Fall hasn’t quite taken the turn here in Southwest Florida. Temps still hold in the mid to upper 80’s during the day and humidity’s still throwing some punches as well. While it may not seem like summer has left us yet, the fall fishing patterns have been underway for nearly two months. Water temps have dipped into the mid to lower 80’s and snook are becoming very active both during the day and at night. While using live baits may be the most common way anglers target snook, lightly weighted soft baits and jigs can provide some excellent action for some of the season’s biggest linesiders.
DOCKS AND SEAWALLS
Seasonal bait fish migrations are well underway at this point and snook will be following these schools closely gorging before the winter chill sets in. Large schools of mullet, glass minnows and pilchards can be found near coastal inlets and the adjacent canal systems. Early mornings can provide the best opportunity for topwater action using unweighted 6inch Skinny Soft Baits and the 7inch Original on Swim Bait Hooks. Look for areas of nervous water with surface activity around first light. These fish will be aggressive and quickly jump on well presented soft baits. A medium to fast retrieve placed near the edges of the action will work very well. Once the sun rises on the horizon, snook will creep back into the nearby shadows of docks and seawalls. The best times to target these fish midday are when the tide is moving. Generally, outgoing tides tend to be best, as they push out forage that may have been hiding away from snook on high tide.
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER
Snook love brackish water and often winter over well upriver in brackish estuaries. Locating late fall holding areas may take some time at first. I find it’s best to run the shorelines with a trolling motor, working the shoreline edges in 2-3 feet of water. Remember to pack your polarized shades, as your eyes will be the best way of locating fish laid up sunning. Pay close attention to bottom areas that may shift from sand to dark bottom. Snook will often hold in these transition areas depending on the time of day. The 4inch Skinny Series on a 1/0 Weighted Swim Bait Hook is a personal favorite for these ultra shallow and spooky snook. Drop your leader down to 25lb Fluorocarbon and use a medium weight spinning outfit.
THE BIG ONES COME OUT AT NIGHT
Snook are active nocturnal feeders and the biggest, most experienced fish may only feed under the cover of darkness. Locating these fish isn’t the hard part, pulling them away from heavy structure can be quite challenging and requires the aide of stout tackle. I prefer to use our over sized and heavy duty – Hogy Skirted Swimming Jigs at night. These big, bulky baits offer a large enough profile to get noticed in dark, fast moving water. Keep your baits low in the water column, just above the bottom to avoid snagging. It’s best to make occasional bottom contact, often rod jarring strikes occur right after your lure sweeps and bounces off structure.