I had the pleasure to spend the extended Memorial Day weekend down south with friends. The Lower Laguna is on my short list favorite places to fish, but I have a love/hate relationship with the area. The water is clear, the fish are plentiful, but the conditions are always unpredictable, specifically the wind. The winds seems to blow hard nearly every time I’m in the area, but every once in a while the stars align for a magical day of fishing. The stars never aligned during our extended stay, but John and I did what we always do when we go down there; made best of what we were given.
Beyond the pristine waters and abundant angling opportunties the reason why we drive 7+ hours past hundreds of miles of great fishing on very little rest is not because of the water clarity or the fishing. Not specifically anyways. We travel south to target the only fishable population, outside the state of Florida, of a certain species of fish.
Snook have all the traits I’ve come to love in a light tackle quarry. They’re the perfect combination of speed and brute power packed into a compact body. They’re also acrobatic and slam a topwater plugs like they haven’t had a meal in days. They’re aggression and willingness to eat artficial offerings earns them high marks on my list of favorite species to target.
I’m a shallow water enthusiast. If I can’t plop my leg over the side of my kayak and touch bottom I feel out of place. Snook frequent skinny water. I relish the opportunity to stalk them in my preferred domain.
John and I spent four days in the Lower Laguna. Mother Nature only allowed us to fish the areas where we normally target snook once. The rest of the time our favorite area was blown out. We had to switch to Plan B, which meant we had to settle for trout and redfish. We landed ladyfish, redfish, and solid trout fishing shallow cuts draining off the flats at a location neither one of us had fished before. We had the luxury of a ferry boat courtest of Captain Bob Binney with SPI Laguna Adventures. It was nice to finally get to explore a new area I’ve always wanted to fish. The area was also protected from the 20+ mph winds. The bite was aggressive with the strong outgoing current. The fish were blowing up on bait that was being sucked out with the tide. We caught our fish on Spook Jr’s (Bone/Silver) and TTF Flats Minnow and Hackberry Hustler’s (Geaux Gleaux and Bone Catcher).
The only day John and I got a break from the wind it only blew 15mph in the morning, which was fishable. Better than 25+ mph we had seen all weekend. We fished the area hard with only a few trout and reds landed. I also caught my first hardhead on a topwater and lost a few small snook that morning. The wind picked up progressively as the day grew later and the 15mph wind turned into 20+ mph, which made fishing difficult. We toughed it out and tried to adapt our technique without much luck. We stuck tight to windblown shorelines.
We didn’t have a whole lot of action except for a few half-hearted blowups until I came up to a point formed by the mangroves. I tossed my topwater near the point and worked it back at a quick pace. A few twitches later I got my first blowup all day that stole my entire attention. I knew it was a good fish whatever it was. A couple more casts to the same spot and I finally hookup with a good fish, but still not as good as the blowup led me to believe. After short fight I had a slot redfish in hand.
Very next cast. Twitch. Twitch. Explosion. Drag coming off the reel fast…I knew this it was a better fish. The first thing that went through my mind, could this be the fish that I was looking for? It was fighting like it, but it never broke the surface to confirm my thoughts. By this time John had made his way to my side to see what all the commotion was about. A couple more hard runs and we finally saw color. John immediately thought redfish. I was still unsure. It was fighting too hard to be a red unless it was an upper or over slot fish. I got a better glimpse a short while later and noticed a distinct line running the length of the fish.
Instantly knew exactly what I saw. I shouted “snook, big snook” over in John’s direction. I saw that both hooks were outside the mouth, so I knew didn’t have the fish hooked good at all. Excitement quickly turned to anxiety as I didn’t want to lose what I knew would be my biggest snook thus far. We battled back and forth, but I inched my way closer. The fish grew more tired until it finally gave up. Relieved and elated I couldn’t help but smile as I marveled at the beautiful creature I had in my possession. She swam away after a few seconds following a quick measurment and photograph session. She measured slightly under 30″.
We stayed and fished for a few hours longer without another bite but it didn’t matter. I still had a smile on my face. Mission accomplished. That fish is still not the leviathan I’ve been looking for, but I’m now considerably closer. She’s out there. It’s only a matter of time. Hopefully soon.