Hitting the beach for some Florida fishing
Fishing for snook and family fun
Special to the Daily
One thing the last year has reinforced is the importance of home waters.
Unable to travel, locals embraced the known, around-the-corner and down-the-street locations to fish. We are surrounded by some of the most majestic vistas and watersheds in the world.
But now that vaccinations have progressed to the point where conditions are acceptable for travel, fly anglers are heading out. After a long winter the beach is where we all want to go.
Make him an offer
My personal travels have landed me in Florida along the Gulf Coast, Captiva Island to be exact. One of my favorite fly-fishing pursuits is chasing Snook along the beach.
Snook are intimidating fish with their bottom jaw extending out like Marlon Brando in “The Godfather.” Their wide eyes watch your movement. And their paddle for a tail can move through water like an old Evinrude outboard motor.
Snook spawn in the summer and are closed to harvest starting in June. With a no-harvest season, fly anglers can have a shot at snook that act more relaxed and natural. As a result, snook are more apt to taking a fly.
Snook are broad-shouldered fish capable of blistering, jumping runs when you set the hook. What most beach goers don’t realize is where the snook are. They are right next to the beach, and I mean shallow.
The trough in the sand that crashing waves carve is the highway for snook in the summertime. Large females glide down the beach in the swash zone looking for baitfish to engulf easily. Smaller, active males are encountered more often on the beach. Both male and female snook suck down glass minnows and shrimp with a loud audible.
Snook also inhabit the backcountry mangrove forests where young spend their rookery time before heading out into deeper currents. The mangroves are also the wintertime holding water for snook avoiding cold temperatures. Casting tightly under the overhanging mangrove branches places your fly on the snook’s dinner plate.
On the trail
There is a paddle trail in Tarpon Bay on Sanibel Island, the connecting island to Captiva Island, that leads kayakers through the tunnels in the mangroves and into an open lagoon full of juvenile tarpon, snook and redfish.
Time your paddling with the tides and take advantage of the plentiful opportunities the trail and Tarpon Bay provide for kayaking fly anglers. It’s a stealthy approach not many fly anglers take full advantage of.
This time on the trail I was able to catch the tide right and pulled numerous snook from the mouth of the trail where current had stacked up baitfish. Snook popped and rolled on a variety of flies. A young family came paddling along with mom and dad on SUPs and their little kids, Paisley and Branden ages 7 and 5, on kayaks.
The little boy spoke right up to me. “What you catching?”
“Snook.” I told him.
His eyes lit up. “We’re fishing for snook too.”
Finding ‘The Spot’
I overheard the father tell the kids I was in “The Spot“ as the tidal current pushed them past me. A few minutes later they paddled back by me heading out. I had caught a few from The Spot and asked them to take it over. The little boy was ready. It was a treat to watch all of them working spinning rods, mom, dad and both kids. Tossing shrimp for mangrove snappers and the occasional snook.
I told them how much I enjoyed seeing a family fishing together. Asked them if they caught a fish could I take a photo? I wanted to put them in my article. Proud papa, named Rip, went to work. Within minutes they had the first snapper on the hook. The next fish was a good snook. We laughed and snapped some quick photos of the family on their vacation from Orlando fishing. Love it.
We need the next generation of anglers, like Paisley and Branden and my daughters Emily and Ella, to take care of the water and fish. With families like this on the water I’m feeling pretty good about the chances. So no matter where you’re from, Orlando, Florida, or Eagle, Colorado, take your family out fishing.
Travel was one of the things my wife wanted to do once our family was vaccinated. While we love dearly the place we call home, a much needed vacation to the beach called out a siren’s song. Snook on the beach is what I found. And a family paddling and fishing together.
Michael Salomone moved to the Eagle River valley in 1992. He began guiding fly-fishing professionally in 2002. His freelance writing has been published in numerous magazines and websites including; Southwest Fly Fishing, Fly Rod & Reel, Eastern Fly Fishing, On the Fly mag, FlyLords, the Pointing Dog Journal, Upland Almanac, the Echo website, Vail Valley Anglers and more. He lives on the bank of the Eagle River with his wife, Lori; two daughters, Emily and Ella; and a brace of yellow labrador retrievers.