One day, I ventured out onto our city pier here in Venice, Florida, for a little snook fishing. When pursuing beach snook, one need not travel far, for they are at the water’s lip, feasting on the backwash of sand fleas, which are little round crabs that resemble an armadillo with the legs of a flea.
I’ve learned that if you really want to catch a monster snook, nothing beats fresh-caught herring. So, after filling a bucket with a half-dozen of the baitfish, I grabbed my 7-foot rod, baited up and lowered my line down into the surf. My bait wasn’t in the water more than a minute and bam, fish on! Into the pilings it went, around the barnacles and out the other side. Fish gone; not on.
In 20 minutes, I had fed a number of snook, but had nothing to show for it but an empty bait bucket, so I headed out to the middle of the pier with my sabiki rig to catch more bait. I spent over an hour filling two buckets with tasty herring.
Armed with my bounty, I went back to my snook spot, rigged another herring and lowered it to the water. Soon, from under the pier, a shadow appeared. Slowly circling its prey, this snook had to be at least 30 inches long. With a flash she engulfed my offering. This one was mine! She charged up the shoreline, leaped out of the water and darted for the rocks under the pier. I tightened the drag and played her for close to a half-hour before she began to tire. I finally hoisted her from the water, hand over hand, praying my line wouldn’t break from the strain. At last, there she was at my feet for all to admire.
Despite my accomplishment, I was about to learn a valuable lesson. Never keep your line tight when unhooking a fish, especially a big one with lots of fight! Trying to look professional to the circle of tourists who had gathered around me, I grabbed the snook by its slippery lip and tried to disgorge the hook. I should have opened the bail on my rod and kept the line loose, but hindsight is 20/20, and I did not.
The snook flipped, shook her head and released that 3/0 circle hook all by herself. The onlookers glared at me in utter amazement.
I was pointing out that I was going to release the fish when I realized what had shocked them. As I picked up the snook, I saw a strange, out-of-focus object in front of my face. I turned to drop the fish over the pier and noticed my rod was following me and there was a burning sensation in my nose.
Somehow, the hook had rebounded straight from that fish’s mouth to enter one side of my nose and come out the other. No wonder all those around me looked disgusted! I quickly cut the line and grabbed a handful of ice cubes. I placed the cubes on my nose till it was numb, took out my wire cutters and snipped the end of the hook to pull it out. Wow, people pay money for body piercing and this fish gave me one for free—payback time, I guess.
The moral of this story is that it’s all right to be hooked on fishing, but try not to actually get hooked!