Gulf of Mexico, Monroe County, Everglades Nat. Park

Season Closed December 15th thru January 31st & June thru August on the Atlantic Coast.
Decemeber thru February & May thru August on the Gulf of Mexico, Monroe County, Everglades National Park

State Record

44 Pounds, 3 Ounces

Fishing Charters for Snook on the Indian River Lagoon

Reviewed by Captain Richard Bradley on Last modified: November 03 2016 20:45:59.

Published by: Captain of Lagooner Fishing Guides©

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Inshore and Offshore Charter Fishing near Orlando and Cocoa Beach, Florida. Catch redfish, sea trout, tarpon, snook and many other saltwater gamefish aboard the world famous Lagooner flats fishing boat with renowned Captain Richard Bradley.

Excellent people and experience! - My husband and I had never tried anything like this before so we were a bit nervous about being sea sick. Captain Richard was so nice and laid back and gave us tips and tricks to try and fight it off. My husband unfortunately was very sick even before we started to get the lines out. Captain Richard took control and told him what to do and even where to stand in the boat to make it better. Unfortunately after captain Richard tried all his tricks my husband was still pretty sick so we had to call it a day an hour early.
The day was definitely not a loss though. Even though we didn't get to catch any fish I still got to see tons of wildlife! We saw everything from dozens of turtles to Dolphins, Rays, and even an 8 ft hammerhead shark! Captain Richard is a pro and definitely knows what he's doing and talking about. I would recommend this trip for sure!

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