Those who prepare carefully will land the lingering snook

Published May 4, 2007

For anglers in the Tampa bay area, springtime is a bountiful time of year. And garnering many anglers' attention is the ever-popular snook.

Snook have continued to cooperate, perhaps a little longer than normal. Typically, once the water temperature climbs above the 70s, the backwater fishing is over for the season. This year, the snook are still hanging around on the flats and crushing live offerings when presented properly.

The bait of choice right now are scaled sardines. They are called by many names - greenies, whitebait, pilchards, or just plain greenbacks. Whatever you want to call them, they can and do work magic during the spring. These treasures have returned to the flats and can be captured with a cast net.

There are many potions that serve as sardine attractants. A time-tested recipe is to use a 1-pound bag of corn meal mixed with a can of jack mackerel. Whip it together and add a little water. It has reached the ideal consistency is when it can be balled up into clumps. A solid glob is more beneficial than airy or soupy blends. A solid mass every now and then can keep the bait in range. The idea is similar to the "sand ball" technique. A good ball of chum rolled into a marble-sized morsel will bring bait from all levels of the water column.

Throw the chum in the same area to concentrate the baitfish for easy netting. Easy bait equates to more fishing time.

The standard bait net is a three-eighths-inch stretch mesh. Purchase a net that you are comfortable with throwing. Big nets are beneficial but require a strong back and lots of practice. It takes a bit of patience to become proficient at chucking a cast net, so be prepared to experience some frustration along the way before you get the hang of it.

In areas of heavy fishing pressure it has been advantageous to use light leader material, especially when fishing for snook. Most snook in Tampa Bay have been caught before and therefore require a bit more perseverance. The lack of rainfall has meant anglers are fishing in clearer water because there is no urban runoff.

A little extra effort can go a long way when it comes to catching fish in clear water. Check the leader frequently as these fish can scuff up leaders. Even a light abrasion to leader material can lead to disaster later.

Fishing is great right now in our area, and the weather should cooperate for the next several days.

Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call 813 310-6531, e-mail dwalker12@tampabay.rr.com or visit www.snookfish .com.