Big Winter Time Tampa Snook from Hobie PA 12

Location: Upper Tampa Bay/Double Branch/ Rocky Pointe
Date: February 22nd
Baits Used: Z-Man Scented Paddlerz and Keitech Swimbait Paddlers
Tide: Last of the Outgoing
Targets: Snook, Trout and Redfish

I went on a solo mission and wanted to explore the Upper Tampa Bay Area near Double Branch and Rocky Pointe. I put it at the Causeway Boat ramp at 6 a.m and began making my way across the channel. A couple days before, I attended a Snook fishing seminar, because I am always trying to learn new things, and heard that northern Tampa was holding some nice fish. Today was the second day of warm weather after the infamous "Florida Winter" from 2/18-2/20 so I was not very optimistic about the Snook bite, so my main target were Trout and Redfish. This morning I really wanted to try and take my time to observe my surroundings, and move slowly, using my knowledge to fish in high probability areas, rather than to blind cast and cover a lot of water. The tide was moving out fast, So I began working the down tide side of any mangrove cut, oyster bar or any structure that would disrupt the flow of the tide, and landed an 18 inch Redfish. Redfish have been hard to come by for me this winter, so this fish really gave me some energy. I moved on, moving further up the canal and noticed I was sitting in 10+ feet of water, but I could see the bottom, up near the mangroves not far from me, so I knew there was a drop off, and with the water by the mangroves not moving nearly as fast as the channel, I figured it was a good ambush spot. What got my interest even more, I heard mullet being thrashed by something. I figured it was a dolphin, but I was going to cast to find out! And little did I know my unsuspecting cast would bring me one of the best fish of my life. I casted near the mullet, and two twitches later, I can tell I have a fish on, but it wasn't a dramatic strike or thump, so I thought I foul hooked a mullet, as it came towards my kayak around the back, and then turned back around towards my kayak going underneath it. The line never tightened at this point so I'm still thinking foul hooked mullet because I was nonchalantely playing this fish, actually hoping it would come off. But then, the line tightened, and then a ridiculous amount of drag screamed off, then the breach, and what I saw was the biggest head of a snook I have ever witnessed. I was blown away, and trembling, knowing I was only using 20lb leader, hoping and praying I didn't lose this fish! It took me around a mangrove corner but I had it out in the open, so I played it relatively light. Then, a 90degree turn straight into the mangroves, I panicked, knowing I was going to lose this Snook. Then out of nowhere, it turns back aroun!, It came back out away from the groves and passes underneath my kayak, and this is my first good look at it and WOW this Snook was BIG! This was my last shot as I saw i had a solid hookup, but didn't want the Snook to slice my leader with its gills. I hopped out of my kayak without a second thought, and baby'ed it until I had a solid grip on his lower jaw! Relieved, having NO CLUE how I landed this fish, I let out a few screams of joy. I took some pictures and released the beast. Measured to be every single bit of 38 inches (which was surprising because I for SURE thought it was at least 42) and fat, she had to weigh at least 18 pounds. Personal Best Snook for me, at the end of the outgoing tide, in winter time! Who said the snook bite isn't good during this time! You just have to slow down, take the time and think like the fish! Then hope a little luck is on your side! Tight lines and!

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