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Volume 2, Issue 11, May 2012: On The Rebound - Snook showing up in good numbers in seasonal haunts

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In this issue of FRESH FROM THE SALT, Volume 2, Issue 11, May 2012:  On The Rebound – Snook showing up in good numbers in seasonal haunts, I discuss the impressive comeback our local snook fishery has shown since the devastating freeze of 2010 which badly hurt our snook population.  From the North Suncoast down through the Everglades snook were found floating in massive numbers.  The FWC stopped all harvest of snook and it’s on the table whether or not to re-open snook season for the regular summer dates.  Most anglers have been advocating for a continued closed season indefinitely and I agree with that.  Although the bite is definitely back on, these fish should be pressured as little as possible and catch-n-release, even if the state was to open the season, would be a good practice to ensure their recovery.  Snook are without a doubt our gem game fish on the flats.  Let’s do all we can to protect them now so that when we are back to the point of putting them on the dinner table we know that we aren’t hurting the stock.  Mother Nature is not always so nurturing so it’s up to us to make the difference!

This story is also featured in my monthly column, Angler Xtras, in the May 2012 issue of Saltwater Angler Magazine, pg. 18.

Joshua W. Broer (pondfisher)



On The Rebound - Snook showing up in good numbers in seasonal haunts
By Joshua W. Broer

Despite the devastating freeze of 2010 that killed so many of our most beloved inshore game fish, snook, big and small have begun to show up in our old haunts at the usual time of year.  For almost two seasons now, most conscientious anglers have not been aggressively targeting snook .  Mostly, the fish weren’t there to target.  But this spring marks an impressive turn-around for these fish which have begun to show up in good numbers in our old go-to haunts.  The fish are chewing both live and artificial baits and looking as healthy as can be.

In 2010 and 2011, just about every flats angler you talked to was focused on finding redfish and trout.  From professional guides to the weekend warrior, the consensus was that the right thing to do was to leave snook alone for a while and give them a chance to bounce back from a freeze that left beaches, bayous and residential canals up and down our west coast filled with floating fish.  Approximately 1 million snook died as a result of the freeze according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Many groups rallied together to study the effect of the freeze and to determine such things as how long the fishery should remain closed and, how long will it take to see a new generation of healthy snook.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Mote Marine Laboratory, The Snook Foundation, flats guides and others have all dedicated time to researching this recovering fishery.  I spoke to the main man on the job, Mr. Ron Taylor, a FWC marine biologist in their Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.  This is what he had to say:  “The Commission will make a decision before August 31, 2012, when the season is currently slated to open.  Until the stock assessment is complete, hopefully by late spring, we will not know for sure when the subject will be brought before the Commission or what our staff will recommend.”

Whatever decision is made by the State, there is no doubt that snook are being caught right now and being caught in fairly good numbers.  Whether it’s live bait, artificials or fly, most active anglers are catching snook.  I too got in on the bite a few weeks ago, not only catching a couple of snook, but recording my first inshore slam in about two years.  Fishing is simply hot, period.  With the return of the linesider bite, it’s truly game on at most of our tried-and-true snook spots up and down our coast.

Nevertheless, I think the consensus is that the fishery still needs a few years to return to its prime.  So, when targeting snook, try to follow a few easy rules that will help to rebuild the stock more quickly.  The very best tactic, of course, will be to practice catch-and-release.  If the State does create an open season this fall and you just can’t turn down that awesome table-fare, maybe limit your take if you get on slot-size fish day after day.  One fish per week or, better yet, one fish per month would go a long way towards replenishing the stock.

When landing snook, do all you can to get that fish to the boat as quickly as possible if a release is needed.  Try up-sizing your tackle a bit.  When taking photos, leave the fish in the water as long as possible before lifting for a pic and return the fish to the water as soon as possible.  Practice gentle handling of your snook as well.  Hold your snook horizontally for photos with the weight of the fish resting nearest to the anal fin.  Try never to hold a snook vertically by its jaw as this creates strain on both the fish’s jaw and internal organs.

Anglers along the West Central Gulf Coast of Florida are lucky to see what seems to be a healthy return of snook to our area in a relatively short time.  I think we can thank ourselves for this effort to let snook rest and recover for a while after the 2010 freeze.  Most importantly, this should serve as an important reminder that in doing so, the reward is all ours.

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