Snook Haven

Keith Scott-Port Charlotte FL

September 17th, 2014 started very early. I woke about 3:30 am to prepare for the long day. The boat was already hooked to the truck all of my fishing gear was secured and I had a big ole steamy cup of coffee in my hand as I started up the GM 2500 HD. Problem is I wasn’t going fishing that day as I was headed to Florida for my annual migration. I had to leave the Cape early this year for a fishing tournament in Sarasota. About somewhere in NJ I got a text message from my Florida neighbor, Keith Scott of him holding up two nice slot sized snook. That made me push the gas pedal just a little faster and my wife who was driving her jeep working as my blocker ( smokey and the bandit have nothing on this girl, she can open a lane for my truck and boat trailer with the best of them) came on the radio and said “slow down there cowboy” as I looked at 80mph on my console. Hey I get a little excited over snook, it happens. Anyways two days later and 1500 miles and we were home. It proceeded to rain hard every day for a week with power outages and flooding, damn! Oh well as I write this I am preparing for a few charters around the El Jobean bridge of Charlotte Harbor to chase my own snook.

Jenna Parry -Ft. Myers

Jenna Parry -Ft. Myers

Charlotte Harbor is one of the best areas to fish for snook in Florida. It is a large expanse of water with two main river systems feeding into it. The Peace and Myakka rivers feed into the harbor and provide miles of undeveloped shore line with mangrove jungles and many small feeder creeks and manmade canals. The harbor is bordered by Punta Gorda on the east and Cape Haze to the west before it opens up to Boca Grande on the north and Pine Island to the south. This is a true fisherman’s paradise. During the summer months as the water warms the snook migrate out of their winter shallow water haunts to feed along the outer beaches and passes leading to the Gulf of Mexico. Possibly the best time of year to fish for snook is between mid-August and mid-October. First of all the season is open September 1st to December 1st with a bag limit of one fish and a slot size of between 28”-33”. Of course you can catch and release snook anytime. Second of all the snook are starting to feed heavily in anticipation of the fall cold fronts that will start in October. These fish start to migrate in huge numbers towards the warmer tannin stained waters of the Peace and Myakka Rivers. This is when I will ambush them as they make their way inland. There is a natural funnel where rte 776 crosses the river at the El Jobean Bridge. This area holds many types of fish at certain times of the year. Tarpon and Cobia feed along the new bridge pilings during the months of April and May and the old phosphate train bridge that spans the river is perfect habitat for sheapshead and black drum.coastal-map

I am very fortunate as my community has a private boat launch a half mile from my house that looks right across the river at the bridge. A quick launch and were fishing in 10 minutes. The preferred method for me is to use artificial baits and fly gear to chase snook. We set up anchor about 20 yards up current from the bridge and toss soft plastics such as Gambler FLAPP’N Shad’s and DOA TerrorEyz in rootbeer colors. For some reason matching the dark tannin stained water color to your baits seam to work best. As your bait settles near the bridge I just let it flutter in the current for a few moments and wait for the hit. The take is very subtle, but I have the drag pretty locked down on my Shimano Stradic 4000 reels as these fish will initially head right for the bridge pilings. Snook are great fighters close in relation to a striped bass pound for pound. 30 pound leader material is a must as you will scrape the bridge at times and the oysters will cut you off on occasion.

Rick - Port Charlotte FL

Rick – Port Charlotte FL

Once the first cold snap hits these fish will start to head inland up the main river channel looking for warmer waters and bait. I look for mangroves that are near channels and start to mix my offerings in with top water baits like the Fishin Magician Skid Stick in the 5” shrimp pattern. Nothing like an explosive surface bite as a big snook slams your bait coming almost completely out of the water.   Further up river there is a small village called Snook Haven. You know with a name like that the snook must be there all winter. I like to take a ride upriver and work our way fishing then stop at the famous old Florida style restaurant here for a bite to eat and some liquid refreshment. Then it’s another boat ride back downriver casting to all the likely spots. The fish are in the river system all winter long and can produce great catches when the conditions are right.

Snook are very tropical in nature preferring warm water temps and many of you may recall the serious die off we had in Florida in 2010 when water temps reached as low as 50 degrees in December that year. The snook have rebounded and that is great news, but we must remember that can change so let’s protect this valuable resource.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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