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Early March turns out to be a good time to fish for reds

March 15, 2019
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Not sure if early March is considered a top-notch redfish month here in Southwest Florida, but with the large number of reds caught and released aboard my boat this past week you would think it is.

Mostly juvenile fish with some, over 6-pound kicker fish mixed in keeps it interesting and rods bent. A secret bait or lure? No, just the time-tested method of tossing a piece of shrimp or ladyfish chunk under the mangroves and waiting for the scent to reach the always-alert nose of the red.

Approach the shoreline quietly, which means shut down the big motor at least 75 yards away and use the electric to close the distance, and to then position the boat close enough to the mangroves to be able to make accurate casts, up and under the branches.

Anchor or Power Pole down, cast and wait. While anchoring, casting and then waiting, keep the boat rocking, foot shuffling and can dropping to a minimum or the fish will not be there long.

After 15 20 minutes, move on to your next spot till you find them.

Very early in the morning, fan casting the flats right off the mangroves with DOA CAL Jigs on 1/4 oz. jig heads has been productive on flats reds as well as snook and trout. After the sun comes up, switch your game to up and under the bushes with dead baits or if you can't sit still and need to cast then, use your skip casting technique to get the soft plastics up and under docks and bushes as you move along the shoreline.

If you can't efficiently skip cast a soft plastic inches off the water the length of your boat or more, simply practice till you can. Practice both forward and backhand casts. For mangrove and dock casters, this is a valuable tool to have in their bag of tricks and puts them on fish that the crowd passes by.

When throwing jigs on the open flats, downsize your line and leader as well as your rod. A light action 6.5 to 7-foot rod using 10-pound test braid coupled with at least 36 to 48 inches of 15 to 20-pound test fluorocarbon leader material will do just fine.

When moving to the bush to dead bait fish, pick up your other medium rod spooled with 20-pound braid and a 24-inch 30 to 40-pound test fluro leader. Add a 1/4 oz. sliding barrel sinker to the leader and tie on a 2/0 circle hook loaded with shrimp and cast it as far back and under the brush as you can.

Sit quietly and watch your line for twitches or jumps. Typically a hungry red grabs the bait and is gone, as far back and under the bush and trees as possible. If you aren't watching your line you may pay the price by being broken off.

If your aren't using a circle hook, your fish is more than likely now gut hooked and may later die after release. By all means, use circle hooks whenever possible especially with dead baits.

When the line starts to move, stick the rod tip in the water and reel tight swiveling at the hips to power the fish out of cover while keeping the line low at the water's surface and out of the tree limbs.

No need to set the hook with the circle hook, just reel tight and fight.

When baiting with shrimp, I pull off the heads and fan, inserting the hook into the tail with the point exposed. This puts lots of scent into the water and draws them.

Redfish season is still closed.

While getting geared up for tarpon or while redfishing the mangroves, check out the shallows for sharks that I've been seeing all week.

Set up a chum slick and add a few ladyfish for some high speed, light tackle, shallow-water fun.

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



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