Some of the best Snook fishing in the U.S. is found within the more than one million acres of Everglades National Park. Here is how to find and how to catch Everglades Snook
Some of the best snook fishing in the U.S. is found within the more than one million acres of Everglades National Park. This includes more than 100 miles of coastline from the east end of Florida Bay to Everglades City. I doubt if there is any water within ENP borders where snook are never found. They have been encountered from under the docks at the boat ramps to the farthest reaches of the interior, including lakes, creeks, and at times even ponds that are seemingly isolated from tidewater. Snook appear to be equally happy in both fresh- and saltwater.
For the angler there are places where snook are likely to be encountered. First is anywhere in tidewater, and the larger freshwater creeks and sloughs directly connected to tidewater. When not spawning snook are almost always looking for something to eat. Toward that end they are for the most part ambush predators with a strong preference toward structure. But at the same time you should keep in mind that they are also quite willing to cruise open water, choosing stealthy approach over structure as yet another way to bushwhack their prey.
Even though they can be just about anywhere, if you concentrate your efforts along beaches, shorelines, creeks and creek mouths, tidal runoffs, and sandy potholes on the shallow flats, your chances of success are definitely better.
Like every other predatory game fish, snook tend to hang out where food is most available. You can spend a lot of time scouting until you hit a spot where baitfish are abundant. But if you cover enough shoreline, sooner or later the snook will find you.
Over the years I’ve caught hundreds of snook just fishing along one shoreline or another until I get lucky. There are ways to improve your odds however, because there are often signs that indicate the presence of game fish, snook or other species. Wading birds gathered along a stretch of open beach or around the mouth of a tidal creek chasing baitfish are a great sign. Or perhaps there are a lot of very unhappy baitfish gathered in one spot, obviously under pressure from something trying to eat them.
Lacking such obvious signs, I look for structure such as dead trees piled up in the water along a shoreline, the more the better. Or try the mouth of a tidal creek during an outgoing tide, always worth at least a quick try. Mangrove points often hold snook waiting for unsuspecting baitfish to come by. And on open flats, white sand potholes are favorite snook hangouts,. Don’t be surprised if none are visible because they more often hide in the dark grass that surrounds these white spots.
Don’t overlook channels that cut through shallow flats. Snook often cruise along them, sometimes just deep enough not to be visible, but catchable nevertheless if you fish those areas carefully.
There are times where it is possible to find snook wandering the shallows on open sand beaches. If it is calm enough you can easily see them as they glide 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 along just far offshore to cast without spooking them. Or use an electric trolling motor if it’s too deep. Some anglers even prefer to beach the boat and stalk them on foot.
Definitely pay attention to the tides. In general I prefer an outgoing tide, but still 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 many 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 a the very 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 gamefish. 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 at the mouth to welcome incoming baitfish. In a situation like this you may well find snook, redfish, sea trout, and tarpon all sharing the wealth.
Since Everglades snook fishing is essentially a shallow water event, and also since snook become increasingly more wary as depth decreases, a stealthy approach is absolutely 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 a frightened rabbit, that does not mean they are unaware of your presence. Then they simply won’t bite.
Snook, if hungry, will readily attack almost any lure or fly that looks like a terrified, fleeing baitfish. Every angler I’ve talked to has his or her favorites. Probably the single most effecting artificial all-around is a soft-bodied jig that weighs just enough to reach bottom quickly. Topwater plugs are among my favorites, too, the nosier the better. Ditto underwater plugs, especially those with an erratic swimming motion. Noise is a big plus here, too.
Most important seems to be the action the angler implies to the lure or fly. A fairly rapid retrieve with steady sweeps of the rod tip seems to get consistent results.
One of the truly unique features of the tidal Everglades is the fact that those same habitats snook love so dearly are also frequented by other prime gamefish. Tarpon (especially the juveniles up to 30 pounds), redfish, and sea trout also hang out in these same places, and readily bite all 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 still fun to catch and release.
Biologists caution against lifting the entire weight of any snook – especially larger fish – by the lower jaw since this seriously damages the throat muscles necessary for feeding. The same applies to tarpon. Keep these fish in a horizontal position while removing the hook. It is also interesting to note that snook of all sizes are easy to land by hand if one hand is on the lower jaw or leader and the other under the stomach. Lift the fish horizontally and smoothly, keeping the body always in the upright position, which seems to induce catatonic immobility.