Snook (Centropomus undecimalis / nigrescens)
- Size 3 to 15lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Inshore, Flats, Backcountry
Otherwise known as Robalo, Snook are some of America's favorite inshore game fish. They're easy enough to find, but take some finesse to bag. Practice pays off though, as these fish are highly appreciated table fare.
Snook encompass a diverse family with 6 species in the Atlantic and 6 in the Pacific ocean. They all tolerate a wide range of salinity levels and so can be found in many riverine estuaries, mangrove forests, salt marshes, sea grass meadows, but over nearshore reefs as well. They move seasonally between fresh and salt waters, but always stay close to shore.
Snook are very sensitive to water temperatures. Adults have trouble surviving in waters less than 50°F, and juveniles can not stand waters under 60°F. There was a cold snap in January 2010 that decimated the Snook population of the southwestern Florida waters. Due to this, they were under strict catch-and-release governance until September 2013, and still remain protected by bag limits. They are hermaphrodites and fast maturers and this helps rebuild the numbers.
Snook are diverse fish in terms of size and weight, with adults ranging from several inches up to 50'' in length. The common Atlantic Snook catch will be about 10-20'' and between 3 and 15lbs. Pacific Snook are normally larger on average. They are estimated to live up to 20 years.
Reeled in aboard Bayside Fishing Charters of San Juan, Puerto Rico
When & Where
Atlantic Snook have been reported to spread as far north as New York and as far south as Rio, including the Caribbean Sea. In Florida, where they're most abundant, they can be found in the Gulf coast up to Cedar Key, with Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor as hotspots, and on the Atlantic coast from Cape Canaveral to the Keys, especially off Miami and Ft Lauderdale.
In the Gulf of Mexico, they are also caught off Texas, southwards along the coastline starting around Corpus Christi (at times as north as Galveston). For an extensive list of hotspots for Snook, check out this Florida Sportsman guide listing 20 excellent beaches and inlets throughout the state.
Pacific Snook can be caught in the Magdalena Bay and southwards along the coast of the Baja California Peninsula, in the southern Gulf of California, and along the coast of Mexico down to Guatemala. Southern fisheries are more abundant.
The months of May through September will be the best time to target Snook due to the water temperatures, with the hottest months seeing these fish go deep inshore. Nights and very early mornings are good times.
How to catch
When feeding, Snook face towards the current, waiting for the flow of water to bring prey to them. The bait should be cast correspondently and allowed to drift downstream.
Snook prefer live shrimp or small baitfish such as pinfish, mullet, menhaden, goggle eyes, pilchards etc. If using artificials, the best choice will be feather jigs with plastic worm tails or trolling plugs.
If using natural bait, you should let the fish run on free spool for 4-5 seconds before setting the hook. If artificials are being used, however, set the drag tight and start reeling as soon as you feel the bite. After the hit, no slack should be given off, as it might cross the fish's head and get severed on the razor-sharp gill covers. This technique takes a while to master, but a good guide can make the learning curve much more favorable.
Our definitive guide to Snook fishing holds all the information you'd possibly want to know about catching these fish and can be found right HERE.
This guy didn't stand a chance! Caught in St Pete, FL
Good to eat?
Delicate white, flaky meat of excellent taste. Be sure to remove the skin, as it gives off a soapy flavor.
- Season - Florida - Atlantic waters (state and adjacent federal) - open February 1 - May 31 and September 1 - December 14; Gulf waters, Monroe County, and Everglades National Park (state and adjacent federal waters) - open March 1 - April 30 and September 1 - November 30; other states have no seasonal regulations;
- Size limit - Florida - 28 to 32'' (Atlantic waters) or 33'' (Gulf waters); Texas - 24 to 28''; other states have no size regulations;
- Bag limit (per angler per day) - 1 for Florida (if holding both a valid Florida saltwater fishing license and a Snook stamp) and Texas; other states have no bag regulations;
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