Snook can be hermaphrodites during their lives.
It's always time to get out on the water and fish! If you're hoping to hook a common Snook, it's important to know a little bit about their life cycle. Keep reading to learn more about these fascinating fish.
Where Do Snook Live?
The Snook are a curious fish that can be found throughout the coastal areas of America, like South Carolina to Florida to Texas, and even all the way down to Brazil. They're exceptionally hardy, but they prefer water with good quality and temperature. They'll generally move between fresh or salt if necessary to find suitable living conditions for themselves. And because of that, they're not really counted as a freshwater fish.
Snook Spawning Season
Common Snook spawn in late spring and early summer when the water temperatures reach between 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. The males will build nests in shallow waters near mangroves or other vegetation. Once the eggs are fertilized, the males will guard them until they hatch.
Snook are interesting fish that can change sex depending on their age. When Snooks reach one year of age, they start to develop females cells in the gonads and will eventually become female after 12-35 inches long total length (or less). The process happens quickly so it’s possible for them to spawn once as males but then again as a female in the same season. (Insert your favorite snarky comment here).
Snook are an interesting fish that can be found in large schools during spawning season. They like to stay close together and enjoy the company of their friends, but once eggs start getting released from April through October (with pea times being June-July), it's not uncommon for them all to get carried away by strong currents towards estuaries where they will settle and hatch.
Snook Growth and Development
It takes anywhere from 45-60 days for the eggs to hatch and another two months for the juvenile Snook to be able to swim on their own. During this time, they will continue to grow at a rapid pace, reaching up to 18 inches by their first birthday. At this point, they begin to slow down their growth rate. Adult common Snook can reach up to 4 feet in length and weigh up to 30 pounds.
A sign of full maturity is when they develop a black lateral line that extends from behind their gill plate to the base of their tail fin. This usually happens around age three or four. Females mature faster than males and generally grow larger in size. Researchers believe that common Snook can live for up to 20 years in the wild.
After about a year, Snook must move out to the lower estuary. As they grow, their tolerance for low oxygen conditions diminishes, and they need larger prey as a food source. When a Snook reaches 10-12 inches in size, they'll start to be found in the same habitat as adults. But young Snook must be careful. Cannibalism is common with big Snook, and it's truly a survival issue, they don't care. Small ones usually choose to stay out of the way, like on rockpiles along beaches. Or small Snook sometimes choose docks and other structures to hide. At this age, a Snook's diet consists of fish, shrimp, crabs and plant tissue.
After about a year, Snook must move out to the lower estuary. As they grow, their tolerance for low oxygen conditions diminishes, and they need larger food prey. When a Snook reaches 10-12 inches in size, they'll start to be found in the same habitat as adults. But young Snook must be careful. Cannibalism is common with big Snook, and it's truly a survival issue, they don't care. Small ones usually choose to stay out of the way, like on rockpiles along beaches. Or small Snook generally choose docks and other structures to hide. At this age, a Snook's diet consists of fish, shrimp, crabs and plant tissue.
The oldest Snook in Florida was 18 years old, but they can live up to 30. Male Snook may reach maturity at one year, but certainly by two to three years of age. Female maturity is around three to four years. Most male Snook transition into females at some point during their lifespan; however not all will do so once mature - usually between five and eight years old. The chance that a particular sized fish will be female increases as time progresses because older individuals have already passed through males' reproductive cycles several times before reaching maturity, unlike younger fish, who only go through it once normally.
The Snook's Diet
There's a lot going on with Snook that we still don't fully understand. For one thing, it turns out they eat more than ten times as many small fish in the winter months when compared to summer even though there are plenty of larger prey available. Most likely it's because the colder water causes their metabolic rate to slow. Snook don't really do well in water below 60 degrees, and some will die. It's not really different than people living in southern climates.
Their main diet consists of pinfish, minnows and shrimp. Apparently studies show that they prefer prey that's about 15% of their own body length, so smaller fish need not worry.
Snook Management Practices
In most areas there are two closed seasons for Snook. One matches their spawning cycle, and the other protects them during the winter, when water temperatures drop. They may continue to be caught, but the rule is catch and release for Snook during closed seasons.
The Amazing Life Of A Snook - The Last Cast
Now that you know a little more about the life cycle of the common Snook, it probably makes you want to hit the water! These fish are fun to catch and make for great eating. Be sure to check local regulations regarding catch limits and seasons before heading out so that you can do your part in conserve this amazing species.
For information on how to catch these amazing creatures, check out our list of the 5 best lures for Snook.
Cheers to the outdoors,