Catching Beach Snook (Techniques that work)
It was Thursday night when I called an old friend of mine and told him conditions looked ideal the next morning to chase snook on the beach and before I could finish my sentence he shouts “catching beach snook is my obsession, I’m in.”
We meet the next morning at a Dunkin Donuts, had some coffee and made our way to a South Florida snook spot we have fished for years each summer.
The conditions were stellar and within the first 5 minutes of getting there we both were hooked up to slot snook peeling off our 8lb test down the clear sandy beach.
We fished 3 hours that mid-morning at caught 18 fish most in the slot and some over. We repeated this for the next 3 weeks.
Top months for catching beach snook
Snook will move from their usual haunts and start gathering in large numbers in inlets and beaches starting as early as May.
However, in this particular spot we fish we see our fish roaming the shallow beach stretch starting in late June, but each place will be a little different as to when this happens.
Top months for catching beach snook:
- Late May through August and tapering off in September.
Tide of choice
On the east coast my perfect tide and condition would be to have a mid-morning, rising tide, with little to no wind. Here is why. I love to site fish for these snook and when conditions are perfect almost all of our fish are sight caught.
Rising tide: A rising tide will allow the snook to move into the shallows and cruise and eat bait fish that move in with tide.
It is not uncommon to see fish with their backs out of the water just a foot or two from the shore line hunting within the slightly deeper trough. A rising tide will also allow bait to move in closer to shore in return bringing predatory fish closer.
Slack high and falling tide: We catch beach snook in just as good numbers on the slack and falling tide as we do the rising. These fish will hunt and cruise the shallows within the first 3 hour from high to falling and we have had stellar days within this tide cycle.
- Fish the rising tide all the way to high and up to 3 hours from high to falling.
- Look for fish in very shallow water at the peak of the tide
Typically in the summer months around the beaches you will not see a shortage of white bait. Specifically pilchards. Look for large dark spots, these could be bait pods. Look for bait on high tide to be right at the shore line. Watch for bait flashing and shinning within the water.
Sardines are one of my favorite live baits when we get them. There built like a bullet and move with such an erratic action when free lined that fish go nuts. Not just inshore but offshore as well.
These baits are a top score when you can get them. Sardines will be mixed in with large schools of pilchards so be on the lookout.
On the east coast of Florida during the peak of the spawn we have caught snook without bait being present. However for the most part there are large numbers of pilchard that come in with the in-coming tide and return the snook are not far.
Cast net your bait
Net this bait with a small cast net and only keep a half a dozen in your bucket at a time. They will perish quick with no aerator or by overcrowding them.
Dead bait is valuable in this game of catching beach snook
Here is a trick we starting doing a few year back with our dead pilchard and white baits. When your bait dies in your bucket or when you cast net fresh bait keep a dozen and squeeze them and through them out so the sink about 15 to 20 feet in front of your spot.
These snook will be cruising the beach from both directions north and south. By chumming with the dead bait we have had up to a dozen snook stop and turn in on these baits at one time picking the dead baits off the bottom.
Use a Sabiki rig
If you cant throw a cast net you can always catch these baits by using a small sabiki rig. Bring an extra rod rigged with your sabiki. Tip to remember: You can always cut your sabiki rig in half for ease of use.
How to Rig Your Live Bait
Catching summer beach snook for us is a site game. With that said, we prefer to rig our live bait through the nose. why? because we pitch these baits in front of the fish as there moving and guide the bait right in front of the snook’s path.
It is much easier to do this when your live bait is nosed hooked. Hooking your bait in the back or anywhere else will cause the bait to drag through the water when pulling the bait into the fishes path.
Free line your bait for success
We catch almost all of our fish by free lining our bait. This allows for the bait to look natural once we pull it in front the cruising or stationary fish. When conditions are not ideal a weight can be used.
Match the hatch so you should be fishing baits that resemble a small pilchard or other white bait. Here are the top artificial baits that we use and have great success with.
Catching beach snook with Flukes are deadly
Spro Prime Jigs in 1/4 and 3/8 oz size
Colors in blue shad and green shad work well.
Check them out here: Spro Bucktail prime Jigs
Yo Zuri Suspending Crystal Minnow
There are many other baits that will catch snook for you in beach conditions. Just try and match the bait as closely as you can that are around your area.
We love the fluke as it can be fished with a light hook and the bait almost suspends or drops slowly in front of the fish, its our go to artificial bait. Catching beach snook on artificial is a lot of fun. Comment below on your bait of choice.
Catching beach snook is a visual game
On calm days on the east coast of Florida you can easily spot cruising snook. These snook will be running both north and south. Typically we will see this fish from the surf line out twenty or thirty feet cruising in both directions.
When you spot a fish you will want to pitch your bait out in front of the cruising fish so you can have time to drag your bait in front of the fishes path without spooking it.
When your bait is in front of the fish don’t move the bait, let the live bait do its thing. When the snook spots your bait they will usually crush it.
It is not uncommon for you to have to pitch to the same fish a few times. If the fish passes up your bait walk ahead of the fish and pitch again. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 times before the fish will eat or you present the bait in the strike zone properly, Stay persistent.
Rod set up for catching beach snook
We fish 6 and 7 foot fast action medium power rods spooled with 8 lb test and 12 lb test monofilament line. This is a unique time to catch large snook in open water with nothing they can break you off on. You can truly catch some monster fish on light tackle.
Be sure to think about the safety and well being of fish. The water is hot this time of year and you want to get these fish in as quickly as possible.
We fish a heavier drag and try and get this fish in quicker then normal, even on lighter tackle we are able to put a lot of pressure on the fish making battle times quicker. And yes you can whip a big fish on light tackle, we do it all the time.
Some of you may disagree but I scale down to 20 lb fluorocarbon leader when fishing these summer time beach snook and here is why.
One, the water is typically really clear in the summer months. If its dirty or the seas are larger I will up my leader to 30.
Two, I rarely loose fish to chafing of the line because I see almost all the eats and I get on the fish fast hooking almost every fish in the corner of the mouth.
Three, I feel more confident fishing 20lb and that’s an edge I like to have.
Again, I get a lot of residence from people when I talk about the size of the hook I use for beach snook. Typically the size of the bait I net is around 3 to 4 inches and I use a small owner mosquito hook, size 4. Yup I said size 4. These are mosquito hooks from owner. They are:
- Small, strong, and thin gauge
- The bait swims like its not even hooked
- Razor sharp
- Hard to see in clear water
Remember we use these hooks also because we are using light gear and there is no structure or other material that you would need to worry about these fish wrapping you around. For these beach conditions these hooks are deadly.
Here is a tip on these hooks. Since most of the bites are visual you can get on the fish quick. You don’t need to go HULK when setting the hook. Just get tight and give a light hook set, these thin gauge hooks are razor sharp and will find its mark in the side of the fishes mouth.
Releasing Your Snook
These fish are here to spawn, and there out of season anyways up to the first of September so be gentle on the release. We typically don’t even bring these fish onto the beach, but just get into the water for a quick picture and release them without bringing the fish onto land.
Be sure to revive your fish also. Do this by holding the fish by its lower jaw and walk forward with the fish. Do not pull the fish backwards, they cannot get the proper oxygen they need. Walk the fish forward until you feel it is ready to swim free on its own.
Catching beach snook by site on light tackle in clear water is addicting. By following a few simple steps you can be successful yourself this summer. Remember to have a good pair of polarized classes with you as they will make seeing this fish that much easier. Have fun, catch fish and release these fish gentle so we can all experience this type of fishing for years to come.
Important Snook Resources
Here are some companies that we think provided some excellent resources by either producing content on snook fishing, tackle dealers, or guides on snook fishing. We will update this list from time to time.