Snook Fishing in Tampa Bay is quite the adventure! Once you get that thump and your drag starts screaming, you know you’re in for a ride. The flash of color just underneath the surface that races by when your fish takes off for another run is a feeling like no other.
And that’s why I’m here today. Based on my own experience, I’m going to talk you through the basics – and more. Let’s indulge in all the tips and tricks concerning Snook fishing in Tampa Bay!
Where to Find Snook in Tampa Bay
Snook are well populated in Tampa Bay and some consider them to possibly be the most popular game fish here. A big factor for this is that Tampa Bay is a common spot for Snook to spawn in the summer, and this becomes one of the top fishing spots in Florida.
Anglers have mentioned seeing numerous baby Snook, which gives light to the idea that spawning occurs here often, as tiny new fish wouldn’t be traveling too far that young. This also means that these fish will grow to become bigger and then spawn eventually as well, helping the population thrive.
In addition to this, when Snook come into the area before spawning season, they start to heavily populate inshore areas. I’m talking inlets, passes, piers, bays, estuaries, backwaters, flats, beaches, docks, mangroves lines, and any area that may provide structure. In short, you can find them just about anywhere!
Snook prefer warmer water, so they move more inshore to shallower regions. They also need water that’s high in salinity in order for them to spawn. And the inside areas of Tampa Bay provide just this. As Snook don’t tend to migrate, once they spawn and the “youngins” grow up in the estuaries and inshore areas, they’ll remain in the bay and close surrounding areas as it provides everything they need. This just shows how the population can be so strong, as they continue to repopulate in the same spots.
When Snook fishing in Tampa Bay, look for areas where water tends to flow. It can be common for Snook to hang around these spots waiting for bait to stroll by. In addition, any stretch of mangroves that they can hang under, or any deep cuts in any channels or rivers may hold “honey holes” with lots of hungry Snook.
When is the best time to go Snook fishing in Tampa Bay?
Snook fishing in Tampa Bay peaks during spring, when the fish are extra hungry and can be feisty. This is when they’re looking to bulk up before spawning season occurs during the summer. You may find luck catching some big ones in the summer, with a variety in the fall as they may be stocking up then as well. While there may also be a few in the winter, spring will be your best shot.
The time of day you go fishing is also something to consider. Snook tend to like to feed when they can hide. Therefore, sunrise and sunset trips produce higher chances of hooking into some Snook. However, sometimes you may find luck any time of the day. As there are quite a few docks and marinas around Tampa Bay, any that have dock lights – especially green lights – may also hold a few hungry Snook at nighttime.
Typically, days that provide sunny skies, calm conditions, and little to no wind, offer the best Snook fishing in Tampa Bay. But periods of rain may give off some activity as well.
Another thing to look at is the tide. Snook prefer high tide, as it gives them more room to work their way inshore and get into zones they may not be able to fit in during low tide. During an outgoing tide, bait will be washed offshore and Snook will be hanging around, ready to get some yummy bites.
How To Catch Snook in Tampa Bay
As mentioned, Snook are heavily populated in Tampa Bay. So, when you choose the right time and right , you’re almost guaranteed multiple catches on a single fishing trip. Pick a day when the conditions are calm, the sun is out, and you can hit a high outgoing tide early in the morning or close to sunset. Find yourself a point where the water flows, whether it be a deep cut in the mangroves or where water rushes through a pass or around a pier or flat.
Next up, bait. You can choose between live or artificials, as Snook love both. If wanting to go with live bait, pilchards, threadfin herring, mullet, shiners, crabs, sand perch, pinfish, and shrimp are all great options. If you’re wanting to throw artificial, you can find luck by using swimbaits, jigs, and topwater baits as well.
A common artificial setup is a soft 3″ paddletail, paired with a 1/4 ounce jighead. There are many options out there and common brands like Livetarget, Rapala, D.O.A, Berkley, Yo-Zuri, MirrOlure, and more, have all sorts of sizes, colors, and shapes for your Snook fishing needs.
If using live bait, it can be best to free line. And, if in an area with flowing water, just let it drift through the current. If needed, you can add a weight to keep the bait further below where the Snook are hanging around. When it comes to artificials, it really depends on what you are using to determine how to work it. However, you can always work them along mangrove lines or on flats and beaches. Calmer conditions are usually better for most artificial lures, in order to get the right “twitch or jerk.”
Tampa Bay Snook Fishing Regulations
Before you get out on the water, there are a few other things to consider. If you’re older than 16 but under 65 years of age, you‘ll probably need to have a saltwater fishing license. However, if you book a fishing charter in the area, you won’t need to purchase your own license, as the captain will have you covered. Check out FishingBooker’s handy guide to find out if you need one and how to get yours.
In addition, if you plan on harvesting any Snook during the open season, you’ll need a special Snook permit as well. This fee adds an extra $10 dollars. When you have a Snook permit, keep in mind there are specific conditions for you to keep your fish. The FWC is currently in the process of reviewing and possibly changing regulations for Snook harvesting, so be sure to keep an eye on their progress. But, for now, we’ll talk about the current regulations that are in place.
As Tampa Bay is located by the Gulf of Mexico, regulations that apply here consist of:
- Season Closures/Prohibited Harvesting. Snook harvesting is prohibited between December 1 throughout the whole month of February. After opening back up, it will then be closed again from May 1 to August 31.
- Size Limit. You may only keep your Snook if it is longer than 28 inches but shorter than 33 inches.
- Daily Limit. You may only take one Snook per day. However, this applies per licensed angler, not per vessel.
Once you’ve got all your regulations understood and are licensed to fish, you can get to Snook fishing in Tampa Bay!
Snook Fun Facts
Did you know that Snook can change sex? That’s right! Snook are protandrous hermaphrodites, meaning that males change into a female as they grow older. Typically, this will happen between the ages of 1 and 7 in a male Snook’s life and before they grow over 35 inches. While it’s pretty impossible to tell a Snook’s sex by looking at appearances, if you ever catch a Snook over 35 inches, chances are it’s a female! Males will mature into females usually shortly after spawning. It’s actually possible for them to start off the spawning season as a male and end it as a female!
Another interesting fact about Snook and their spawning is that females can spawn up to 1.5 million eggs each season! The eggs also will hatch within 28 hours and then the new life will start. While a handful of these larvae may not make it, the ones that do will start off their lives in the estuaries and shallower regions. They’ll then grow older to be habitants of the Tampa Bay area. These fish will continue growing, adding to the population, before the cycle begins again!
Snook Fishing in Tampa Bay: Fun, Fun, and More Fun
As mentioned, Tampa Bay is a very suitable habitat for Snook as the salinity is just right and there are many varying environments for them to thrive in. In addition, by being close to the equator, Tampa Bay holds warm water temperatures mostly year-round. That makes it perfect for Snook.
This allows for plenty populations of Snook to be present throughout the year allowing for some great fishing. Locals often find themselves stopping for a couple of casts after work or on the weekends. Meanwhile, many tourists may make their way over to find success at hooking into the healthy population. If you haven’t yet, consider taking a trip down to the bay. Book a charter, take your own boat, or just fish on land, and see what Snook fishing in Tampa Bay has to offer!
Have you ever been Snook fishing in Tampa Bay? How many hook-ups did you get? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!