Sunday, August 5, 2018

Weather, wind and dirty water putting a damper on beach snook season

John Mallia of Buffalo, N.Y., landed the snook of a lifetime while sight-fishing the surf off Longboat Key.

This summer has been challenging -- to say the least.

West wind, dirty water, rough surf and other problems have made this the most trying beach snook season in years.
Big snook prowl the surf in summer.

And it appears now that the season just might be over when you add red tide into the fray. Places where I've had some success are now unfishable because of deadly bloom.

We did have some beach snook success in July. Sara McKenzie of Oregon joined me for a day of sight-fishing in the surf. We encountered plenty of snook at our first spot, but the fish were uncooperative. We switched locations, heading south to mid-Longboat Key. There, Sara hooked nine snook and landed five. She also had a large snook quickly inhale the fly and spit it out.

Mike Cline of Bozeman, Mont., an accomplished trout angler, joined me for two days. We fished north Longboat Key with moderate success. Mike hooked three snook on the first day and landed a small one. Next time out, he cast at 30 or 40 monster snook without a hit.

Sara McKenzie of Oregon connects with a beach snook.
John Mallia and Don Lenda of  Buffalo, N.Y.,  fished two days with me and had fair success. First day out, John landed a pair of pompano. Don had a monster snook take his D.T. Variation, but the fish (we estimated it at 25 pounds) broke the leader.

Next time out, John landed another pompano and hooked a big snook. He was able to land the fish after and challenging battle that took him deep into the backing. We estimated his personal -best snook at 15 pounds.

Typically, July and August are the prime months for beach snook. Not this year.
I might be jumping the gun a bit, but I'm think it just might be over as red tide has invaded Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Fortunately, red tide has no effect on freshwater fishing. And we have been having some pretty decent results in local fresh waters.

John Weimer, a member of the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota, and I fished Lake Manatee and did well. We landed 15 mostly large copperheaded bluegill on Gibby's Snymphs under strike indicators, popping bugs and Myakka Minnows. We also landed bass, channel catfish and a hefty tilapia (John's personal best). We fished the Gilley Creek area of the lake.

Key to fishing this time of year is to get out early to beat the heat.

AUGUST FORECAST: I'm thinking fresh water is the way to go. With red tide making things difficult in salt water, a switch to the sweet side is in order. Top spots locally include Lake Manatee, Benderson Lake, Myakka River, Upper Myakka Lake, Shell  Creek and Webb Lake. Popping bugs should work good early, but we usually switch to nymphs and Myakka Minnows by mid morning. If the red tide stays out of Sarasota Bay, I look for decent snook action at night around dock lights. Small tarpon and spotted seatrout also are possible around dock lights. We use small minnow and shrimp imitations for dock snook.

It's not too early at least begin thinking about peacock bass. We've had pretty good success over the last two years around Naples on peacocks up to six pounds. We also encounter oscar, Mayan cichlid, largemouth bass, tarpon, bluegill and shellcracker. When targeting peacock bass, we use 5 or 6-weight rods, floating lines and Junior's Craft Fur Minnows. It's a blast when the peacocks cooperate.

September through mid-December are prime months.

If you're interested in book a trip, please give me a call (941-284-3406) or email me (

I'd love to take you fishing!

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing