If you know where to look, area fishing is on fire right now.
Having trouble finding your fish? Think deep water.
Since most of the waters I fish are one- to two-foot depth range, deeper water to me is, say, six feet or more.
Capt. George Tunison
To a northern angler used to fishing in truly deep water, it sounds strange, but to local flats or shallow water species those few feet this time of year can mean the difference between life and death. Many shallow water anglers prefer a low tide for fishing as it concentrates the fish, making them more accessible.
This same logic applies to the cold water period as well, concentrating fish in distinct areas. Typically, during the cold water period, fish either move to deeper passes or nearshore reefs. Those that do not will mass in canals, creeks or the river. Once found it's easy to catch several limits as these fish are hungry, competitive and usually in large numbers.
On two trips this week I caught more than 60 redfish and countless trout without moving the boat. Of the 60-plus redfish, only six were keepers. High number catches also have been reported the past couple of weeks by other captains and friends.
All of these fish were caught in the same canal system on both days. Shore-bound anglers got in on the catch, too, as giant schools of juvenile reds ate almost anything thrown their way. This canal is a well known winter hotspot and anglers lined the shores catching fish after fish.
Find a sun warmed canal with some depth, anything over six feet is good, and if it is out of the prevailing wind and has some tidal flow you may have found a wintertime honey hole you can return to year after year.
I don't usually employ live bait, but knowing I needed a lure that would be able to be fished slowly and emit scent, Berkley's GULP Shrimp came to mind and it was a killer choice. Fishing a jig head with a 3-inch GULP Shrimp I caught fish after fish, at one point going 12 reds on 12 casts. The key simply was to drag the bait along the bottom for a couple of feet, let it sit for a five-count, then repeat. Nothing fancy, but deadly.
This is such a positive report I hate to write any negative news, but here goes.
On the two days there I witnessed one of the worst displays of total disregard for wildlife and poor sportsmanship I have ever seen. It was a class in what not to do when it comes to handling and "releasing" fish.
Of 10 people that lined the banks catching fish after fish, not one showed any regard for the fish being caught. The typical scenario was to hook the fish, and with a mighty heave fling it up and over the seawall onto the dry grass and sand. They'd try to trap it with a foot as it flopped damaging eyes, scales, and destroying its protective slime coat, before finally subduing it.
Half of the folks held each fish with a towel or rag inflicting further damage and after some time getting the hook out, then launched the fish 10 to 20 feet through the air to hit the water like a brick.
More experienced anglers quickly removed the hook yet threw these poor juvies like rocks in their greedy zest to get another one! One group filled their cooler with several illegal reds as other hogs hid theirs under towels. What a disgusting display.
These were all older anglers that should know better and the children that were with them learned nothing those days about respect for nature. On the way out, I voiced my opinion and was greeted with three "mind your own business," and four single-finger salutes.
The Christmas spirit I suppose. Poor fish.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.