Pro Talk: Snook, Cobia and Tarpon in Stuart, FL

by Capt. John Meskauskas

We have all heard the old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, and even though at 36 I do not consider myself an old dog, I am by no means a spring chicken. You see I have been fishing in Stuart, Florida for over 20 years now,I have run a successful fishing guide service for the last 10 years, and I am pretty set in my ways especially when it comes to fishing. Sure, I have tried new lures and techniques but when your job is to catch fish you have a tendency to go back to old reliable lures and techniques. Sometimes you have to force yourself to try something new and that is exactly what happened to me a couple of years ago when I met Mike Hogan, founder of Hogy Lures.

John’s Story!

The learning curve started the morning I picked Mike up at the Finest Kind Marina in Stuart, and he explained to me that he would like to fish his lures all day and he did not care if we caught anything or not. I was open to anything especially if it meant a stress free charter, so I said “Sure, let’s check ‘em out.” That is when Mike pulled out his 10-inch bait in amber and said, “Will this work?” and I quickly responded “Do you have anything smaller?” That is when Mike explained to me that the 10-inch bait is one of his smaller baits, along with his 7-inch bait. I explained that we would be fishing the mullet run and that the mullet were mostly 6 to 8 inches long so we agreed that our best chance would be with the 7-inch bait. We rigged all the rods and went on the hunt for snook.

Big Snook Lures

It did not take Mike long to prove to me that snook loved his Hogy baits when he landed an eight-pounder that was lurking next to the first seawall we visited. Okay, so I learned a new trick that morning, but I must admit that in the following days I went back to my old methods. You see, during the mullet run we fish seawalls where snook and jacks pin the mullet to the wall and topwater plugs work great, so even though the Hogy worked I was still very comfortable with old reliable. That was until one morning when I had a good client, Rob Alpers on my boat.

New  Snook Technique

We hit the walls early and caught a few fish but we noticed that even though the snook were on the walls they all seemed to be hitting under the docks and it was very difficult to get the plugs to the fish. That is when I remembered the box of Hogys that Mike left me and I explained to Rob that with these baits rigged Texas style we could skip the baits under the docks and pull the snook out. We ended up fishing Hogys all day and we went on to have a banner day. Not only did I gain confidence in a new lure, but I actually created a new technique. I have skipped soft plastics under docks for years, but never against the walls during the mullet run. I always fished the open walls but with this new technique every seawall became fishable and most of them have held fish! Since that day the Hogy has become a staple in my boat.

Cobia Lures

Now that Hogys have found their own home in my boat I am always looking for situations where they may give me an advantage. Like this past summer when we had one of the best cobia runs along the beach that I have ever experienced. The first day I spotted the cobia following the bull sharks I instantly reached for my box of Hogys and I finally got to use the 10 and 14 inch baits that I always told Mike were too big for this area. I can’t even think of some creative analogy to explain how much they liked them, let’s just say they never got refused! Can it get any better than this? I now have a new technique for snook and a deadly cobia lure.

Tarpon Lures

Well it can get better. Just last week I fished with Mike again and it was time for me to start taking notes again. We fished the walls as we did last year and Mike explained the success he has had with the tarpon in Key West, so I mentioned that I have some tarpon holes but that here they eat smaller lures. But I was willing to give it a shot, so off we went to the first tarpon spot. It was now afternoon so I was not 100% confident that we would see many or for that matter hook any, but I wanted to check it out for the next day either way. Sure enough, when we arrived the sea breeze had picked up and there were no tarpon in sight.

That is when Mike asked if we should just make some blind casts, and I responded, “Well, I rarely catch them while blind casting. I really like to see them roll.” Moments later Mike had a huge swirl on his 10-inch bait. It had to be a tarpon I said and on my next cast there was another huge swirl, and another, and another, and after I missed him four times I finally got a hook in the fish about 15 feet from the boat. These tarpon were acting like cobia! After another drift and a few more hits we decided to head in and come back the following day. The next morning we headed straight to the tarpon spot and we immediately started seeing fish roll. Unfortunately most of the fish were just out of casting range. This can be a common problem in this particular area and it typically spells for a tough morning of tarpon fishing. Usually I would be patient and wait for a good shot, but heck, usually I would be using a different lure. So we both started blind casting and within minutes we had our first fish chase the Hogy, then moments later another fish. This one was hooked and jumped off. Each cast I was gaining more and more confidence in this new technique. Could this help bridge the gap between slow days of tarpon fishing? Getting bites on the days that the tarpon just aren’t showing well? Those were all thoughts that began to enter my head. As morning continued I grew more and more amazed that these tarpon, most of them were 10 to 15 pounds, were attacking this 10-inch HOGY Original!
The day ended with about six tarpon bites, three fished jumped and one landed. Not a banner day of tarpon fishing, but considering the amount of fish that showed and the overall conditions I was sold on Hogys and I had to share my story. I now have some new tricks in my bag, and this old dog can’t wait to use them some more.

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