Dale Ash was born and raised in Miami, where he cut his reeling teeth on the bays with his dad. Sometimes, he’d even hook a snook.
Eventually, Ash discovered that South Florida’s irrigation canals and subdivision lakes were home to more than just alligators. Largemouth and peacock bass also plied the region’s freshwater. And the chase was on.
For most of his adult reeling life, Ash focused exclusively on bass, even while attending college in Orlando. Then he found himself in Jupiter, Florida with a young family, more than an hour from freshwater. But, Atlantic saltwater was only a few minutes away.
And once he got a feel for the fishery in his own backyard, Ash was hooked on snook.
“Their bite is very specific, and once you get hit by a big snook, you’ll be hooked.”
He traded in his bass boat for a bay boat, and Jupiter Snooker was born.
For Ash, though, it’s not just about chasing snook. Rather, it’s about chasing the big, monster snook that — in the United States, anyway — can really only be found on South Florida’s Atlantic coast. And his preferred method is jigging.
When it comes to bait, Ash relies on snook jigs from First Light Tackle. His go-to is a one and a half ounce bucktail-style jig with a white head in red or chartreuse.
“Once you figure it out, you’ll love it, and all you’ll want to do is jig for big snook,” he says.
Although, jigs are not the only only thing he’s had luck with. Ash once hooked a 40-inch snook using a topwater plug — a Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil — but the fish wasn’t all that interested in being caught. The snook hit the Yo-Zuri and ran under a series of docks, trying to throw it.
“I had to jump in the water and walk and swim after the fish in order to land it. But I got it.”
Snook are highly-regulated fish, in part, because of their popularity as a game fish: They fight hard and taste delicious. They’re also highly sensitive to environmental conditions, such as water temperature. A cold snap can cause a significant snook die-off in Florida waters.
Therefore, the seasons are short and occur during a few a weeks, a couple times a year. The slot for keepers is tight and the bag limit is one per day during season.
This means that Ash, with his preference and propensity for catching big snook, releases most of the fish he catches. But he doesn’t mind.
Ash loves the fishery and encourages others to give it a shot.
“Go at night. Start around docks and dock lights with little lures. The snook are eating shrimp and glass minnows, so you want to try and mimic that,” he says. “It’ll take a while. You’ll break off jigs on structure — and get frustrated — but once you feel a snook bite, you’ll know what you’re after.”
He loves chasing big snook, but Ash doesn’t always go at night. The harsh sunlight off the Atlantic means Ash usually wears his Salt Life SLX Uvapor performance shirt to keep his skin from frying while he’s out on the water.
But going at different times and looking for different things is what drives Ash to keep fishing.
“It’s always different. Every time you go out, the tide, the water, the wind, the moon: They’re all different,” he says. “You start with one piece of the puzzle, and then you need to figure out what the next piece is. Where are they lying? What are they eating? You just keep putting the puzzle together until you start catching fish.”