Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chuck-uh-lusk-ee, Snukes and Skeets


                             Centropomus undecimalis - Common Snook - Locals say Snukes

A few years back I had the opportunity to fish in the 10,000 Islands (Everglades National Park) area out of Chokoloskee (CHUCK-UH-LUSK-EE), Florida.  Our sure fire methods always  usually, sometimes  produced some decent sized snook.  The secret:  fish all night.  

About four in the afternoon we would load the beer cooler(s), add a few sandwiches, stow away some medicinal alcohol,  and make a short run to favored mangrove points.   Until shortly before sunset, casting up under the mangrove branches would produce a few nosed out snook.  Late in the day  we would anchor up a our favorite point, one that produced the most hydraulics from changing tides. False casting would aid in memorizing  our casting lanes.  Hanging up in mangrove branches when dark, not good.  

As twilight approached suiting up became vital to comfort.  The last line of defense was light rainwear, preferably with elastic pant and sleeve cuffs  - if not, "please pass the duct tape."  A zipper front on the jacket was a must - if not,  mo' duct tape.  100% Deet was then applied to all exposed flesh for the onset of conservatively estimated, a billion misquotes - "skeets" to the locals.  The first hour after sunset was the most intense and abated to maybe half a billion for the rest of the night.  The deet kept the bites to a minimum but one remained within an air chamber of ringing skeeter wing music for the duration. Smoking cigarettes pushed 'em back a couple of inches - worth every puff.

Darkness - lucky if a full moon and very lucky if a firm frontal breeze started up.  As an incoming tide began flowing around the visualized point we would begin to hear snook feeding, "pop" then away, "pop" then closer, "pop."  We would set aside the beers, quietly stand, exclaim, "they're here," and zing a memory, measured first cast of forty feet.  A lefty's Deceiver would slide into the current from a wide mend to rise upwardly ... Pop!

As the tide ebbed, lager consumption increased, the skeets would still be with us, and it would be time for another layer of Deet. Unique to a slack tide would be the increase in sounds - loud, deep, swampy grunts, "whomp" over there, "whomp" at the point, another "whomp."  Shining a high beam light along the shorelines all around us would produce pair after pair of what digital camera users call red eye - "we're surrounded by alligators!"   It was then that I finally understood why a good flats boat costs well over forty grand. 

The outgoing tide would fish much the same, maybe two million of the billion skeets would have died, and the beer would be down to just a few cans, so we would set  the jack plate  to plane levels and head for the cabin. With the Deet removed from a sun bag(now cold) shower, a breakfast of fried snook fillets, hush puppies, cheese grits and the night topped off with a Bloody Mary sunrise all of nature's inconveniences were forgotten.

If you decide this is a trip for you, fish a few times in daylight first. Lesson one: If you land your fly into the mangroves, you'll discover where skeets go in the daytime. Learn the markers - small, bicycle sized reflectors attached to a small posts - and follow along with Park maps. Fish in pairs with at least two shallow water boats - one can pull the other off of oyster bars. Remember, all mangroves look alike.  A better plan?  Hire a guide ... and do not, I repeat do not forget the Deet.  


  1. Dat's a pretty good snuke, but nary as big as the one I caught in October over in Stuart. Jim shared thus with me and I'll be following along. I've gotten into kayak fishing which is amazingly comfortable and productive. A yak'd look good on top of the turnip truck!

    Doug Spears
    Singer-Songwriter and Storeyteller

  2. Doug, thanks .... and glad to have you following. A trip to Florida is planned for next year and a yak will be on top of the toad, a Jeep. I had two Ocean Kayak Prowlers when I had the place at Little Gasparilla - amazing how close you can get to the fish in a yak.


  3. The value of a Buff (MSRP $20) cannot be over-stated when the skeeters and no-see-ums show up. In addition to the rest of the bug armor, they reduce the amount of exposed skin to just your peepers with very breathable, wicking synthetic material you can treat with Permethrin! (MSRP $16 for a 1-year supply if you fish several times/week yearround) Add a pair of Buff Angler Gloves (MSRP $40) and do the same to them and you're nearly invincible compared to what we were all used to a couple of years ago because now only your eyes and fingertips are exposed. Don't use DEET on your fingers! It'll really age leaders, flies, and fly lines prematurely and often cause leaders and knots tied on the water to fail. Besides, you can't keep it on your hands when they're wet. I don't use DEET at all. I use the Avon Skin So Soft products, and they work well on sand gnats/no-see-ums and skeeters. Smoking is a nasty, deadly habit. But it beats West Nile, Malaria, or Elephantitis (I guess). So I'm with you there and hopelessly addicted anyway.

    I like to pick up the Snook just before daylight on an early morning trip and just after sunset when I've been out all afternoon. It helps to launch near some good Snook hangouts. But for trophy Snook you do have to go nocturnal with them.