Night Fights

How to catch snook under docklights.

It's the fishing equivalent of a street fight: Casting to a snook feeding in the glow of a docklight, withstanding its initial charge, and fighting like hell to keep it from cutting you off on a piling. All in all, night-fishing for snook offers one of the best adrenaline charges inshore fishing has to offer.

Dockfishing sounds easy, just pull up and start fishing, right? Wrong. If you don't do it right you won't catch a thing. Here are a few important tips:

1. Docklights are key. To hold fish, the lights should be no higher than 6' off the water, and exceedingly bright. Dim yellow lights don't do a thing, but bright white lights create an illuminated circle in the water that attracts snook.

2. The tide must be moving. It's not important whether the water is incoming or outgoing, but slack tides lock lips. Snook feed on drifting baitfish drawn to the light. No drift, no bait, no snook.

3. Approach the dock in stealth mode. Cut the engines and keep talk to a minimum, whispering if necessary. Too much noise will drive the fish down.

4. One angler at a time, please. Casting too many flies or lures at once will put fish down. Take turns, and if you see another boat working a light, be nice and move onto the next one.

5. Use baitfish or shrimp imitations. Whether it's flies, lures, or surface plugs, try working the fringes of the light as well as casting under the dock and stripping or reeling back through the light pool.

6. Downsize. Snook key on much smaller prey under the lights than they would in typical situations, so drop down in lure size.

7. Upsize. Here we're referring to the test of your shock tippet. The preferred choice right now is to add a section 40-pound fluorocarbon leader to better withstand a snook's razor sharp gill plates and attempted runs into crusty pilings. Check your leader and hooks after every fish.

8. When a snook takes, get down and dirty right away. Fight it with the butt of your rod to pull it away from the pilings. This is especially important when fly fishing, when you won't have time to play it on the reel.

9. Don't feel bad if you loose it anyway. That's snook fishing.