Snook are one of the top game fish that can be caught year-round in the Crystal River area. They are prized for their fighting ability and excellent culinary value.
The Crystal River area has several features that make it an ideal place to target snook. Warm spring-fed rivers and creeks, estuarine coastal ecosystems, oysters and rocky bottoms, mangrove-lined coastline, and critical salt marsh habitats all play a role.
Snook generally require water temperatures over 60℉ for survival. With numerous named and unnamed springs found in the area that pump out water at 72℉ year-round, there are many locations in and around Crystal River where snook can find warm water for overwintering when the Gulf of Mexico water temperature drops.
The estuarine environment on the coast is also a key to their success in the area. These habitats serve as the nursery grounds for many types of fish, crustaceans, and shellfish. Juvenile snook thrive in these settings and some adults set up residence to feed on the variety of prey available.
Adult snook do not migrate, and access to higher salinity water is essential for spawning. The nearby Gulf of Mexico waters fills this need. The Crystal River area provides all the environmental factors for snook to thrive.
The many miles of mangrove shorelines also provide cover for both prey and predators. Snook will lurk tucked away in the mangrove roots waiting for prey or a fisherman’s lure to pass within striking range.
They will then lunge out of cover to capture their target. Snook can also be found near other ambush points, such as oyster bars, rocks, shoreline points, and deeper pockets.
Snook can exceed 40 inches, so fishing for them can require slightly heavier tackle than other inshore species. In particular, heavier fluorocarbon leaders (30 to 50 pounds) are important to avoid getting cut off by structure or the fish’s sharp gill plates.
A stout rod and good drag are also needed to stop them from getting back into cover and breaking off.
Snook often feed more in low light conditions. A particularly fun way to catch snook is to work a topwater plug near structures pre-dawn and around sunrise and sunset. Other techniques include weedless rigged paddle tails and of course live bait (shrimp, pinfish, etc.) drifted by the same structures.
During the regulated seasons, one snook between 28 and 32 inches can be harvested per angler. This protects the large breeding females. Snook season is closed during the months of December through February and May through August, to minimize the impact on spawning.
Captain Casey Russell knows where to find snook throughout the year in Crystal River. The best time of year to catch snook is spring and summer, so book your trip now for the upcoming peak of the season.