For snook chasers, season reopens Feb. 1 on the Atlantic side, including Lake O, and closes May 31. The harvest of snook reopens March 1 in Florida's Gulf of Mexico state waters, which includes Ever-glades National Park.
According to the FWC, "Snook are one of the many reasons Florida is the fishing capitol of the world. As a result the FWC encourages anglers to use moderation when determining whether or not to take home a snook even during harvest season."
Researchers ask anglers who harvest the fish to save their filleted carcasses and provide them to the FWC by dropping them off at a participating bait and tackle store. For a list of participating stores, go to MyFWC.com/Research.
As the water temps drop so does snook activity although there is a snook bite upriver in the warmer water. The experts at Lehr's Economy Tackle (239-995-2280) in North Fort Myers are the ones to check with for accurate river info as well as general fishing reports for the entire area. If you have questions about pursuing a particular species, when, where, and what to use, this store has you covered. Everything you need and nothing you don't.
You can save a bit at Wal-Mart on some items, but you can't buy the expert advice offered here.
In 1957 Uncle John Lehr and his wife Esther started Lehr's Economy Tackle at 1366 N. Tamiami Trail. The building was built as the first gas station on North Tamiami Trail in the 1930s after the Edison Bridge was built, and is thought to be the oldest business building still in operation today.
In 1980 the Westras family took over the business upon the retirement of Uncle John and continue the tradition to this day.
With the salt line creeping upriver, trout, whiting, ladyfish, rat redfish and jacks of all sizes have been reported as well as a wad of juvenile snook.
Quietly cruise the shorelines of Pine Island or Matlacha Pass during bright sunny days between fronts and you just may spot the snook of your dreams, belly to the bottom and backs nearly exposed in thin, clear water, trying to absorb as much thermal energy as possible.
Before you wind up and start throwing lures at them, be aware that they probably won't respond other than to leave the area. This time of year I simply leave them in peace, take note of where they are and return on another tide or time when they may be feeding.
If you must have your snook fix then look to the Cape's canals and basins as well as upriver in the Caloosahatchee. The canals have deeper holes that are fish magnets all year long, holding not only snook but tarpon, sheepshead, trout, snapper, redfish and even grouper at times. Time well spent cruising while "looking" with your simple sonar unit will easily reveal these deep hole hotspots offering depth and thermal protection for whole schools of cold fish. Make a list and return to fish them.
Free line a jumbo handpicked shrimp with split shot deep into your new Cape honey hole and hang on. These spots make great places to be when the winds are howling plus the water temps are higher resulting in feeding fish. With nearly 500 miles of canals the choices are endless with many fish living out their lives in these systems without ever seeing a lure or bait.
Docks through both systems hold snook. Pitching live shrimp or DOA Shrimp heavily scented with "juice" back and under with a skip cast will score.
Want to fight it out with a big jack? Toss out a live ladyfish around the I-75 bridges upriver and hold onto your rod. Don't be surprised if a tarpon takes to the air in the same spot. Don't forget the railroad bridge for action.