Fishing Report August 31, 2014

Just Reel – Anna Maria Island Fishing Charter

Snook season reopens, memories of Green Bridge fishing resurface

Snook season is officially open as of Sept. 1.

You now have through Nov. 31 to harvest slot-size fish, if you are lucky enough to catch one, that is. The slot for keeper snook is 28- to 33-inches which means they much fall between those two measurements. Don’t forget to pinch the tail. The bag limit is 1 per person per day.

Although I rarely harvest snook these days, the opening day of snook season still puts butterflies in my stomach. The anticipation of hunting snook holds a special place in my heart. I think this spawned from fishing with my father when I was a boy.

My father was a die-hard snook fisherman.

He mainly fished the old Green Bridge, back when it was operational, mind you. And he always fished at night. I remember him waking me up just before dawn when he would get home from fishing to show me a big snook before he filleted it.

When I was about seven years old, I was finally tall enough to see over the railing of the bridge. This meant the greatest thing of all to me. I was able to go snook fishing with my dad.

When my father snook fished, he always kept track of the tides. He knew when the fish would bite and when they wouldn’t. This being said, sometimes the “good tides” didn’t occur until the middle of the night. But that didn’t stop him. Nor me. I would struggle to stay awake anxiously waiting to go fishing with my dad. Most of the time, I would go to bed and he would wake me up when it was time.

What a strange new world I was introduced to. Everything seemed so still and peaceful. There was no traffic, no noise. When the wind blew from the east, there was the faint aromatic smell of cooked oranges emanating from Tropicana out east. That smell still takes me back to my younger days.

Upon arrival at the Green Bridge, my father would park the car and we would unload our gear. This consisted of a five-gallon bucket containing numerous CD18 Rapalas and Long A Bombers as well as some leader material, pliers, a flashlight and a pier gaff. Then we would make the long walk out on the bridge.

As we walked, we would pass other snook fishers which whom my dad knew. They would swap fish stories and discuss if the fish were biting and then we’d continue on down the bridge.

Finally, we would stop walking and start fishing. One of the good snook spots was just to the south of the drawbridge. I remember looking down and seeing the shadow line on the water made by the lights on the bridge. And in that shadow line, I could see the dark silhouettes of snook as they sat stationary facing the tide. All that was left was catching one.

The method we used to catch these snook is referred to as plugging. This basically meant that we would cast out a large lipped plug such as a Rapala CD18 or a MirrOlure and retrieve it so it would swim along the shadow line. Sometimes you’d have to cast what seemed like a hundred times before you’d get a bite, but when you did, it was all worth it.

Although this method wasn’t the easiest to catch snook, it usually resulted in big snook. Any fish that is willing to hit a lure that is 10-inches long, is usually a big fish. Not only that, but just being out in the midnight air hunting snook is something to be cherished.

Well, my father and I don’t go plugging for snook on the Green Bridge any more. The Green Bridge closed in 1986 and they made a fishing pier out of it. Nowadays, I catch my snook out of a boat using live shiners. This is much easier than casting a plug all night long and seems to result in more fish. This being said, I can still say I love to catch snook thanks entirely to my father. I mainly practice catch and release, too. I guess I’m not only preserving a species of fish, I’m preserving a memory as well.