Snook: The Fish You Have to Catch to Eat
Snook are a rare Southwest Florida treat. They’re an extremely regulated tropical fish and Florida is the only mainland state where you can catch them. They are considered a sport fish, meaning they can’t be commercially fished or sold. Back in the early 1900s, Florida had a history of selling snook in restaurants and markets. Northern visitors would feast on snook during their visits and bring enough filets back home to last a couple months. This overfishing combined with the fish’s sensitivity to winter weather caused them to be taken off the market in 1957. Regulations became even more restricted in 2010, during the unusual big freeze which restricted the population to dangerously low numbers until the past few years when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) reopened Snook season.
The FWC uses strong regulations on snook because they make a large contribution to the local sport fishing industry. The season lasts for only 6 months and they must be no less than 28″ in total length or more than 33″ total length and the bag limit is one fish per day. Also, as long as they catch it themselves, many fishermen can have restaurants cook their fish for them. Stay aware of regulation updates to avoid complications when fishing!
Why Do They Call It a Soap Fish?
Snook are called soap fish because of their slimy skin. In tropical islands like Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, where they make use of the entire fish, there is an untapped population of snook because the locals don’t like the flavor of the skin. They have deemed the fish inedible. Many local Floridians enjoy the white meat that is softer than swordfish but tougher than trout, giving it a medium firmness. It has a fishier flavor than snapper and grouper, but still delicious!
When cooking your snook, grilling is the best way to go because it tastes the freshest. Other popular ways to enjoy them is to pan sear, fry, or just bake it with butter, lemon juice, capers, and onion. What’s your favorite way to cook fish?