Talking tips for inshore and offshore west coast Florida fishing
INSHORE: Snook have made a huge comeback after the devastating freeze in the winter of 2010. I have been seeing more and more quality fish being caught on the flats and around dock lights at night. A notoriously heartbreaking and cunning fish, Snook have been driving anglers crazy since fishing line was invented. I have a few tips and old secrets that might help you land a few fish this Spring.
The most important thing I can tell you is to “match the hatch”. In other words feed them what they are eating. To do this carry a variety of baits. Favorites like large shrimp, greenbacks, mojarras, mullet, pinfish and of course pigfish. If the fish seem to be feeding on glass minnows or fry bait I like to tie on a MirrOlure 9MR-S on light tackle with a 25lb fluorocarbon leader.
Location is key, you can have all the primo baits and tackle but you got to fish where the fish are. Snook are ambush predators and love the combination of structure and current. Bridges, docks, seawalls with rip-rap, mangroves, swash channels, oyster bars, and potholes on a lively flat are all viable options as long as there is some sort of moving tide. When Snook start showing up in the passes I prefer an outgoing tide that will carry bait out of the bay and funnel them right to the fish. When fishing around docks, mangroves or on the flats I feel that a strong incoming tide is best.
Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. These fish are no joke once they are hooked and know exactly where to go to cut you off. If fishing around structure I use heavy spinning tackle in the 8000 class with 40lb braid and 30 to 40lb fluorocarbon leader. Fluorocarbon leader is a must. Snook are very line shy and have lips like 30 grit sandpaper that will shred through 20lb line. In gin clear water you may have to drop you leader size down to 20lb to get a bite. To avoid abrasion on the leader use a circle hook to hopefully hook them in the corner of the jaw keeping the light leader away from its lips.
Become nocturnal. Snook are more active at night and don’t spook as easy but you still need the stealth of a ninja. Keep noise to an absolute minimum and don’t splash heavy baits or lures on top of their heads. A dock light holding Snook that won’t eat is still a promising sign keep a mental note of it and come back later in the night. Try to stay as far back as possible to make an accurate cast. Lock the drag down and hold on!
I hope these tips will land you a big linesider this year and remember to check FWC regulations before taking any home for breakfast.
OFFSHORE: If you are looking for drag screaming, explosive action and some fine table fair, look no further than the Spanish Mackerel. Spanish get kind of a bad rap when it comes to our gulf coast species but I’m here to stand up for their status as one of our most prized resources. They are plentiful on the beaches and in the passes, so long runs and large boats aren’t necessary. Light tackle enthusiast like myself love them for their speedy runs and explosive strikes on top water plugs.
One of my favorite techniques for catching macks is to anchor on some hard bottom or nearshore reef and start to chum. A live well full of whitebait and a couple of chum blocks is best, but small chunks of frozen sardines and GOT-CHA plugs work great. To make it sporty I use small spinning reels and 8 to10lb mono with a forty pound mono leader. Mono leader will out fish steel 10 to 1 and by using longshank hooks like Mustad 3260B 3/0 will prevent a lot of cut offs.
I think it’s at the table where macks get the most ridicule. This is usually because the fish has not been cared for or cleaned properly. Mackerel must be iced down immediately and kept cold until you are ready to clean them. When cleaning them remove all the dark red bloodline and the skin. This is easily done by cutting fillets into six inch pieces then taking the knife parallel with the bloodline cutting in and turning the knife outward towards the top, jiggle the knife separating the flesh from the skin. Repeat on bottom section and enjoy them any way you wish. Mackerel make for some awesome sashimi by the way. Try it with our Lemon Saffron recipe, just replace the Kingfish with Spanish Mackerel – click here for recipe
Thank you, Brian Crabtree