'Mr. Snook,' a man hooked on linesiders

Published October 1, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Before Lorin Peruche got married in 1956, he told his wife-to-be, Lila, that he had two bad habits.

"Hunting and fishing," she recalled. "I said that is fine. You don't need to change a thing."

In the 50 years that followed, the man who became known as "Mr. Snook" probably caught more linesiders than any other person alive.

"He taught us all a few things," said Dave Pomerleau, a local guide who is known in fishing circles as the "Mad Snooker." "He had more energy than most men half his age."

Peruche fished every week, come rain or shine. He got one last trip in before he died Monday at age 94.

"He caught 25 snook that night," said Pomerleau, who fished with Peruche at John's Pass in August. "He caught every one on artificial lures. It gave him a real thrill. He used to be strictly a live bait fisherman."

Peruche was born in Hendersonville, N.C., and moved to St. Petersburg from Atlanta in 1916. As a boy, he and his brother would catch snook and mackerel from the St. Petersburg Pier and sell them to tourists to pay for food for the family.

Later, he went on to work for the Florida National Bank in St. Petersburg, a day job, that would give him plenty of time to fish for snook at his favorite spot beneath the John's Pass Bridge.

"In the 1920s and 1930s, he never caught a small snook," said his biographer, Jackie Otto. "He always caught big fish."

In those days, snook were considered a trash fish.

"People called them soap fish," she said. "That was until Lorin showed them how to fillet them and take the skin off."

Peruche also fished out of a small johnboat from time to time.

"He had a nickname," Otto added. "Every time he came back from a trip loaded down with snook he would stand up in his boat and bang his chest just like Tarzan."

Peruche became good friends with the outdoor writers of his day - Dick Bothwell, Rube Allyn and Red Marston - often leading the fishing reports with tales of his outstanding catches.

This Times article from November 1971 shows Peruche's sense of humor. Bothwell asked Peruche about his health. The 60-year-old laughed.

"I had my first heart attack when I was 25 ... put me in the hospital 10 days. I've been in the hospital every year for the last 10 years; angina. But I'm not too concerned about it. My wife asked my doctor about my fishing. He said if I stopped it would kill me early. I'd rather be dead than not be able to fish."

Before snook were declared a game fish in 1957, Peruche recorded some astronomical catches. Otto said the legendary angler caught as many as 400 snook in a single night - all over 10 pounds.

Otto's book, Mr. Snook: The Story of Lorin Peruche, is a wonderful account of the fishing life. Peruche spent most of his time either fishing John's Pass or Blind Pass, but he also liked to go out on the Tuesday all-nighter out of Hubbard's Marina.

The book offers great insight into the mind-set it takes to master a species that is pursued by many but caught by few.

"Lorin was an amazing guy," Pomerleau said. "He could look at the moon and tell you when the tide was going to break, when it would speed up and when the fish were going to start biting."

But Otto summed it best. "He was just an average guy who really loved to fish."

Otto's book, Mr. Snook, is available at Bett's Fishing Center, 12504 Starkey Road, Largo, or by calling (727) 518-7637.