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Snookin' the Lights 6-2 to 6-5-2011

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I just returned from a snook fishing trip to Southeast Florida with a couple of good buddies over the weekend. The trip was an absolute success. Tim, Dave and I met up Thursday evening on the way down to fish some docks before we could check in to our room Friday morning. We were greeted at the launch by some stiff wind out of the east. The forecast was for the wind to die as the night went on, so when Dave arrived, we rigged up and were on the water looking to throw some flies at some snook. The first couple of docks we came to looked good, but not very active. Tim stopped to fish a bright white light at the end of a dock, and I moved on down, turning back to see another light on the same dock about halfway to shore. They were popping pretty well in this light, so I decided to move in and see if I could break the ice. It was a challenging light, with the current running straight at me. I finally was able to get in position to get a cast up under the dock into the shadow, and was rewarded by a sharp strike and a bulldog fight on my 9# that had me straining to keep the fish out of the pilings. I called to Tim that I had a good one on and he came over to snap a pic. The first snook of the trip turned out to be a good one, right at 25".



I hooked a bluefish on my next cast with Tim sitting there that gave me a run for my money. I could have sworn this was another good snook, but unfortunately it was not to be…


Most of my fish in the first night came on the soluble minnow. We did notice that there were some really nice fish in the area; Tim lost several that he said were in the 30" class, and had the straitened hooks to prove it. The highlight of my night was a 27" snook that came off a pretty obscure light. He didn't fight like a big fish, but he did give me some trouble at when he saw the yak and realized he was in trouble…


Around midnight we got into a really good trout bite with some substantial fish. I caught up with Tim as he hooked what looked to be a good snook. I went over to take a look and he said downheartedly, "it’s a big trout". Had he caught that fish back home he'd have been beside himself. It ended up measuring 22"


I paddled a couple of lights down and found an absolute pile of trout stacked shoulder to shoulder between a set of pilings. I pulled a 21" and 23" trout off this dock to start, a new personal best for me on fly



I caught five or six more trout on fly off the light until the current picked up and it became difficult to keep the fly in the zone long enough to draw a strike. Tim ventured over as I was switching to a DOA shrimp, and we proceeded to pull another dozen trout off the light on spin. I easily caught a limit of good fish off this light in a matter of 15-30 minutes. After a few casts without a bite we moved on to find more snook.

The night continued on, with a snook here and there, all the while hearing BIG fish busting bait off in the darkness. I can only assume it was tarpon or jacks. We turned back around 3am, and made our way back through the lights we had fished earlier. One that we passed because a boat was fishing it was a big green light with a knarly dock. They were busting hard when we got there, and Tim and I managed a couple more to finish the night. Dave caught a couple snook as well and some good trout. We left Dave at some lights and headed back towards the launch. We fished until sunrise, then pulled out and headed south. We met a funny old timer at the launch headed out for some mangrove snappers on the docks. He was an old cracker, and told us he had no reason to fish for "snuke" because he can't keep 'em. We were dead tired, and I barely remember the 30 minute ride south, but it was a great start to the trip.


Day 2 started about 5pm when we got rolling. We re-rigged and patched up our leaders from the night before, and launched around 8pm. There are a couple lights way up in the river that proved tough to fish in December and remained such this trip as well. I'll catch a fish off of them someday, but not this trip. We spread out a little more than the previous night, feeling a little more comfortable with familiar surroundings. I started seeing some activity close to the bridge, and stopped to investigate. I was fishing with my 7#, feeling it was a little better matched to some of the smaller fat snook we catch up river. I hooked a decent fat snook off the first light I stopped at, fought him to the surface, had him about beat, and was getting ready to net him when a huge commotion occurred. The fish went limp, and I knew what had happened. I pulled him in to find this...


A shark had cut the fish in half. I promptly pulled up anchor and moved on, not wanting to waste any more snook and really not being too keen on sticking my hand in the water to retrieve another fish with this predator lurking in the shadows. Tim was ahead of me, and Dave behind. I met up with Tim and fished a green submerged light that I love. I pulled a couple fish off the light and kept moving out toward the big water. Again, I picked up a couple snook here and there, and by midnight had around a dozen. I hung back on a couple lights and let Tim and Dave get ahead of me, pulling a few more fish, with a couple nice 23" snook mixed in.



We got a little variety here as well, with some jacks and lookdowns thrown in the mix at many of the lights. Although most of them were small, catching them was still an exciting addition to the night


Dave and I met up and fished a light together and pulled several snook from it, most of them in the 18-20" range.


I left Dave and paddled to Tim who was a few hundred yards down the line. I stopped to fish a light and hooked a decent snook that had quite a bit of fight to him. I landed it and as I was unhooking it Tim came over, and from a good distance informed me that this light had a shark on it as well. Judging from the fight on that fish, he had something on his tail, or at least knew he was in trouble. I promptly launched that snook as far as I could from the yak and moved on. I have no taste for sharks in the dark looking to eat what I just pulled off a light. Apparently Tim had the shark rush a snook he was netting a few minutes earlier, and sighted the beast in the light. At least our fish made it out unscathed. We paddled to within sight of the A1A bridge, encountering some strong outgoing current as we got closer to the mouth of the river. I watched Dave wear out the first light in a three light string as I fought the current and managed one snook and a couple lookdowns off my light.

We turned back at this point, again around 3am, working docks that looked good on the way back. At this point I had around 18 snook, and Tim told me to go ahead and see if I could break 20 while he waited for Dave. I made my way back my favorite green light and set up, pulling two more snook to make 20 for the night. The sky was pinking out at this point, and I could hear Dave and Tim getting close. There was a good fish working off the dock along a bulkhead, so I picked up the DOA and tossed it close. I hooked up with a good fish right as they came around the corner. This fish was 24" and Tim snapped a pic as they headed by. We made our way to some spots Tim had caught some swordspine snook in the past to try our luck with them. We didn't catch one, but we got to see the sun come up above the beautiful mangroves around the park.



Back at the launch I showed Tim and Dave what one of my fish had coughed up into my yak. It was a glass minnow, and it was no surprise to us, we figured out what fish eat under the lights while ago, but I thought I would share, with a soluble minnow for comparison...



On the third afternoon we hung around camp for a while. I walked down to the water and made a few casts with no luck. Tim sighted some deer that seemed to come out and feed around the cabins every afternoon. We watched a doe eat palmetto berries from 20 yards, and saw a couple fawns wandering around the cabin area.




I took a picture of my dock light box to show you guys, this pretty much covers the bases for fish under the lights. We use the same patterns back home in Jacksonville for trout under the lights...


We launched around 830pm from a new site and found some great lights right off the bat. The plan was to fish our way under the bridge and make our way to the lights out in the open river as the night went on. The first light Tim and I found was a nice submerged green loaded with 20" snook. We pulled 4 off this light in a matter of minutes.



Dave hit a couple of bright white lights around the corner from us, and managed a couple fish. We made our way towards the bridge, and I noticed the water was beginning to be very clear. Just past the bridge I found a light packed with nice snook, only to find they were the pickiest fish of the trip. I could not get these guys to eat a fly for the life of me, and after changing flies a couple of times to no avail I moved on. Tim and Dave had made their way around the corner from me, and as I cleared the bulkhead, I came into what looked like Disney World for the dock light fisherman. The cove was lined with blue and green submerged lights. I paddled past them and set up on a good looking green one, tossing in and immediately pulling a small mangrove snapper. My next cast yielded a first for me, a small black grouper on fly. These fish were small, but the variety made my night, and seeing that little grouper's colors was more than worth it.


This cove was devoid of current, and consequently I believe, devoid of snook. We found the lights out here few and far between, although we did manage a few snook on this side. Dave wanted to carry on up this side, so Tim and I left him to head to the other side. We made it across in 10 minutes. Tim headed up river and I stopped in front of a good looking light. I pulled out my sandwich and watched the light for 20 or 30 minutes. Snook were busting bait sporadically in the light, so I figured it would be game on when I decided to toss a fly in there. I couldn't have been more wrong. I could see plenty of fish in the light, but every fly I threw in there was completely ignored, aside from a few lookdowns, which I think would hit a bare hook if you were so inclined to throw one. My last chance was a schminnow, and luckily it worked. I pulled a decent fish from the light. A few more casts yielded nothing but follows, so I decided to reposition to hit the other side of the dock. Tim came up right as I was getting set in my new spot. I cast to the far side of the dock and hooked up immediately with a nice 23" snook. That was it for this light.


Tim and I moved over to shore to get out on some sand and stretch out and relax for a minute before moving on. We sat there and compared notes for a few minutes. Little did we know we were preparing to have by far the most exciting/ridiculous fishing experience of our lives.

We moved on down to the docks where we turned back the night before to find some good action as fish were actively feeding. We each caught a couple snook of the lights.




Again, I went to reposition to hit the fish with a different angle. I hooked a nice fish that wrapped me around a piling and straightened the hook. As I went to retie I heard a helicopter flying around and thought nothing of it. I continued fishing and caught another snook. I was in the process of putting on some new leader when I heard some voices. They sounded like they were talking to me, but from a long way off. I looked up to see if the owner of the dock I was fishing had come out to visit with me, but no one was there. I looked back down, and now the person was yelling at me, so I looked around again, and saw some flashlights on a dock to my left. I hollered out "What's that", and the guy said he was with the sheriff’s department, and I needed to come over to speak to them. As I was paddling over, he told me the helicopter was with the police as well, and it came in behind me and spot lighted me the entire way over. At this point I was really wondering why they were so intent on talking to me, and wondered what the hell a helicopter was needed for. Apparently some homeowner had called them and said we were getting up on docks and snooping around. I informed the officers that this was not true, and that we had merely gotten out on a small patch of sand next to a bulkhead to stretch. Tim came over and they checked our IDs and let us move on. They had a game warden with them who informed us that the fishing would now suck because of the helicopter. He was right; the lights that had previously been filled with snook were now empty. Dave saw the whole ordeal from afar and was waiting for us on a bar. We met up, told him what happened, and made a plan for the rest of the night. This event took the wind out of our sails a bit.

We caught a few more snook, and around 430 we decided it was time to head back in. Tim managed one more snook to end the night on the light we began on, and we called it a trip. The totals for the trip were somewhere around 70 snook, twenty-something trout, and numerous bonus catches of lookdowns, jacks, snappers, and a grouper. It was a phenomenal trip, and the run in with the sharks and cops added a little more excitement, as well as anxiety. I would be lieing if I said I wasn’t looking forward to my next southeast Florida snook trip...



Good Fishing,


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wonderful report! Wished I could have been there regardless of the police incursion. It must be fishtastic to live in such and area.

Thanks for the report.

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I don't live there, but its well worth the trip down to experience such a fishery. Florida is truly an excellent fishing destination, hopefully I won't ever have to leave.

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A tip from a guy who's worked the night scene for many years now (when I'm not booked during the day - the two types of trips conflict). Homeowners will occasionally get upset when you're fishing around their property and some will even call the local police. Keep as low a profile with them as possible, be polite at all times.... even though you're well within your rights to fish there. What you're trying to avoid is them deciding to turn off that docklight. Down here in Dade county all too many homeowners have done just that and we have a lot less spots to cover because of it.



Great report. Wish we had a lot more snook lights in my area. Most of the action down my way is in the shadows under bridges.

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I'm extremely jealous. I want to take a trip down to Florida and catch 1) a Bonefish OTF, and 2) snook OTF. Sounds like an extremely fun trip! Also didnt know Lookdowns got that big. I've caught a couple small ones in my cast net around here, but thats it.

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Man-O-Man, that looks like fun!! smiley-happy112.gif Thanks for a great report and super pics!!!smiley-score010.gif Not many snook here in the Great Basin!!smiley-sad025.gif

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love the 1/2 fish photo......just couldn't wait til' you got home to eat?

hahhaah great pics and story......thanks for sharing

heckUVa trout

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