Texas snook fishing, long believed to be a mere rumor or perhaps a legend of the distant past, is, in fact, a going — and growing — concern. Snook Foundation Texas State Director Aaron Reed gives us a snapshot of the fishery on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico.
Someone sees a photo, a conversation ensues, and it usually sounds something like this. . .
“So, where’d you catch that nice snook?”
“Huh … is that on the east coast or the west coast? Somewhere around Naples, maybe?”
“No, man, it’s about 6 miles north of Mexico.”
“Oh … Port Isabel … TEXAS?! I didn’t know we had snook in Texas!
And that’s when I’m talking to a Texas angler. Most Florida anglers vaguely recall a rumor that there might be linesiders in the Lone Star State, though many are withholding judgment until they see one for themselves.
More than a few Texans — my brother included — feel the same way.
A Florida angler will immediately notice how different Texas snook habitat is from what he or she is used to at home; sure, our snook still like structure — rip-rap and old docks and points and bridge pilings — but our mangroves are of the straw-rooted black variety, and we have very little freshwater inflow into the Laguna Madre, the center of our fishery.
Hook up on a Texas snook, and you’re liable to be looking at prickly pear cactus and yuccas on the shoreline.
There’s a lot we don’t know about snook in Texas; we know that juveniles use the Rio Grande as a nursery, but we also think they may be using other areas we haven’t yet identified.
We don’t know when our fish reach that magic 1M:1F ratio so desirable for sustaining the stock; we don’t know if Texas snook are any more cold-tolerant than Florida fish (we didn’t lose many in the recent Arctic blast) or where, for sure, they’re finding thermal refuge.
We’re not even sure when and where they’re spawning, though we’ve seen some impressive aggregations of big fish at Gulf passes in the fall.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), after instituting successively more restrictive regulations over the past several decades, in early January floated the idea of lowering the slot for snook to allow more take.
Two things happened: Texas snookers came out of the woodwork, with a majority opposing lowering the slot; and it became obvious to everyone that we need more data to effectively manage the fishery here.
The Low-Down on Lone Star Linesiders
There once was a thriving commercial fishery for snook in Texas, and in 1928 more than 220,000 lbs. of snook were landed in Port Isabel alone.
In 1893, more than 20,000 pounds of snook were landed commercially in Galveston Bay.
There are believed to be at least three species of snook in Texas waters.
The Texas state record common snook weighed-in at 57 lbs., 8 oz.
After a long decline, snook are again being found in reliably catchable numbers as far north as Corpus Christi, on the middle Texas coast, with scattered catches each year as far north as Freeport and Galveston.
Texas regulations allow anglers to keep one snook per day in a reverse slot between 24 and 28 inches. The majority of dedicated Texas snook anglers practice catch and release, and say that — in any event — it’s tough to catch a fish small enough to fit in the slot.
A handful of South Texas professional guides routinely put their clients on quality snook; they include Snook Foundation Lower Laguna Madre Regional Director Capt. Danno Wise; Snook Foundation Advisory Board member Capt. Eric Glass; Capt. Ernest Cisneros; Capt. Gilbert Vela; and Capt. Todd Casey.