Snook on the Beach Spring has sprung. The gulf water temperature is climbing past 75°F, and spring breakers are invading the beaches. During the winter, anglers that surf fish watch the water temperature carefully and begin to celebrate as it climbs to 70°F. This is when snook begin moving out to the beach again. Fly fishing folks stalk snook in the early morning with the sun behind them. With polarized glasses, look for their shadows in the trough between the sand and the first bar. Long casts aren’t necessary if you approach them from their tail end. They always face into the shore flow so if you face that way too, you can sneak up on them from behind. Cast beyond them and allow your presentation to drift naturally into their space. Not a fly fisher? No worries, these fish will hit small light-colored lures or bait. We used to believe that snook only ate live shrimp, whiting, or pinfish on the beach. Lately we have found that snook are not as picky as we thought. On a recent trip with our son Terall, we arrived at the bait shop to find a shortage of live shrimp and resorted to some from our freezer. For situations like this, we always freeze any live shrimp not used and then bring them along wrapped in an ice blanket in a plastic baggie. This keeps them fresh and frozen. We still prefer to use live shrimp. Arriving at Stump Pass Beach, we saw anglers with long surf rods casting beyond the first bar for small pompano that they released. The minimum size for pompano and permit is 11". We only had light spinning tackle and frozen shrimp and were looking to catch a few whiting for a fish fry. At high tide, the fish we sought feed along the trough between the shore and the first bar. No long casts and heavy weights are needed to cover this area. There were medium waves coming ashore with some flat water in between, making the curl by our feet rather turbulent, stirring up sand and shells and nutriments for fish. This was perfect for the feeding whiting. Many of our fish came from this close “curl.” To our surprise, fishing with frozen shrimp, our catch included several snook, a large sheepshead and a bunch of whiting. Snook season is closed to help them recover from the red tide events of recent years but whiting and sheepshead are open year around. Another surprise was the absence of catfish or pinfish eating our frozen shrimp. We “tail hooked” the thawed shrimp with the hook point coming out through the leg area on a 1/0 octopus hook and a split shot about a foot up the line. Making short casts to the inside of that first bar, a very slow retrieve brought our offering to the fish feeding in the trough. This works best on a either side of a high tide with plenty of water in the trough. Light tackle fishing on a sandy beach means you can let the fish show their power with a lighter drag setting. On a crowded beach among spring breakers and Sunday beach goers, you must find an area without swimmers or shark tooth hunters nearby. Larger hooked fish will not come straight into your position. Rather, they will run a considerable distance north or south and can entangle innocent bystanders. Fish at least 100' from folks in the water to be safe and considerate. What began as a tentative trip down the beach to see if anything was happening, turned into a productive afternoon as the tide began to fall. Finding the whiting in a cooperative mood, Kim returned to the car to get a splash bucket that we carry our bait bucket in and used it to hold our whiting. Whiting are great bait stealers but for every 2-3 baits lost, a whiting hit the bucket. We only kept larger whiting as the smaller ones don’t fillet well and are better left to grow up. We ended up with 6 whiting and a sheepshead all in the 14" + range for our fish fry, in addition to the many whiting and snook we released.