Catch-and-release snook fishing is hot in lower Tampa Bay. And it's not uncommon to release several linesiders in an hour or two of fishing.
After several weeks of lockjaw, water temperatures of 85 degrees have snook in a feeding frenzy leading up to their spawns around the full moons of June, July and August.
Normally, free-lining scaled sardines, pinfish and grunts catches these wily critters, but to ensure releasing the fish unharmed, artificial lures work best. Artificials usually aren't swallowed, which can cause snook to be hooked too deep to ensure their survival after release.
Floating/diving broken-back lures in natural patterns are hard to beat. And lures with red heads and white bodies are always a good choice.
Plastic jigs are also great choices if worked correctly. Jigs should be worked along the bottom in a creeping fashion rather than hopping them up and down. Not too many minnows, crabs or shrimp leap off the bottom several feet toward the surface. Jig color is a matter of preference, but root beer with red glitter is hard to beat now.
Look for snook lying near, but not in, flowing water. Snook hang out away from the current where they do not have to exert much energy waiting to ambush prey.
Another good way to help release these fish unharmed is to not use landing nets, which scrape off the protective coating and slime that protects fish from disease and infection. And get your hands wet before grabbing a fish so you knock off less slime.
- Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at 727 510-4376 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org