From high in the tower of our bay boat, Capt. Rufus Wakeman saw the snook first. “There they are,” he said, “30 fish or more lying above the sand right next to the rocks. Some big ones too.” We had motored slowly around the north jetty of the St. Lucie inlet in Stuart, Florida, looking for that very thing. I tossed a live pilchard (scaled sardine) close to the rocks, and within seconds, I saw a subsurface flash, and my line came tight as a snook engulfed the baitfish. Snook strike hard, and the fight was exciting as the fish tried to head for open water. But after a few minutes, I brought the tired fish alongside the boat, and we released it, scoring our first snook of the day.
Down to the Crossroads
The famed Crossroads area of Stuart might offer the best snook fishing in Florida, a statement that anglers along the state’s southwest coast will surely dispute. But the Crossroads — where the St. Lucie and Indian rivers converge just inland of the St. Lucie inlet — offers a wealth of habitat with hundreds, if not thousands, of places where you might expect to find a hungry snook. No other place in Florida offers this diversity.
The inlet jetties provide outstanding habitat for the fish, especially in summer, but vast flats areas also hold points, potholes, channel edges and other submerged structure that the fish love to prowl in search of their next meal. Then there are the docks and bridges, above-water structures that hold snook as well. All of this adds up to great fishing opportunities.
Wakeman is not only an accomplished guide, he also owns the River Palm Cottages (see SWS Planner), a delightful, Old Florida-style fish camp. Wakeman has fished the area most of his life, and is an expert at predicting where and when a snook might be found. “I prefer outgoing tide because it creates a sense of urgency,” Wakeman says. “Predators like snook lie in wait as the tide ebbs at various areas, looking for the bait as it flees the flats.”
Capt. Mike Holliday, another well-known Stuart snook expert, says that the fish in the inlets are predictable. “They hold in one or two spots during the outgoing tide, then when the current stops, they move to their incoming tide spot during the slack tide,” he says. “If you know where they sit on each tide, you can set up during the slack tides and wait for the fish to come to you.”