Fishing the Backcountry Snook
"Find plentiful snook in the area's bays, creeks and rivers. A kayak, a rod and some lures are all you need to snag these challenging game fish. "
A strong incoming tide flushed the baitfish off the grass flats and carried them into the waters of Hell Peckney Bay.
I let my kayak glide with the current and watched as a great blue heron waded through the shallows ahead, looking for an easy meal. As the big bird inched closer to the shoreline, a pair of snowy egrets perched in a nearby mangrove took flight and spooked a fish that had been resting under the overhang.
Judging by the size of the wake, the fish had to be a snook. They love the mangroves because the elaborate root systems give them plenty of places to hide and ambush prey.
Guessing where the fish had gone, I let a top-water lure fly and stopped it 10 feet from the bank. Then, as the tide carried it along, I twitched it once ... twice ... and then the water boiled as the snook found its mark.
Line screamed off the reel as I lifted the rod tip, hoping to steer the fish away from the shoreline and certain escape. For a moment, I thought I had succeeded, but then the line went slack. The fish had wrapped the line around a root, where oyster shells sliced it like a knife.
But no worries. I had a tackle box full of plugs. And the snook? There were plenty more where he came from.
Where the Snook Are
The waters of Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve, San Carlos Bay and Pine Island Sound are blessed when it comes to snook.
"Everything is just right," says Ron Taylor, Florida's top expert on the highly prized game fish. "You have three rivers feeding plenty of fresh water and miles of undeveloped mangrove shoreline that provide a nursery area for the young of the species."
The Peace, Myakka and Caloosahatchee rivers supply the expansive estuary with a seemingly endless supply of baitfish and crustaceans. That’s why the area is widely considered one of the best snook fisheries in the world.
How and Where to Hook
Snook can grow to more than four feet long and weigh more than 50 pounds. The fish prefer shallow water because it offers some protection from sharks and dolphins, so anglers willing to paddle have a distinct advantage over their motor-boating counterparts.
Shallow draft vessels, commonly called "flats boats," are another option for getting into the "skinny" water if they can run in one foot of water or less. An electric trolling motor or poling platform is helpful.
If you're looking to do a little fishing on your own, all you need is a cheap spinning rod, a couple of lures and a rental kayak. Fort Myers Beach is an excellent starting point.
From there it’s a short paddle to well-protected Hurricane and Hell Peckney bays. Nearby Mullock and Hendry creeks are also worth exploring. The waters on both sides of Pine Island are favorite fishing areas.
Live bait, usually pinfish or scaled sardines, are the choice of most professional fishing guides, but anglers looking for more of a challenge will want to use a variety of artificial baits, from hard-bodied plugs to soft-bodied jigs."