Sleepless In Canaveral
Capt. Bryan Pahmeier
A healthy Port Canaveral "linesider" poses for a picture before going in the cooler.
Slowly the pod of finger mullet traveled down the shadow line, as they rounded a bulkhead it happened…. SMASH! “Now!” I told my client and a 6-inch finger mullet was pitched into the darkness, POP! The 8ft heavy spinning rod bended like a noodle, I cranked the troller on full, away from the structure while a frantic battle ensued between angler & fish. Initially she did what all snook do, went straight back the structure, thrashing at the surface while tying to dislodge this strange object in her mouth, after the first minute and when she realized she was suddenly 40ft away from her home she went deep, using her sandpaper like lips to rub through the leader as she violently shook her head side to side. Another minute of desperate fighting and one last jump for her life, and she was swung into the net. Taping out at 32 inches, 12 1/2lbs on my Boga-Grip. She was quickly on ice with her twin we caught an hour before with an invitation to dinner.
“Man that fish was strong,” J Brenner of NJ said, as I retied the frayed leader he stated that he wasn’t tired anymore and wanted to keep fishing. Yes there’s nothing that will wake you up quicker than a fat snook on the end of your line.
A few more hours of fishing yielded one under slot fish & 2 more break offs making the nights score SNOOK-6 ANGLERS-3.
As we shared breakfast at Grills, I told J he was lucky, my charter the night before got their clock cleaned without landing any snook.
It was Oct. and the snook bite was in full force at Port Canaveral, while many central Fl anglers will drive an hour or more to play bumper boats at Sebastian Inlet, a few savvy port snooksters will already be bending a rod long before their southern counterparts. Port Canaveral is the northernmost place on the east coast of Florida where one can go year round and find thousands of snook. The 40+ft. depths & endless supply of food provide everything the fish would ever need to stay happy. Now throw in pilings, bulkheads, and jetties. Add enormous bright lights and behold its snook heaven.
It’s no secret snook feed better at night, Port snook are no different, only unlike their inlet cousins that will hug the bottom to ambush bait in the current, these fish most often will suspend 2-8ft below the surface amongst the immense structure, lying in wait for a foolish bait fish to get in range.
Savvy anglers are those who can identify these ambush spots; because once one is located it can produce every night. After several years one will have a dozen or more such spots expecting to see fish certain places, knowing that if they are not their when you first arrive they will be.
Captain Bryan Pahmeier shows off another spectacluar catch. Getting one of these Port Snook out of their structure without a break-off can be as challenging as finding and hooking them!
Tackle can range from 20-pound heavy plug casting outfit to grouper tackle for bottom fishing. I will typically use 20lb. outfits on heavy action rods, although some have 65lb.-braided line on them. Most important is to get that fishes head turned away from the structure so a stout rod is a must. Shock leader should be a minimum of 40lb. to prevent cut off from the snook's lips. Yes, it’s their lips that saw thru your leader 99% of the time not the gill plate.
Plugs like Mirrolure 52m, Bomber mullet & DOA Baitbuster are deadly as are bucktail jigs. Fast erratic retrieves work best, varying the depth until you find what the fish want.
Pinfish & Mullet are the #1 food source of port snook; both can be bought or caught inside the port. I prefer to freeline baits along docks & shadow lines unless fishing the jetties in which case a sliding sinker rig is used. Strong lightweight hooks from 2/0-5/0 should be matched to the size of the baits.
Right now the snook are coming thru one of the coldest winters in years, with the continuing warming temps they will get more & more active. Come April they will be banging bait with dispatch, when the fall mullet run hits, it’s a free for all! You will never forget seeing 1000 mullet being blasted by 100 snook, skyrocketing and somersaulting like kingfish, it’s amazing.
Canaveral can yield slot fish for table fare night after night; fish over 20lb are landed each year. Having landed snook up to 36.8 lbs and losing many fish that were bigger, I would not be surprised at all if a new State or World record fish is landed at Port Canaveral one day… In fact, I think I’ll go do just that!
Staff writer Bryan Pahmeier is an inshore fishing guide located in Titusville, Florida. He owns and operates Get1 Charters