At Snook Haven little has but changed but the faces and style that all that remain of a day from the past. If you sit back, you can still hear Johnny Weissmuller ordering a cold can of brew from over the bar back. Old style pictures still hang at crooked angles and if you listen carefully, ignoring the hustle and bustle of the modern world down the road! Let your ears hear a raptor’s cry as, Marlene orders the same, waiting from a break in the rain, before filming again begins with Revenge of the Killer Turtles (1947). As an old Florida, bayou-style restaurant and pleasantly primitive entertainment venue, Snook Haven Restaurant & Fish Camp has been a fixture in Venice for more than 50 years. Even before that, fishermen traversing the fish-filled waters of the Myakka River in the early 1900s camped in the area.
Used as everything from fish camp to fish house, this journey back into time is well worth the time to visit. Back when I first moved to Venice, Florida, Snook Haven is where all who try and set up a head quarters and rendezvous for ReelnFish Charters. Running clients up the river for a chance to mingle with our Florida wildlife and catch Bass to freshwater Channel Catfish. Big cats in the twenty pound plus range on light tackle to cane poles. Camping on the banks or overnight pack-ins. Moving down stream we would catch everything from Snook to Reds and if the tides are right, you can catch Bull sharks on one side of the river and Bass on the other, along with an occasional Blue crab too. Now retired to angling and writing about it I enjoy my visits back where “Tarzan” slept lazily along an out stretched branch of a giant oak draped with Spanish moss beyond the restaurant's waterfront, back deck. There one can find a canoe tucked between a fleet canoes to kayaks loosely tied to the aging dock. Here you can elect to explore the slow-moving waters by powerboat or as Snook Haven's slogan states - "You and a Canoe" – paradise to me! In the canoe, the river is yours, at eye level with the crocks, the beauty is bountiful.
Snook Haven is on the sun-dappled shores of the winding Myakka River in Venice. Think giant oaks draped with Spanish moss, graceful cabbage palms, and tea-colored waters flowing by. Two movies have been filmed there, the most famous a Tarzan flick called Revenge of the Killer Turtles. On Thursdays, the public is invited to hear the Gulf Coast Banjo Society practice from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and every Sunday the place overflows with weekend bikers and other regulars who gather round the shaded outdoor picnic tables to listen to live music.
For overnight stays, you can bring your own RV or rent one of the fully furnished cabins. Call first, though, as many are undergoing renovation. Snook Haven also offers guided pontoon boat charters up and down the Myakka River. Bring a camera; one November afternoon, one of the largest alligators the boat captain said he’s ever seen charged the charter and dove straight under. Even grown men shrieked. But the boat also meanders down some spectacularly scenic stretches of pristine county-owned lands that will never be developed.
Mike and Donna Pachota, with their son Justin and daughter-in-law Cheri, are the new concessionaires at Snook Haven. Pachota is planning a smokehouse menu with a variety of smoked meats and southern-style sides such as collard greens and baked macaroni and cheese. The banjos will be back. Count on bluegrass jams every week under the oaks and cabbage palms. The canoe and pontoon boat rentals are coming back too, along with a new menu and some craft beers to sip on the deck overlooking a scenic river bend. A new kitchen to go along with a new smokehouse menu. Some of the first through the door like Venice resident Terry Tingley are taking notice. "The place looks 150% better on the inside then it ever has. The outside is still wild and wonderful. The Duyn's said the alligator is will soon be on display at the Snook Haven Restaurant in Venice. Hank Duyn and Shawn Koss were in a 14-foot John boat on the Myakka River, Monday, when they made the catch. Two friends on a hunting trip ended up catching a 12-foot gator. Just another new member to the unforgetable toppings of Snook Haven and those killer tomatoes!