Impending return of snook season met with mixed reactions

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SARASOTA - Recreational snook fishing will resume on September 1st, the first season in years, but not everyone involved thinks that's a good idea. Some boat captains are concerned that the snook have not had enough time to recover from a 2010 freeze that greatly reduced their numbers.

If you're an avid fisherman you'll no doubt remember the cold-induced fish kill back in 2010. Florida Fish and Wildlife though says the numbers are strong enough to start keeping some of what you catch...but not everyone agrees.

To Captain Charlie Veon, hooking a snook always makes for a good catch. "Snook are a good tasting fish when they're in season, but more than that they're a hard-hitting fish that tends to fight well and jumps a lot."

But it’s been three years since he, or anyone else on Florida’s West Coast for that matter, has been able to keep their catch. "In 2010, we had a pretty bad cold wave that hit Florida and extended well into South Florida," says Dr. Ken Leber at Mote Marine Laboratory.

Cold temperatures killed off about 20% of the snook that were the right size to keep, leading to a ban on keeping them.

The goal was to give the population time to recover -- and experts say it's worked. "The conservation aspect has been very good. It shows a real proactive approach by our FWC," says Capt. Veon.

Florida Fish and Wildlife announced that starting September 1st, snook between 28 and 33 inches can again be kept. "So it’s not like you can keep every single one that you catch, and that's a very, very small amount of fish that you're actually able to keep out of all the ones that we have here in Sarasota," says fishing guide Tim Noe.

Scientists say other guidelines will also help keep the snook population on the right track. "Clearly the numbers are strong enough to support a fishery. We have a limit of one per day on the west coast,” says Dr. Leber.

While there are still some holdouts who argue that more time is needed to give the snook even more time to recover, many guides say the numbers are clearly on the rebound. "I’m all for it as long as the enforcement is there and the snook are kept legally," says Capt. Veon.

We did speak with several boat captains Monday by phone who say that the numbers would be stronger if the ban on keeping snook was kept in place for at least another year if not two. State officials though see it differently.