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January 16, 2009

Textbook Snook

Everglades National Park provides a classic backdrop for snook fans.

Sometimes signs aren't so visible.  When this is the case, I look for structure, including dead trees along a shoreline - the heavier the timber the better. Often you'll see agitated baitfish at the mouth of a tidal creek during an outgoing tide, but if not, it's still worth a quick cast. Mangrove points often hold snook waiting for unsuspecting baitfish to drift by, and on open flats, white-sand potholes are a favorite snook hangout: They hide in dark grass surrounding these white spots.

Don't overlook channels that cut through shallow flats. Snook often cruise along them, sometimes just deep enough to be invisible. Nevertheless, if you fish these areas carefully,  these fish are catchable.

There are times when it is possible to find snook wandering the shallows on open sand beaches. If it is calm enough, you'll see them gliding along in search of something to eat. There are several ways to catch them under these conditions. If the water is shallow enough, the boat can be poled. Get into position just far enough from shore to cast to them without spooking them. If the water is too deep, drop your trolling motor. Some anglers even prefer to beach the boat and stalk them on foot.

Pay attention to the tides. I prefer an outgoing tide, but I've enjoyed good action on the flood as well. Each spot seems to have its own most productive tide, and that's just something that has to be learned through observation and experience. Mangrove shorelines with deep openings that flood at high tide often produce best when the water level has dropped sufficiently to flush both snook and baitfish out into the open.

Small shoreline creeks that eventually dry up at the bottom of the tide typically produce best when the water level has dropped just low enough to begin to flush baitfish out into the jaws of hungry game fish. But on the other hand, some large tidal creeks that have plenty of depth at low tide often fish best right at the mouth during the incoming tide, when hungry fish gather to welcome incoming baitfish. In a situation like this, you may well find snook, redfish, seatrout and tarpon all sharing the wealth.