By RICK FRAZIER
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 10, 2000
According to folklore, the first month after summer with an "R" in it signifies the start of harvest season. It has to do with less daylight triggering a fish and wildlife migration.
September is the start of the annual snook trek to the creeks, bayous and bays, where they hole up for the months of "R".
During this transition, snook are a lot harder to pinpoint, which makes them a lot harder to catch. One of the most productive ways to hook one is to work the sea walls that border their travel routes.
Routes around passes are the best bet this time of year. The wall along Pass-A-Grille Way that runs along Pass-A-Grille Channel is a top choice.
What to use for bait is always the first question in this situation. Snook can be caught on live, dead and artificial baits. It really depends on your style of fishing. If you're interested in working a favorite hole where you're going to stay put, then live or fresh-dead bait works best. Live jumbo shrimp, whitebait, pinfish, grunts and ladyfish are great. For dead bait, mullet, shad and ladyfish are good.
If you're interested in working a general area and want to cover a lot of water, then fakes are the way to go. Snook take a variety of plugs, jigs and spoons. Some favorite plugs are topwaters that have the walking-the-dog action. The zigzag action entices explosive strikes that sometimes knock the lure 4 or 5 feet into the air. Natural colors are good, but it's hard to overlook the traditional red-head and white-body scheme.
Jigs dressed with plastic twin-tail, slug or shad bodies are all-time killers. Motor oil, strawberry and root beer are good colors for dirty water, but if the water is clean try gold or silver glitter. Pearl also is good.
Current and water depth would be the determining factor in what weight jig head to use. Most of the time 1/4-ounce to 1/2-ounce jigs are good.
Gold spoons are better than silver. You must choose from spoons with a weed guard over a single hook and those with a treble hook. I like the treble. If the snook hits the side of the single-hook spoon, chances are I'll miss the strike. If it hits the side of the treble hook, more often than not it's hooked. Spoons come in a variety of weights, but 1/4-ounce to 1/2-ounce spoons are sufficient.
When fishing sea walls for linesiders, medium to heavy tackle gets the nod. It doesn't really matter if it's spinning or baitcasting -- both work. Twelve- to 25-pound gear would suffice and provide plenty of power around pilings and rocks.
Leaders are a must for snook, and it's a good rule of thumb to not make your leader more than three times the strength of your line. If you're using 15-pound line, then use no more than a 45-pound leader. That's if you're using monofilament. If you've gone high-tech with new braided line, then leader strength is a different story. I would let the water clarity and the expected size of the fish dictate leader size. Braided line is good for its resistance to abrasion, the smaller diameter for better casting and its low stretch. Just because you're fishing for snook doesn't mean you have to use a big hook. Usually, even in jig heads, a No. 1 or 1/0 hook is fine. You'll catch more with smaller hooks. Extra-strong or short shank hooks can take more of a beating than fine wire hooks.
When casting live baitfish, hooking the bait through the nose or upper lip works best.
When fishing the walls, cast parallel to them. Linesiders travel along the wall, sometimes within sight. Hit areas with structure: deep holes, drop-offs and docks. Work any piece of structure, no matter the size.
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