Just when you thought that real trophy snook are a thing of myth or only pictures in the pages of glossy outdoor magazines, you finally get to see one up close and personal.
Last year at this time we were casting a shoreline when a client spotted two 24-inch class snook milling around a long log. As we got closer the log came to life and as the jumbo female bolted away leaving her two boyfriends and a huge wake, all aboard realized we were only a cast away from possibly hooking a snook near the 50-inch mark.
This week, as we casted a mangrove shoreline for redfish, the wind caught one of my casts landing the plug in the bushes. As I moved in with the trolling motor to retrieve the expensive plug a huge linesider, easily a fat four-footer, shot out from under the mangroves right past my trolling motor prop and made a torpedo-like wake across the flat toward the channel. This monster was in no more than 10 inches of water, tucked way back under the bushes about 50 yards south of Bert's Bar. I had to sit down to collect myself.
Capt. George Tunison
Those that witnessed the winter snook kill of a few years back can attest to the sheer number of trophy fish killed. I saw one canal so full of dead snook it was like chrome carpet with 99 percent of the dead and dying, all in the adult to whale size class.
The point? When looking for that once-in-a-lifetime snook trophy or any trophy animal, rule one is the total belief that your fish is there. They do exist and are all around you when fishing, and in some cases watching you search for them. After seeing acres of dead trophies in canal after canal, it really brought home the point that 40-inch-plus snook trophies were plentiful, but not easily catchable.
Confidence in fishing is a huge factor. A trophy snook in Matlacha Pass can name at least 27 different lures by brand and weight and probably has been caught and released one or more times as a youngster. She can tell the brand of your trolling motor by its hum and can smell your sunscreen on the live bait you unknowingly pitched to within a foot of her long snout, which she rejected without you ever knowing you were mere inches from the fish of a lifetime.
Don't give up and be prepared to suffer if you are a trophy-inclined fisherman no matter what the species. My snook of a lifetime came after three successive summer nights casting the same current flooded point in the river, wearing a hot as blazes bug suit. I knew the fish had to be there as all the conditions were perfect. Now I just had to pay my dues and sweat it out. On the third night she finally struck my MirrOlure. Confidence.
Have a total understanding of your fish. Know its habits and quirks, how it uses the tides and currents, preferred baits and seasonal patterns.
Be prepared with the right equipment. You don't hunt elephants with a .22 and you don't chase trophy snook with fairy wands and six-pound test line. Forty-pound fluorocarbon leaders are minimum and in nasty bridge or dock structure with heavy current flow. For that one fish of a lifetime, it's not uncommon to go to 100-plus-pound leader material.
Learn as much as possible about your adversary, know your equipment and how to handle your boat quietly and efficiently. Be prepared for long hours and hard work. Put the odds in your favor and pray for luck.
Trophy anglers aren't out to catch a mess of fish, just one.
Reds still on the flats and under the bushes, big trout still on the flats. Snook are on their way to summer locations near and around the passes.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.flyingfinssportfishing,com.