As a recreational angler in Florida, one of the premier fish you may choose to pursue is the snook. An iconic trophy, the snook is a masterful fighter and one of the most delicious of the saltwater fish. Snook are plentiful in Florida and can become quite large, largely because their harvest is strictly limited by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. This regulatory body publishes numerous rules that govern recreational snook fishing, so here's what you need to know when fishing snook in Florida.
Florida has a huge coastline, spanning miles of the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic. Since the behavior of snook varies from the Atlantic side to the Gulf side of Florida, there are different regulations governing each body of water. To further complicate matters, snook have the ability to survive and even thrive in brackish water and even freshwater. So the regulations regarding snook fishing includes regulations regarding freshwater lakes and rivers. Most notably, the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee are included in the regulations governing the Atlantic side of the coast. If you are in freshwater and fishing for snook, consult local experts to find out who controls the regulations and what they are. Along with this complexity, all state waters and adjacent federal waters currently have seasonal restrictions on snook fishing.
The snook season for the Atlantic region (state and adjacent federal waters, including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River) is closed from mid-December through the end of January, as well the whole months of June, July, and August. The Gulf side of the state is even more tightly restricted. For the Gulf of Mexico, Monroe County, and Everglades National Park (state and adjacent federal waters), the harvesting of snook is prohibited during the months of December, January and February, May, June, July, and August.
It is important to note that even during open season, there are a myriad of other regulations governing snook fishing. While it may seem restrictive, the goal of the Fish and Wildlife Commission is to protect this species from overfishing, so we can enjoy snook for many generations to come. These laws are therefore not to be taken lightly.
Even in snook season, it is illegal to keep snook if you do not have a valid Florida fishing license. You must also have purchased a snook endorsement to accompany your license. There are limits on equipment you can use to catch snook - it is illegal to use nets, spears or traps, snook fishing must be hook and line only. Additional size limits apply as well. For the Atlantic side (including Okeechobee and Kissimmee), you can only keep snook if they are not less than 28" total length or more than 32". For the Gulf side, snook must be not less than 28" total length or more than 33”. Each angler is only allowed to keep one snook per day.
These restrictions may seem overwhelming, but local experts will be well versed in them and be able to ensure you remain on the right side of the law when seeking these beautiful, fascinating fish.