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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Tension grips the fishing line as the snook struggles to escape from the hook penetrating its mouth.

Its silver-yellow scales glisten in the sun as it jumps from the water, gaping silently.

Since the start of snook open season on Saturday, Florida saltwater anglers are allowed to bag one snook per day, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Gary Simpson, manager of The Tackle Box Fishing Store on Hawthorne Road, said snook is one of the best saltwater game fish in Florida.

"They strike hard, they fight hard, they jump," he said. "They're very, very sporty."

FWC spokesman Lee Schlesinger said people are allowed to fish for snook year round, but they can only be caught and released during the off-season. About 90 percent of snook caught in Florida are released back in the water, Schlesinger said.

The open season ends Dec. 1 and reopens March 1 in Gulf, Everglades National Park and Monroe County waters, according to the FWC release.

The seasons exist because snook spawn and increase their populations during the summertime. During winter months, snook grow lethargic and can't fight back, Schlesinger said.

He said snook populations have been under protection since 1957 and the population of snook is considered healthy and abundant.

Schlesinger said the FWC sees a little more interest in snook fishing during the open season.

"It's a very popular fishery," he said. "It grows every year only because we have more people fishing."

"Here in Gainesville, we're a little bit north of their normal range," Simpson said. "They're pretty common as far north as Tampa."

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Warmer winters have made snook travel north into Gainesville territory. Over the past few months, a few snook have been caught at the mouth of the Suwannee River, Simpson said.

"Twenty years ago, if someone caught a fish in the Suwannee River it would have been in the headlines," Simpson said.

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