This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen happen on the water in my life, but I’m so glad I was there to witness it because I’d have never believed it. My Uncle Jim was always a contrarian. He did things differently. He was his own man. He was an accomplished artist with oils, watercolor, and sculpture. He was a hunter and fisherman. He was a teacher at universities. He especially liked teaching art in Sarasota, Florida because he could drive his big Winnebago camper down with his wife and they spent the entire summer there taking life easy.
Uncle Jim had never caught a snook. Far as I know, he’d never targeted one. He loved bass and trout fishing and he took me and taught me from a young age. I’ll be forever indebted to him for showing me the best side of nature, whether it was from a camper, a trail, or a canoe.
On this occasion, he was at my home in Florida. I had an apartment at a complex with a saltwater canal and a huge dock. He and his son came down for a couple of days and they stopped by one sunny afternoon to chat and sit on the dock with me.
We sat there and talked for a while before he went and got his fishing rod.
When he brought it back, I couldn’t help but chuckle and ask him what he thought he was going to catch with a hook the size of a Sabiki rig like the kind used to catch small pinfish to use as bait.
He smiled knowingly and sat down in his recliner and went about packing a small bit of shrimp, I mean a fraction of a fraction of a shrimp, onto his ultra-tiny hook. He didn’t even cast it, he just let it drop off the rod tip straight down into the murky depths. It was high tide and the water was about six feet deep in this spot. We kept up the chatting and I saw him cranking his reel a bit to reel in some line. I didn’t notice he had a fish on, and he sure didn’t say something about it either.
At some point, he let me know he had something on. He was in absolutely no hurry about reeling it in, and I figured he caught a pinfish or an even smaller baitfish. He reeled and talked, reeled and talked. It wasn’t long before he said he got sight of it in the water. I thought I saw the flash of a side of a fish too. It wasn’t a big flash, but it was at least a foot long or so. I was impressed as hell.
In another few seconds I saw another flash, this one 40+ inches long EASY. I screamed and Uncle Jim just smiled. I coudln’t belive it, and I thought that big fish was probably just passing by. He’d caught a baitfish and this big fish was probably thinking about eating it. That had to be what was going on.
In another few minutes of reeling, he brought this absolutely massive snook to the topwater where we could see it. I couldn’t breathe, it was that damn big. I’m guessing it was 45 inches or so, but I had never seen a 45 inch snook, so I don’t know for sure. I had seen 36 inch fish before and this snook dwarfed that size. It was an absolute monster. I chose the image at the top of the page because that was about HALF as big as the snook my uncle caught!
I got really excited while Uncle Jim just slowly reeled as the fish took drag (all of 2 lbs. of drag) and considered what to do.
I had a net, but it was 60 yards away in the apartment. I couldn’t miss this fish, I dared not go anywhere.
I told him to bring it back up to the top and I would grab it.
That was the plan, anyway. In five minutes, the giant snook was right in front of us just an inch of water covering its dorsal area. It was too good to be true. It was a personal record fish for him for sure, and I saw he was starting to get a little bit excited himself. He still kept his composure though. He was about 60 years old and had seen a lot during his life. This fish was shockingly big, but he wasn’t letting it affect him. He was calm and composed!
I, on the other hand, was a basket case. I thought I had about a 4% chance of grabbing that snook and pulling it out of the water. Still, that was enough that I had to try.
I snuck up to the edge of the dock and looked over. It was GLORIOUS, this picture-perfect specimen. It was strong and thick. It was likely a big female.
I second-guessed myself. I thought about the sharp gill plates. I knew I was going to cut myself if I was able to actually grab it. I didn’t really care, but it added to the stress of the situation.
I began to slowly reach down to grab it and at some point, the snook spooked and dove very fast, stripping out 20 yards of line in a second and I heard that horrible sound.
The tiny line had snapped.
And that’s the end of the biggest snook I’ve ever seen story. My Uncle wasn’t all that disappointed. He saw the fish. He admired it. He’d caught it. He’d virtually landed it. Had I a net, he’d of landed it. It was a moment in time that I’ll never forget. We were certainly blessed that day, maybe like never before. I sometimes wonder if that would have stood as a Snook record on lightweight gear. At least in our minds it would have.
The moral of the story I think is that it’s not necessary to muscle a fish in all the time. That snook probably didn’t even know it was hooked for the longest time because my Uncle cautiously reeled it in so delicately, finessing it closer and closer to the dock without any aggression or control at all.
It was something to witness.
I hope you also get to see something like this someday.
My Uncle Jim is in his 80’s now and I’m hoping we’ve got at least one more day on the water before he checks out.
Do you know someone that’s older and possibly going to go at any time?
Why not offer to take him or her fishing again? It doesn’t take much to stand and hold a rod. Anyone can do it.
Why not do that if you can find the time this weekend?
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