“Snook in the Inlet” — I Heard It on AM Radio

The day after I got home, I heard, on a show on ESPN AM 760 radio, from a shop in Jupiter called Fishing Headquarters, that the snook were biting and it was the last week of the open season. I sometimes call the show when I am driving to shoot sporting clays on a Saturday morning and have some useful information to add about a species I am familiar with.

The brothers, Pete and Tommy, who own the shop are great guys and a fabulous source of information. I am not so great on the inshore flats stuff but really like it a lot, and the show has great local correspondents who share really good information. Rickie Criner, who was a neighbor of ours for a while and is an avid fish head, was in town for a few days, so we went out to the St. Lucie Inlet for a look.

It was blowing over 20 out of the east, making it pretty snotty even a few hundred yards inside the jetties. I decided to drift with the incoming tide and fish a shallow sandy beach where the snook hang out pretty consistently.

A Real Balancing Act

Trying to stand on the bow of the little 14½-foot Hells Bay to run the electric trolling motor was damn sporty, especially with the wakes of big boats running home, really making a nasty sea even worse.

My major concern was the Android phone in a side pocket of my Aftco shorts. The zippered waterproof pocket takes splashes and pretty good soakings with no problem, but if I went overboard, which seemed to be about even money, it would take a while to keep the boat off the rocks, and I had killed an iPhone a couple of years ago doing exactly that.

The shorts are great, but after total submersion for several minutes the water eventually finds its way in through seams and zippers, so I pulled off the beach a bit and put the phone in a screw-top jar in a storage space and was ready to go.

We had a ball! On my first cast, with a DOA “terror eye,” I got a slot-size fish, and we kept him. Rickie got a couple of snook, and we both got several nice ladyfish, often called poor man’s tarpon.

My little dog, Lucky, goes nuts over anything that jumps, but one lick of the fish’s side is enough for him to not like it — until we hook another fish that jumps. I eventually had to call uncle, as I was working really hard trying to stand on the bow without falling over, run the boat and try to fish.

Rules to Save Fish Can Kill More of Them

One of Rickie’s snook was just undersized, and we should have taken it home, but that was against the law and we couldn’t. There is no question the fish would die, so it was a waste and we felt bad. I do not think slot limits are the way to go.

I release a lot of fish and have pretty much quit using treble hooks on plugs, even though it is a hassle trying to use single hooks and pinch some lead split shots to the shank to match the weight of the factory trebles and get the action of the lure to match the factory action. Even with a jig or single-hooked soft bait, some fish will get badly hurt. Some will survive, but some won’t.

I think having a larger number of fish in the angler’s limit — say, three caught, no maximum or minimum size and you’re done, regardless of size — would be a better way to go. Good anglers who could target and catch big breeder fish would kill fewer fish under those rules than they accidentally kill now trying to find one within the 4-inch slot (28 to 32 inches). It would probably be hard to police, and some jackasses would cheat and cull, but they cheat now.

We are off to Marlin University in the Cape Verde Islands tomorrow, so we should have some tall tales of big marlin next time.

Good Fishing,

Peter B