Catching and releasing multiple snook in the inlets and along the beaches of southeast Florida during the summertime spawning season closure is a snap. But catching a snook to eat during the cool winter months? Not so much.
“In the winter, you’ve got to pay your dues,” said light-tackle guide captain Danny Barrow of Hypoluxo.
Barrow joins a panel of eight regional saltwater angling experts who promise to tell all – locations, baits, tackle, tides and moon phases – during the daylong Salt Water Sportsman fishing seminar Saturday in Jupiter. The seminar’s founder and co-host, magazine editor-at-large and outdoors television personality George Poveromo, will serve as moderator, along with West Palm Beach Fishing Club director Tom Twyford.
Topics are wide-ranging: beach, river, inlet, flats and bridge tactics for catching snook and tarpon; locating and targeting trophy flounder; finding and anchoring on near-shore ledges to catch Spanish mackerel; kingfish, snapper, grouper, and cobia; flutter-jigging for African pompano, amberjack, snapper, grouper and kingfish; locating the edges of the Gulf Stream for wahoo, dolphin, tuna and billfish; top trolling spreads; offbeat dolphin tactics; scoring more wahoo locally and in the Bahamas; and daytime swordfishing.
The panel of instructors includes Miami’s Jeffrey Liederman; captain Nick Stanczyk of Islamorada; captains Mike Holliday and Patrick Price of Stuart; and Palm Beach captains Butch Constable, Craig Korczynksi Greg Bogdan and Dan O’Neill.
Learning the inside scoop from the experts and being able to ask them anything could make the difference between a lackluster fishing day and a bonanza. And attendees are encouraged to bring kids 15 and younger for a free, hour-long youth seminar.
Barrow, a seven-year-veteran guide who fishes in a 19-foot bay boat, conducts most of his wintertime snook charters between Boynton and Palm Beach inlets. But he follows the fish wherever they lead—south to Boca Raton and north to Stuart – day and night.
“I like any snook, but I love Snook-Zilla!” Barrow said.
At the seminar, he’ll be discussing some of the subtleties of wintertime snook fishing – among other topics – that the weekend angler may be unaware of or overlook. The snook harvest season reopened Feb. 1 following the annual Dec. 15-Jan. 31 closure and will close June 1. Anglers can take one fish per person per day 28 to 32 inches total length.
Many anglers know that spillways are prime locations for catching snook when the flood gates are open, pouring thousands of small bait fish into the waiting maws of hungry line-siders. But when fishermen see that spillways are closed, they tend to throw the live mullet and gizzard shad that they caught back into the live well and go somewhere else.
Big mistake, Barrow said, because the flood gates themselves attract warm-water snook.
“Every spillway in Palm Beach County, the saltwater side faces east,” he said. “The sun hits the metal wall, putting heat into the gate. If you enter a canal and it’s got a spillway on it, let your mullet swim up to the gate. The water doesn’t have to be running. If there are snook there, they’re going to hit.”
Barrow said the same principle applies to east-facing metal or concrete seawalls. He favors structures with a sandbar or rock ledge that extends five or 10 feet out from the wall. These are prime ambush points for predatory snook where anglers can cast topwater baits such as Zara Spooks or Rapala Skitter Walks. If the snook turn down artificials, Barrow hooks a mullet near the tail on a large circle hook with a Styrofoam bobber just above it. He casts the bait as close to the seawall as possible and directs it to swim parallel to the structure.
“It’s all about knowing exactly where my bait is and controlling it,” he said.
The guide prefers the high outgoing tide for catching snook but reminds anglers that they can’t always choose the best time to go fishing.
Barrow’s advice to newbies: “If I want to learn a place, I go at low tide. You’ll see boulders and oyster bars exposed.”
And this: “You get 20-pound snook around a dock. Don’t go into a gunfight with a knife. Use 60-pound braid.”