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Fish react to the chill differently

December 4, 2010

Wow, did it get cold quick or what? Of course, clients are booked wanting to catch fish. It never fails.

To most northerners a quick three-day north wind and 40-degree nighttime temps are a walk in the park, but in South-west Florida, it can really change things quickly on, or better yet, in our shallow waters.

Sometimes it causes some species to put on the feedbag and others get instant lockjaw till things stabilize. Trout and reds don't mind the cold so much, but snook bundle up and hunker down having nightmares about last winter's deadly cold spell when so many thousands of their closest relatives turned into snookscicles and perished.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Actually, trout really turn on this time of year, but remember the season is closed. If you must target trout please think conservation and bend down hook barbs that cause so much injury to delicate trout.

Secondly, when releasing them try not to touch them, especially with dry hands, or even worse a rag or towel. Just because a fish swims away does not mean it was a successful release when it dies days or weeks later from massive barb damage or fungal and bacterial infections from having most of its scales and slime removed from dry handling.

Sheepshead are on the move and the colder waters bring them to bridges, dock pilings and oyster beds near you where they are ready to steal your bait and test your reaction time.

Cold water fires up the big drum and a chunk of blue crab soaked on bottom around your favorite bridge piling may have you winning or losing a tug of war with a 60-pound black drum.

Pine Island Sound is still filled with Spanish macs. Just let the gulls point the way and you will find them.

Pompano are enjoying the cold water, too, and feeding on yellow shrimp-tipped jigs bounced on the bottom. Look for juvenile tarpon in deep water basins.

Capt. Roy Bennett of Hot One II Charters took out SPC Jonathon Caron assigned to the U.S. Army in Afghanistan on the front lines, who is home on leave until Dec. 9. This was an Operation Open Arms Charter which gives free trips to active duty vets that are protecting our freedoms. SPC Caron will be serving again in Afghanistan for at least another four months. He was accompanied by his father, Buzz, and grandfather, John.

The charter started at the lighthouse where not a bird, bait or fish could be seen. Without wasting any time they proceeded to the Causeway Reef. They landed about 10 different species of fish, including small red grouper, ladyfish, flounder, many nice grunts (that we kept) and a 40-pound stingray that battled on the light tackle for about 20 minutes.

After the bite stopped, they again looked for the lighthouse birds, but they weren't around. The group started trolling Mann's deep-diving plugs near the Sanibel Pier when all of a sudden one of the rods doubled back. An estimated 100-pound tarpon came fully out of the water only to somehow spit the red/white plug in the jump. Of course, landing this magnificent fish would have been great, but just seeing it in all its enormity was fantastic.

They trolled a while longer with no results and headed home. Then, to put a nice finishing touch on this enjoyable day, two dolphins swam almost the entire slow zone in their wake, sometimes almost touching the boat.

This soldier and his close-knit family had as a good time and an enjoyable dinner, too, with the grunt I fillets.

Capt. Bennett looks forward to the next Open Arms Charter, his 10th.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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