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Walking the beaches at night stalking trophy snook

July 19, 2019
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

While most on-foot summer snook anglers patrol the beaches at dawn or dusk, many old salts stay home waiting for the night beach bite.

It's no secret that snook - big trophy snook - bite at night and many snook fanatics and trophy snook guides only fish during the wee hours to stack the trophy odds in their favor.

For the night beach walker bite, first prepare the proper clothing - long pants, shirts, light socks, gloves, hat, even a light weight pull down buff, in other words cover up unless you want to spend the night swatting. Is it really that bad? Yes, sometimes worse and sometimes not so much. Not being prepared is the worst.

A hat with a built-in light on the brim is a great option, keeping you hands free to service equipment or for unhooking a monster, otherwise keep lights off as they can spook fish.

It's also no secret that trophy fish eat large baits or lures so I like using large surface poppers and large swimming plugs like large Rapala's or Bombers.

For surface lures in and around the surf zone, walking the dog retrieves with typical torpedo shaped surface lures works OK, but I get more attention from big beach fish by using large, loud popping plugs. Many northern transplant anglers have used Atom or Atomic plugs to catch striped bass and these big heavy-duty poppers not only cast far but catch big surf snook as well.

Make some noise! I never let the lure just sit there making occasional pops. Make a long cast and let the plug rest for a five to 10 count then rip and skip these plugs across the surface in 3 to 4-foot retrieves, rest for a three count then repeat.

With large swimming/floating/diving plugs, try different retrieves. Steady swim them or swim and pause. These plugs can also be deadly when the loud popper doesn't work. Try swimming a large Bomber plug slowly across a calm surface in a steady unbroken retrieve which produces an easy to track and enticing "wounded fish" wake in the moonlight.

Long casts out to the horizon aren't necessary. Turn and throw your plugs parallel to the beach. Your first cast should be very close to the beach with each cast a little further out till you reach hip deep water. No takers? Now turn and cast the other way till you've covered that water then move to a new stretch of beach and continue. Usually I never fish outside hip-deep depths when beach walking at night unless I can hear or "see" surface activity outside the surf zone.

Never forget you're in the middle of shark season and big sharks often hunt shallow at night and lurk around beach passes. When beach fishing at night, I'm never in water above my knees and usually in less.

You can't throw and retrieve a big popping plug properly or cast a 15-inch live mullet with a wimpy rod. Use a 7.5 to 8.5-foot spinning rod with backbone and a tip that has some flex. Thirty-pound braid and a 40 to 60-pound leader would be a good line/leader beach choice. At night with only a trophy in mind, I'm fishing 60-pound mono leaders.

I've been getting lots of reports from bottom anglers of really big snook caught on near-shore reefs. A diver buddy recently showed me film he shot of a huge school of really big snook not many miles off our coast.

If you like your night snook inside a bit, check out all docks close to the beach areas as they are swarming with snook especially at night. Lighted docks draw bait and predators and snook are easily seen swimming near the top at night. Fish deeper as the big ones are hanging low and out of the light.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or



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