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Low tides ahead; check for structure

October 22, 2011

With the approaching cold water period and its extreme low tidal phases it's a great time for the serious angler to get a better understanding of our local fishing grounds.

The first time you see your favorite fishing area minus 70 percent of the water you may be very surprised at what you see, or better yet, see what you've been missing.

New to salt flats fishing? Here's the basic tidal effect lowdown simplified. During periods of ultra-low water the fish will have no choice but to drop back into deep water, meaning potholes, channels, pools, etc. As the tide flows in the fish will come up on the flats with it in search of food.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

At the peak tide, if it's high enough, the fish will push back into the shoreline vegetation to forage. As the tide falls out, obviously the scenario is reversed and the fish retreat back to their deep water staging areas.

Fishing is a puzzle requiring all the pieces to be in place before success is realized.

Pick a negative tide day, grab your camera, notepad, GPS, fill up the tank and slowly cruise.

Look for oyster and sand bars that you've driven over a hundred times without even knowing they were there (and were holding fish). Look for holes, trenches, deep prop scars, cuts, pools, dropoffs, rocks, any structure that's different from the surrounding structure.

When finding these spots stop and record them on the GPS. Make a note in your book; take a picture, so when you return you already know "what's under there" instead of guessing.

Another vital piece in the puzzle is current. Find a deep shady hole and you probably will find fish. Find that same hole, but in an area with currents sweeping through or near it, add a channel or deep dropoff nearby and you might just find a honey hole you can responsibly fish for years to come.

This goes for inshore skinny water fishing as well as deep offshore, and applies to both fresh and saltwater fish. Many new anglers are amazed when first looking at the Gulf bottom and understanding in many cases how little structure is there. If you have a 10-acre flat, featureless patch on the bottom with a small rock structure on 2 percent of it, it's a safe bet that nearly 100 percent of the fish will be on, in, above, or near that structure.

That's why GPS numbers showing underwater structure are prized and kept usually very secret, especially among offshore anglers.

If you put your time in this winter you will greatly increase your overall fishing success, and with the high cost of fuel and such little time available to fish, catching and not looking is the goal.

The inshore redfish report has been steady with roaming singles, small pods and big schools on the flats of both north and south Matlacha Pass, Burnt Store Bar both north and south as well as the top of Pine Island.

Areas near St. James City are holding reds, trout and snook. Fish the cuts, islands and shorelines.

Top lure this week aboard my boat is the topwater plug, Rapala Skitter Walks, Heddon Spooks. Practically any topwater lure is working right now.

When floating weeds aren't a problem toss that gold spoon. You won't find a better search lure for redfish.

For snook check docks, points, night lights on docks, islands near or on the river. For artificials try Sebile or MirrOlures. Snook also eat topwaters, especially during low light conditions.

When using a topwater plug for snook don't always use the same repetitive walk-the-dog retrieve all the way back to the boat. Break it up with sharp pulls and erratic jumps which will put more snook on your hook.

Nice sized trout continue to eat practically anything thrown at them with the big boys hitting big top waters at first light.

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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