The fall harvest of snook opens on September 1 across Florida, and anglers are looking to catch a fish for the table after a three month closure. In many areas of the state, the fish are still spawning, so they’re schooled up in the inlets and passes or along the beaches. By late August, the fall mullet run will be starting to kick in along the beaches of the East Region, and the snook will be shifting their focus from the herring species like threadfins and pilchards to mullet of all sizes.
In the inlets, the fish will still be schooling up until the new moon in September, but the largest concentrations of fish will be spread along the beaches, around the beachfront rockpiles, piers and jetties where the fish will be waiting to ambush the first of the mullet schools migrating south along the shorelines.
Late August and early September snook average 8 to 15 pounds, with fish over 25 pounds common, so 12 to 30 pound tackle is the norm. Beef up your leaders to 40 to 60-pound fluorocarbon, and use anywhere from a 3/0 to 5/0 VMC circle hook, depending on the size of the bait you plan to use. For finger mullet, go with the smaller hook, but an eight to 10 inch mullet requires the larger size gap for better hook penetration. Around deeper areas with flowing water, don’t be afraid to hook a finger mullet on a 3/8-ounce jighead to get it below the baits on the surface and closer to where the snook are holding.
Along with the arrival of mullet, we’re also seeing some of the highest tides of the season, particularly around the new and full moons. When the water is high, the mullet push up against the shorelines, so that’s where you should focus your efforts on the inside, particularly around seawalls which have more water than normal in front of them so larger fish can squeeze in there, and the walls make excellent ambush points as the snook try to pin the mullet against the concrete.
At dawn and dusk, there’s a definitive seawall bite, so you can start or end your day tossing topwater plugs or large swim baits like a Bass Assassin Die Dapper parallel down the walls for explosive strikes. In higher sun, go to live mullet from 6 to 10 inches on those same seawalls. After dark, the topwater bite on the bridges and around the docks will be strong for the next two months, and remember to match the size of your lure to the size of the mullet in the area. The fish are keying in on a profile, not color.
As we move into September, anglers will have the option of keeping 1 snook in the 28 to 32 inch slot size limit. Keeping fish for the table is a personal decision, but if you’re going to release your fish, make sure to handle it with care and revive it before you release it, particularly the under-sized fish. The smaller fish you release today may be the monster you catch on a future fishing trip!Captain Tips