Alabama Teen Catches a Pending State-Record Snook After Getting His Lure Stuck in a Tree

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High school junior Gardner Love turned a bad cast into a great catch when he boated a pending Alabama state-record common snook while dislodging his lure from a tree during a solo fishing outing on May 14.

“The wind was blowing towards land, and I got snagged up in a tree in this marsh, and I yanked it back and got it unsnagged,” Love told Fox 10 News. “As soon as it hit the water, the fish blew up on it. It threw water ten feet in the air. I thought it was a tarpon at first, but it turns out it wasn’t.”

Instead, it was a 7-pound, 27-inch snook that is nearly 2 pounds heavier than the current record, a 5-pound, 2.6-ounce specimen caught by Richard Tarver Webb at Orange Beach on January 15, 2023.

Love, who attends Elberta High School in Baldwin County, Alabama, was fishing Soldiers Creek after school, not really targeting snook, when the lucky bounce landed his lure in front of the fish. After working the feisty snook to the boat, he realized he didn’t have a net on board. Undeterred, he hopped into the water, which was less than two feet deep, and grabbed the fish through the gills.

“He was barely hooked, too, and the hook that he was hooked on was a treble hook. It was bent out straight,” Love told Fox 10. “Like, he was barely hanging on there.”

The snook is a relative newcomer to the state-record book because it has traditionally been hard to find in Alabama waters: Webb’s 2023 catch was the first to establish the record. Before that, in 2019, a snook caught in Weeks Bay was thought to be one of the first ever in the state—and a sign of the “tropicalization” of local waters brought on by climate change.

“Snook is not a commonly caught fish in Alabama,” Scott Bannon, director of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Resources Division, said in April while discussing the addition of the species to the state’s saltwater record list. “This would be the extreme edge of their habitat. They like clear water and warm temperatures. Pensacola has historically been considered the edge of their range, but things change.”

The department has confirmed that the fish is a common snook, and the process to certify the record, which could take a month, is underway. Meanwhile, Love can take comfort in the knowledge that although he flubbed the cast, he certainly stuck the landing.

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