By ALEXIS A. TROTTER, FWC-Florida Marine Research Institute
With the recent reopening of snook season, we present this comprehensive reference prepared by fishery scientist Alexis Trotter. In it she reviews state regulations, as well as the ongoing fisheries management efforts in protecting and enhancing Florida’s snook populations. It’s a valuable guide for anglers and what they can do to make sure this prized species survives for future generations.
The common snook, Centropomus undecimalis, is one of the most recreationally and economically important sportfish in south Florida waters. In 2001, snook was the fifth most targeted species on the Atlantic Coast and the fourth most targeted species on the Gulf Coast. Furthermore, 41 percent of all resident saltwater license holders also purchased a snook stamp.
It is also one of the most highly regulated species in state waters, having been declared both a gamefish (1957) and a species of special concern (1982). Current regulations vary by coast, but include a restricted size for harvest, closed seasons, and strict bag limits.
New Slot Size: 28” to 32” total length
Closed Season: June, July, and August. December through January.
New Bag Limit: 1 per person per day.
GULF COAST (including Everglades National Park and Monroe County)
New Slot Size: 28” to 33” total length
New Closed Season: May, June, July, and August. December through January.
Bag Limit: 1 per person per day.
Snook research through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Florida Marine Research Institute is a cooperative effort between three groups; Fish Biology, Fisheries Independent Monitoring (FIM), and Fisheries Dependant Monitoring (FDM). The Fish Biology section has three main projects aimed at collecting specific data. The first, and largest, project is the Snook Intercept and Carcass Recovery Program in which data is collected directly from anglers at popular fishing locations and boat ramps or indirectly from anglers leaving their filleted carcasses at designated bait and tackle stores. The primary goals for this project are to determine catch effort and release rates, as well as the age, sex, and size composition of the snook fishery on both coasts. For this program, each coast is divided into three regions and a minimum goal of 70 sampled carcasses per year is set for each region. In addition, biologists from the National Park Service collect data from two locations within the Everglades National Park. A list of designated bait and tackle stores for each coast is provided at the end of this article.
The other two projects are far less intensive, however they have the potential to provide the greatest amount of solid data for this species. The Independent Angling Survey began in May 2002 and is conducted through our Charlotte Harbor and Tequesta Field Laboratories. This program consists of biologists mimicking the fishing public, with respect to both gear type and fishing location, in order to obtain a controlled estimate of catch effort, release rates, and the size and sex composition of the snook fishery. Initially, snook of all sizes were sacrificed to determine the ages of snook at lengths that cannot be obtained from the fishing public. In 2002, Charlotte Harbor biologists conducted 61 fishing trips. 121 snook were caught and measured between 7.5 inches and 32.7 inches total length. The Tequesta staff made 66 trips and caught 269 snook between 12 inches and 44.5 inches total length. Data for 2003 is not yet available.
The final major project is the Angler Logbook Program in which selected recreational anglers and professional guides record data from as many, if not all, trips where snook are the targeted species. Data collected includes catch effort, release rates and sizes, and the lengths of all snook caught. This program began in 2002 and there are currently 32 participants on the Gulf Coast and 36 on the Atlantic Coast. This project has the potential to become the single greatest and most important provider of quality information regarding the common snook fishery, however it is entirely dependent on the cooperation of the fishing public. Throughout 2002, nearly 700 trips were recorded on the Gulf Coast and almost 400 were recorded on the Atlantic Coast. In 2003, eight anglers on the Gulf Coast have recorded 85 trips, while eleven anglers on the Atlantic Coast have conducted 243 trips targeting snook. Current participants are asked to submit their data to either the St. Petersburg or Tequesta Fish Biology staff. If you are interested in participating, or know someone who may be, please contact one of the biologists listed at the end of this article.
Finally, there are two specialized projects aimed at analyzing specific life history parameters of common snook. Independent feeding ecology projects are being conducted on both coasts to determine the diet of snook at different life history stages and to compare feeding habits with prey selection and availability. An analysis of a 14-year tagging database is also being conducted to determine the movement patterns of common snook along the Atlantic Coast. Previous studies on the Gulf Coast have determined that snook generally move less than 10 miles from the location in which they were tagged. However, snook on each coast are genetically separated and show marked differences in multiple life history parameters. It is currently believed that Atlantic Coast snook do demonstrate distinct seasonal movement patterns and analysis of this database will provide answers to those questions, as well as a clear definition of seasonal habitat preferences.
With the season open again, we would like to encourage anglers to continue to help as much as they have in the past. If you encounter a biologist at a ramp, pier, or jetty, please take a minute to answer their questions. The interviews are usually a few short questions, but can provide a great deal of valuable information. If you have caught a legal sized snook, please allow our biologists to take necessary samples (this will not affect your fillets) or donate your filleted carcass at one of the participating stores listed below. If you are dropping off a carcass, please do not break the backbone and try to leave all internal organs intact. Also, if you would like to receive updates and information about the data collected, please leave your contact information with the carcass. Finally, if you are interested in participating in the logbook program, please let one of us know. This project is extremely valuable to us and we will try to accommodate participants any way we can.
Official Atlantic Coast Drop-off Locations
Whitey’s Bait and Tackle – 9030 Hwy A1A, Melbourne Beach
Sebastian Inlet Bait and Tackle – 9700 S A1A, Melbourne Beach
St. Lucie County:
White’s Tackle Shop – 521 N 2nd St, Ft. Pierce
Snook Nook – 3595 NE Indian River Dr, Jensen Beach
Gaffer’s Bait and Tackle – 4480 SE St. Lucie Blvd, Stuart
Palm Beach County:
Fishing Headquarters – 633A Alt. A1A, Jupiter
Lott Bros. – 631 Northlake Blvd, N. Palm Beach
Kingsbury and Son’s Tackle, Inc. – 1801 S Federal Hwy, Ft. Lauderdale
Angler’s Bait and Tackle – 230 E Dania Beach Blvd, Dania Beach
High Tailin-it Bait and Tackle – 20264 Old Cutler Rd, Miami
Pirate’s Den at Black Point Marina – 24775 SW 87th Ave, Miami
A-OK Fish “N” Bait – 732 S Krome St, Homestead
Don’s Bait and Tackle – 30710 S Federal Hwy, Homestead
Jack’s Bait and Tackle – 35412 S Federal Hwy, Florida City
Official Gulf Coast Drop-off Locations
Rodbender’s – 5200 W Tyson Ave, Tampa
Gandy Bait and Tackle – 4923 W Gandy Blvd, Tampa
Shell Point Marina – 3340 W Shell Pt. Rd, Ruskin
Bonnie’s Bait and Tackle – 613 S Ft. Harrison Ave, Clearwater
Discount Tackle Outlet – 3113 1st St, Bradenton
New Pass Bait and Grill – 1498 ½ Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota
CB’s Saltwater Outfitters – 1249 Stickney Pt. Rd, Siesta Key
Master Bait and Tackle – 4465 Bonita Beach Rd, Bonita Beach
Lehr’s Economy Tackle – 1366 N Tamiami Trail, N. Ft. Myers
Seven Seas Bait and Tackle – 4270 Pine Island Rd, Matlacha
The Bait House – 16758 McGregor Blvd, Ft. Myers
Angler’s Outlet – 4404 Del Prado Blvd, Cape Coral
Dead or Alive Bait and Tackle at Everest Marina – 1838 Everest Pkwy, Cape Coral
Shack Baits at Punta Rassa Ramp – 18500 McGregor Blvd, Ft. Myers
Fish Tale Marina – 7225 Estero Blvd, Ft. Myers Beach
The Bait Box – 1041 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Island
Angler’s Answer – 11387 Tamiami Trail E, Naples
Sunshine ACE Hardware – 141 9th St. N, Naples
Marco River Marina – 951 Bald Eagle Dr, Marco Island
Moran’s Barge Marina – 3200 San Marco Rd, Marco Island
Caxambas Pass Bait/Ship Store – 909 Collier Ct, Marco Island
For questions or information regarding Atlantic Coast snook, contact:
Jim Whittington, Tom Eddie, Laura Lambremont, or Beau Yeiser
P.O. Box 3478
Tequesta, FL 33469
(561) 575 – 5408
For questions or information regarding Gulf Coast snook, contact:
Ron Taylor or Alexis Trotter
100 Eighth Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 896 – 8626