Published Jul 13. 2019 - 3 years ago
Updated or edited Jul 13. 2019

River Snook

River Fly Fishing for snook in Southwest Florida is an excellent alternative to pursuing this prized gamefish in the mangroves or the open coastal water

A good snook on a rainy day
A good snook on a rainy day
Jim Klopfer

Anglers visiting southwest Florida have a wide variety of fishing options. They can target redfish on the shallow flats, snook in the mangroves, speckled trout on the deep flats, or Spanish mackerel and false albacore out on the beach. However, my personal favorite is fly fishing for snook, bass, jacks, and more in the brackish rivers.

River fishing has several advantages over fishing in the open waters. The main edge that it gives anglers is that there is so much less water to search. Rivers concentrate game fish, particularly when the water levels are low. Rivers also offer anglers protection from the wind on breezy days. Finally, the scenery can be breathtaking! It is a peaceful, serene environment.

As winter approaches and it cools off, fish begin moving into area rivers. They are seeking refuge from the open flats where water temperature can drop as much as ten degrees in a couple of days. River waters are warmer and more stable. Most rivers also have deeper holes and ample forage. These factors combine to make rivers an excellent spot for temperature-sensitive fish to spend the winter!

Nice river snook
Landing a small snook
River snook
Jim Klopfer

Southwest Florida is blessed with several rivers that provide fly anglers with this opportunity. The Manatee, Myakka, Peace, and Caloosahatchee Rivers are the larger rivers between Tampa and Naples. South of Naples, the Ten Thousand Islands begins, where countless creeks and rivers exist. All of these water fish basically the same.

One of the keys to the diversity of these rivers is the fact that they are brackish. This means that they are a mixture of fresh and salt water. Florida gets very little rain most winters, which allows for salt to intrude far upriver. This combines for a very prolific environment for life to thrive in. From an angling standpoint, that results in anglers having the chance to catch both freshwater and saltwater species.

Snook are the primary target for fly anglers plying Florida rivers. Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida. They are found in the southern half of the state. Snook grow large and put up a tremendous battle! Along with the mighty snook, juvenile tarpon, largemouth bass, jack crevalle, and gar are commonly landed.

Another river inhabitant
Jim Klopfer

A 9 weight rod is best for fly fishing the Florida rivers. Large flies are often used and a stout rod is required to turn a big fish that is heading for cover. Also, while rivers are quite protected, anglers will be dealing with wind at some point. An intermediate sink tip or full sinking line works best. Most fish will be down in the water column.

Snook flies
Snook flies
Jim Klopfer
A welcome interruption
A bycatch
Jim Klopfer

Leaders do not need to be long in the dark river waters. An 8' tapered leader with a stout butt section and a short 30 lb flourocarbon bite tippet is all that is required. Most of the flies used are heavy and the leader will turn over easily.

Fly selection is pretty simple; choose a Clouser Deep Minnow or a Deceiver pattern in white or a bright bait fish pattern. White is always a good snook color. Bluegill and tilapia are a primary forage, and bright colors mimic them well. Flies tied on a 1/0 hook work well.

Fish are fairly easy to locate in rivers, particularly when the water is low. Outside bends in the river channel are the top spots, by far. Current will gouge out a hole and cover will congregate in these spots. Long, straight stretches should be avoided or fished quickly.

A hookup!
Beautiful river view
Releasing a snook
River scenes
Jim Klopfer

The technique is fairly simple when river fishing. Anglers simply cast they fly towards likely looking shoreline cover, allow the fly to sink, and then strip it in using fairly long, sharp strips. As will all fishing, the retrieve should be varied until a productive pattern emerges.

It is crucial that the angler drift with the current when river fishing! Otherwise, a “bow” will instantly form in the line. The fly can not be presented in a natural manner. Since all of the rivers are affected by tidal flow, anglers must take that into consideration. The river will flow in opposite directions depending on the tide.

In conclusion, fly anglers that are visiting Florida and looking for a unique experience should consider giver river fishing a try!

Average river snook
River snook
Jim Klopfer


River Snook Fishing in Southwest Florida...

As always, check with a reliable source about local conditions before you finalize your plans and pay your money. Freshwater lakes, rivers, and lagoons in Florida have been increasingly plagued by toxic algae blooms and widespread fish kills. Southwest Florida has not escaped the pollution expanding through Florida waters.


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