The Snook Fallacy
The rumor come true, the FWC has announced that they will reopen snook to harvest in September.
Very little celebration is heard from this one. In fact, there is predominantly confusion and dissent on this one. Decimated by a freeze in January 2010 where daytime temperatures did not reach 50 for four straight days, the long and slow recovery process was stunted by a first spawn failure in 2010. The actual regeneration of a species that, in the Tampa Bay area, lost over 95% of the total population- is a slow and methodical process.
The decision to open this species to harvest could not come at a worse time. There are a significant number of “slot” size fish that could legally be removed from the population. Those would be trophy size fish in the near future that we would be able to enjoy (again, and again, and again) which will become large breeding female fish in the near future.
This decision is particularly disappointing when you find out that the state officials utilized zero of the guide resources available to them. None of the premier guides I talked to have stated that anyone from the FWC contacted them to ask about their observations. In general, the overall feeling is that there are some reasons to be encouraged about the species but overall, the recovery is a long way from complete. The massive population we enjoyed for a long time is not restored. Locations that “would” have hundreds and hundreds of pre-spawn fish have a few dozen.
Personal decisions will determine the future of this species, regardless of what their final rulings. If you know what I do, you would not even consider killing a snook. If people continue to practice great release techniques and put back every fish, the species will return to 2009 levels much quicker. Don’t let a baffling bad decision make all the difference: Spread the word. Let all of your fishing friends know. Have them talk to the guides and very experienced local anglers about this situation. I believe that if you do your research, you will decide that you will not be killing any snook when “the season opens.” Do not let their bad decision dictate the future of a resource that belongs to us all.
You like to eat fish? Harvest one of the other species that are abundant. Eventually, snook will return to a level where I would classify it a sustained fishery again. That time is not here.