Client of Marrio Castello with a large snookCommon snook (Centropomus undecimalis) are a highly sought-after sport fish found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The Nature Coast of Florida is the northern range of snook in the Gulf, and many more snook are being caught lately in Hernando County, Crystal River, Yankeetown, and Cedar Key than there were just a few years ago. This fact suggests that snook populations could be growing in the Nature Coast. Researchers hypothesize that snook are expanding their range and population numbers as average sea surface temperatures increase. To study this phenomenon, the UF IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station is starting new projects in cooperation with the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, local fishing guides, and Hernando County.

snook fin clip for genetic analysis

One of the new projects is focusing on the genetics of snook populations in the Nature Coast. Emma Pistole, a new graduate student in the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences program at the University of Florida, is taking the lead on the snook genetics project. “Currently, there are no data about the genetic diversity of these individuals and management of the Gulf stock is based on individuals from areas surrounding and south of Tampa Bay” Pistole said. The goal of the study is to determine if snook between Hernando County and Cedar Key are different genetically from the broader stock in the Gulf. “Gaining information about the genetic diversity of these individuals will help ensure that snook caught in these northern parts of the Gulf inform management”, Pistole explained. NCBS Director, Dr. Mike Allen, is excited about plans to study snook of different ages to further assess population dynamics in the Nature Coast, the northern limit of their range. “We plan to look for juvenile snook and use genetics to evaluate whether the juveniles in this region are being produced by a few individuals in the area or are a result of a much larger population of adults,” Allen says.

Pistole is working with NCBS Research Professor Dr. Charlie Martin and FWRI researchers Dr. Mike Tringali and Dr. Sue Barbieri. Local fishing guides are teaming up with NCBS to help with sample collection. Fishing guides in Yankeetown and Crystal River were recently trained on how to collect fin clips for genetic analysis NCBS Regional Florida Sea Grant Agent Dr. Savanna Barry. Fishing guides in Cedar Key worked with Dr. Allen to learn the procedures, and Hernando County guides will be trained by Hernando County Sea Grant Agent Brittany Hall-Scharf. Local guides were excited about the opportunity to participate in studies that help better the understanding of one of their clients’ favorite fish. They bring an extraordinary level of local knowledge about snook and other fish populations and are very important for the project’s success. See below for more information about fishing guides cooperating on this project – and check back for updates!

Captain Mike HollandCaptain Mike Holland with a Snook

Saltwater Fishing Guide, Yankeetown, FL

Capt. Mike guides fishing trips in the areas of Yankeetown/Crystal River to the east coast’s Indian River Lagoon from Titusville to Sebastian. He has 40 years of experience in recreational and professional fishing in Florida. He specializes in inshore fishing, but guides all different kinds of trips. Mike has already collected his first snook genetic sample for the project! You can find him on Facebook at Coast to Coast Charters or get in touch at (352) 949-4310, (407) 970 4015.

Captian Ky Lewis with snookCaptain Ky Lewis

Saltwater Fishing Guide, Yankeetown, FL

Capt. Ky has guided charters all over the state but now operates Reputation Charters out of Riverside Inn in Yankeetown, FL. He was rated as one of the Top Ten Captains in Florida and number one on the west coast for offshore skippers! Now Capt. Ky mostly guides inshore trips for grouper, tarpon, snook, redfish and trout. Ky also leads the Riverside Fishing Club, which holds monthly meetings and club tournaments in Yankeetown. You contact him at 352-400-1469 or find Reputation Charters on Facebook.

Captain Dan ClymerCaptain Dan Clymer in Crystal River

Saltwater Fishing Guide, Crystal River, FL

Capt. Clymer has been fishing the waters around Citrus County his whole life, and has been a licensed captain since he was 18. He guides inshore and offshore trips, targeting grouper, snapper, cobia, king mackerel, redfish, trout, and snook. Capt. Dan specializes in shallow water grouper fishing and also offers fly fishing trips. He has been in fishing magazines and made appearances on several fishing shows. Capt. Clymer keeps an active blog on his website about the trips he guides and you can also find him on Facebook at Crystal River Fishing or get in touch at (352) 418-2160.

Captian Marrio Castello with Snook

Captain Marrio Castello

Saltwater Fishing Guide, Crystal River, FL

Capt. Castello has been fishing the waters around Crystal River all his life. He guides trips out of Crystal River, mostly targeting trout and redfish but also targeting other species, including scallops, snook, and grouper.  Capt. Castello has been featured in popular fishing magazines and shows and keeps an active photo gallery on his website. You can find him on Facebook at Tall Tales Charters or get in touch at (352) 454-7719.

Capt. Joshua Fritz

Capt. Joshua Fritz is a Native Floridian fishing the local waters of the Gulf Of Mexico, Capt. Josh is a 25 ton licensed and fully insured guide. Capt. Josh knows these waters inside and out with over 25 years of boating knowledge. Capt. Josh is very well know in the fishing world and is professional and friendly, come aboard with Capt. Josh and lets catch some fish.

Other Guides – Cedar Key and Hernando

Additional cooperating guides include Captain Denny Voyles (Cedar Key, Voyles Guide Service, 352-339-2034, Facebook), Captain Carl Robinson (Cedar Key, Robinson Fishing Charters and Robinson Seafood, 352-543-5051), Captains Jimbo Keith, Jim Keith, and Stephen Keith (Cedar Key, Saltwater Assassin Fishing Charters, 352-745-2262, 352-535-5083, website), Captain David Frazier (Southern Breeze Charters, Hernando County), and Brian Stauffer (Fishhead Kayak Charters, 352-442-4311, Brooksville).

Photos: top – Capt. Marrio Castello, top right – Capt. Mike Holland, mid-right – Capt. Mike Holland, mid-left – Capt. Ky Lewis, bottom right – Capt. Dan Clymer, bottom left – Capt, Marrio Castello