Mojarra

The Secret For Snook

Capt. Steve Dougherty September 24, 2013

September marks the beginning of Florida’s highly anticipated fall run of snook when anglers gather around East Coast inlets and beaches on their hunt for trophy linesiders. And there’s no coincidence this epic bite coincides with the start of the predictable fall mullet run. Beaches, bays, lagoons and inshore waters erupt with flurries of activity as snook and a host of additional game fish melee the masses. With such amazing displays on tap one would think it would be as easy as tossing a live mullet in the mix and counting to five. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple and you’ll need to put in considerable effort to consistently come out on top.

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Biological: Diane Rome Peebles

Snook are one of the state’s most heavily pressured targets, yet thanks to enforced and for the most part well-respected rules and regulations, anglers can encounter these trophy fish with consistency throughout their range. This is one case where Florida Fish and Wildlife managers got it right.

Finger mullet, sardines, pilchard, shrimp and pinfish are some of the forage species that work day in and day out. When the bite is tough, anglers in-the-know fish with mojarra because they magically turn lookers into takers.

During the upcoming months anglers will see a frenzy of action as the spawn ends and snook prepare for the approaching winter season. Although anyone can connect with hungry snook when they are feeding with no remorse, these fish can at times be very frustrating to coerce. Quite often you can see them, but you can’t catch them. It can be irritating to say the least, but to overcome their moodiness snook masters have one last trick up their sleeve. Anglers who prefer fishing with live bait know there’s not much better than a frisky mojarra. Finger mullet, sardines, pilchard, shrimp and pinfish are some of the forage species that work day in and day out. When the bite is tough, anglers in-the-know fish with mojarra because they magically turn lookers into takers.

Several species of mojarra can be encountered around Florida, including yellowfin, flagfin, striped and spotfin. Mojarra are sometimes misidentified or nicknamed sand perch, although sand perch are a completely different species altogether. Mojarra can grow to be quite large and are occasionally kept for table fare, with the most tempting snook baits falling in the 3- to 5-inch range. The different species of mojarra can be difficult to differentiate at juvenile stages, although what they all have in common is their protrusible mouths.

With silvery sides and a relatively large profile, striped mojarra are commonly encountered along Central Florida inlets during the summer and fall. At the famed Sebastian Inlet, anglers often catch striped mojarra with cast nets. They also find them with tipped hooks along the catwalks and at the tidal pool on the north side. The rocky zone on the southern side is also a good place to try your luck. No matter the inlet you choose to fish, mojarra gravitate to rocky outcroppings and other areas that provide a break in the current.

South Florida anglers are more acquainted with smaller flagfin and spotfin mojarra that are encountered along beaches tight to shorelines with submerged rocks. No matter where you fish or what species of mojarra you utilize, keep in mind these silvery baitfish are often on high alert when snook are nearby and you will need stealth and patience to catch your fair share. Still, shallow water aficionados who have experienced the instant gratification that often comes with fishing mojarra spend as much time as necessary to search out these prime baits. They know the value of mojarra as an unrivaled offering.

The size of your bait will determine your hook size and leader selection, with light wire circle-hooks and invisible fluorocarbon common ground. However, it is important not to scale down tackle too much for the sport of the fight. Large snook are wrapping up their spawning activities and need to be handled with extreme care. It’s a tough balance because you want a light presentation that enables your mojarra to swim with the greatest flexibility, but not too light that you can’t apply sufficient pressure to beat fish in an adequate amount of time. Start with 30 inches of 40 lb. fluorocarbon attached to a 3/0 circle-hook. Mojarra can’t handle much abuse in a livewell or on the hook, but in the presence of snook a hooked mojarra shouldn’t last too long anyway.

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