Florida is a great place to fish for snook. Not only is the season quite long, but there are plenty of places to catch this fun fish. It can get quite large, up to 40 inches or more, and is most plentiful in coastal areas. These fish are sensitive to water temperature and prefer warmer waters, making Florida a great place for them to live. They can be found on both coasts, as well as major waterways inland.
These fish often put up a fight, making them fun for anglers and a real trophy for those who manage to reel them in. They are also tasty when it comes to eating. You can fish for snook from a boat or from the shore.
Snook Season Dates
There are two regions in Florida when it comes to fishing for snook. The season dates vary by region. While they are all managed under the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, allowing each region to set its own dates and specific regulations provides the opportunity to tailor the conservation efforts to what is needed in that particular area.
One is the Atlantic region. This area includes the Atlantic side of Florida as well as Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River. The open season dates for snook in the Atlantic region are September 1 through December 14 and February 1 through May 31.
The other region is called the Gulf of Mexico region. It encompasses the Gulf side of Florida as well as waters in Monroe County and Everglades National Park. In this region, snook season is open from September 1 through November 30 and March 1 through April 30.
There are special regulations in Biscayne National Park for certain fish species. The purpose of these special regulations is to ensure that fish in Biscayne Bay, a prime fishing destination, are able to grow large enough to remain part of the natural ecosystem. Harvesting fish when they are too small can result in a smaller fish population. This is closely monitored in Biscayne National Park and regulations are updated to ensure snook and other fish species can remain in the bay. Currently, the Biscayne Bay follows the same regulations as the Atlantic region.
Size Limits and Bag Limits
Each region also sets its own size and bag limits, although they are similar. It’s important to bring something to measure your catch when fishing for snook or any other species. In the Atlantic region, snook must be between 28 and 32 inches in length. If you catch something smaller than 28 inches or longer than 32 inches, you have to release the fish back into the wild. In the Gulf region, your catch has to be between 28 and 33 inches.
Bag limits refer to the number of fish that you can catch in a single day. The Atlantic region puts a limit of 1 snook per harvester per day. The Gulf region is the same. Because they are managed separately, however, one region may change its limits without impacting the other region. So it is important to stay up-to-date on current size and bag limits, especially if you fish in both regions. They might not always be the same.
In the Biscayne National Park, there is a 10-fish aggregate bag limit. This means that you can only keep up to 10 fish from within a group of many fish species. They can be any combination but once you hit 10, you’ll have to release anything else that you catch. Snook falls within this group.
Fishing Rules and Regulations
You will need a Florida fishing license and snook permit in order to fish for this species. It is important to note that the system allows you to purchase the license and permit even when snook season is closed. The Florida Fishing and Wildlife Conservation Commission does not offer refunds so make sure to check the season dates before making your purchase. One interesting aspect of this permit program is that the revenue generated by the purchase of snook permits goes directly to fund research and conservation efforts related to snook.
There are also regulations when it comes to how you fish for snook. You must use a hook and line when fishing for this species. You cannot trawl or use other methods of large collection. Also, if you catch any snook, you must keep them intact until they are landed.
When it comes to the bag limits, hired vessel captains and crew are not included as harvesters. So the total bag limit on a vessel does not increase because of the captain and paid crew. It only applies to those who are fishing.
Conservation Efforts and Updates
Each subregion within the Atlantic and Gulf fishing regions conducts an annual review to determine the impact that fishing has on the snook population. These reviews look at spawning data, algae blooms, fishing trips relative to the number of landings and releases, the recorded habitat of snook, and temperature changes. They then make recommendations for further conservation efforts or adjustments to the season dates, size limits, and bag limits. It also helps identify issues that may be impacting fish and other wildlife, such as habitat change.
The research efforts funded by snook permit purchases include tagging adult snook to keep track of their movements, behaviors, and survival rates. There are also efforts to spawn snook in hatcheries to ensure the population remains strong. Finally, they collect data about snook in places where they frequent, such as Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, and parts of the Indian River Lagoon.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © CaptJason/Shutterstock.com
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