As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Catch Snook Guide (Huge)

Welcome to our “How to Catch Snook Fishing Guide” where we tell you every possible Tip for catching the amazing gamefish, The Snook. Snook are one of the most highly targeted fish in Florida’s waterways. They are excellent eating, sometimes difficult to catch, and they put up a good fight. If you haven’t caught snook yet, you must give it a try!

[Page Updated – 22 March 21. Bookmark this page (Windows CNTRL+D, MAC CMD+D) so you don’t lose it.]

NOTE – No snook may be kept from now through August 31, 2021 due to the especially harsh red tide that killed many fish in 2020. Until further notice, beginning September 1, normal snook regulations are in effect.

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

HOW TO CATCH SNOOK—Guide

Florida angler holding a big strong snook fish.
Angler with a big strong snook. Caught from a small boat in the shallows around the mangroves.

Snook Gamefish Ratings

  • Size: 8/10 stars 
  • Fight: 7/10 stars 
  • Difficulty to Catch: 6/10 stars
  • Taste: 8/10 stars

INDEX to Sections in this Guide:


PRO TIP – Snook are also landsiders, sergeant fish, and robalo. If you have any more names, let me know!

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

Snook Facts

Species: Seriola dumerili

4 Species of Snook

Most anglers don’t realize it, but there are actually 4 different species of Snook in Florida waters. Only one species grows big enough to reach the slot length and can be harvested as the law allows. The others are very rarely taken, so are protected from commercial and recreational fisherman.

Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis) – this is the largest growing snook and the one that is kept most often because it can easily grow to lengths that fit the legal slot limit.

Common Snook (Centropomusundecimalis).

Common Snook Identifying Features

  • Maximum length 48 inches, common under 20 inches.
  • Mouth extends to further than the rear of the eye.
  • Black lateral line extends onto the tail

Fat Snook (Centropomus parallelus) – .

Fat Snook (Centropomus parallelus).

Fat Snook Identifying Features

  • Maximum length 28 inches, common around 10 inches.
  • Mouth extends to below horizontal center of the eye
  • Black lateral line extends onto the tail
  • Prefer freshwater more than other snook species
Small separator.

Swordspine Snook (Centropomus ensiferus) – .

Swordspine Snook (Centropomus ensiferus).

Swordspine Snook Identifying Features

  • Maximum length 15 inches, common around 10 inches.
  • Anal fin extends past the base of the caudal fin.
  • Largest scales of all snook.
  • Prominent lateral line extends onto tail.
Small separator.

Tarpon Snook (Centropomus pectinatus) – .

Tarpon Snook (Centropomus pectinatus).

Tarpon Snook Identifying Features

  • Maximum length 22 inches, common around 15 inches.
  • Only snook species with 7 anal fin rays, other species have only 6. (see arrow)
  • Prominent black lateral line extends onto tail.
Small separator.

Similar Species: There are other species with morphology similar to the snook, but the black lateral line running down the length of the body to the tail distinguishes it from other Florida fish instantly.

IUCN Redlist Status: Least Concern (LC) the snook is not considered threatened in any way at the present time. Snook around Florida are plentiful and a well-managed resource.

Appearance: Snook have a long body and extremely long lower jaw. They have an unmistakable black horizontal line (lateral line) running along each side of the body. Snook are strong fish with a lot of fin area. In comparison to other similar fish, the snook has a compressed, sloping, and elongated head/jaw region.

Color is typically white on the sides with some darker green or yellow on the top of the dorsal and darker tails. Some fins may appear yellow.

Length: As you’ve seen above, various species of snook are smaller and will never reach the slot length. That may mean you are catching the wrong snook. Fun, nonetheless, but not going to give you anything for dinner. Large snook can reach 53″ in length and over 50 lbs. On the Atlantic Coast, snook are slightly longer, with a maximum length of 43.5 inches. On the Gulf coast, the largest observed snook was 40.6 inches.

Weight: 5 to 10 lbs. is average for common snook, and the large ones can reach 50 lbs. or more.

Range/Distribution: South Florida starting in April and May.

Snook distribution range map.
Snook range distribution from New York, and central inland rivers to South America.

Habitat: Snook prefer inshore waters, especially brackish rivers and saltwater canals. When the weather gets cold and the water temperatures dip to under 60°F, snook can perish. During these cold periods they come into saltwater canals and can be found in very shallow water taking advantage of the warming sun to keep their temperature above 60°F.

Snook love to hug the coast by the bank, piers, docks, and structure of any sort inshore.

Diet: Pinfish, mullet, other baitfish.

Beautiful snook illustration showing a full grown lunker snook under the water.
Beautiful Snook illustration. God, I love fish art!

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

Snook Fishing World Records

On the 18th of October 1978 Gilbert Ponzi caught this massive IGFA world record common snook on hook and line at the Parismina River, Costa Rica. The record has stood for 42 years!

Florida State Snook Record

A 44 lb. 3 oz. common snook was caught near Fort Myers, Florida and remains the state record.

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

Why Catch Snook?

Half of Florida’s resident anglers have a fascination with catching snook. Why that is, I am not really sure, but it’s a fun fish to catch and broiled, it’s one of the best fish I’ve ever eaten. Part of the reason for fanaticism of anglers targeting snook is because they’re so accessible. You can catch snook from a boat, a pier, a dock, the shore, or wade-fishing. You can catch them from any inshore boat and you can catch them most of the times of the year. Snook get big, so there’s the bragging factor the comes into play when telling your friends about the huge fish you caught. The slot size is rather large, so bigger fish are common. The average size Redfish is much smaller in length than the average sized snook. The fact that you can only keep one snook per day is also a factor that makes them more desirable than other fish. You have to choose the one you’re going to keep and hope it’s the right one!

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

Where To Find Snook?

Habitat –  Snook prefer to stay in water that isn’t moving much at all, next to water that is moving fast. When they see prey go by, they’ll attack it. They wait in ambush. Snook fishing is usually best on an incoming tide, but you can catch them just about anytime, including night time.

Snook are most commonly found inshore along the coast and especially in shorelines lined with mangroves, in seagrass, and around structure.

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

What Do Snook Eat?

Lunker snook chasing a big lure through the water off the beach in Florida.
Snook chasing a lure that doesn’t resemble any fish I know of.

When I think Snook, I think pinfish. I’ve caught more snook on pinfish than anything else by far. Some people prefer using artificials but I really love the live bait option when I can find it. Pinfish and mullet are excellent snook baits and they’re usually common where I fish around Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Other great baits are live crabs, squid, sardines, and big shrimp. If you can find them, throw a castnet over some pinfish in the seagrass and you’ll increase your chances of having a fantastic day of snook fishing.

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

How to Catch Snook—Techniques

From a Small Boat – Kayak, Canoe

Though you don’t need a kayak or other small boat to catch snook, you can cover a lot more area and increase your chances on finding snook hiding out close to the banks. Just toss a live pinfish over by the shore and under mangrove trees to prompt an explosive bite. There are well-known places where snook stack up when it’s cold and these are excellent spots to fish in. Some anglers reveal the spots over the years, you can find them on forums mostly. Personally, I think saltwater canals are the best place to find snook during morning or night. You can see them sometimes because they are not afraid to stay near the surface.

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

When Is the Best Time to Catch Snook?

From now until Sept 1, you cannot keep any snook, so give them a rest and target them after that time. The red tide has killed a lot of fish and they need to recover.

Typically the best time to catch snook is in the winter months when they’re easy to spot in the shallows under piers.

I told the story already here somewhere (here on this page) about my Uncle Jim who sat on my dock in Tampa, Florida one afternoon. it was a high tide and the water wasn’t moving much at all. He had a lightweight action rod and a small spinning reel that was nothing bigger than a 1000 series. He had on two or four pound test line and a hook that was almost like a Sabiki rig hook.

He somehow fitted a thumbnail sized piece of shrimp on the hook and well, you can read the story here. He caught the biggest snook I ever saw with that bit of shrimp and undersized gear!

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

Snook Gear—The Basics

Best Rod for Snook

I think just about any rod can catch a snook, but a medium-weight action rod is probably best. I love the Ugly Stiks, and I still prefer to use them for all my inshore fishing. Snook have a fast initial run when hooked and they can fight for a while, but as long as they aren’t wrapping your line around barnacle covered structure, you’ll probably be able to land it.

I like this rod for nearly all my inshore fishing…

UGLY STIK at Amazon


Best Reel for Snook Fishing?

Baitcasting / Trolling Reels

I love baitcasting reels, and have ever since I learned how to use them two decades ago. They are more accurate, twist the line less, and like being able to control the drag by adding my thumb to the spool. I almost always buy Penn baitcasting reels, but I’ve also used Abu Garcia for my smaller reels and I love them too.

I’ve said it many times before in these guides, but you should really buy the best reel you can afford. When I started spending over $100 for my reels (a piece) my satisfaction level went way up. I can’t recall breaking any of my baitcasting reels. Ever. They’re reliable and as long as you grease them up every now and then, they’ll last forever and you’ll be handing the down to your kids. That alone, makes them worthwhile.

My Favorite Reel (at Amazon) for Inshore Fishing (Snook, Redfish, Cobia) Made in America (Philadelphia, PA.)

Here’s a less-expensive alternative (at Amazon) that is also great for catching inshore fish, but more of a beginner’s baitcasting reel.

Best Spinning Reel for Snook?

Here’s a basic Sienna Spinning Reel (at Amazon) that works well for Snook and other inshore fish. This is a beginner’s reel that you might buy if you’re not sure you’re going to go headfirst into the fishing hobby or not.

This is one of my favorite Shimano Spinning Reels (at Amazon) that is for anglers who spend a lot of time on the water and need to use one of the top reels for consistency and reliability.


Best Line for Snook?

If you know you’re likely to hook into a big snook, you’re better off going with 50 lb. test line (braided). If not, you might drop it down to 30 lb. test. Snook have a strong pull almost like a cobia and you’ll want to have a line that can handle the pull and a hook that won’t bend.

Don’t Forget the Leader

50 lb. clear leader is ideal for snook. Keep in mind, they have very sharp gill plates that can cut smaller diameter line quickly.


Best Hooks for Snook Fishing?

The best hooks (at Amazon) for snook are the strongest 6/0 circle (non-offset) hooks you can get. Forged Vanadium Steel circle hooks are the best for this tough fish. Mustad hooks are high tech and trusted in the industry for decades. Get a good one to ensure the hook doesn’t bend or snap. A twenty pound snook has a strong pull and can bend hooks. Don’t buy cheap hooks, invest in something that isn’t going to bend and lose your fish. One of the worst feelings ever.


Best Snook Fishing Rigs?

The Old Egg Sinker Rig. This is nothing more than stringing your line and leader through an egg sinker to bring the bait down to the bottom of the water you’re fishing in. Your hook will be a 6/0 circle hook with a live pinfish, sardine or threadfin fish on it. This rig has worked well forever and you won’t go wrong like this. Personally, I just like to freeline a pinfish, but try them both and see what works for you.

Florida angler holding a big keeper snook caught on rod and reel inshore.
Florida angler holding a big keeper snook caught on rod and reel inshore.

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

Snook Fishing Laws in Florida

ALERT

Catch-and-release only measures for snook have been extended through May 31, 2021, from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County, including all waters in Hillsborough County. Since snook is closed annually from May 1-Aug. 31, this fishery will reopen to harvest Sept. 1, 2021. These are proactive measures due to impacts of red tide in this area.

Snook are never permitted for commercial harvest and sale.

Florida snook laws are different for each coast and federal waters. As you can see with the recent restrictions on keeping any snook until September 1, 2021 fishing laws are constantly adjusting to protect fish which are in danger of overfishing or threatened by other factors. It is your responsibility to check the latest laws on the Official Florida Game and Fish Commission here before you fish.

Snook License Requirements

Snook fishing requires a snook permit and Florida recreational fishing license.

Legal Gear for Harvesting Snook Fish

Hook and line is the only way permissable to catch snook. No netting, gigging, or snatching allowed.


Normal Gulf Coast Laws

During regular years without special restrictions, Gulf Coast Laws including Monroe County and the Everglades are:

Season: Closed Dec. 1-end of February and May 1-Aug. 31 NOTE: All state waters from the Hernando/Pasco county line through Gordon Pass in Collier County is catch-and-release ONLY through Aug. 31, 2021

Slot Limit: Not less than 28″ or more than 33″ total length

Daily Bag Limit: 1 per harvester per day; zero captain and crew for-hire limit

  • Minimum Size Limit: 28-inch length to 33-inch.
  • Daily Bag Limit: 1 per person, except during present-day restrictions ending 1 September 2021. Captain and crew on for-hire expedition cannot keep any snook.
  • Season: Closed for a large portion of Florida’s West Coast – see red text above. Typically closed only during 1 January to the end of February and May 1 to August 31st.

East Coast (Atlantic) Laws

During regular years without special restrictions, East Coast Laws including adjacent federally governed waters and including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River are:

  • Season: Closed from December 15, 2020 to January 31, 2021 and from June 1 to August 31, 2020
  • Minimum Size Limit: Length Necessary to Keep is at least 28 inches and not more than 32 inches. Outside this slot, fish must be released in healthy condition.
  • Daily Bag Limit: per licensed angler is 1 snook per day. When hired, captain and crew may keep zero snook per day.
  • Special regulations apply for this species when fishing in Biscayne National Park. See details here.

Federal Waters Snook Laws

  • Minimum Size Limit: None mentioned.
  • Daily Bag Limit: 1 per person. Note – for hire captains/crew cannot keep fish when out with clients.
  • Season: Open August 1 to October 31.

NOTE – a full list of rules for fishing for snook in Florida can be found at the Florida Rules website here.


Get the Fishing App

If fishing from 3 to 200 nautical miles off the coast of Florida, Georgia, South or North Carolina, you can use this mobile application to stay up to date on the fishing rules on the Atlantic Coast.

Farming Snook

The country of Belize is involved in snook farming (common snook). Their weather is ideal and they’re centrally located for reaching a lot of countries close-by. I could find no states in the USA farming snook, perhaps because of the ban on commercial sale.

Snook caught inshore on artificial lure.
Snook caught inshore on artificial lure.

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

How to Cook Snook?

The best thing you could do to put snook on your dinner table is to broil it. Broil ALL YOUR FLORIDA FISH. I don’t think there’s any other decent way to eat fish unless you’re going to fry up some junk fish and throw it on a taco. Then you can’t really taste the fish, you taste the fat of the oil and breading.

With snook, I bleed it immediately after catching and then put it on ice in a cooler. I mean, if you want it REALLY fresh, do that. I’ve also just thrown it in a garbage bag and took it home without any ice at all, thrown it into the freezer for three days and ate it later. It was FANTASTIC. So, you probably can’t really go wrong with cooking snook. It’s a fish anyone can make taste great. So, if you screw it up, you know you did something horribly wrong!

Vern’s Broiled Snook Recipe

Ingredients

  • Snook – gut them and scale them, but there’s no need to fillet. I fillet very few fish, I just don’t see the need for it.
  • Butter – I mean good butter. Whole fat. Salted.
  • Garlic – minced.
  • Black pepper – finely ground.
  • Lemon – squeeze a bit on the top of the fish, but don’t overdo it, unless you really love it. It can dominate the taste quickly with too much.

Cooking

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F or higher. I usually go to 600°F.
  2. Cut a 5-foot long rectangle of foil (needs to cover length of snook twice. So, if your snook is 30 inches, you’ll need 5 feet of foil.
  3. Put a thin coat of olive oil on the foil where the snook will lay on top and put the foil on a thin metal pan for quickest result. Or use a glass pyrex pan, but it will take 5+ minutes longer to cook.
  4. Put the fish on the foil and make 5-6 incisions into the flesh with a sharp knife. Open the fish and apply butter in side and to the skin on top. You’re not going to eat the skin (I hope), but the butter will drip into the cuts.
  5. Sprinkle a LOT of black pepper all over the top skin of the fish. The pepper taste will not be strong with cooking, it virtually disappears. You’re not eating the skin anyway.
  6. Add garlic inside the fish and all over the top with the butter. Close the top of the foil by cinching it closed on top and sides. Poke foil with fork 4-5 times across top to let out some steam.
  7. Drop that bad boy into the oven away from the heat source. If you’ve got the oven on broil, put the fish on the top rack. If it’s on bake setting, drop the fish down to the bottom rack.
  8. Let it cook for about 8 minutes then check it. You don’t want it burned AT ALL. When you open the foil to check it, some steam should escape, the liquid should be boiling in the foil. If so, it’s probably ready, but check the thickest portion with a fork and pull some out. Cooked thoroughly? Time to eat!

PRO TIP – just about any fish can have parasites, worms, etc – usually near the tail area, but they can be anywhere in the flesh. Have a look at your fish as you fillet it or gut it and cut out anything suspicious. You can still eat your fish as long as it’s cooked well. When you have a choice, always choose to eat the smaller (younger) fish because they have less toxins and parasites. That’s true for all species!

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

Snook Guide Resources

Image credits: Top of page – . Snook species illustrations ©Diane Peebles.

Salty101 paragraph spacer.

More Fishing Guides with All You Need to Know

Deep Sea Fishing | Kayak Fishing | Pier Fishing | Inshore Fishing | Wade-Fishing

Florida Fish Guides

Amberjack | Black Drum | Bluefish | Cobia | Dorado (Dolphin, Mahi-mahi) | Florida Pompano | Grouper | Gulf Flounder | Jack Crevalle (Jacks) | Lobster! | Permit | Red-bellied Pacu (like piranha) | Redfish (Reds, Red Drum) and Redfish Index | Shark Fishing | Sheepshead | Snapper | Snook | Speckled Trout | Tarpon and Tarpon Index | Tripletail

Fishing Tacklebox Essentials

Florida Fish Regulation Ruler (Belt)

Florida fish legal limits – make sure you get for the year you will be fishing.
Durable and waterproof, this essential fish ruler will keep you out of trouble on the water! Get yours HERE.

Fish Scale (Digital and up to 110 lbs.)

Fish scale to weigh your fish. Also has measuring tape.
Know how much your fish weighs immediately. Buy this handy scale HERE.

Florida Fishing Identification Booklet – 5×7″ Laminated (Waterproof)

Florida Saltwater Fish ID guide for helping you identify legal fish caught in Florida.
Some fish are difficult to identify. Make sure you know 100% which fish you have before you keep it. Florida fishing regulations are strictly enforced. Buy this little 5 inch by 7 inch booklet HERE.