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Freeze takes bite out of fish action

January 7, 2012

I'm still shivering from this past week's cold snap and looking forward to a weekend warm-up.

Fishing on Thursday was pretty dismal with the best action taking place at the fish market on the way home. After weeks of beautiful, unseasonably warm weather, with redfish and big trout all over the flats, this week's freeze really slowed things to a crawl. Friday afternoon should start picking up and the weekend looks very promising.

This time of year with ultra-low tides and crystal clear cold water always use the lightest fluorocarbon leaders you can get away with. In clear winter water, fluorocarbon is worth the expense and will make a difference in your catch ratio. I've been using Berkley's Vanish with good results and at little cheaper price.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Stay away from all snaps, swivels, and other hardware that so many beginners employ. Try to stop well before your intended fishing area and scan the water for fish movement instead of just charging in and blowing out the fish. Make long casts using light braid lines. Fifteen-pound braid casts a mile. If you are still using mono try braided or Spectra lines and you will be amazed at the superior qualities of braid. Power Pro and Suffix are good choices.

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 as well.

This is a good time of year to get out the insulated waders, get out of the boat, and slowly and quietly walk up to a mangrove island presenting a low profile while making sidearm casts. When wading wear the appropriate foot gear to protect yourself from the ever present rays.

Reds get spookier as the water clears, but still are catchable year-round in our waters. A fly-caught red in skinny water gives you bragging rights this time of year as sometimes our winter reds get as spooky as Keys bonefish.

When searching for cold water fish on your favorite flat or bar and it soon becomes obvious that no one's home, try going to the nearest deep dropoff or channel and bottom fish with slow presentation lures or bait on the bottom.

To an angler from the north a deep dropoff means 5-100 feet or more. To a flats fisherman used to fishing in 10 inches of water a dropoff is measured sometimes in inches to a foot or two. If you can't find them there move a little deeper and so on. Still no luck? Go home.

Above all, remember to s-l-o-w your presentation when using any type of lure during the cold water period. Of course, that sounds like a no-brainer, but I often see folks retrieve at summer rates no matter what the water temp, then go home and complain the fishing was lousy not knowing plenty of fish noticed their lures but were simply too cold to give chase.

Use lures that perform best at slow speeds, like soft plastic jerk baits that mimic a slowly struggling and dying baitfish. Great soft plastic jerk baits are available in lots of colors by many manufactures and in many different scents. GULP, Exude, Zoom, are my three top producers. These baits can be rigged in a variety of ways for different applications.

A new hook by Owner called the TwistLock is a super jerkbait hook that makes rigging soft plastics easy. It has the wire screw-on feature that really holds the plastic on the hook without slipping.

Due to the shortage of launching ramps and the large number of visitors to our area try and practice ramp courtesy. Get in and get out of the ramp safely and efficiently so we all can enjoy the water.

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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