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January 16, 2009

Textbook Snook

Everglades National Park provides a classic backdrop for snook fans.

Since Everglades snook fishing is essentially a shallow-water event, and because snook become increasingly more wary as depth decreases, a stealthy approach is essential. In really shallow, clear water they are far more flighty than any bonefish I've ever encountered; sometimes just raising the rod for a cast is enough to send them streaking for deeper water. And even if they don't flush like frightened rabbits, that does not mean they are unaware of your presence, and often when they know you are there, they simply won't bite.

Snook, if hungry, will readily attack any lure or fly that looks like a fleeing baitfish. Every angler I've talked to has his or her favorites, and colors are all over the place. Probably the single most effective all-around artificial is a soft-bodied jig that weighs just enough to reach the bottom quickly. Topwater plugs are among my favorites; the noisier the better. Ditto on underwater plugs, especially those with erratic swimming motion. Noise is a big plus.

Most important is the action the angler applies to the lure. A fairly rapid retrieve with steady sweeps of the rod tip seems to get consistent results.

One of the bonus features of the tidal Everglades is this: The same habitats snook love so dearly are also frequented by other game fish. Tarpon (especially the juveniles, up to 30 pounds), redfish and seatrout hang out in these same places and readily bite the same lures, flies and live bait. You will also likely encounter some "small" Goliath grouper, up to 15 to 20 pounds, which by federal law you cannot keep. But they do put up a very strong fight and are fun to catch and release.

***

Rods: Spinning or baitcasting, 10- to 20-pound-test line. Fly: 8- to 10-weight floating or slow-sinking line.
Reels: Good drag, at least 200 yards of line.
Lines: Mono or braid.
Lures: Plugs that imitate baitfish; also soft-body lures and jigs. Popular colors are white, red-and-white, green-and-white, root beer.