VENTURING NORTH FOR SNOOK
with Paul MacInnis
Paul MacInnis heads north of Brevard to target snook on kayak.
Snook Fishing Takes An Unexpected Turn…
My quest for snook this year took an unexpected turn – actually two unexpected turns.
I live in Titusville in the northern end of the Space Coast, not exactly a mecca for snook fishing. Sure there are spots I can pick off a snook or two, or even three, but honestly, snook are just a welcomed side catch while chasing reds and trout. I’ve been itching for a technical, hardcore snook fishing trip. I wanted to spend a day skipping soft plastics into tight openings among the shore cover, where accurate casts are rewarded with the thump of an aggressive snook.
I figured I’d have to head south for such fishing, maybe to Sebastian, or even farther down to Ft Pierce. Unexpected turn number one came with an invitation from Jackson Kayaks to fish a media trip north of Daytona Beach with Bart Swab of Action Kayak Adventures. I figured trout, redfish and flounder would be the prevalent species so I was surprised when Swab said we would be targeting snook.
True to my luck, our fishing days were greeted with small craft advisories and 20+ knot winds. I thought for sure our trip would be canceled, but along came unexpected turn number two. Swab wasn’t the least bit deterred by the foul weather. “We’ll be fine,” he assured us.
Paul connects with a nice snook.
Fishing the Tomoka River
On the first day Swab had us meet him at a creek that branched off of the Tomoka River near Ormond Beach. Joining the party were fellow outdoor communicators, Misty Wells and Captain Debbie Hanson. We paddled and peddled around creeks and canals in a fishing friendly fleet of Jackson Coosa FD and Kraken kayaks. I’d be lying if I said the wind wasn’t annoying at times, but the narrow waterways offered enough protection to provide fishable conditions despite winds that howled over the treetops above us.
Swab wasn’t exaggerating about the snook. We fished several stretches where virtually every fishy looking nook and cranny held a snook that would pounce on a well placed lure. A bonus was pods of juvenile tarpon that frequented creek intersections and the back ends of little bays. By the end of the morning we tallied fifteen snook and four tarpon.
Debbie Hanson shows off her nice snook.
Better Fishing at Smith Creek
As good as day one was, day two was even better. This time, Hanson and I met Swab at Smith Creek in Bulow Creek State Park near Flagler Beach. Smith Creek is really a maze of interconnected creeks and cuts that wind through unspoiled prairies of cord grass and needle rush bordered by oak and pine hammocks. Stretches of slow fishing were few and far between. I lost count of how many snook we caught. Tarpon weren’t as prevalent here but we did catch a couple of bonus slot redfish.
If you want to explore and fish pristine, old-Florida landscapes, you can’t go wrong by driving an hour north to Tomoka State Park and Bulow Creek State Park in the north end of Volusia County. Snook show up here around April and remain plentiful until the first strong cold front of Octobers sends them fleeing south. Because this is pretty far north for snook, they don’t get big. Fifteen to twenty inches is about average, and thirty inches is a really good fish.
Swab recommends light spinning tackle spooled with ten to fifteen pound test Cortland Master Braid with a couple feet of thirty pound fluorocarbon leader. His go to bait is a white Z-Man MinnowZ paddle tail mounted to a Z-Man Trout Eye jighead. Honestly, the fish don’t see a lot of pressure here so I think just about any small baitfish or shrimp imitation will get eaten if it is cast into the right spot.
One convenient thing about this fishery, according to Swab, is that it is not highly dependent on tides and is tolerant of foul weather. With miles of narrow, winding waterways, this is a great place to fish when strong winds blow out bigger, more open waters. Swab says the only thing that will blow out these creeks is prolonged periods of heavy rain that inundate the area with fresh water that pushes the snook out to the intracostal waterway.
Paul catches a tarpon in the mix.
Tomoka State Park and Bulow Creek State Park are great places to explore on your own, but it is even better if you go with a local pro like Swab. I can tell you from personal experience that the excitement level ramps up a few notches when Swab points to a downed tree, ditch mouth or creek bend and says, “we should catch a few snook on this spot.” Most of the time he was right. Bart Swab can be reached through his website, actionkayakadventures.com or at (904) 325-0344.