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Brian McGill: The MC who Gave up Bass for Snook

When I called Brian McGill (mc_snook_mcgill on Instagram) for this interview, the Tampa, Florida angler was about to start fishing.

“Call you back in 15,” he texted. “walking to a fishing spot. Soon as I get setup I can chat.”

Less than 10 minutes into our conversation, Brian tells me that he’s got a fish on. Asked if he needed to call back, he responded, “No, I think I got it.”

But then he thought better of it and said, “You know, let me call you back once I land this fish.”

After we hung up, Brian sent me a picture of the beefy redfish he hauled in during our conversation. He’d got the fish to shore, snapped a pic and released it… and then brought in a fat black drum. He needed a flash for both pics, because it was pitch dark where he was.

“I’d say I do ninety percent of my fishing at night,” he says. “But since I got my kayak, I go out a little more during the daytime.”

Although Brian has been reeling since he was very young, he didn’t start out fishing the inshore waters of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

“I’m originally from New York. Orange County,” he says. “I grew up fishing mostly for salmon and smallmouth bass. I started fishing rivers for salmon with my dad at five [years old].”

After moving to Florida, though, he took immediately to the Gulf’s stellar inshore fishery.

“Bass fishing techniques translate pretty well to redfish,” Brian says.

But snook, another of his favorite target species, were a different story.

“Snook have really soft mouths,” he says. “So, it took me a while to get the hook-setting technique just right.”

Unlike his redfish methods — which is more topwater — Brian prefers to bounce a jig along the bottom, near structure, when he’s after snook.

Last year, red tide choked off many of the fisheries in the Tampa area.

“They’re starting to come back, now,” Brian says. “But it was bad there for awhile.”

Last winter’s cold snap also killed off a lot of the area’s snook, which are warm-water fish with extreme sensitivity to temperature changes.

“I fish mostly in the canals and inland waterways,” Brian says. “And when the water was cold, a lot of snook sheltered there. So, I did okay.”

In spite of snook’s reputation as a delicacy, Brian is a strict catch-and-release reeler.

“I’d rather put them back and catch them again another time,” he says.

It turns out that Brian’s snook techniques sometimes work on other species.

“I was out fishing by myself once,” he says. “I usually go with a buddy, but this time I was alone, bouncing a jig off the bottom. Suddenly, it felt like my hook it a snag. It just stopped moving — and then it took off, stripping line off my reel.”

It turned out, Brian had hooked his first tarpon.

“I fought him for close to twenty minutes,” he says. “Fortunately, I was close to a beach, so I was able to get him in gently, by myself, and then release him. I figure it was a sixty-pound fish.”

After that experience, Brian started purposely targeting tarpon on occasion.

“I love hooking into a tarpon,” he says. “They strip line and jump, and put up a really tough fight. I work hard to get them in quickly, so I can release them when they’re still green and not exhausted and stressed after too long of a battle.”

I could hear the excitement in Brian’s voice, as he was talking about tarpon fishing.

“For me, fishing is an addiction,” he says. “Some people are addicted to money, some to substances. I’m addicted to fishing. My passion for fishing grows day by day, fish by fish.”

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