This feisty snook was pulled from its mangrove creek habitat. Snook inhabit many freshwater creeks and lagoons on both coasts of the Florida peninsula. Photo Credit: Richard Gibson
One of my most memorable diving expeditions was not in the ocean but in the famous Homosassa River on the west coast of Florida diving amongst manatees. In the cool fresh water of the river were a host of marine species, such as mullet, gray snapper, jack crevalle, redfish, sheepshead, tarpon and some of the biggest snook I had ever seen.
Typically, snook hang out on the edge of mangroves and in river mouths where the water is usually murky, the fish are shy and, as a diver, you seldom get a good shot of snook in its natural surroundings.
Many were over forty pounds, and would turn to face me before spinning around and seeking refuge deeper in the basin. They have a unique look, a signature appearance, with a longer lower jaw than upper jaw, a distinctive black line on their lateral line and bright yellow fins and tail. I was in snook heaven.
What was so interesting about this location in the Homosassa was the number of species that were tolerant of the lowered salinity and were thriving. While there was apparently little food for these predators, I came to the conclusion they were shedding all their marine parasites in the fresh water, before returning to the estuary or the ocean.
In Florida, the snook is a prized game fish with an awesome reputation for giving a good fight and are great table fare. They are caught using a variety of live baits, lures and plugs, and the best time to fish for them is an hour before high tide and three hours of the falling tide. They tend to congregate near shorelines with some structure such as piers, docks, pilings, rock formations and reefs. In Florida, they accumulate near the warm water outflows of power plants, particularly in winter.
The snook's signature appearance with the undershot-jaw, distinct black lateral line and bright yellow fins is captured on my "Two Snook" artwork for the MTH1237 t-shirt
No other inshore species has devout a following as the snook. Their numbers and accessibility have made them very popular wherever they are found. There are several species, the largest being the common snook. They range as far north as the Carolinas, throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean and as far south as Brazil. In the eastern Pacific, several species are found along the coast from Mexico to Ecuador.
Because of their popularity in the USA, there are size limits, this being more than 28inches but less than 32 inches long (so the juvenile fish and the larger brood stock are protected at all times). There are seasonal limitations and catch limitations, plus this species cannot be sold
The common snook feeds primarily on fishes and some crustaceans. Their spawning season extends from June to November, after first maturity at three years old. They may live up to seven years and to a size of forty five pounds, though bigger individuals are reported from the Pacific. They have many predators, such as barracudas, large jacks, goliath groupers and a variety of inshore sharks such as lemons, bull sharks and black tip sharks.
When next you are in snook country, wet a line and have a tremendous angling experience while observing all local laws and catch regulations. It is our collective responsibility to conserve the marine environment and maintain the biodiversity of the planet.
Safe diving and tight lines.
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