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Brave the shallows for big reds

December 24, 2011
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

I'm standing in the boat Thursday daydreaming, slowly reeling in a spoon watching schools of mullet jump, thinking how nice it is to be here in late December.

It's 83 degrees and Friday promises to be 86. Suddenly, my autopilot goes on and I slam the rod back in response to a massive hit. My partner laughs as the rod is almost torn from my hand by this fat near-30-inch red hitting the lure with killer intentions.

If you are an inshore fisherman and enjoy catching large trophy trout and fat bulldozer reds in 10 inches of water, by all means go fishing! Just make sure your boat is capable of floating in this water and please read a tide chart before going out.

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Capt. George Tunison

Remember, these are super low winter tides. We have a shallow water fishery anyway so boaters beware.

Even the tow companies can't come and get you if you suddenly find yourself high and dry back in the boonies.

These past few months topwater lures, floating MirrOlures, and gold spoons have been my go-to baits for shallow reds and trout. This week try a floating popper type plug, such as the bass lure, the Rebel Pop-R. These noisy surface baits slay big trout and reds and snook are fond of them as well.

The classic shrimp and popping cork is the mainstay of Florida flats fishing and for good reason. The bloop bloop chugging sound produced by jerking these floats attract fish of all kinds, especially trout.

The popper type lure casts far, has rattles, and the built-in chugging sound upon the retrieve. This is a great surface bait to use in choppy and windy conditions when traditional walk-the-dog lures like Zara Spooks and Rapala Skitter Walks lose some appeal.

Always tie surface baits, including these chuggers, to your leader with a loop knot for maximum lure action. It really makes a big difference in lure performance.

Also, when using any bass plug for salt duty always switch out the split rings and upgrade the hooks for tougher fish. It's not a bad idea to upgrade the treble hooks on most spoons as many come equipped with light grade wire hooks. Once you lose your trophy redfish it's too late. Change them out before you go.

Catching fish is only half the equation. Finding the fish is the crux of the issue. Where are these redfish and trout I'm writing about? They are everywhere through Matlacha Pass both north and south. Drift any flat and randomly cast lures. Put in your time and fish quietly and you will score.

This is a numbers game. Keep your lure wet and go to work. Big loner reds and trout are spread out all over the flats and almost all my hits by the big dawgs are away from the shorelines. The rat reds usually are up closer to the bush right now in the Pass.

For the sit-and-wait angler, there is an abundance of ladyfish waiting to be caught, cut up, and put on a circle hook. Cast it up under a bush and wait quietly. Redfish have huge noses and seek out the scent of chunk ladyfish.

Big shrimp are here and I'm not sure there is a better under-the-bush bait for reds. Pinfish weighted down on a jighead, under a float, or freelined around cover make for hot redfish bait.

This year change your water separating filters. Top off your batteries with distilled water only. Grease those bearings and replace those old fashioned trailer lights with LED outfits that last years longer. Change out old coated sacrificial anodes on your motors to help fight corrosion. Add ethanol treatment to your gas. In saltwater boating really good maintenance, always pays off.

This year give another angler some room, don't kill what you don't need, and please be kind to our environment. Take the kids fishing.


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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