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Feature Stories 2011

Volume 1, Issue 8, February 2011: Waiting for the thaw - A reflection on snook of the past

Welcome to Volume 1, Issue 8, February 2011 of FRESH FROM THE SALT. This month's title is Waiting for the thaw - A reflection on snook of the past. I will divert from my regular format of showcasing what's being caught this month in order to reflect on some great snook fishing of the past. Namely, this month will feature a number of old photographs, many back from the good ol' film camera days, from banner days of catching either a whole lot of snook or catching that beast that we're always after. This theme is mostly due to the importance of giving our stressed out snook a break for a while longer since for two solid winters in a row now they have been frozen - some to death. While I'm not advocating a no-fish policy by any means, especially because besides grouper fishing, wrangling snook is my second favorite activity, I do think it's important to not deliberately over-fish them, even if you've jumped on a mess of them in any given day. And it is especially important to release any snook that you do catch, both because it's the law and right now, while they make their comeback - which mother nature always helps them to do - it's the "right thing to do".

My childhood and early teen days were spent snook fishing all around Anclote Key and around the mouth of Anclote River in Tarpon Springs and during those years (1970s - 1980s), despite gill nets not helping the situation, the snook population was healthy. It did get worse, for a period of time, until the net ban, but for the most part, this part of the our west central gulf coast was loaded with linesiders. Beyond the traditional loading up on them with pinfish and whitebait, some of the best backcountry canals and bayous could be found around Tarpon Springs in the dead of winter, usually at dead ends where the fish would move in for warmth. It wasn't unusual for me and my friends, after getting out of schoool in the winter time, to race home, grab our rods and our trusty go-to Mirr-O-Lure floater and sinker lures (sometimes bombers, rattletraps, and finger mullet imitations), and spend hour after hour of catching one snook after another in this particular bayou or that particular bayou. Some years the ladyfish were so thick that you had to move hundreds of yards away to be free of them and get back to your snook bite. Ah yes, we call these, of course, "the good old days".

In any case, those years were followed by the very productive yet sometimes not so popular practice of live chumming the mangroves with scaled sardines, aka: whitebait, to bring out the bite. Many long time residents of my old stomping grounds will argue that because of overfished spots, too many anglers on the water and fewer fish, that live chumming became necessary to pull a fish or two out of a haunt that has been fished 20 times in the same day. Others will argue that the practice of live chumming has changed the fish' eating behavior and mentality - for the worst. There are points to be made either way, but, I digress, the main purpose of this month's report is to go back about a decade and share with you a few great moments on the water fishing for our most beloved bruiser of the flats, the common snook.

Enjoy these photos I've taken here and there, on my boats and others, from Tarpon Springs to Tampa Bay, and always FRESH FROM THE SALT.

Joshua W. Broer ~ pondfisher

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