How To Catch Snook Fishing in Florida

Fishing for snook is very popular in Florida and some other areas of the world. They are hard-fighting fish that are absolutely delicious to eat. In this article we will cover how to catch snook in all of their favorite haunts in Florida.

If you are new to snook fishing or just learning how to fish, this guide will teach you everything you need to know, and by the time you finish reading, you will be well prepared for snook fishing in Florida.

There are 4 distinct species of snook found in Florida waters. All of them have a dark lateral line running down both sides of their light-colored body from the top of their very sharp gill plates to the center of the tail.

The Tarpon Snook is found mostly on Florida's East Coast and is rare on the West Coast. It is common around 15" and only grows to around 22" so it doesn't reach the minimum 28" slot length to keep. The main identifier is an extra ray in the anal fin. The tarpon snook has 7 rays, the other snook have just 6.

The Swordspine Snook is even smaller than the Tarpon Snook and is common around 10" and may reach 15" as fully grown adults. They can be identified by their anal fin extending further than their caudal fin. They are also rare on Florida's Gulf Coast.

Fat Snook are common around 10" and can reach up to 28". They are found in freshwater more than other snook. They can be distinguished by their split dorsal fin coming to a 'V'.

The Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis) is identified by the clearly divided dorsal fin into two separate fins on the top of the body. These snook reach 48" and up to 50 lb. They are found on both coasts and are highly tolerant of freshwater and brackish water.

Big Florida Common Snook

Before you start catching snook in Florida you will need to familiarize yourself with the snook fishing regulations found at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Know the regulations for the area that you're fishing. They are different for the east and west coast, and some specific areas like Key Biscayne.

Currently, the slot limit is 28-32/33 inches in total length, and one fish per recreational angler per day is allowed during the open season (which varies by region).

There are size limits, bag limits, seasonal closures, and emergency closures that you'll need to be aware of so you don't run afoul of the law and be subject to heavy fines. Practice catch-and-release when possible. Snook are one of Florida's most prized game fish. They can only be kept when they reach a narrow range of length that spans just 4" on the Atlantic side and 5" on the Gulf Side.

We’ll cover everything you need to know about how and where to catch Florida's snook species in this fishing guide. This will greatly increase your chances of landing more snook!

Where to Find Snook in Florida

School Of Snook Under A Florida Pier

They can be found on both coasts of Florida as well as in many of the state's rivers, estuaries, and bays. Snook are very common around the southern tip of Florida, including the Florida Keys. In the Gulf of Mexico outside of Florida, snook are most plentiful in South Texas in the waters around South Padre Island and the Lower Laguna Madre.

Internationally, snook can be found in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, Central and South America, and West Africa. Some specific locations where snook are known to be present include the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Senegal.

In Florida, snook can be found in a range of depths but you'll find them most commonly in shallow water and close to shore. I've found snook in water ranging just a few inches to about 20 feet deep, but they can go deeper. When the water is cooler or warmer and they need to thermoregulate, they'll sometimes go much deeper in the water to around 100 feet.

When snook do move into deeper water during colder months, they typically return to the shallows as soon as the water warms up enough.

Anglers in Florida commonly find snook in estuaries, bays, and inshore waters with structure they can use to hide in like mangrove shorelines, fallen trees, vegetation, docks, piers, rocks, and bridges. They use this cover to ambush prey and as protection from predators like dolphin looking to make a meal of them. They will also move into brackish water and freshwater rivers and canals during certain times of the year.

Canals (Freshwater and Saltwater)

Snook Caught In A Florida Canal

Snook prefer to move into freshwater rivers and canals during spawning season. You'll find snook and fat snook in the freshwater canals more often than the other species.

To catch snook in salt and freshwater canals you should look for structure first. Snook love to hang out near docks, boats, submerged branches, roots, rocks, bridge supports, or underwater debris. Look for areas with good structure and cast your bait or lure nearby.

Canals are a great place to find snook and during some parts of the year, they are all over the residential boat docks on saltwater and freshwater canals.

The time of day can also matter. If you can, do your fishing in the morning or evening as the sun goes down. Snook are more active during these times. Of course, the tide can matter tremendously like with most fish, so try to ensure you are fishing during tidal changes.

Grass Flats

Florida Grass Flat

Catching snook on the grass flats in Florida requires a different approach than catching them in canals.

Look for grass flats are flat areas of sand and seagrass of a few inches to a foot or more in height growing up from the bottom. Snook hide in the grass and target smaller fish and crustaceans, using the seagrass as cover.

They are also seen cruising along the edges of the grass flats, so cast your bait or lure near the edges or drop-offs.

Ideally, if you can find some grass flats with structure, such as mangroves, oyster bars, or channels that give snook more places to hide and to surprise prey, that's the best scenario.

During tidal changes, snook will stay in the seagrass and face the moving water to attack prey coming into the grass for protection.

Some ideal spots to find snook on the grass flats in Florida include:

Sarasota Bay (West Coast)

Tampa Bay (West Coast)

St. Petersburg's Fort De Soto Park (West Coast)

Charlotte Harbor (Southwest Coast)

Indian River Lagoon (East Coast by Cape Canaveral)

Mosquito Lagoon (East Coast by Sebastian Inlet)

Oyster Bars

Oyster Bars On A Florida Grass Flat

The three light colored areas are oyster beds that hold lots of snook

Catching snook on oyster bars (oyster beds, oyster reefs) in Florida is great fun whether you're fishing from shore, in the water, or from a kayak or other small boat.

Look for oyster bars with good structure, such as channels, drop-offs, or points. Snook will often hang out in the deeper pockets or channels around the oyster bars, so cast your bait or lure near those areas.

The time period around when the tide changes can also be a good time to catch snook around oyster bars.

Some of my favorite spots to find snook on oyster bars in Florida include:

Mosquito Lagoon (East Coast by Port Canaveral)

Indian River Lagoon (East Coast by Sebastian Inlet)

Charlotte Harbor (West Coast by Ft. Myers)

Tampa Bay (West Coast by Tampa/St. Petersburg)

My absolute favorite place to catch snook on oyster bars is in the saltwater canals spidering out into the residential areas of Tampa Bay. The canals are filled with oysters, redfish, and snook, and it's even possible to catch fish while you float down a canal on your kayak, trolling a shrimp or fish as bait.


Surf Fisherman With A Snook On A Tampa Florida Beach

Catching snook from the beach in Florida is a favorite pastime of many anglers who live close to the beach. It doesn't have to be a big affair, you can just bring a rod and a lure and cast around for an hour and often go home with a fish!

But what should you look for as you snook fish on a beach in Florida?

Look for areas of the beach with troughs or deeper water close to shore. Look for spots where the waves crash at various distances from the beach. There are probably deeper and shallow areas close together. Look for buildups of sand. Look for changes in the color of the water that signifies deeper or shallower spots. Snook will often hang out in these areas, so cast your bait or lure near them.

Some good beach fishing spots:

Sanibel Island (West Coast by Ft. Myers)

Siesta Key (West Coast in South Sarasota)

Jupiter Island (North of Juno Beach on the East Coast)

Fort Myers Beach (Southwest Coast)

Anna Maria Island (West Coast by Bradenton)

My favorite places to catch snook from a beach are near a bridge, pier, canal, or boardwalk.

In the Surf

Wade fishing to find snook in the shallows can be a little more exciting because your chance of catching other kinds of fish increases in the wide-open surf.

Like the recommendations above for beach fishing, you should be looking for any structure or cover that snook might use to hide in or behind. Some areas have rough wave action that builds mounds of oysters, sand, or debris. These are good places to find snook in the surf.

RELATED: Surf Fishing Tips And Techniques For Beginners And Experts 


Boat Docks

Fishing for snook around boat docks in Florida is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to target these semi-elusive fish. There's nothing quite like sitting on a dock, dangling your feet in the water, and catching a 40" snook on a thumbnail size bit of shrimp. I watched as my uncle from up north did this one afternoon during a visit to Florida.

Besides the mangroves, boat docks are probably the best places to target snook because the water is shallow enough to see them and there is lots of cover.

Cast your bait or lure close to the dock pilings, as this is where snook will often hide. Don't drop your lure/bait too close, let the snook see it out in front and go get it. You'll spook the fish when you cast it right on top of the fish’s head.

Some great spots to find snook around boat docks in Florida include:

Boca Grande (West Coast by Sarasota)

Tampa Bay (West Coast)

Indian River Lagoon (West Coast, middle of state)

Charlotte Harbor (By Ft. Myers on West Coast)

Biscayne Bay (South of Miami Beach)

The main difference in targeting snook around boat docks is the need for precision casting and delicate presentation. Snook will often be hiding in tight spaces around the pilings, so you'll need to be able to cast your bait or lure accurately and land it in the right spot without landing on top of the dock and making noise, or worse, getting snagged on someone's boat dock!

You'll also need to be patient and persistent, as snook can be finicky and require multiple casts or different baits to entice them to strike.

Don't forget, nighttime fishing for snook from the docks can be a fun way to spend some time in the cooler temperatures as the sun has set. Bring the mosquito and no-see-um spray though!



To catch snook in areas around pilings, you'll do well to find areas with good water flow from waves, or from tides. The snook will be behind the pilings and looking toward the water coming at them. You'll throw your bait or lure ahead and let the water carry it, or pull your lure toward the snook. Currents and tides are necessary for this type of fishing and can affect fishing behind pilings.

Some spots you can start with to find snook around pilings in Florida:

Boca Grande Pass

Tampa Bay

Charlotte Harbor

Biscayne Bay

Sebastian Inlet

Fishing for snook around pilings is nothing like tossing bait far out into the surf in the hopes that snook are nearby. There probably are snook by the pilings and you just need a precise cast and presentation to catch them.

Snook will often be hiding in tight spaces around the pilings, so you'll need to be able to cast your bait or lure accurately and land it in the right spot. You'll also need to be patient, as always. Snook can be finicky and it may require that you cast multiple times using different baits before getting strikes.

There are a few different types of pilings you can encounter when fishing in Florida. Bridge pilings are one type, but you might also find pilings around docks, piers, jetties, and other structures in the water. Each type of piling can offer different challenges and opportunities when targeting snook.


Fishing Under A Florida Bridge

Catching snook around bridge pilings is similar to fishing around other types of pilings, but there are a few differences you might want to keep in mind.

Bridge pilings are often located in deeper water than other types of pilings, so you'll need to use heavier weights to get your bait or lure down to the snook. A fishfinder rig can work well for this purpose.

When looking for bridges that might have snook around, look at the pilings in the shallows first, especially if they have good water flow. If not, move into deeper water. Water flow is pretty critical to help you find the snook at bridges and the pilings there will have higher concentrations of snook and other fish.

Some great spots for snook at bridges:

Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay - can also just fish from the Skyway Fishing Pier which is the old Skyway Bridge.

Sanibel Causeway in Sanibel

Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys



Fishing for snook around spillways can be a bit different than in other areas, as the water flow can be quite strong and the snook tend to congregate in specific areas.

Tips to help you catch snook around spillways in Florida:

Look for spillways located near inlets or other areas where snook are known to congregate.

Focus your efforts on the areas with the strongest water flow, as this is where the snook will be feeding. Snook will be just out of the strong flow, but will be close enough to ambush prey that comes by in the flow.

Look for areas where the water is deep enough to provide cover for the snook.

Some Florida spillways to fish for snook:

The spillway at Lake Okeechobee in South Florida.

The spillway at the C-43 reservoir near Fort Myers on the West Coast.

The spillway at the Rodman Reservoir near Gainesville in Northern Florida.

NOTE - When fishing around spillways, it's really important to be aware of your surroundings because the strength of the water flow can be dangerous. Use caution when wading in the water (or, just don't!), and make sure to anchor your boat securely if you're fishing from a boat.


Florida Mangroves

Snook love the mangroves in Florida, especially during the warmer months. There are so many roots and branches they can hide behind, and there are plenty of baitfish there using the cover of the roots for protection. Occasionally, fish leave the comfort and safety of the roots to venture out, that's an opportunity for snook to strike.

It really isn't difficult to catch snook in the mangroves with live bait. I always like to use pinfish by cast netting for them before I fish the mangroves.

Here are some tips on how to find snook in the mangroves:

Snook like to hang out near structure in the mangroves, such as roots, fallen trees, and oyster bars. Look for areas where there is a change in depth or where the water is moving through channels.

The temperature will dictate where the snook will be found. On warm summer days when the water is at a moderate temperature, snook can be found in the shallows. They are sometimes easy to see with polarized sunglasses and I highly recommend you get yourself a good pair.

Fish the incoming or outgoing tides, especially in the early morning or evening when they are most active. That said, you can catch snook anytime during the day too if they're hungry and they usually are!

Some of the best places in Florida to fish for snook in the mangroves:

Ten Thousand Islands area (West Coast just south of Naples)

Indian River Lagoon (East Coast by Vero Beach)

Florida Keys

Ft. De Soto Park in St. Petersburg

Mangroves area of 4th St. North in St. Petersburg

When fishing in the mangroves, stealth is called for. Be quiet and move slowly so as not to spook the fish. Take care not to cast directly on top of where you think the snook will be.

Look for signs of feeding activity such as baitfish jumping or scattering. Cast your bait or lure into the area past the fish and allow it to drift naturally with the current.

What Do Snook Eat?

Snook About To Eat A Shrimp Imitation

Like most fish, snook are opportunistic feeders. This means they will consume a lot of different prey, depending on what is available.

Some common prey of snook are:

  • shrimp
  • anchovies
  • crabs
  • mullet
  • sardines
  • pinfish
  • menhaden
  • threadfin herring
  • grunts
  • ballyhoo

The diet of snook also changes depending on the location and time of year. Snook in or near freshwater sources often change their diet to include crayfish and other freshwater prey. In largely saltwater areas they will target baitfish more often.

Some of the best baits for snook include live shrimp, live pinfish, live pilchards or sardines, and topwater plugs or jerkbaits.

The amount of food a snook eats can vary depending on the size of the fish, the availability of prey, and the time of year. Snook may eat several times a day when the water is warm, but when it cools down they will eat less frequently.

Our favorite bait for snook is a live baitfish, usually a pinfish because they're easy to find in the seagrass shallows that are common around here in St. Petersburg.

Adult snook may consume baitfish from 4"-6" long, while larger ones can eat fish of 12" or more in length. The largest snook may eat less often and choose prey that is up to 50% of its own body weight.

How Does Water Temperature Affect Snook Fishing in Florida?

Healthy Florida Snook

Snook fishing success in Florida is strongly influenced by water temperatures. Snook are a warm-water species and prefer water temperatures between 68°F and 78°F. As the water drops below 68°F or rises significantly above 78°F, snook are less active and less likely to make the effort to feed. They become quite difficult to catch at this time.

During the winter months, when water temperatures in Florida can drop below 68°F, snook will move into either deeper water or the warmer water of residential canals.

Residential canals can provide a safe haven from the cold for snook because the sun heats up the docks and any concrete walls or other structure and that warms the water. Also, canals offer snook protection from the wind and other environmental factors that can make the water temperature drop even further.

Snook cannot tolerate water below 60°F and will stack up on top of each other in saltwater canals during cold spells to try to get some sun when the water gets very cold. Even if the fish are in season during this time, conservationists ask that you don't attempt to catch snook during this time. In very cold water around 56°F some snook will start to die.

In the summer months, when water temperatures can reach 78°F and higher, they'll move into shallow waters inshore where they are much easier to target.

It's interesting to note that snook eat 10x more pinfish in the summer than they do in the winter and that they eat much more pink shrimp in the winter than in the summer. Keep that in mind! Also as part of their study, researchers found that snook prefer to target baitfish about 14% of their own size in length.

So, if you want to target a 30" fish in the slot, fish with a pinfish or some other baitfish around 4.2" long. (University of Florida Study)

RELATED: Best Time Of Day To Fish

Gear for Snook Fishing: Rods, Reels, and Line

The best rods, reels, main line, leader, hooks, and rigs to use for catching snook will vary with the specific fishing conditions, location, and your own preferences.

In general, you should have a medium power baitcasting or spinning rod, a spinning/baitcasting reel with a high gear ratio, braided main line, fluorocarbon leader, circle hooks, and a simple or sliding sinker rig to begin catching snook.

Below, we offer some more specific recommendations below to better match the fishing conditions and target species.

Note - Though we prefer baitcasting reels, we use spinning reels for the examples because they are more widely used by anglers.

RELATED: Different Types Of Fishing Rods And Their Uses

Freshwater and Brackish Canals

Rod - 7'-8' medium power rod with fast action.

Spinning Reel Size - 3000 to 4000.

Reel Gear Ratio - 5.2:1 or higher.

Drag - 10-12 lb.

Line - Braided 20-40 lb.

Leader - Fluorocarbon 20-40 lb.

Rigs - Fish Finder rig; artificial lure rig.

Hook - Circle hooks 2/0-4/0.

Surf Fishing

Rod - 8'-10' medium or medium-heavy power rod with fast action.

Spinning Reel Size - 5000 to 8000.

Reel Gear Ratio - 5.2:1 or higher.

Drag - 10-20 lb.

Line - Braided 30-50 lb.

Leader - Fluorocarbon 30-50 lb.

Rigs - Fish Finder rig; artificial lure rig.

Hook - Circle hooks 2/0-7/0.

RELATED: Best Surf Fishing Rod And Reel Combos


Rod - 7'-8' medium power rod with fast action.

Spinning Reel Size - 4000 to 5000.

Reel Gear Ratio - 5.2:1 or higher.

Drag - 12-20 lb.

Line - Braided 30-50 lb.

Leader - Fluorocarbon 30-50 lb.

Rigs - Fish Finder rig; artificial lure rig.

Hook - Circle hooks 2/0-4/0.

Bridges and Pilings

Rod - 7'-8' medium or medium-heavy power rod with fast action.

Spinning Reel Size - 4000 to 5000.

Reel Gear Ratio - 5.2:1 or higher.

Drag - 12-20 lb.

Line - Braided 30-50 lb.

Leader - Fluorocarbon 40-50 lb.

Rigs - Fish Finder rig; artificial lure rig.

Hook - Circle hooks 2/0-4/0.


Rod - 7'-8' light-medium power rod with fast action.

Spinning Reel Size - 2500 to 3000.

Reel Gear Ratio - 5.2:1 or higher.

Drag - 10-12 lb.

Line - Braided 30-50 lb.

Leader - Fluorocarbon 20-30 lb.

Rigs - Freeline live bait; artificial lure rig.

Hook - Circle hooks 1/0-3/0.


When fishing for snook on a rock jetty in the flats you should have tough gear that is durable and can handle bumps and possibly drops.

Rod - 7'-8' medium or medium-heavy power rod with fast action.

Spinning Reel Size - 3000 to 4000.

Reel Gear Ratio - 5.2:1 or higher.

Drag - 15-20 lb.

Line - Braided 30-50 lb.

Leader - Fluorocarbon 30-50 lb.

Rigs - Fish Finder rig; artificial lure rig.

Hook - Circle hooks 3/0-5/0.

Docks and Inlets

When fishing for snook around boat docks and inlets in the flats, you'll need gear that can handle potential obstacles and provide accurate casting. Here are some guidelines for gear to use:

Rod - 8' light-medium or medium power rod with fast action.

Spinning Reel Size - 3000 to 4000.

Reel Gear Ratio - 5.2:1 or higher.

Drag - 10-12 lb.

Line - Braided 40-60 lb.

Leader - Fluorocarbon 20-50 lb.

Rigs - Fish Finder rig; artificial lure rig.

Hook - Circle hooks 2/0-4/0.


Fishing for snook from a kayak requires gear that is lightweight, portable, and can handle the fish's strength and agility. Here are some guidelines for gear to use:

Rod - 6'-7' light-medium or medium power rod with fast action.

Spinning Reel Size - 2500 to 3000.

Reel Gear Ratio - 5.2:1 or higher.

Drag - 10-20 lb. Depending how deep you're fishing, and whether you might connect with much bigger fish.

Line - Braided 30-50 lb.

Leader - Fluorocarbon 20-40 lb.

Rigs - Freeline live bait; artificial lure rig.

Hook - Circle hooks 2/0-4/0.

Best Baits and Rigs for Snook Fishing


The best bait in summer is baitfish of some kind. Pinfish are readily available all over the shallows and are easy to catch with a throw net over some seagrass or a little sabiki (bait-catching rig in Japanese) rig under a float or straight off a pier, bridge, dock, or boat.

This is my bait of choice for snook and many other fish as they are the perfect size (2"-5") for snook, redfish, grouper, and other fish.

Whitebait like pilchards and herring (young pilchards) are also very popular fishing bait in Florida and if the bait shop has them, they make excellent live bait for snook and many other fish. White bait is any small, silvery fish that can be used as bait.

You can fish them under a popping cork, freeline them, or use them on a conventional high-low rig, fishfinder rig, or live bait rig.

If you can't get some sort of baitfish in the summer, shrimp will do fine! They can be fished on a jig head, as part of a rig, or even free-lined if you can cast them close enough to the fish.

RELATED: Best Bait For Sheepshead

Popular Snook Fishing Rigs in Florida

My favorite way to present live bait to snook is with a simple freeline setup where the baitfish or shrimp is hooked and tossed out without weight or float. This is the ultimate in natural presentation and fish usually cannot resist a live bait presented like this.

I typically use a swivel on mine because I think it cuts down on line twists. Not sure if that's a pure freeline setup or not, but I still call it that.

The Carolina Rig is a popular fishing rig for snook and many other fish. It consists of a sliding egg sinker, a plastic bead, a swivel, and a leader with a hook. It can be used with many different baits including live baitfish, crabs, and shrimp.

Best Lures for Snook Fishing

Though live bait will almost always catch more fish than artificial lures when it comes to snook, they can still be quite productive. The other argument for using lures is that they are much more cost-effective than buying or going to find live bait to use.

5 Best Snook Lures in Florida

DOA Shrimp - The DOA shrimp is a soft plastic lure in a light almost clear color and darker colors resembling a root-beer shade. DOAs mimic shrimp, one of the snook's favorite foods. It can be fished near the surface or on the bottom when you add the included weight. You can also buy rattles for it and there is another compartment where that can be easily inserted.

Fish the DOA shrimp on a light jighead or a weedless hook with or without a swivel. Natural colors such as clear, green, and brown are best.

Rapala X-Rap - The Rapala X-Rap is a hard-bodied lure that imitates a baitfish. It can be fished at depths of 2'-8' with the heavier lures in the series going deepest.

These work well when retrieved with a stop-and-go action. This allows the lure to pause and suspend motionless for a second or two in the water column, often eliciting a strike.

MirrOlure MirrOdine - The MirrOlure MirrOdine is a suspending hard-bodied lure that mimics a baitfish. It is best fished at mid-depths and works well with a twitching and pausing retrieve.

Zara Spook - The Zara Spook is a well-known topwater lure that imitates a fleeing baitfish. It is best fished in shallow water near structure where snook take cover. It works best by using a "walk the dog" retrieve. That means twitching the rod tip to make the lure move back and forth.

Berkley Gulp! Shrimp - The Berkley Gulp! Shrimp is a soft plastic lure that vaguely mimics a shrimp. It has no legs and two short antennae. You can fish it on or near the surface or on the bottom. It works best when retrieved slowly with a series of short hops or twitches with gaps to let it settle back down.

As a general rule, use deeper-diving lures in deeper water and topwater lures in shallow water near structure.

When choosing colors for snook lures, natural colors like silver, gold, clear, green, and brown are good choices to start with. It's always a good idea to have a variety of colors on hand and experiment until you find what works best for the conditions and the snook's feeding habits.

You should also pay attention to fishing reports for your area to see if anyone is letting on which colors are working best!

How To Catch Snook in Canals (Freshwater and Saltwater)

Florida Gulf Coast Snook

Catching snook in saltwater and freshwater canals in Florida requires some knowledge of their behavior, feeding habits, and the right gear. Here are some tips to help you catch snook in canals:

The best locations for catching snook in canals are areas where there is structure such as docks, bridges, and mangroves. Some areas we can highly recommend with great canals for catching snook are the Naples Canals and Miami's Biscayne Canal.

Using live bait in canals is the way to go if you have the choice. Live shrimp or baitfish are the perfect bait.

When using lures to catch snook in canals, choose ones that mimic the baitfish that snook prey on like jigs, soft plastics, and crankbaits. The top three lures to try for catching snook in canals are the DOA Shrimp, the Rapala X-Rap, and the Berkley Gulp! Shrimp.

Freeline your live bait into the canal on a long 5-8 foot long fluorocarbon leader of 20 lb. test and be cautious about making too much noise or kicking things into the canal that will spook the fish.

A light or light-medium spinning reel of 7' to 8' long with fast action and a high gear ratio is ideal. Reel and Rod Sizes: Your reel can be 3000-4000 size, it need not be any bigger.

A 2/0 to 4/0 inline circle hook works great for snook.

If you're planning a trip specifically for snook fishing in Florida in the canals, go when the water is warm in late spring or summer for the best experience. Ideally, around sunrise or sunset.

How To Catch Snook in the Surf

Big Snook On Live Bait

Unless you can see them in the water, catching snook in the surf is a bit of a crapshoot. It's a guessing game to figure out where they might be unless you know the beach and where they might be at.

Some of the best locations for catching snook in the surf are the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, including beaches like Clearwater Beach, Treasure Island, Sanibel Island, and Longboat Key.

Beaches along the Atlantic coast, such as Cocoa Beach, anywhere near Sebastian Inlet, and Jupiter Inlet, are also very popular spots for catching snook.

To catch snook in the surf, use a fishfinder rig or a live bait rig and toss a live pinfish or other small (under 5") baitfish out there into the surf. A fish finder rig consists of a sliding sinker, a bead, and a swivel, with a leader attached to the swivel and a hook at the end of the leader.

Look for channels and currents, and even better - some structure where snook can be taking cover.

Any live baitfish can work, but shrimp are almost equally as effective.

RELATED: Best Bait For Surf Fishing

Lures to try in the surf include the DOA Shrimp or Baitbuster, the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow, and the MirrOLure MirrOdine lures. There are many lures that act like injured or fleeing fish that attract the strike of a hungry snook. Try what you've got, you may be surprised by what they hit. I've caught snook on silver and gold spoons as well.

A medium to medium-heavy spinning or baitcasting reel with a high gear ratio and a rod between 8 and 10 feet long works well to get your bait out where you need it. Reel size should be around 4000-8000 depending how much standing and casting, and holding the rod you’ll be doing.

RELATED: Best Surf Fishing Reels

A main line strength of 30-50 lb. and a leader strength between 30 and 50 lb. works well for surf fishing.

Use a 2/0 to 5/0 inline circle hook, which is less likely to gut-hook the fish and causes less harm to the snook. Angled and barbless hooks are also good options if you want to practice sustainable fishing. Snook are a limited resource and the more we can do to help, the longer we'll be able to catch them!

As with any place you're going to target snook, the summer is the best time when the water is warm but not too hot. Mornings and evenings will produce the most strikes.

How To Catch Snook from a Pier

Snook Fishing From A Pier

There are many dozens of fishing piers, docks, and bridges for fishing in Florida. Some of the best that I know are on the West Coast from Naples up to around St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

Snook like the cover that piers provide and you can catch them year round there with the right approach. Of course, they're competing with twenty other fish species to get to your bait or lure so you're going to catch other fish as well. Sometimes that's not a bad thing!

Piers near major inlets, passes, and deep channels tend to have more snook. Snook definitely love structure, so any pilings or other obstructions can be good areas to target. Look for areas where water is moving, as this is another preference of these amazing fish.

Piers opening early and closing late are your friend if you're fishing for snook in Florida. Overcast days are another prime time to catch them during the summer.

Pinfish or other good-sized baitfish are best for piers where you want to limit the strikes by other smaller fish like catfish, sheepshead, ladyfish, and some others.

Freeline your baitfish without weight to see if it's reaching the right depth to get bites from snook. If not, add some weight and see how that goes. You can use a Carolina rig to get the bait on the bottom and it will swim up to whatever level it wants to. This is one of the best rigs for snook at the piers.

I don't use lures at the piers, there are too many broken lines and debris under the piers and I hate to lose my lures!

A medium to medium-heavy spinning rod with a sensitive tip and a strong backbone matches pier fishing for snook and other fish well. Of course, use braided main line and fluorocarbon leaders.

You'll want to go heavier on the line since the pilings, pylons, rocks, and other debris under piers are all ready to cut your line. Go with at least 50 lb. braided line and a 40-50 lb. leader if you can get strikes on a line that thick. Fluoro leader is a necessity as it's tougher and thinner, more difficult to see. A spinning reel should be 4000-5000 size minimum on the piers.

Circle hooks of 2/0 to 4/0 work fine for piers.

Some popular piers for snook fishing include:

Skyway Fishing Pier State Park in St. Petersburg

Juno Beach Pier in Juno Beach

Naples Pier in Naples

Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier in Deerfield Beach

Note - When pier fishing, the regulations can change. You may or may not need a Florida Saltwater Fishing License. It may be included in the pier fee. Gather all the information about what you can and can't do on the pier before you arrive to ensure a pleasurable visit.

How To Catch Snook Under a Bridge


When targeting snook under a bridge by boat, there are some techniques and gear that can increase your chances of success.

As is the case with catching any fish in a current, one technique that can be effective is to cast your bait or lure up-current and allow it to drift naturally with the current down to the waiting fish.

Snook tend to position themselves in eddies or other current breaks, waiting for prey to come to them. If using artificials you can bounce a jig or soft plastic along the bottom, mimicking a baitfish or shrimp. This can get the attention of fish fast.

Just like with pier fishing, I tend to use pinfish or other good-sized baitfish instead of artificials or shrimp.

A medium to medium-heavy power spinning rod with a fast tip paired with a high-capacity spinning reel is ideal for targeting snook under bridges. A braided main line of 30-50 lb test with a 40-50 lb fluorocarbon leader is recommended. Circle hooks in the range of 2/0-5/0 are a good choice for live bait, while a jighead with a soft plastic or a suspending jerkbait can work well.

Some Florida bridges where you can catch snook are:

Skyway Fishing Pier in St. Petersburg

Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys

Matlacha Pass Bridge in Matlacha

How To Catch Snook on the Beach on a Fly

Snook Caught On A Fly At The beach


To successfully catch snook on the beach with a fly fishing outfit you'll need a rod capable of making long and accurate casts while being able to handle the power of a strong fish.

A 9-foot, 8-weight fly rod with a fast action tip is generally the best choice for targeting snook. Anything heavier will be too much to use for very long. A rod of this strength will give you the proper backbone to fight a strong fish as well as make it easier to cast larger flies like shrimp and fish in windy conditions.

The rod should also have a smooth and progressive taper to help absorb the sudden shock of the fish's fast runs and jumps.

Some fly rod brands and models you should consider:

Sage Salt HD

Scott Meridian

G. Loomis NRX

Orvis Helios 3D

TFO Axiom II-X


Pair your fly rod with a fly reel that is up to the challenge of catching what you hope will be a huge snook.

Size: A fly reel in the 8-10 weight range is appropriate for snook fishing. Make sure the reel is large enough to hold enough backing line to handle the long runs and strong enough for the bursts of speed that snook are known for.

Fly reels made of lightweight but strong aluminum and carbon fiber are good choices. Your drag system should be around 10-12 lb. to apply enough resistance to help tire out the fish and bring it in quickly.

Some of the better brands and fly rod models:

Hatch Finatic

Nautilus CCF-X2

Abel Super Series

Orvis Hydros SL

Sage Spectrum Max

RELATED: 5 Types Of Fishing Reels and How To Use Them


Snook In The Trough At The Beach

It's a good idea to go heavier on the leader when you start out fishing in a particular spot. The problem with the leader is that the fish can see it. Fluorocarbon should always be used in my opinion over monofilament for its strength, abrasion resistance, and thinner profile. It's virtually invisible in the water and a must when the water is clear.

Some popular brands of leaders are Seaguar, Rio, and Orvis.

Long leaders of 5-9 feet are used by fly fishing anglers for leader-shy snook. This is a variable you can play with to see what's optimal.

Using a weight-forward floating line is a good choice for snook fly fishing from the beach. With it, you can make long casts and control the fly in the water. It's also great for detecting light bites.


Some flies that work especially well in Florida for catching snook:

Clouser Minnow - This one mimics minnows, shiners, and smaller baitfish. This is one of the top flies for this fish.

EP Shrimp - One of the best fly patterns of shrimp.

Tarpon Toad - This fly pattern is designed to mimic a number of different prey items that snook may like.

Shrimp Gurgler (Snook Gurgler) - This topwater fly pattern is made to help you create a lot of commotion on the water's surface to get a snook's attention.

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How To Catch Snook on the Flats

Fisherman Fighting A Snook On A Florida Grass Flat

The first step in catching these fish on the flats is to find a grassy flat or a mangrove-lined shoreline. Watch for any signs of movement in the water, whether a wake or small baitfish scattering.

Polarized sunglasses can help considerably when fishing in shallow water to cut the glare and help you see what lies beneath the surface. You'll be amazed at what you can see with a pair of good ones.

If the water is warm, a fast retrieve on a plastic lure or jig can get them striking. Cast parallel to the mangroves or close to the seagrass bed and reel in quickly. Of course, slow it down if you don't get bites in the first few casts.

Drift fishing works if there is any water movement. Throw upstream and let your bait or lure go along with the current. Snook (all fish) love to see bait floating in the current naturally because that is usually what prey is doing before they attack it.

For gear, a simple 7' light-medium or medium power rod with fast action is fine. Whether you use a baitcasting or spinning reel doesn't matter as long as your drag is smooth. Snook peel off drag fast and a poor drag system can cause the line to snap during a fast run.

Using 30-50 lb. braided main line and a 20-30 lb. leader is about right. What's essential is that the line is invisible enough that it doesn't spook the fish. Go with fluorocarbon for the best chance at this and vary your leader thickness with 20 to 40 lb. test fluoro.

How To Catch Snook at Night

Snook Fishing Around Lights At Night

Catching snook at night in Florida can be an exciting experience, especially if you're with some friends. It requires a slightly different approach than fishing in the daylight hours.

Instead of flats fishing, head to the boat docks, a pier, a bridge, or some other major structure. If lights are present, that's even better. The lights can be streetlights many yards away, the light still helps snook fish. Lighted boat docks are perfect for night fishing.

Fish during an incoming or outgoing tide for the best luck. Using live bait works best, but you can use lures that have an audible component - a rattle, a popping cork, etc. Snook vision is degraded at night and the extra sensory input helps them locate their prey.

Topwater plugs, soft plastic baits, and jigs of all kinds can find fish for you at night. Slow your retrieve down a bit for more hookups.

It's a common belief that a full or near-full moon phase improves snook fishing at night. You can try it out for yourself, I also think there is a better bite going on when the moon is bright.

RELATED: What Is The Worst Time Of Day To Go Fishing?

How To Catch Snook on Dock Lights at Night

Toss live bait under fishing docks with lights on them to catch snook at night. Pinfish, herring, or shrimp can all work.

If your dock doesn't have lights, you can aim some flashlight or headlamp lights on the water or set a LED lantern at the end of the dock so the light covers some of the water. This attracts small baitfish and other marine life and the bigger fish move in after them.

Your light source should be consistent. You don't want a strobe out there! You don't want to be periodically flashing the water with your headlamp, so don't wear it on your head.

Keep quiet, careful not to make noise, especially on hard wooden docks if you're fishing from a dock. Wood carries the noise from you walking around very clearly and spooks the fish.

For gear, use a 7' fiberglass composite rod of light-medium to medium power and fast action. 30-50 lb. line paired with 20-30 lb. leader can work, but if you're breaking off when your line rubs the dock pylons, you may need to increase leader strength. Always use fluoro instead of a mono leader.

Spinning and baitcasting setups work fine, so choose the one that makes you happiest.

Cast your bait into the lighted area and let it drift naturally. Snook will often ambush their prey in this area, so be ready for a quick strike.

If the dock has a lot of supports, try using a jig head with a soft plastic bait. This will allow you to present your bait close to the structure without getting hung up as often as a very active pinfish.

How To Catch a Snook from a Jetty

Snook Fishing From A Jetty In Florida

Catching snook from a jetty like Sebastian Inlet in St. Augustine, Florida can be well worth the trip to get over there and stay for a couple of days. That area in particular holds some big fish. I was there a few times when big snook after bigger snook were pulled in off the pier and jetty.

Fish during the moving tides from jetties, especially during incoming tides that bring with it lots of baitfish that snook love to feed on.

Use live bait like you probably would use for almost all your fishing if you can find it easily. The usual suspects work - pilchards, mullet, pinfish, and shrimp.

Fish close to the jetty where the rocks or other structure is. Don't cast out too far, there may not be any seagrass or channels where fish are hanging out. A popping cork with a big shrimp making some noise is ideal when fishing over jetty rocks.

Snook have extremely sharp gill plates that easily slice through light leaders, not to mention the rocks and whatever else is around the jetty can all chaff a line and cause it to break. Start with heavier 40-50 lb. test fluoro leader if the fish will still bite.

Snook can be finicky and may take their time to eat the bait. It's important to be patient and let the snook take the bait before setting the hook.

A medium to medium-heavy spinning rod with a fast action tip can work well for jetty fishing. Match it with a strong reel of 4000-5000 size or bigger that can handle the heavier leader and mainline. Remember, a smooth drag is key with snook!

How To Catch Snook from a Kayak

Fishing For Snook From A Kayak

Catching snook from a kayak in Florida isn't that difficult because you can really get around and cover a lot of water with your small boat. I often float down residential canals catching snook, and then get into the wide-open Tampa Bay and find the mangroves where there were always snook lurking.

If you have mangroves anywhere near you, it's almost assured that there will be snook there as long as you're not in the cold season yet. Take your kayak within casting distance and toss out a baitfish or shrimp toward the roots and ensure your drag is set correctly - on the heavier side.

If your drag is too light, when you hook a fish you'll get wrapped around roots with barnacles and snap your line quickly. If your drag is set a bit heavy you should be able to pull the fish away from the roots quickly before there's a problem. Most times!

A fishing kayak with holes for rods, and space for a cooler or fish bag, bait, pedal system, paddle, and a good chair to support your back are all necessities for comfort and a level of competence on the water.

A typical snook rod and reel for a kayak on the open ocean would be a baitcasting or spinning reel with a 6'-7' composite rod that can handle bigger fish. Baitcasting setups are known for their smoother and more reliable drags. Spinning reel drags, unless well sealed, are easily affected by saltwater and dirt entering the top of the spool. A medium power rod with fast action is recommended.

A strong 30-50 lb. braided line attached to a 30-40 lb. fluorocarbon leader is about right to start. Ideally, you can freeline a baitfish and won't need any terminal tackle like weight or anything else. Just line, leader, and a circle hook in the range of 1/0 or 2/0 to 4/0.

Ideally, you have a little live well on your kayak that you can easily reach. Fill it up with pinfish or whatever you can catch on a sabiki rig or with your throw net. If there's no space for a built-in livewell, use a 5-gallon bucket with an inner bucket with holes in it.

Once you reach your fishing spot you can put the inner bucket over the side of the kayak to keep water flowing through your bait and keep them alive longer.

In Florida, the heat can get to you quickly when you're out on a kayak. Kayak fish in the early morning or early evening to stay cool. Morning is best, to be honest.

Paddle/pedal around and try as many spots as you need to in order to find fish. That's the advantage of having a very small maneuverable boat to go where you want. Many kayak fishing anglers don't leave the residential docks because they're just too productive.

It's also nice to get out on the open water a bit if you feel confident doing it.

Note - Waves of any size on a kayak become uncomfortable really fast. Kayak in areas protected from wind and waves when you can.

Some of the best places to kayak fish for snook in Florida are the Everglades National Park, the Indian River Lagoon, and on the west coast from Naples to Panama City Beach. The Gulf side has smaller waves so it's ideal for kayaks. The Atlantic side can see some much bigger wave action you'll need to be cautious of.

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How To Catch Big Snook 

Giant Florida Snook

Catching the biggest snook requires a combination of skill, knowledge, and a bit of luck.

Over near Tampa and St. Pete, I have seen the biggest snook come in off jetties, piers, and boat docks. I'd suggest sticking to these areas for catching the biggest snook. That doesn't mean they aren't behind bridge pilings, but the concentration of fish in an area probably never gets better than say under boat docks at night.

On Florida's West Coast, if you're hunting for big fish, I'd stick to nighttime fishing under some residential boat docks with lights. During a moving tide. With big bait. With patience!

On the East Coast, the annual mullet run starts around mid-September and goes through November. The beginning of this run is legendary for finding big snook and other fish who go a bit crazy at the sight of so many perfect bait fish.

Fish of 20 to 40 lb. are caught regularly during this time up and down the east coast, so if you can get over there for it, you may be rewarded with the biggest snook you've ever caught.

Use mullet up to a foot long, pinfish of at least 5 inches long, and any other baitfish in the 5-12" range to target big lunkers.

If using lures, choose larger sizes that mimic the baitfish in the area. Topwater plugs, swimbaits, and jigs can all be effective.

A medium-heavy or heavy spinning rod and 5000+ size reel with at least 30 lb. braided line and a strong fluorocarbon leader of at least 30 lb. test is good.

Remember, big snook grow to their massive sizes by being smart and wary of bait presentation that looks unnatural. They are very sensitive to visible lines, knots, unnatural-looking lures, bait landing on top of their heads when cast too close, etc. Present your bait or lure in a subtle way so as not to spook your target fish.

You probably understand that targeting big snook requires patience and determination. Have plenty of that on hand when you're out there looking for trophy-size fish!

RELATED: 13 Types Of Fishing Knots Every Angler Should Know

How To Catch a Snook on Florida’s East Coast


Catching snook on Florida's East Coast is every bit as fun as over on the West Coast. Here are some tips to help you find snook on Florida's short coast.

Some of the Best Places on the East Coast:

Sebastian Inlet

Jupiter Inlet

Indian River Lagoon

Mosquito Lagoon

Ponce Inlet

Bring a medium power rod with fast action and a matching reel. You don't need more than 200 yards of main braided line, but it should be 30-50 lb. test for less break-offs. You should try to use a fluorocarbon leader that's a little heavier because snook love structure and they'll wrap you around a pier, a rock, or a tree with barnacles and quickly break the line if given the chance.

Your drag should be set around 10 lb. to make sure you can turn the fish around and get it away from sharp objects in the water.

Size 1/0 to 4/0 circle hooks are best for conservation/sustainability reasons. Snook do much better when hooked in the mouth versus gut-hooked. Circle hooks put the hook where it's supposed to be for the best survival rates.

Bring some livebait like pinfish, mullet, pilchards, shrimp, or other livebait, but also bring a handful of artificial lures in case the bait you want cannot be found, or you want to save some money!

Some of the best techniques for catching snook on the east coast are freelined baitfish and a big shrimp under a popping cork.

The best time of day is when the sun isn't strong, so mornings, cloudy overcast days, and nighttime are great times to go fishing. Cooler too!

The strongest incoming and outgoing tides seem to produce more snook, so make sure you're out there then. You'll still catch them at other times, but strong water movement is pretty key with this species.

RELATED: Florida Surf Fishing Species and How To Catch Them

How To Catch a Snook in the Florida Keys

Florida Keys Snook

To catch snook in the Florida Keys, there are some tips to consider.

Snook love the warmer water of the Florida Keys, so you can catch fish there all year round. There are dozens of bridges and hundreds of docks you can fish near, not to mention hundreds of miles of coast around the Keys (islands).

The Florida Keys are one of the best fishing grounds anywhere for fish like snook.

Coastal areas, structure, mangrove-lined channels, grass flats, bridge areas, just about anywhere you can fish, you can catch them there.

In the Keys, the water is always moving, and the tidal change is a great time to target any fish.

April through September is prime time, but really, any month in season is a good time to go to the Keys to catch them.

The best bait, anywhere, is live pilchards, pinfish, and mullet, with shrimp coming in a close second place to any decent-sized bait fish.

Jigs, topwater plugs, and plastic lures of all kinds can also be used with success.

Fish in water less than 20 feet deep in most cases unless there has been a real cold spell. Water temperatures in the 70-85°F range is considered optimal. Water under 60°F is dangerously cold but I don't think the Keys ever see temperatures that low.

A simple 7' medium power and fast action rod like an Ugly Stik and a 5000 or bigger spinning reel can catch you fish. Add to that some heavy backing line and 30-40 lb. fluorocarbon leader and you'll be in business.

Remember, not every day is part of the open season for this fish in the Keys or anywhere else in Florida. Check the regulations and make sure you're not doing anything wrong.

Check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the most up-to-date information.

Some of the best spots for snook in the Florida Keys?

Seven Mile Bridge

Flats around Big Pine Key

Flamingo Bay

The Everglades

The flats around Key West

How To Catch a Snook on the Gulf Coast of Florida

Florida Gulf Coast Snook

I spent many years catching snook on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Most of the time I used my kayak when targeting snook because I could easily go to a number of great spots around southern Pinellas County (St. Petersburg), pull the kayak up onto the sand, and just fish from the bank or wade fish for snook.

The entire area is filled with mangroves, a prime snook hideout, so that was my usual plan.

If you're looking for one of the most picturesque places in the world to catch snook, go to Fort De Soto Park down south of Palma Ceia. It's stunningly beautiful and full of big snook in the mangrove areas. Outside of the mangroves are huge patches of seagrass that hold reds and speckled trout. It's a fishing paradise, to put it bluntly!

Other excellent places to fish on the West Coast of Florida include Apollo Beach, Fort Myers, Bradenton, Sarasota, Naples, and the Thousand Island Region.

Low light conditions are best for targeting them, so get on your way to your fishing spot when the sky is still dark in the wee hours of the morning. Or, wake up really late in the day and head out as the sun is setting. 

Overnight fishing is a blast at some of the piers when you go with people you know, and sometimes is great when you meet strangers that love fishing as much as you do.

Spring and fall, and October and November can be great times to catch fish.

A snook rod setup is basically the same as a redfish setup, cobia setup, jack crevalle setup, etc. A medium power rod that is fast and strong is necessary for what might amount to fish that weigh over 15, 20, 30 lb. and that fight very well!

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Surf Fishing Florida Gulf Coast

Final Thoughts

Going fishing for and catching snook in Florida's saltwater shallows has been one of the primary joys of my life. You really can't go wrong by pulling up on some mangroves in the kayak and tossing a pinfish or a shrimp (bigger the better) over close to the roots of the mangroves to see what happens.

Snook on the smaller side of the slot are great fish to eat and they're big enough that you only need one for yourself and a friend or two. Please, practice sustainable fishing and just take what you need.

Frozen fish is never as good as fresh fish, so don't always catch your limit and throw them in the freezer. Go back and catch fresh snook to eat again another day. Another amazing day!

Photo of author

Vern Lovic

Vern grew up in Pennsylvania fishing for trout in streams and Bass in lakes and ponds. He then moved to the west coast of Florida where he discovered surf fishing and inshore saltwater fishing from his kayak. Vern is an outdoor writer and loves to share his knowledge and fishing experiences. He is the founder of

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