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Fishing | Nights are prime time for the big ones

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Oct 26, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Many anglers just want to go out and catch “a mess of fish” for the table while others are happy to challenge a snook, trout, or redfish on lite tackle, carefully releasing them after the fight. Still others are just happy to be on the water enjoying a beautiful Southwest Florida day, fish or no fish. There is yet another group of dedicated anglers that think big fish all day and dream of them at night. Actually, for this group the night is prime fishing time as they know that the night time is the right time to catch a fish of a lifetime, especially a jumbo snook.

If a monster snook is your goal you’re in luck as it’s the perfect time of year to bag a big one as hungry snook move inshore and away from the beaches relocating to their winter homes in Cape Coral and Ft. Myers canals and further upriver throughout the Caloosahatchee.

Put away your lite tackle as that 30 pound snook under that next dock with 3 bent and broken hooks already in its lip will just laugh as it overpowers your puny tackle. This is the time to gear up to the task at hand which means upsizing your tackle and baits in a big way.

Customized surf rods, big reels, and heavy line and leaders are called for when accurately casting big live baits like a heavy 15″ mullet or ladyfish to a dock edge or bridge piling and having the power to hook and turn a huge snook away from its tackle shredding cover.

Many local guides can produce night trophies but in Sarasota lives a guide at the top of the trophy snook game. How about four hundred documented snook over 25 pounds? Two hundred, over 30 lbs. and two, over 40 lbs. including a 44 lb. 11 oz. giant.

Capt. Dave Pomerleau wrote the book on trophy snook angling and even guarantees you’ll catch snook on your trip. Although he can’t guarantee a giant every time you are definitely fishing with the right guy to make your giant snook dreams come true. (727-570-9711)

Back home look to river docks and bridges where big fish roam, eat, and sleep on their inland journey. Think 80-100 pound test braid and leaders with a half dozen or so big live mullet or ladyfish in the well aerated livewell. 7/0 to 9/0 hooks, usually J hooks for instant hook sets, as by the time a fish turns back to cover to properly sink a circle hook in its jaw the battle is often lost to sharp barnacles. This is definitely close quarter combat fishing and you must power that big rod keeping the fish away from its home base which it will run to most every time.

Besides having the right equipment, baits, and locations, patience, or on bug filled, sweaty nights, hard headed endurance is key to becoming a true trophy snook hunter. Be prepared to not catch anything as many snook will see your big mullet bait during a nights fishing and will pass it up as it’s simply too big to eat which is fine as these aren’t the fish you’re looking for anyway.

Lob cast and then free line or use a float to keep your bait in the strike zone around promising docks. On slower tides I often pick a bridge then use the trolling motor to slowly pull my baits along piling edges. You can also station the boat up tide with the electric then float big baits down along structure edges, letting the moving tide carry it. No takers? Reel it back then move over to the next piling and repeat. Get creative and envision where that big fish might be positioned in the current or structure, then present your bait. Putting a “by-catch” resident bridge tarpon in the air only adds to the night time excitement.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. You can contact him at 239-282-9434 or via email at captgeorget3@aol.com.