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Plenty of redfish being caught inshore

March 29, 2019
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Inshore redfishing is worth your time with good numbers caught and released by mangrove-edge bait anglers. Typically winter reds run smaller with one good fish over 5 pounds for every four to five rat or juvenile reds hooked. Good news is, I've had several charters these past weeks catching 20 or more reds on half day outings on both incoming and outgoing tides.

Look for mangrove points or edges with a channel or hole running by or under it throughout Matlacha Pass and Pine Island. A 3-foot-deep cut on a 1-foot-deep flat can turn out to be a gold mine.

In the early morning, any oyster bar is prime redfish territory. As the day brightens, fish move not only under the mangroves but also docks, which can be a cold water redfish school magnet.

Article Photos


Nick Calio with a Matlacha backcountry redfish.

Best bait these past three weeks? Shrimp. No live-well? No problem. I buy live shrimp and put them in bags or plastic containers with no water then put the bags on ice. Keep the chlorinated ice water out of the bags or containers or the shrimp will die. Keep them really cold and they will live and or stay very fresh for long periods of time.

Once set up, I'll take the shrimp, tear off the head and put the rest on an Owner 3/0 to 4/0 circle hook. Tearing off the head releases lots of fresh shrimp smell for the always-alert redfish nose to pick up on. Cast it up and under the branches and wait. Typically if the fish is close, strikes can come in 30 seconds or less. Line watchers have the advantage also saving the fish from swallowing hooks, by having the bait too long.

Clients that lost bigger reds (sorry guys!) caused their own problems by forgetting two basic rules. Never try to set circle hooks and never do Rowland Martin sky high hooks set on a 7-pound redfish already 4 feet under the mangroves.

Point your rod and reel tight to the fish with your circle hook. Setting the hook often takes the bait and hook away from the fish.

After the strike, fight the fish with the rod tip in the water to keep the line out of the branches or you will hear a loud sound like SNAP! and your guide quietly moaning in pain.

The first place a red or snook will head will be as far back and under as he can get you, so be ready.

Using anything but circle type hooks with bait will typically insure that you will gut hook the fish. This past week we moved up to 4/0 circle hooks because even hungry juvenile redfish were swallowing 3/0 circle hooks due to high winds making strike detection at times difficult.

It's hard to see tarpon rolling when the wind machine is on high but be assured many are already here with lots more on the way. Hopefully the wind will lay down for the weekend angler to be able to pitch live crabs or baitfish to beach tarpon as they glide by. The rest of the crew will probably be anchored off Sanibel waiting for the biggest meanest tarpon of the season to take to the air while fighting off an army of sharks looking to chow down on bottom bait handouts.

Early tarpon areas are also found in lower Pine Island Sound in the general vicinity of Chino Island and further north in the Sound around Captiva Shoals and Captiva Rocks.

Tarpon will push up into Matlacha Pass and big city loving fish will split off and head up the Caloosahatchee towards Fort Myers mixing with their resident cousins along the way.

Punta Gorda reports good morning and night tarpon at the 41 Bridges.

Matlacha Pass is filled with light tackle, shallow water shark opportunities. A 50-pounder on a heavy snook rod is a blast.

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



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