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Best tactics for cold weather

January 9, 2010

After reading the news the other day, I have decided to quit guiding and become a full-time tuna fisherman and, hopefully, a rich man. My goal would be to catch just one fish a year and then take the rest of the year off.

A giant bluefin tuna of 513 pounds sold last week at auction in Japan for $177,000. Three restaurants split the tuna which was destined to be sold piece by piece as sushi at sky-high prices per bite. Actually, tuna prices are down, if you call $177,000 "down" because of the poor economy worldwide.

Also, stocks of giant Atlantic and Pacific tunas are become dangerously low worldwide due to overfishing to try and satisfy the demand, especially in Asian countries.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Cold weather tactics: I was in south Matlacha this week drifting behind some well-known oyster bars. The water was crystal clear and winter tides, low. The sun felt good to my old bones as I stood high on the bow and let the slight breeze carry me quietly across the shallow flat that was alive with mullet, small redfish, trout, and an endless supply of small sheepshead.

The trout and even the reds seemed in a daze from the icy 56-degree water. They sat motionless trying to get warmth from the bright sun. Drifting off the flat and into the eight-foot deep channel a giant school of well over 200 sheepshead of all sizes were milling about below.

Anchoring nearby, I diced a handful of shrimp and saturated the channel with my bait slinger. I then caught fish after fish on a 1/16-oz. jighead tipped with small chunks of shrimp. Not long afterwards a small school of charged up bluefish moved in. Picking up my redfish rod already rigged with a gold spoon I caught a couple fat four-pound fish that fought like mad and really made my drag sing.

Finally, as the water started to come back in and I had decided to make a couple more casts and call it a day, I had a tremendous strike and lost half a spool of line in what seemed like seconds. After a long battle, I subdued what I surely thought was a very big redfish, a dark, olive green shape appeared wearing my gold spoon in his lip. The chunky grouper weighed just under nine pounds on my Boga Grip. What a beautiful fish. Actually, a tank would be more appropriate and what a battle on a small rod. I snapped a couple of pictures and with dreams of a family grouper dinner, I gently released this tough ol' fish none the worse for wear.

I left the dock that morning with high hopes and low expectations due to the cold water. The best time to go fishing is whenever you can, regardless of the weather.

This time of year, with ultra-low tides and crystal clear, cold water always use the lightest fluorocarbon leader you can get away with. Stay away from all snaps, swivels, and other hardware that so many beginners employ. Stop well before your intended fishing area and scan the water and the wind. Make long casts using light braid lines.

Turn off the trolling motor and get on the push pole or position the boat to let the breeze silently drift you through an area. Above all be quiet and stealthy and remember if you can see a redfish he can probably see you.

This is a good time of year to get out the insulated waders, get out of the boat, and slowly, quietly walk up to a mangrove island presenting a low profile while making sidearm casts.

When searching for cold water fish on your favorite flat or bar and no one is home go to the closest deep channel.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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