The tide was running out hard, and approaching the low slack. Tides always seem to speed up before they begin to ebb, and this tide was no exception. The water running out of the 80 foot wide canal was probably 20 feet deep, and it kept that depth well out onto the flat, gradually shallowing in a westerly curve.
We were on the east edge of the heavy water flow in about 3 feet of water, and snook were breaking the surface all around us chasing small schools of mullet. This was unusual for snook; they normally dont feed in this area on an outgoing tide. But, it was also unusual for all the mullet to be coming out of the canal. To this day we have never seen mullet there again on an outgoing tide.
We were throwing red bucktail jigs, half ounce with a 4/0 hook. These jigs were our own hand tied butter bean heads, solid red, and tipped with the tail of a shrimp. We would cast at an angle upstream to the edge of the flow, half the time letting the jig go with the flow and half the time working it back to the boat, in both cases, keeping the jig just off the bottom.
We were using spinning gear, Orvis 100 reels spooled with 10-pound line and a couple of my custom rods. We had boated and released several smaller snook and a number of jack crevalle when she hit. She hit with just a subtle tap, as if she was swimming along with the jig in her mouth. I say her, because for some unwritten rule, any snook this big has to be called her. I set the hook and thought I had hooked a tree limb moving out with the tide. There was no give.
Her first run was with the tidal flow, and it took most of the ten-pound line off the reel. Had she continued with the current, she would easily have taken all 200 yards of line from my reel. But as it was, she turned east and began moving perpendicular to the boat, a broadside fight with a fish that weighed more than twice the test strength of my line. Im not sure which was louder at that point, my heart beat or Dons yelling.
Don was my every trip fishing partner, and he had never seen a snook this big before. To tell the truth, I had never seen one this big in the area we were fishing. This is traditionally smaller fish territory, part of the estuary and rearing grounds for snook. Larger snook would be under bridges and pilings in the cuts and passes with access to deeper offshore reefs.