Snook - Fishing Coastal Rivers with William Toney

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Instructor: William Toney

Snook, cold-resistant gamefish, thrive in warmer water and are opportunity feeders. Florida's Gulf Coast rivers provide nutrients for a rich ecosystem, making Homosassa, Florida, an ideal location for snook fishing. The area's magnitude order spring offers year-round fishing opportunities without requiring outdoor access. Captain William Toney, a lifelong fishing guide, shares his knowledge on snook behavior and techniques in a snook fishing video. Enjoy and fish smarter with Captain Toney's expert knowledge.

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Key Video Takeaways:

  • Discover the secrets of targeting snook on Florida's Nature Coast with insights from Capt. William Toney, one of the state's premier inshore fishermen.
  • Explore the unique Nature Coast fishery, featuring first magnitude springs in Crystal River, Homosassa, and Chassahowitzka that provide snook with a warm refuge during winter.
  • Learn about Capt. Toney's preferred artificial lures for snook fishing, including suspending baits, soft plastics, topwater plugs, and spoons.
  • Master the art of live baiting with jumbo shrimp, finger mullet, and pinfish, and discover the best techniques for hooking them.
  • Identify prime snook spots, such as river mouths, deep cuts, mangrove keys with deeper waters, and areas with compressed currents.
  • Gain valuable insights on bait and lure presentation, the best times to fish, the influence of moon phases, tides, and the ideal gear and tackle for snook fishing.

Florida, known for its diverse habitats and abundant fisheries, is a paradise for anglers seeking the thrill of catching the elusive and hard-fighting snook. The state's expansive coastline and numerous rivers provide the perfect environment for this popular inshore species. Among the many renowned fishing destinations in Florida, the Nature Coast stands out as a unique and productive area for snook fishing.

Capt. William Toney, a celebrated inshore fisherman from Homosassa Inshore Fishing, has spent years mastering the art of targeting snook in the coastal rivers of Florida's Nature Coast. His expertise and intimate knowledge of the region have earned him a reputation as one of the state's premier snook fishing guides.

The Nature Coast: A Snook Haven

The Nature Coast, located on the west-central coast of Florida, is characterized by its pristine waters, lush mangrove forests, and a network of spring-fed rivers. The region is home to several first magnitude springs, including Crystal River, Homosassa, and Chassahowitzka. These springs play a crucial role in the life cycle of snook by providing them with a warm refuge during the colder months.

As a cold-sensitive species, snook migrate to the rivers in autumn when water temperatures begin to drop. The consistent warmth of the spring-fed rivers allows them to survive the winter months. When spring arrives, the snook return to the estuaries and coastal rivers to feed and spawn.

Capt. Toney's Snook Fishing Insights

In his informative snook fishing video, Capt. William Toney shares a wealth of knowledge gained from years of experience on the Nature Coast. He covers a wide range of topics, including the most effective artificial lures and live baits for targeting snook.

Artificial Lures for Snook

When it comes to artificial lures, Capt. Toney recommends a variety of options, each with its own unique advantages:

  1. Suspending Baits: These lures, such as the MirrOdine or Rapala X-Rap, are designed to mimic the appearance and movement of small baitfish. They can be worked at various depths and are particularly effective when snook are actively feeding.
  2. Soft Plastics: Soft plastic lures, like the Z-Man Diezel MinnowZ or Berkley Gulp! Shrimp, offer a lifelike presentation and can be rigged in various ways to suit different fishing conditions. These versatile lures are a staple in any snook angler's tackle box.
  3. Topwater Plugs: When snook are feeding on the surface, topwater plugs like the Heddon Super Spook Jr. or Rapala Skitter Walk can be incredibly effective. The splashing and commotion created by these lures often triggers explosive strikes from aggressive snook.
  4. Spoons: Weedless spoons, such as the Johnson Silver Minnow, are excellent for fishing around mangroves and other structure. Their flashy appearance and erratic action can entice even the most finicky snook.

Live Baiting Techniques

In addition to artificial lures, live bait is a proven method for catching snook. Capt. Toney recommends using jumbo shrimp, finger mullet, and pinfish as live offerings. When live baiting, he emphasizes the importance of proper hooking techniques to ensure the bait remains lively and presents a natural appearance to the snook.

One effective live baiting method is free-lining, which involves allowing the bait to swim freely without any added weight. This technique allows the bait to move naturally in the current, making it more appealing to snook. Capt. Toney also suggests using light leader material when live baiting to minimize visibility and increase the chances of a strike.

Targeting Snook: Location and Timing

Knowing where and when to target snook is crucial for success. Capt. William Toney explains that the beginning of the year is an excellent time to focus on river mouths and deep cuts, especially as the water begins to warm up. Snook often congregate in these areas, taking advantage of the compressed currents and abundant forage.

As the season progresses into summer, mangrove keys with deeper waters and strong currents become prime spots for snook fishing. These areas provide ample cover and ambush points for the predatory fish. Capt. Toney emphasizes the importance of identifying moving water conditions, as snook are more likely to be active and feeding in these scenarios.

In addition to location, timing plays a significant role in snook fishing success. Capt. Toney advises anglers to pay attention to moon phases and tides, as these factors can greatly influence snook behavior. He notes that the best fishing often occurs during the outgoing tide, when snook are more likely to be actively feeding.

Mastering the Presentation

Proper presentation is key to enticing snook to strike. Capt. Toney stresses the importance of presenting baits and lures in a natural manner, mimicking the movement and appearance of the snook's prey. When using artificial lures, he recommends varying the retrieval speed and incorporating pauses to trigger strikes from following fish.

When live baiting, Capt. Toney suggests allowing the bait to swim naturally with the current, avoiding excessive manipulation that may appear unnatural to the snook. He also advises anglers to be patient and allow the snook ample time to fully commit to the bait before setting the hook.

Gear and Tackle for Snook Fishing

Having the right gear and tackle is essential for success when targeting snook. Capt. William Toney recommends using medium to medium-heavy action spinning rods, paired with high-quality reels with smooth drags. He prefers braided main line in the 20-30 lb test range, coupled with a fluorocarbon leader in the 30-50 lb test range.

When fishing around heavy cover, such as mangroves or oyster bars, Capt. Toney suggests using a shorter, heavier leader to prevent break-offs. He also emphasizes the importance of using sharp, strong hooks, such as the Owner Mutu Light Circle Hook or the Gamakatsu Inline Circle Hook, to ensure solid hook-ups and minimize the risk of losing fish.


Snook fishing on Florida's Nature Coast offers anglers an exciting and challenging experience. By understanding the unique characteristics of the region, employing the right techniques and gear, and following the expert advice of Capt. William Toney, anglers can increase their chances of success when targeting these elusive and hard-fighting fish. Whether using artificial lures or live bait, mastering the art of presentation and adapting to the changing conditions of the coastal rivers will lead to unforgettable snook fishing adventures on the Nature Coast.

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Captain William Toney

Captain William Toney, a Florida native, is a fourth-generation fishing guide known for his expertise in Redfish, Sea Trout, Mangrove Snapper, Snook and other fish species. He is a licensed and insured guide, a Homosassa Guide's Association member, and hosts 'In The Spread', an online fishing instruction platform. Toney's expertise in redfish, tides, and bait presentation is unparalleled, and he shares his knowledge on seasonal fish migration patterns and tidal flows. His dedication to passing on his knowledge to younger generations is invaluable.

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