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Summer time brings along many unique seasonal fisheries, many of which are my personal favorites. The summer time tarpon run is a very popular fishery and one that I enjoy thoroughly. Targeting tarpon, however, can be a difficult and expensive endeavor. Additionally, this fishery is mostly limited to those with access to a boat, and with rising gasoline prices many cannot afford to put the time and money into targeting these magnificent fish. In lieu of targeting tarpon, one can simply walk the beach and enter the exciting world of sight fishing spawning snook in the crystal clear waters of South West Florida.

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During the summer months snook migrate from the coastal bays and creeks to the beaches and passes where they congregate in large numbers to spawn. These fish spend the warm months prowling the beach spawning and feeding, presenting anglers with an excellent opportunity to target these fish on spin and fly. The clear waters off of the Sanibel and Fort Myers beaches provide anglers with excellent sight fishing opportunities, a dream for fly fisherman. Snook will swim parallel to the beach in the shallow waters, many times just inches from the waterline. Small males prowl the shallows in search of breading females, and anglers can intercept these fish, sometimes coaxing them into eating a well-placed fly. Although these fish are present in great quantities and can be readily spotted, targeting these fish presents many challenges and can prove to be a very difficult and infuriating endeavor.

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I like to say, “If you can see the fish, the fish can just as easily see you.” Fish that are in crystal clear waters have the surprising ability to spot the eager angler from surprising distances. Any fish that is found on the flats or in shallow waters are especially finicky because they are left with few options to flee their natural predators. Their senses are heightened and they are always on the lookout for a threat. With this in mind, anglers targeting snook on the beach need to take extreme caution. An angler needs to be well aware that a shadow, fly line in the air, or a fly placed to close to a fish will more often then not spook the fish. In an ideal situation, an angler can minimize their own presence and quietly stalk a fish. Fort Myers beach and Sanibel, however, are very popular tourist destinations and many beachgoers frequent the beach shore, right where anglers target snook. This factor only increases the difficulty level of this fishery. With a little bit of luck and knowledge of the proper techniques, an angler can successfully target beach snook on fly.

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For better results, use small white flies and lighter leaders to target these snook in clear waters. I often tie a Schminnow on to a 20 or 25lb bit tippet, with the total length of the leader being 9ft. Popular fly patterns consist of white materials, often times with a little flash, and also deceiver patterns with a larger profile in lower light conditions during dawn and dusk. Anglers typically use 7-9wt rods. A 7wt rod will be favored during calm and clear conditions when fish are especially spooky in order to minimize sound when the line hits the water. A 9wt rod is a better option when a stronger wind is present or when one is throwing a larger profile fly. These snook tend to travel in straight lines parallel to the beach so one can get away with and benefit from leading the fish as much as possible. A good distance would be to place the fly 4-8ft in front of the fish and 2-4ft beyond the fish. Smooth and controlled strips of the fly seem to work best, but always read the fish and adjust the retrieve according to how the fish’s response.

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Many anglers carry a stripping basket to contain the fly line while walking the beach, and I would recommend making one out of a bin and fastening it to ones hip. When targeting these fish, there is almost no reason to stand in water that goes above ones ankle (the only exception would be when larger females prowl in the outskirts of the surf or on the second sand bar.) I like to stand 5 feet from the waterline, especially when fish are spooky, and walk parallel scanning for cruising fish. I prefer to target these fish at dawn or dusk, but they do swim along the beach all day long. Always be aware of your surrounds and look behind before casting. You’re trying to catch snook, not tourists! With the utilization of the proper techniques and a little dedication, you might just find a beautiful snook at the end of your fly line!

 

Although I prefer to target these snook on fly, many anglers successfully use spin to catch snook of the beach. Utilizing the same stalking techniques detailed above, anglers throw white bucktails or swimbaits such as the Unfair Lures mullet or rip n slash to entice the snook. Cut bait, such as ladyfish, threadfins, and mullet soaked on the bottom also produce large females. A live pinfish swimming above a split shot seldom goes unnoticed as well. Anglers using live and artificial baits can also target snook in the passes. I would recommend fishing blind pass on the incoming tide. Stand on the inside of the pass and cast a live bait towards the center of the bridge and let it float back with the tide.

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Whichever way one chooses to target these snook, this fishery always proves to be challenging and rewarding, and will forever be one of my favorite summer pastimes.

Good luck and tight lines!

 

-Nick Castillo