We spent 15 minutes on the phone with Capt. John Meskauskas to discuss catching finicky summer inlet snook with the Hogy Sand Eel soft bait. Here's what we found out...
Capt. John Meskauskas
Location: Stuart, Florida
Tides: Both incoming and outgoing tides are worth fishing. When fishing the inlets, the incoming tide is generally cleaner and relatively free of debris. A strong outgoing tide can be really good as bait is pushed out from the flats, but the water may get choked up with grass making proper presentation a little difficult.
Approach: Most of trips start at first light during the summer. Warm water temperatures and intense sunlight slow fishing down by late morning, so arriving at the inlets early is crucial. As you enter the inlet, begin scanning around for bait schools on the surface. During the summer, the predominate bait fish are the developing fry of pilchards, glass minnows and threadfin herring. You’ll be able to identify them by seeing areas of “rain” on the waters surface. That “rain” is the tiny disturbances from the bait school just under the surface.
Large schools of snook will ball up these bait pods during the first hour or two of light. Most fish range from mid twenty inches to low thirty inches, while not huge in size, the sheer number of fish in a small area allow for double digit hook ups in just a couple hours.
Rigging Selection: For targeting these fish, we recommend 1/0 Weighted Swim Bait Hook. The small amount of weight on the hook adds in casting distance, but is light enough to still keep the bait near the surface.
Bait Selection: The 4.6inch Sand Eel in the clear color.
Why This Bait? The translucent color and small size matches the hue and profile of bait fry. It will draw more strikes from snook that are looking for a specific forage.
Colors: Clear is the top choice for this technique, but other natural colors like Dark Sand Eel, Anchovy and Glass Minnow work great as well.
Retrieve: Start by casting along the edges of bait school and let the bait sink for 4 – 5 seconds. Then, keeping the rod tip up slightly, begin a twitch pause twitch. Generally 2-3 twitches then a second pause. Strikes will often happen while the bait is paused, or on the first twitch after. Try not to cast directly into the bait school right off the bait. Often you can push the bait down if they are spooked from repeated casts.
Rod: Medium action 7′ 6″ Crowder spinning rod with a medium fast tip. The slightly softer tip help cast a light weight bait further.
Reel: A high quality spinning reel in the 3000 – 4000 size are perfect. The Shimano Sustain and Saragosa are top choices.
Line: 15lb – 20lb class braided line, like Power Pro or Suffix works great. For leader, 30lb Fluorocarbon is perfect for most snook this size, but bump up to 40 or 50lb if there are some monsters around. To connect the main line to leader use, the double uni knot.