Snook are one of the premier saltwater game fish of southwest Florida. Unfortunately, a "cold kill" occurred in 2010. Snook cannot survive water temperatures under 60 degrees and an especially cold winter decimated the stocks. However, snook populations rebounded quickly and the season re-opened in September of 2013.
Snook have long been on my bucket list. The sporty fish begin their annual move from the backwaters in March each year to the salty bays and inlets surrounding Ft. Myers. The full moon of May is the traditional kick-off for snook fishing, but I couldn't wait. I was going in the middle of March, before the fishing crowds arrived.
I contacted Lee Rose, Communications Manager of the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau. He hooked me up with Port Sanibel Marina and Capt. Ryan Kane. Strategically located just before the causeway leading to Sanibel Island, they were only minutes from where I stayed.
Capt. Kane quickly explained that snook are primarily ambush feeders. "They like to hide just inside the mangrove tangles and lie in wait for prey," he said. "It can be real tough getting baits where they need to be. 'Skipping' baits up under the over-hanging limbs is key to catching big snook."
Most anglers use live bait for snook. "Live bait is the easiest way to catch snook," Kane instructed. "I use live baits with most of my clients. Mullet, pinfish, croakers or white baits, and live shrimp are common and fairly easy to acquire."
Kane's long time experience with snook had taught him well. He constructed his own lightweight boat so he could negotiate shallow waters which lead to snook hides. His medium-heavy rods were matched with Shimano reels spooled with 30- to 50-pound braid. Leaders consisted of 30- to 50-pound fluorcarbon.
Less than two miles from from Port Sanibel Marina Capt. Kane eased his boat into a small bay out of the stiff wind. He climbed onto the front deck of the boat and began scouting the shadows at the edge of the mangroves. "I hunt snook," Kane said. "Sight fishing for them is as fun as it gets. I love to spot a big snook and then fool it into biting."
Minutes into his search, Kane spotted the first snook cruising in the shadows of the mangroves. "See him, Bill?" Kane asked.
A long dark shadow moved, effortlessly, to the left. I felt my blood pressure increase. The excitement had begun.
Kaitlin Rae, one of the managers of the marina, stepped to the bow. The bait skipped several times before settling up under the mangroves, a perfect cast. The snook turned to investigate. "Aaawwws" echoed from the boat as the big snook returned to the tangles.
Minutes later Kaitlin connected when a second snook took her bait. "They are definitely here," Kane whispered. "Lift and reel down. You've got a big one, Kaitlin."
I would be up next.