If you plan on snook fishing in the surf here in the US, you’ll have to head to Florida or any other state along the Gulf of Mexico. Snook are warmwater fish and are not found in the cooler waters of the Atlantic or Pacific. With that said, if you plan on surf fishing for snook, then the mid-to-late summer months are going to be the best time to beach one from the surf. We show you where to find snook, the best snook bait, snook tackle, and tips for snook fishing in Florida and around the gulf.
Snook Migration Patterns
Snook are warmwater fish that prefer 60 degree temps. During the winter, when the water gets cold, snook reside in the inshore backwater where the water is warmer. During the summer, snook can frequent the beach because the water warms up. The prime season to find large schools of snook along the beach is during their spawning season, which usually begins around June and tapers out into October. During their spawning season, snook congregate in more open water along beaches and inside inlets. The best part about pre-spawn to post-spawn is that snook are typically hungry and found in bountiful numbers.
Where to go Snook Fishing
There are two primary concepts to consider when snook fishing on the beach. The first is migration: when and where snook are moving. The second is feeding patterns: what and why snook eat. During the Spring, snook stage at inlets where the backwater meets the ocean. They are spawning and waiting for the water to warm up. During this time, they feed on smaller crustaceans and shrimp to conserve their energy for the spawn. During the summer, after they spawn in the inlet, they move along the beach feeding heavily on larger baitfish. Snook typically like to stay in less than 10ft of water so you will often find them in the first trough, only 10-20yds from the beach. During the fall, the snook stage up at the inlets again, feeding on all that presents itself as snook get pushed back into the backwaters when the temperature drops.
How to Find a Snook Fishing Spot
Before you even set foot on the beach, use a mapping program or app like our Places to Boat and Fish Maps, Google Maps, Navionics, or Fishbrain to locate a spot for snook depending on the time of year. Remember, for spring and fall, target inlets. Inlets are entrances and exits along the beach where water flows between the ocean and the backwaters. Fish in and around the inlet, targeting the deepest portion. Maps won’t help too much on the beach during the hot summer months. Find an access point on a beach and find your ideal spot from the beach itself instead of a map. A common method is to begin your search along the beach in either direction for at least 200 yards. Start looking for structure, bait, or diving birds. The snook at this time of year are often cruising in the first trough off the beach. Walk out 50yds to get an understanding of where the first trough is located relative to the sand bar. For more in-depth steps on reading the beach, check out our ultimate guide on surf fishing for beginners.
Investigate the Beach
If you see any signs of life, try to keep your distance to avoid letting the fish know you’re there. If the water is clear, sometimes you’ll be able to see the snook because they’re so close. To take advantage of warm, clear water, you can snorkel any area you think could hold fish. If you plan on fishing multiple days, this can be a great way to know exactly where you’re fishing and where to come back during prime hours when the area has settled. While you can catch snook at any time of day, prime times are typically during incoming and outgoing tides. Peak high and peak low tide are less productive, but you can still catch snook. The best time to surf fish for snook is when the incoming or outgoing tide lines up with dusk or dawn.
Natural Bait for Snook
The main prey for snook in the surf is baitfish. Any small fish you find in the surf will work. Use mullet, whiting, and croaker for cutbait and pinfish or greenbacks for live bait. If you’re using cut fish, cut them into chunks about 2 inches thick and put it on a fish finder rig with a 5/0 circle hooks. For live bait, use a 2/0 circle hook on bare line or you can throw a float 2-3 ft above the hook. You can hook the live bait through the mouth or right below the top fin (dorsal) to secure it in a way that won’t kill it. Once a snook takes your live bait, we recommend letting it take line for at least 8 seconds before setting the hook. All this tackle is available in our surf fishing kit.
Shrimp, crabs sand fleas work really well too, especially in the inlets. Frozen shrimp will work if that’s all that is available, but live shrimp is better. Most bait shops sell live shrimp and sand fleas, but you will only get frozen at superstores. While circle hooks work well, we recommend using a 2/0 J-style hook for rigging your shrimp and sand fleas. A J hook is a very effective hook size for securing a whole shrimp or threading multiple sand fleas onto a single hook. For frozen or dead bait, fish them on the bottom with a ready rig. For live bait, drift them under a float. Live shrimp/fleas are too light to cast out bare. The float will give you extra weight to get the bait out into the deeper channel of the inlet.
Fundamental Lures for Snook
Using lures that imitate baitfish can work very well for snook, but only if the conditions are right and you can cover a lot of water. Snook typically sight feed, and do so aggressively. However, they need to be able to see your lure. Water quality plays a big part; if the water is too sandy lures are not a good option. You need to save lures for clear blue water on the beach that typically occurs during the summer months. They also do well in the spring and fall near the inlets which are less affected by crashing waves that kick up sand from the sandbar. White jigs and silver spoons like those found in our surf fishing kit are excellent snook lures for imitating baitfish.
Presenting Your Lures
Cast out the white jig and let it sink to the bottom, then reel it in slowly while bouncing it on and off the bottom. Snook will often bite as it falls back to the bottom. If you see some activity such as swirling or fish jumping, try using a silver spoon. A silver spoon is great at reflecting light just as a baitfish would, combined with its erratic action makes the baitfish appear wounded, enticing any fish nearby to eat this easy meal. Again, if you think there might be fish ahead of you, stay as far back as you can to make your first cast before moving closer. Spawning snook can hold very tight to the beach making you a much easier target to see, possibly scaring them away.