Inshore reds, trout, snook still plentiful
I’m happy to report that the inshore fishing is pretty much the same as it has been for months with lots of reds all over the flats along with big trout and snook looking to fatten up.
My clients have caught reds from the northern tip of Pine Island at Jug Creek Point all the way down to St James City. I personally took a big, bad 13-pound red on a gold spoon fan casting the flats this week.
Top producers have been soft plastic jerkbaits and grubs, topwater plugs, spoons and flies. The plastic jerkbait is a must-learn lure if you are not familiar with it. It can be fished slowly and “in the face” of big reds and snook that are slower moving in the colder water period. These lures suspend and slow fall to mimic a slowly dying and disoriented baitfish that spells easy pickings for a big, hungry, but cold predator. For best results fish them slowly with a light 20- to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader of at least 30 inches in the clear winter waters.
I’ve been receiving emails about fishing the passes for Spanish macs and the thousands of other fish that are mixed in with these mackerel feeding frenzies, like trout, bluefish, bonita, ladyfish, king mackerel, sharks and at times tarpon.
A common problem people ask about is when to go? Are the fish always biting? How do I find them?
First consult a tide chart. If there is no moving water when you plan your trip you probably won’t find any fish activity. Come back on a strong outgoing tide and you may be in for the trip of your life with fish on every cast, for an hour or two.
Get the right tide, then get out there and scan the skies for birds. Once found you are in fish city. Remember, the action can occur in the passes or along the beaches to several miles offshore. Take your binoculars and let the birds guide you.
When you find the fish quietly approach the feeding school and make casts to the edges. Do not drive your boat through the feeding school. That ruins it for everyone as the fish will go down and move. Game over for everyone. Don’t be that guy!
Cast small plastics, bucktails, topwater plugs, almost anything will get bitten. Use a short 3- to 6-inch piece of wire knotted to your leader with an Albright Special knot. (netknots.com)
While fishing the feeding schools always leave a live ladyfish or other large baitfish out, freelined on a stout rod. Put it in the rodholder and forget it till you hear the drag scream under the pressure of a large shark or a jumbo kingfish.
This is also a great time to fly fish. A five-pound Spanish mac on a 6- to 8-weight fly rod is a blast as well as a five-pound ladyfish. A 10-pound bonita on the same rod will provide a lifetime fishing memory and a real test of your equipment and angling skills. If you have ever wanted to hone your fly fishing skills you won’t get a better shot as you can easily expect a fish on every cast if you happen on a feeding frenzy in or around our passes.
Capt. Roy Bennett of Hot One II Charters was out in 90 feet of water about 40 miles offshore and limited out with 12 keeper red grouper before noon. All of the keepers were between 22 and 26 inches and he threw another 30 shorts back.
They used live grunts, blue runners and various other strip baits from ladyfish, mackerel and bonita for bait. There are many, many red grouper out there and it’s worth the trip since the bag limit was changed to include four red grouper.
The good fishing continues here in Southwest Florida while the rest of the country freezes. It’s good to live in Cape Coral!
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.