An Update on Snook

Beginning September 1st, the recreational harvest season for Florida’s game fish snook, opened statewide. Snook are very popular with recreational anglers due to their mild flavor and strong fighting spirit. Permits and recreational fishing licenses are required and the fish may be caught using hook and line only. There is a one-fish-per-person, per-day bag limit, the 28- to 33-inch total length slot limit for the Gulf and 28-to 32-inch requirement for the Atlantic.

A cold snap in 2010 that resulted in widespread fish kills throughout Florida caused the closure of snook harvesting in Gulf of Mexico state and federal waters. The cold kill negatively impacted the population, particularly juvenile snook. The closure was expected to be lifted in July of 2012, but instead the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) decided to extend the temporary closure through August 31, 2013, in an effort to protect this species and give it time to recover. The FWC manage snook in state and federal waters, although the species tends to inhabit the shallower, near-shore state waters.

Current Gulf snook numbers exceed FWC management goals but are still rebuilding to pre-cold-kill levels. Management measures such as the one fish per person, per day bag limit, annual closed seasons and size limits will help continue rebuilding snook populations on both coasts.

FWC and Mote Marine Lab are working together on an ongoing program to find the most effective methods of replenishing and enhancing wild snook populations. On August 15, 2014, scientists and volunteers released hatchery reared juvenile snook into the wild, the second of three releases. The released snook were raised at Mote’s Aquaculture Park. This project, which involves tagging and then releasing more than 2,200 snook into Sarasota Bay over three days, is designed to determine whether snook that have been conditioned for release at Mote have better growth and survival rates in the wild.

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