If inshore game fish were ranked like sports teams, restaurants and hit songs, snook would be in the top five. Maybe even the top three. The common snook, the most prevalent and largest of the family, is anything but common in fighting ability. Capt. Rick Grassett, a Sarasota, Florida, lure and fly-fishing specialist who has been matching wits with snook for 21 years, agrees.
"Snook have it all," he told me as we idled up the Intracoastal Waterway near Venice, Florida, last November during an evening dock trip. "They hit hard, run fast, jump and know how to fight smart. They are like largemouth bass on steroids. If a redfish is an SUV, a snook is a sports car!" For the next few hours, Grassett proceeded to give me a tutorial on how he consistently catches even the wariest of snook.
A lighted residential boat dock that illuminated the surrounding water was our first stop.
"When fishing docks and bridge pilings, I look for good tidal flow and deep water," Grassett explained. "Older docks with oysters or barnacles on the pilings or oyster shells on the bottom are best. I fish certain docks on incoming tides and others on outgoing. It depends mainly on where the light is. I set up on the uptide side of that so the fly or lure swings naturally through the illuminated water."
The majority of Grassett's night trips occur south of Sarasota, near Venice. The stretch of water near the pass is well-known as Snook Alley because of the abundance of fish and lights. Four nearby bays and access to the Gulf of Mexico create a flushing action that attracts bait and snook alike. "It's an area that gets fished pretty heavily, but that doesn't seem to bother the snook," Grassett said.
Those resident snook, which average 2 to 4 pounds, feast on a diet of small shrimp and glass minnows that are attracted by the overhead lights. It's the perfect scenario for fly-fishing or casting small lures on light spinning tackle. The snook usually lurk just below the surface, near the shadow line.