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September 04, 2013

Charlotte Harbor Snook on the Rebound

Florida Gulf Coast season reopens following 2010 freezes.

What general areas in the Charlotte Harbor area do you fish during peak seasons? What tides?

O’Bannon: The areas we fish vary with the tide, water temperature and wind direction.

Pecci: All tides fish well as long as there’s moving water. Transitions from grass to sand or mangroves to sand hold fish consistently, and sight casting is possible in many locations throughout the lower harbor, where the water is clear.

The middle and upper sections of the harbor have brackish water, limiting visibility, but blind casting to moving water around the mangroves is productive. Staking up and broadcasting live bait into the mangroves draws the snook out of the roots, where they’ll attack a live-lined bait.

Early and late in the day are best when it’s hot. Snook go way back in the mangroves to escape mid-day heat, making it tough to get them on anything other than live bait. And as with many other locations, night fishing is quite productive.

For anglers using conventional tackle, what's the basic gear setup (rod, reel, line, terminal tackle), and what bait is most commonly used and most successful?

O’Bannon: The tackle I use for snook is 8- to 15-pound braided line and 30- to 50-pound fluorocarbon leader. I recommend circle hooks for live bait. I use 7- to 8-foot rods, and I really like the new inshore series of Fin-Nor spinning reels in sizes 2500 and 4000. With that being said, if I fish around any kind of structure for big snook much heavier tackle must be used.

In the warmer weather, I use white bait; in cooler weather, shrimp work well. For artificial bait, I recommend the MirroLure hard baits and the Salt Water Assassin soft plastics.

Pecci: Medium–heavy spinning and bait-casting rigs keep the snook out of the mangroves once hooked. Twenty-pound mono or 20- to 30-pound braid is common. Snook can be leader-shy but you’ll need a 30- to 40-pound fluorocarbon leader because of their abrasive mouths and razor-sharp gill plates.

You can get more hookups with 15- or 20-pound fluorocarbon, but getting the fish to the boat is tough. White bait — scaled sardines and threadfin herring — are the liveys of choice. Pinfish and shrimp can produce if white bait is scarce.

For fly anglers, what’s the gear setup?

O’Bannon: I do quite a bit of fly-fishing for snook and several patterns work well: deceivers, clousers, and my favorites — the Puglisi series of flies.

Pecci: Eight- to 10-weight rods, floating line, 7-foot leaders and a 20- to 30-pound bite tippet. Again, lighter bite tippets will increase hookups but decrease the ability to boat the fish. Productive flies include deceivers and synthetic baitfish imitations like the Cowen’s Baitfish in 1/0 to 3/0 sizes. Color patterns vary from day to day and where you’re fishing.

About the captains:

Capt. Philip O’Bannon specializes in all types of inshore fishing and has been guiding for more than 40 years. He says: “Last August, I went to work for Mote Marine Laboratory and established an office in Boca Grande as their executive director. We have initiatives planned to study snook, tarpon and red tide. I’m working hard to protect our estuary system and our fishery.”

Phone: 941-964-0359 | Website:

Capt. Dave Pecci guides on the Kennebec River and Casco Bay in Maine during summers and in Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande in fall, late winter and spring. Pecci is a member of the board of directors for the National Association of Charterboat Operators and has served on multiple advisory panels for state and interstate management councils.

Phone: 941-235-1311| Website:

For more information on fishing in Florida, go to Visit Florida.