Pine Island Sound




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Above, the release.

At right, a snook takes to the air.

Photographs by Sue Panther

some of the time. Other times, it’s shy and secretive, as finicky in mood as a brown trout.

Sometimes, snook hit a fly so quickly, you’d swear they were tracking it in the air like a centerfielder following the path of a fly ball.

Other times, they’ll spook as soon as you move the rod and before the fly hits the water.

Still other times, they’ll follow a lure, seemingly forever, as it they were examining it for flaws, then, at the last moment, swim nonchalantly away, not even deigning to offer an outright rejection. The very next moment, a snook might attack a fly so enthusiastically it almost rips the rod out of your hands.

In other words, snook are unpredictable, a challenge to entice. They can be even more of a challenge to land once you've hooked them. Their razor-sharp gill covers can sever a line (or a finger). If given enough time, their raspy mouth will abrade and wear through almost any line or leader. For that reason, anglers go armed with a 30- or 40-pound shock tippet on line or leader.

Hooked, snook are strong fighters that make gill-rattling jumps and thrash around on the surface. Occasionally they’ll take off on long runs, but they’re more likely to duke it out close to the boat. A favorite tactic is to dash for the mangroves, where they can cut off a line on the oyster-encrusted mangrove roots. As many an angler has discovered to his sorrow, a hooked snook is not a caught snook until it’s safely in hand.

Snook are lurkers who hide out in the shadows or in mangrove roots, waiting for baitfish to appear. When they’re feeding, they’re extremely aggressive — a tell-tale sign of their presence is a loud pop, almost like a gunshot, that they make when they dart out of a hiding place and crash bait on the surface.

A 28-inch snook is a handful on a fly rod or light tackle, but they get much larger than that. The world fly record on 20-pound class tippet was a 30-pound, 4-ounce fish, a replica of which now hangs on the wall of a fly shop in Naples. It was caught in the Ten Thousand Islands in 1993.

Near it on another wall is the replica of a more recent, even bigger, fish, also caught in the Ten Thousand Islands, that was never submitted for a record.

Fly anglers pursue snook with 7-, 8-, or 9-weight fast-action rods. A reel with a smooth drag and a capacity of about 150 yards of backing is also essential. Light tackle anglers need rods and reels rated for 15-pound braided line capable of casting 1/4- to 1/2-ounce lures.

The Perfect Gamefish

This perfectly formed snooklet offers promise for the future.

The “snuke” is aggressive, powerful, fast, eager to take a fly or lure …

Marine Corps Major Ryan Shea pulled a hefty fish out of a cut between the islands.

Florida angler Joel Morsch caught this nice snook in an Everglades bay just off the Gulf. The fish was creeping inland following the incoming tide.