Notes from the Island Fishmonger

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The ultimate Sarasota seasonal treat that’s rare but worth the effort…Snook!

Aaron Mobley of Big Water Fish Market with his recent Snook catch
Aaron Mobley of Big Water Fish Market with his recent Snook catch

Stone Crab season opens up October 15, (which will be plentiful at that time at Big Water Fish Market) but unlike Stone Crabs that are brought to us by commercial fishermen, Snook (season: Sept. 1 – Nov. 30) cannot be commercially harvested so you have to catch it yourself.

My staff and I field this same question all year as to why we do not sell Snook, especially now during Snook season which lasts until the end of November.   Unfortunately, we

Capt. Tony of TNT Freedom Fishing Charters catches a whopper of a Snook
Capt. Tony of TNT Freedom Fishing Charters catches a whopper of a Snook

do not carry nor will we ever have Florida Snook for sale. This answer is very troubling to our visiting customers who have heard about this delicious (Scamp like), yet elusive Florida Snook Fish. They have their heart set on eating some while in Florida and don’t quite understand why they can’t purchase it at our Big Water Fish Market.

Many are unaware of a few minor FWCC rules and regulations. Here are just a few Snook facts:

Fact 1: You will never find a Florida Snook in a restaurant or a retail fish counter. Snook is caught for recreational use only and is not legal for resale.

Fact 2: Until the end November if you are lucky enough to catch a Snook it must fall between 28” and 33″ to be a keeper and the keeper limit per fisherman is just one fish per day (FYI…if you go over or under the size or the quantity allowed, you will face a $500 fine per fish!)

Fact 3: On top of your regular Florida Fishing License you must pay an extra $10 for a Snook tag if you want to keep a keeper.

Fact 4: If you want to eat it… have to catch it yourself.

With that being said, now you know why you can’t buy Snook, but there is no reason why you can’t go catch one yourself. Everybody knows that I am no expert on catching fish (just selling it)…after all my version of a Florida trifecta is catching a Catfish, Grunt, and a small Mangrove all within 24 hours. Fortunately for us I know a few guys who are expert Snook fishermen.

I spoke with Mason Tush of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters and Aaron Mobley manager at Big Water Fish Market who both agree on a few tips. “If you follow a few simple guidelines and you put in the time, Snook could very well be table fare for you one special night in October or November.” says Mobley. Easy for him to say.

Following is some noteworthy advice.

Awesome Snook catch Ernie McAlister and Lindsay Melvaer with TNT Freedom Fishing Charters
Awesome Snook catch Ernie McAlister and Lindsay Melvaer with TNT Freedom Fishing Charters

Get your fishing license renewed easily at CB’S. You can fish Snook by boat, off the beach or lighted docks.

In the morning, you can fish over the grass flats or current structures with a Heddock Super Spook Top Water lure. A few morning location points of interest include The Venice Jettys, Blackburn Point or Long Bar which is the sandbar on the Southside of Siesta Key.

In the evening fishermen have great luck under dock lights with live shrimp or a white 3D Minnow Yo-Zuri 70mm lure.

As for fishing off the beach, I have had great luck in October and my recommendation is to use a small white Jig with a red head because it works great and will save a ton of time and hassle compared to live bait fishing. Snook are usually cruising right along the edge of the shoreline and will most often be facing into the current so you will want to cast into the current so your bait will be facing the fish.

If you need a boat rental go to CB’S Saltwater Outfitters or if you’re looking for an inexpensive ICW (intercostal water) charter inquire at BWFM. For more advice, track down Mason at CB’s or Aaron/myself at Big Water Fish Market. You know where we are…now go find the Snook!

Here’s a good Blackened Snook recipe but please note…if you want the quality and the delectable taste you’ve heard of, be sure you remove the skin prior to cooking or it will taste like soap (that’s why its nickname is the Soap Fish!).

Blackened Snook
2 Snook fillets

Blackening spice

Oil, either vegetable or olive

Preparation: Sprinkle blackening spice on fillet and press it lightly into the fillet.

Heat a cast iron skillet on high and wait until the skillet is very hot.

Poor a half-cup of oil in the skillet and add the fillets.

Cook for about 3 mins. per side, depending on the thickness of the fillet, or until the seasoning develops into a crust.

Finish in the oven at 350 or 400 degrees if the seasoning is close to burning but the fish isn’t fully cooked.

If you’re not lucky enough to catch a Snook, a great substitute for Snook is Gag or Scamp Grouper which is available at Big Water Fish Market. It doesn’t matter what fish you’re cooking, always use the philosophy used at BWFM…KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)!

Live well…eat fish!

Owner of Big Water Fish Market

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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