What better way to spend your otherwise boring summer days than hooking into snook? It can be challenging, but once you dial-in the details you’ll have a hot day of fishing from the beach.
Finding summertime snook along coastal beaches can seem like a daunting task. With seemingly endless miles of beach line, locating a productive starting point will put you on more fish in much less time. There are a few key features that concentrate populations of snook into predictable patterns.
FIND INLETS AND PASSES
Inlets and passes are by far the easiest features to locate on a chart or via ScoutMaps. These are natural highways and feeding zones that provide access to winter backwater areas and abundant forage. You’ll frequently find larger groups of snook within a half mile of passes. These fish will move up and down the beach in search of pilchards, herring and mojarra.
Manmade structures such as docks, piers and jetties provide food and shelter that can concentrate numbers of snook. Fish will not only hold under the structure, but will commonly hunt adjacent troughs within a couple hundred yards of the structure, seeking refuge from predators under the structure at night.
BIGHTS AND BENDS
These less obvious geographic features generally receive less fishing pressure than easy-to-find passes and docks. Bights and bends along coastal beaches provide a staging location for baitfish during different tide stages. In turn, this will concentrate snook. It’s easiest to search for these areas using electronic aerial maps.
TIMING YOUR SNOOK PURSUIT
Beach snook fishing is a summertime affair. The most consistent fishing will begin in May and remain productive until mid-September. This time period revolves around the snook’s spawning season, when large breeding stock collect along area passes and make a short migration a few miles offshore and hold along coastal ledges and manmade artificial reefs.
There are several approaches to targeting these fish throughout the day. Key periods offer the best chances for spotting and catching a trophy linesider:
Low light: This is a peak period of fish activity. The 90 minute windows of low light around dawn and dusk can provide the best action of the day. It’s best to arrive on location at least 15 minutes before sunrise. Not only is it a great time to fish, it’s often very peaceful to enjoy the surf along and empty beach. In populated areas, the bite is usually over by 9 a.m. as beach-goers arrive and the jet-ski tours begin pounding the beaches. The bite is over just as soon as it began.
Tides: There can be some great opportunities to catch snook during the middle of the day along beach areas in the vicinity of passes and inlets. Peak periods of tidal flow will trigger snook to feed regardless of the temperature and sunlight. These times are easy to identify by referencing a tide chart and planning your approach around the top of a high tide and end of a low tide. The best tides to fish can depend on location your location.
Outgoing tides: Generally, outgoing tides provide an abundant supply of food being swept out to sea from the backcountry. As this bait is pushed through the passes and along the beach, nearby snook will take advantage of an easy meal. Also, outgoing tides generally push out off-colored water, which can make snook much less wary of artificial presentations. While outgoing tides tend to produce the best, they have some downsides. It’s common for outgoing tides to be full of floating grass and debris, which can make presenting baits a challenge. During these times, it’s best to rig baits in a weedless fashion to prevent fouled hooks.
Incoming tides: I find the best portion of an incoming tide begins about one quarter of the way into the tide change. At this point, the water has begun to clean up considerably from the left over floating debris common during low slack tide. As this water cleans up, it becomes much easier to spot laid-up snook along the shoreline and jetties. While it’s much easier to see the fish you’re trying to catch, snook are much more keen to your presentation and can often be challenging to entice during this time. Employing live baits instead of artificial can make a big difference in the amount of hookups while fishing clear water.
LURES OPTIONS FOR SNOOK
You’ll need to lighten up your normal offerings for successful beach snooking. I prefer to use smaller, lightly weighted slender soft baits, such as the 4-inch and 6-inch Hogy Skinny Series. These finesse lures are perfect imitators of the smaller baitfish that are common along coastal beaches. I tend to keep my color selection simple. Bone (white) lures work just about anywhere for snook, and beach fishing is no exception. I’ll rig these small soft baits with a 1/4-ounce swimbait hook rigged weedless. This small amount of weight will give you added casting distance, while keeping the bait lower in the water column and closer to the bottom where the snook will be staging.
Hooking into a snook from the beach offers a wild summertime ride.
It’s best to err on the lighter side of leader for beach snook fishing. While I generally use a 30- to 40-pound-test leader while fishing heavier structure inshore, I’ll often opt for 20- to 25-pound fluorocarbon while targeting snook in open water. The beaches will generally be lacking in heavy structure, so you’ll still need to pay close attention while fighting your fish and utilize a lighter drag to prevent chaffing and cutoffs from the snook’s razor-sharp gill plates. I like to connect my braided line to my leader by using a slim beauty knot for an ultra-durable connection.
TOP TIPS FOR CATCHING SNOOK
Lighten your tackle. Opt for lighter tackle than normal when targeting beach snook. A 10- to 20-pound medium-action spinning outfit is ample for taming even the biggest beach snook. Not only is it fun and challenging to fight these fish on light tackle, it also allows you to present small and lighter lures, which are preferred along clear, shallow beaches.
Fish the trough. It’s common to see beach anglers trying their best to cast as far away from the beach as possible. While this area does hold some fish, the majority of actively feeding fish will be running along the “wash” or trough that runs just a couple of feet from the shoreline. This deeper area collects baitfish and the snook will use it as a highway to feed and travel. Effective presentations are made by casting horizontally in the trough and working your lure through the strike zone.
Watch your shadows. As the sun rises along the horizon, pay close attention to the direction your shadow casts into the water. Beach snook are very wary and will bolt at the slightest sign of danger. Keeping your shadow behind you while stalking the fish will give you a much better chance at success.