River Snook Fishing Charters

River snook fishing

Anglers seeking the chance to catch a trophy snook in a unique environment with awesome scenery my choose to do a river snook fishing charter. Several area rivers offer anglers this opportunity.  The Myakka River and Manatee River experience snook migrations in the winter. Anglers can catch trophy snook along with largemouth bass in a very cool setting.

river snook fishing

Snook are the premier inshore gamefish in Florida.  They are a saltwater version of largemouth bass.  Snook are ambush predators with a huge mouth and big, broad tail.  They are very powerful!  Snook are found from about Orlando, Florida south along both coasts and in central America.  The Florida record snook is 44 pounds, but they grow to over 50 pounds.  Clients on these river snook charters catch fish of 25″ on most trips.  30″ snook are not uncommon and fish to 40″ are hooked every year.  That truly is a trophy on medium spinning tackle!

Seasonal snook migrations

Snook have a very distinct seasonal migration.  They spend spring, summer, and fall our in the inshore bays, passes and inlets, and open Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.  They spawn out in open water.  Snook spend their winters in creeks, rivers, and residential canals.  They do this to escape the temperature extremes that can occur on the open flats.  Shallow water can change temperature quickly.  The water temperature on the flats can drop ten degrees in a couple of days.

Fly fishing for river snook

Snook are a sub-tropical species that can not tolerate water below 55 degrees for very long.  For this reason, they migrate up into creeks, rivers, and canals.  River waters are dark and stained. They also have deeper holes.  For these reasons, snok move nto these areas to survive a harsh Florida winter.  River waters are generally significantly warmer than the open bays.  Many fish species migrate up into freshwater streams and rivers.  However, snook are one of the few fish species that do this for reasons other than to spawn.  Snook can live and thrive in both pure fresh and pure salt water.

There are three rivers near Sarasota that experience these migrations.  They are the Myakka River, Manatee River, and Braden River.  All three offer good snook fishing.  They are similar but each has it’s own character and advantages.  The Myakka is the prettiest, the Manatee has the most variety, and the Braden is the most convenient.  Let’s go through the three of them.

The Myakka River

river snook fishing

The Myakka River is one of the two rivers in Florida designated a “Wild and scenic river”.  That means that there is limited access and development.  The Myakka River flows 70 miles from a small stream in Manatee County to Charlotte Harbor.  It flows through Myakka River State Park.  There is a dam that creates Lower Myakka Lake.  The water below the dam is the tidally influenced portion of the river that holds snook.

The best place to access the Myakka River is at Snook Haven.  It is right in the center of the best river snook fishing.  There is a brand new ramp with ample parking.  The river does get shallow in spots.  The entire river is a “No Wake” zone, idle speed only.  There are canoe and kayak launches at Myakka River Park in Laurel and Sleeping Turtles Reserve in Venice.

As mentioned earlier, the scenery is awesome on the Myakka!  It has an “Amazon River” like feel to it.  Bird life is prolific and other wildlife will normally be seen.  There are some large gators!  The Myakka River offers anglers the best chance for trophy snook.  Largemouth bass are present in decent numbers as well.  Juvenile tarpon, jacks, catfish, and gar are occasional catches.

The Manatee River

The Manatee River flows west from Manatee County 20 miles easy of I-75.  A dam created Lake Manatee, which provides drinking water for Sarasota and Manatee Counties.  The river below the dam runs for 10 miles or so and empties into Tampa Bay.  There is more development on the Manatee River, but it is still pretty, especially upriver from Rye Road Bridge.  This area of the river has some shallow bars and can be difficult to navigate during periods of low water.

I like to fish the stretch between Ft. Hamer and Rye Road.  I usually launch at Ray’s Canoe Hideaway, a place that time kind of forgot!  The ramp is narrow and a 16′ boat is about the limit.  There is parking and facilities, along with a little store.  They offer canoe and kayak rentals.  There is a very nice ramp with facilities and parking at the new Ft. Hamer Bridge.  This ramp is much better suited for larger boats.  The best river snook fishing is usually up-river.

The Manatee River offers anglers the opportunity to catch multiple species along with trophy snook on a river fishing charter.  Snook, jack crevelle, redfish, juvenile tarpon, snapper, and ladyfish are saltwater species that are taken there.  Freshwater fish are plentiful, especially the further up-river and angler goes.  I think that during the summer floods fish get washed over the dam.  Bass, bluegill, catfish, sunshine bass, and crappie are all available.

The Braden River

The Braden River is located in Bradenton west of I-75.  It again is a stream with a dam, creating a lake.  The stretch below the dam is about five miles long before emptying into the Manatee River.  The water is quite salty, due to the short length.  Therefore, it really does not offer the opportunity to catch freshwater fish.  The Braden River is fairly developed and the scenery does not match the other two rivers.  It is very convenient, especially to the Bradenton beaches.  That is the trade off.  Snook fishing can be very good, though.

river snook fishing

Anglers access the Braden River at the ramp at the State Road 64 Bridge.  The ramp is decent, with parking and a clean Porta Potti.  In the cooler months the best fishing is up-river.  Anglers do well in spring and fall right at the mouth of the Braden River.

River snook fishing lures

I use artificial lures when river snook fishing.  There are several reasons for this.  The primary reason is that lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time.  Lures will elicit reaction strikes from fish that may not be in a feeding mood.  Finally, I just think it is more fun feeling the strike when working artificial baits.  They also fool other species such as largemouth bass and jack crevalle.

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

My favorite lure for catching river snook is a shallow diving plug.  There are many fine plug manufacturers out there.  My personal preference is the Rapala line of baits.  The three plugs that I most often use are the #10 Rapala X-Rap slash bait, #10 Rapala BX Minnow, and the Rapala Jointed BX MInnow.  Gold and Firetiger have been the most productive colors for me and my clients.  These lures also run at the perfect depth.  They go deep enough yet run above much of the submerged cover.

river bass fishing

River fishing with plugs

These lures cast well, are easy to use, and produce some exciting strikes!  The plug is cast out towards some shoreline cover.  It is then retrieved back in using sharp twitches followed by a short pause.  Many strikes occur on the pause.  No hook set is required when a fish takes the plug.  Anglers should just come tight and sweep the rod smoothly off to the side.  Care must be taken when plug fishing as they have multiple treble hooks!  Angler need to fish the bait all the way back in.  Strikes occur regularly right at the boat.

Soft plastic baits can produce as well, especially in cooler water when snook are not as active.  They are also effective to thoroughly work an area once fish are located.  Bass Assassin baits are my preference.  They come in many different sizes and colors.  I like darker colors with Golden Bream being my favorite.  The Die Dapper on a 1/8 ounce Pro Elite jig head works well.  These baits will hang up more often that plugs.  The hook-up ratio is lower as well as the bite can be more subtle.

River snook fishing techniques

Fishing these rivers is relatively uncomplicated.  Anglers drift with the current and cast lures towards structure along the shoreline.  Even if cover is not visible, chances are there is a ledge or come submerged cover that may hold a fish.  The best areas of the river are those that twist and wind.  Outside bends and corners in the river tend to be deeper.  Current flow gouges out a hole in the bends.  Snook and other fish will concentrate in these spots.

Long straight sections of a river tend to be less productive.  I will usually move a little quicker through these stretches.  Anglers will still give each trell or piece of brush a cast or two, but we will move faster and concentrate on the more high percentage spots.

Drift with the current

I have found that it is much more productive to drift in the direction of the current. Trying to fish while going against the current results in a “bow” in the line.  This is especially true when fly fishing.  I either case, this causes the lure or fly to be presented in a less than natural manner.  The slack created makes hooking the more difficult as well.  The angler must remove the extra line before coming tight on the fish.  So, fewer bites, less hooked fish equals; drifting with the current and not against it!

River current is caused by both the natural flow and by the tidal influence.  This can be a bit confusing.  There can be a swift down stream current from rain and then an incoming tide, causing the water to rise.  This is another reason that falling tides are preferred.  However, tides are tricky.  There are no charts for anglers fishing this far up-river.  I use the closest tide tables and add an hour or two.  However, only experience and time on the water will give an anglers the tide variables.

Tackle for river snook

Medium spinning tackle is most often used for river snook fishing.  It is versatile and perfect for the size of the lures being cast.  It works well for the size of the fish being targeted.  A7′ medium/heavy action rod with a fast action works best.  A “fast” action rod is stout at the butt with a limber tip.  This allows lures to be cast but backbone for fighting fish.

Experienced anglers, especially bass fishermen, may opt for bait casting tackle.  That is perfectly fine, as the lures are heady enough for that tackle.  Bait casting reels are great for casting plugs towards the shoreline.  They also provide a bit more power than spinning reels do.

Sarasota snook

Braided line is a must for fishing in this environment, in my opinion.  Snags and cover are plentiful.  It is important to be able to stop a big fish.  Also, the line will often rub up against cover when fighting a fish.  20 pound braid works well with spinning outfits.  40 pound braid is a good choice with conventional rigs.  A 30″ piece of 40 pound flourocarbon shock leader is attached to the braid.

Fly fishing for river snook

Fly anglers can certainly target river snook as well.  A stout 9wt outfit is required in the heavy cover.  An intermediate sink tip line works best to get the fly down in the water column.  The leader need not be long, 6′ to 8′ is fine with a 40 pound bite tippet.  Fly selection would include bait fish patterns in white, chartreuse, and gold/black.  Clouser Minnow and Puglisi patterns have been productive for my clients.  The fly should be cast out and allowed to sink.  It is then retrieved back in using sharp strips.

River snook fishing is not for every angler.  It requires patience and some casting skill.  The river fishing angler is there as much for the experience as the fish.  Quality is the goal, not quantity.  However, every angler goes knowing that each cast can produce a 30″ snook.  Come out with me on a river snook fishing charter and experience the “Old Florida” on these rivers!  For other Florida fishing reports, click HERE.

In conclusion, this post on river snook fishing charters will excite anglers into taking a trip!

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarasota Snook Fishing

Sarasota snook fishing

Visiting anglers love Sarasota snook fishing! Snook are without a doubt Florida’s premier inshore game fish. Snook grow quite large, the state record is 44 pounds. They fight very hard, hit artificial lures with abandon, and are available here all year for clients taking out a Sarasota fishing charter.

Snook habits are a lot like those of largemouth bass. They are structure oriented ambush predators. Snook are usually found under or near cover such as docks oyster bars, bridges, mangrove shorelines, and other structure, natural or man-made. They use their broad powerful tail to quickly overtake prey. Snook have very large mouth and can easily inhale a large bait fish.  Sarasota has a good population of snook and offers good year-round fishing for them.

Sarasota snook fishing

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

Read current Sarasota fishing report

Seasonal migrations

Snook have a very distinct seasonal migration. Let’s go through the annual process. In the winter, especially if it’s been chilly, snook will be up in creeks, rivers, and residential canals. The water in these areas is warmer than the exposed shallow flats of Sarasota Bay. Snook are very temperature intolerant; extended exposure to water below 60° can kill them. Most canals creeks and rivers have deeper holes where snook can find sanctuary. Often times, the water is darker as well. Darker water is usually warmer. Finally, bait fish move up into these areas for the same reason thus providing forage for the snook.

Sarasota snook fishing

As it begins to warm up and spring, snook will migrate out of these creeks canals and rivers. They will move into the backwater inshore areas of Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay. These bays have expanses of shallow grass along with mangrove lined banks. Oyster bars, mangrove shorelines, and docks will hold snook as a set up feeding stations.

Summertime snook habits

By May, many of the snook, especially the larger ones, will move into the passes and out onto the beaches. Snook spawn out on the beach and in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. They tend to school up this time of year. By September, the pattern reverses itself. Snook will move back into the bays to feed up, eventually winding up in the creeks rivers and canals by the end of the year.

Siesta Key snook fishing

 

Tackle for Sarasota snook fishing needs to be a bit stouter than what is used for speckled trout and other species. A 7 foot fast action rod (that is strong at the handle with a lot of back bone but with a softer tip) and a 3000 series reel is a good outfit. Braided line is best as a lot of snook fishing is done near structure. A “shock leader” is used when snook fishing. They have a razor sharp gill plate, so a 24” piece of 40 pound flourocarbon leader is required.

River snook fishing

I really enjoy fishing for snook in the creeks and rivers in the wintertime. Snook are relatively concentrated in the smaller bodies of water, thus easier to locate. There are several creeks in the area; Philliippi Creek, Bowlee’s Creek, and Whittaker and Hudson Bayous that hold snook in the winter. Siesta Key and Longboat Key have many miles of residential canals that hold fish as well.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

I especially enjoy making the short drive out to several of the area rivers. The Myakka River in Venice Florida and the Manatee River in Bradenton Florida offer terrific winter snook fishing. These rivers have a freshwater feel to them. Using my 14 foot Alumacraft Jon boat, we drift down the peaceful river with the current while my anglers cast lures to likely fish holding structure. Downed trees, rocky banks, and deep holes are all likely spots.

Both the Manatee River and Myakka River are just a short 30 to 40 minute drive from the Sarasota beaches. But it seems like a world away! The Myakka River in particular offer some fantastic scenery in a very unique fishing opportunity. Bird life is abundant and large alligators are seen regularly. Another bonus is the opportunity to catch largemouth bass mixed in with the snook.

Sarasota snook fishing

Snook thrive in brackish water

These rivers are brackish, which means they are a mixture of fresh and saltwater. This is an environment that both snook and bass thrive in. Jack crevelle, redfish, catfish, juvenile tarpon, gar, sunshine bass ( a striper white bass hybrid) and other species are also taken on these river fishing charters.

The Braden River is a tributary on the Manatee River and offers good winter Sarasota snook fishing. It is strictly saltwater, the dam at Lake Manatee keeps the fresh water from mixing with the salt water. Large jack crevelle are plentiful there in the winter. The Braden River is a bit more developed, but is also closer to Sarasota. It is a good winter snook option on Sarasota fishing charters.

Snook lures

I prefer artificial lures for my winter snook fishing. My favorite lure is the Rapala X Rap. These lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water quickly which is important. The erratic action of the plug’s triggers some jarring strikes! The pair of treble hooks results in a good bite to hookup ratio. Gold with a black back is a great color in the tannin river water.

Soft plastic swim baits such as the Bass Assassin Die Dapper are used as well. Dark colors such as Golden Bream work well in the dark, tannin water. Most times the bait is taken on the fall or after the first couple of hops. Anglers can rig soft plastic baits weedless on a horizontal weighted hook. In more open water, a 1/8 ounce jig head works well.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Artificial lures work well when snook fishing on the flats

Fishing for snook in the inshore flats and backwaters of Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay is also very enjoyable. Once again, artificial lures are my choice as they allow anglers to cover as much water as possible. Clients will work oyster bars drop-offs, docks, and other likely ambush points. The same Rapala X Raps work well here, with olive and ghost being better colors in the lighter water.

Soft plastic baits work very well in this application as well. A 1/8 ounce Bass Assassin Pro Elite jig head is a good choice. A stout hook is required when fishing for big snook. The Die Dapper swim bait in root beer works well. White Gulp jerk worms are another proven bait for backwater snook fishing. Redfish and jacks will also hit the same lures in the same areas, just an added bonus!

Snook fishing with live bait

Live bait certainly produces when Sarasota snook fishing in the back country. A live large shrimp fished near the dock pilings, oyster bar, or other structure will often produce snook as well as other species. Shrimp produce very well for anglers fishing lighted docks and bridges at night as well. Small bait fish such as pin fish and grunts will produce, often catching larger fish.

Sarasota snook fishing

There is a specialized technique I utilize in the spring and the fall to catch a lot of snook. This is called live bait chumming. When conditions are right, I will use my cast net to catch a bunch of good-sized pilchards in the 3 inch range. I will then anchor the boat near a likely spot, be it a dock or mangrove shoreline. I will toss out a couple handfuls of baits that are not hooked. These free swimming baits will hopefully attract snook. Once the snook are excited and into a feeding mood, hooked baits are tossed into the fray. This technique gives even the novice angler a chance to catch a nice fish.

Night fishing for snook

Night fishing is another very productive, yet kind of specialized technique. Snook are nocturnal feeders and do most of their active feeding at night. All area bridges have lights on the fender systems. These lights attract glass minnows and shrimp, which in turn attracts game fish. Snook can be seen stacked up under these lights. Many docks have “snook lights” on them as well.

night fishing for snook

Boat positioning is very important when night fishing. The best approach is to anchor forty feet or so out from the light and a bit up-current. This allows for a natural presentation to the fish in the light. It is not quite as easy as it sounds, especially on a breezy evening with strong tides.

Live shrimp works very well for night fishing. They will catch speckled trout, snapper, ladyfish, and other species as well. A medium sized shrimp is perfect. Free line the shrimp on a #1/0 bait hook and add a split shot if required due to a strong current. Lures such as plugs, jigs, and shrimp imitations work well, too. Fly anglers can catch a lot of snook at night! Small white bait fish patterns mimic the glass minnows perfectly. Flies can also be very subtle in their presentation.

Tides

Tides are very important when it comes to locating snook. Very low tides will concentrate fish in the holes and in the deeper water of channels. Snook will not allow themselves to be exposed on a very shallow flat at low tide. As the tide rises fish will move out of these deeper areas and up on the flats and shorelines to feed. High tides allow anglers to get all the way up into the back country, but can also make it difficult to locate fish as a scatter over a large area.

Sarasota snook

Think of tide direction like current in a river. Game fish will take up station down tide of a piece of structure. Tide ( or current) will bring shrimp and bait fish to them. It is a lot like a freshwater trout holding behind a rock in a stream. Tides will position fish on a piece of structure as well as a large flat. Understanding tides and how they affect fish movements is critical to being a successful snook angler.

Falling tides are my preferred tide for snook fishing. As water pulls out of the bays, fish will stage at likely ambush points. Even the slightest depth change can hold fish. Cuts and oyster bars, mouths of creeks, and points with tide swirling around it are all great spots to targets snook on a fallen tide. Schools of bait fish such as glass minnows and others small bait fish only increase the chances. Add in some cloud cover or low light conditions such as early-morning late afternoon, and you have very good chances of catching and inshore snook!

Snook fishing in the passes

Both big Sarasota Pass and New Pass hold a lot of snook all summer long. The north end of Siesta Key in Big Pass in particular has abundant structure and deep water. Snook and other game fish find this very attractive. As much is I enjoy using artificial baits, live bait works best in the passes. Large hand picked shrimp are fantastic bait! 3 inch to 4 inch pin fish and grunts also work well, as does a large pilchard.

family fishing charters in Sarasota

Again, outgoing tides are preferred for snook fishing in the passes, however, they will feed on the incoming tide as well. A 2/0 live bait hook with a 24′ piece of 40 pound leader and just enough weight to hold bottom is the preferred rate. During periods of very little title movement, the bait can be free lined. This means no weight is used at all, just the hook and bait. Some of the largest snook of the year will be caught using these techniques.

Fly fishing for snook

One little secret we have in this area is the fantastic site fishing for snook off of the Sarasota and Siesta Key beaches. When the water is clear and the surface calm, snook can be seen cruising right in the surf line searching for crabs and bait fish. Anglers can use light spinning tackle and fly tackle to sight cast to these cruising fish. Light tackle can be used as this is all open water, there are very few obstructions for the snook to wrap up in.

Although snook can be caught at all times of day off the beach mornings are best. The prime time is from around 7:30 AM to 10 o’clock or so. At this morning our it is still cool and there are very few swimmers. Anglers will pick a likely stretch of beach and walk north with the sun at his or her back, optimizing sight fishing possibilities. Once fish are spotted, the lure fly is cast out a bit ahead of the fish and worked back to it. It is great fun to watch the snook take your lure fly and then put up a great battle!

In conclusion, this article on Sarasota snook fishing will help anglers catch more of these terrific game fish!

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236