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Fishing | Snook season opens today

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Mar 1, 2024

Capt. George Tunison

If you’ve been dying for a plate of delicious snook fillets, then March is the month to make it happen. Starting today you’re allowed to harvest one fish per day in the 28-inch to 32-inch slot with the season closing again on April 30.

With warm sun and increasing water temperatures, lethargic adult fish are slowly coming out of the back country, upriver stations, creeks and local canals, all heading to the coastal beaches for their summer jamboree. Along the way these fish are hungry looking for baitfish, lures and flies to fatten up on.

Tangled mangrove shorelines, island points to dock structure ambush spots, you’ll find hungry snook in all the traditional places. Never overlook the Sanibel Causeway as it’s an early season snook magnet stopping point for beach-bound fish each year as is the Matlacha Bridge and the many dock structures nearby.

Favorite snook lures for these bridges during this time of year are anything on the small side that you can bottom bounce. Live shrimp on jigs or a DOA Shrimp on a jig fished very slowly making contact with the bottom is a good choice as is casting a DOA TerrorEyz and retrieving it with slow, bottom touching hops. Concentrate on slow retrieves and line watching, setting the hook on any unusual line ticks or movement, as huge fish can suck down these smaller offerings and spit them out without you feeling anything at all through the rod.

Over the years I’ve found the early spring snooking to be better at night around the Matlacha Bridge and early mornings my choice for the Sanibel Causeway. At night in Matlacha, go into stealth boat mode and slowly, and more importantly quietly, flip and pitch live baitfish, frisky shrimp, a big fly or plastic shrimp imitations into the maze of pilings and dock structures. Forty-pound leaders will work but 60 and up gives you a much better shot around crusty sharp structures. Again, the stealthy are rewarded as Matlacha night snook in the over 40-inch club are angler educated with a good chance they’ve been caught before when young and dumb.

Not long ago our FWC released its annual review of the state of snook in our region showing a good population of juvenile fish with bigger fish harder to come by compared to just a decade ago. Red tide events and hurricanes all take a toll with poor water quality listed as the number one issue causing changes in baitfish migration patterns and the loss of more and more vital seagrasses throughout the area without which a healthy ecosystem and fishery can’t exist.

When cruising along and chrome fish start jumping out of the water in your wake, that means you’ve just freighted a school of Florida pompano, one of the state’s tastiest fish. Slow the boat and quietly circle back, then wind drift or lightly use the trolling motor while the crew fan casts all around the boat. Anglers typically use a variety of jig colors and every pomp expert has his favorite, although most are brightly colored. Yellow and pink are good starting points

Offshore you’ll encounter the African pompano which can get quite large. Two are allowed per day with a 24-inch fork length. The season’s open year-round and anglers are connecting with them now starting at the 100-foot mark and beyond.

Florida’s little pompano season is also open year-round with a daily recreational bag limit of six per harvester and keeper fish have to meet the 11-inch fork length minimum. Look for them around the pass edges and shoals.

Red grouper are at the 100-foot point, with nearshore reefs still hosting a variety of snappers, sheepshead, grunts and porgies. Grey trigger fish harvest also opens today.

Inshore, scattered trout, small snook, mostly rat redfish, sheepshead and short cobia will keep you busy. Shark hunters continue to do well while other anglers wait for early season tarpon.

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.