What is the most abundant, large near shore gamefish to target in the summer? SNOOK. Many West Central Florida anglers become laser focused on this species between late April and August. In audition to possessing great speed and jumping skills, these fish have an uncanny ability to do what's required to get off the hook. These tactics include powerful initial runs, using any available structure to break off, and running directly at or under the boat. 

Other interesting facts about snook include the following: There are twelve species of snook worldwide, with 5 living in Florida.  Although some of these species can be differentiated from each other simply by their physical characteristics, accurate identification, from a scientific perspective, is done best by actually counting the scales along the lateral line between head and tail. The common snook is the largest and most abundant of these 5 species and is also the fish most heavily targeted by anglers. The typical range of the common snook is from Florida to Brazil although snook have occasionally been seen further up the east coat.  The largest snook ever landed was caught in Costa Rica...a black snook weighing 57 points, 12 ounces. The largest common snook, also caught in Costa Rica, was 53 pounds, 10 ounces and the largest snook ever caught in the US was caught in Florida and weighed 44 pounds, 3 ounces.

 

Snook are protandric hermaphrodites. All fish begin their lives as males and, at a length somewhere between 28 - 30 inches, some of the population switches sex to become female. It is generally believed that this switch is determined by availability of breeding females...that is to say that a shortage of them will trigger more males to switch. After this switch, females go on to attain a significantly larger size than males.  One theory on why certain animals have evolved this way (male to female) is that larger fish will produce more eggs while smaller males are still reproductively efficient at their size as well. All snook populations have a higher percentage of males. In river environments, this ratio might be as high as six to one, whereas in coastal (beach) areas, this ratio is more even with maybe two males to every female. In one 2011 study, males matured at a little over 23 inches, where females did not mature until exceeding 31 inches...logical based on when the switch takes place.  Transition time between male and female is several months. 

Snook have excellent osmoregulation abilities, allowing them to live in diverse environments...inland rivers where water is almost entirely fresh to the open ocean. These fish prefer warmer waters and generally stop feeding when water temperatures dip below 58 degrees. Loss of equilibrium may occur when temperatures dip below 55 degrees and fish may be killed at temperatures lower than this.  It is estimated that the "big freeze" of 2010 may have killed in excess of 40% of the snook population in Southwest Florida.

Tampa Fishing Charters from early June through the present have been outstanding, both in terms of numbers as well as fish size. This certainly suggests that closure to harvest of this species has been very helpful.  Expect the strong bite to continue through most of July. As fish complete their spawning towards the end of this month, action will taper off significantly.  Fish will still be available as the summer progresses, but the 20 fish days that occur during snook "prime time" will be hard to match. To be best prepared to target these fish, bring a variety of baits and be patient.  Most really good snook bites don't happen from the second the anchor is dropped.  Often, after patiently working an area for 15 or 20 minutes, the fish will turn on.

Redfish are still around but have remained a hit and miss proposition.  Some days, groups of fish are found and, on others, it's one here, one there.  These fish can be caught throughout the summer months so they will continue to be targeted by Tampa Fishing Guides as the summer progresses.

Finding ways to stay active and healthy during these times of "restricted movement" are important.  Head out to Hillsborough River State Park and walk the scenic trails along the Hillsborough River.  It's a great look at how Florida "uses to be". Caledesi Island is another excellent near by escape.  Hop the ferry on Honeymoon Island and take the short ride over to Caledesi State Park, where fishing, kayaking, and walking the beach and nature trails are all available activities.  Good luck and good fishing.

 

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