When fish turn off, go to Plan B
If you’re having trouble locating snook that should be in their typical seasonal time honored spots, but are missing along with the action, go to Plan B.
Right now the passes and along the beachfronts are prime snook hunting grounds. The tackle shop told you to fish the passes on a good outgoing tide fishing the shoreline from inside to outside or be a before sun-up beach walker casting bucktails into the surf zone. Still can’t find your fish? New to the area or saltwater fishing? Try this approach.
Drop back from the beach and fish the closest islands, docks, oyster bars, channels, potholes and mangroves staying within sight of the passes. If you have a choice and time is limited go for the high percentage areas only. Generally, potholes and channels, on the low tide phase, and up and under during high water.
For example, you come upon three small islands, stop and assess the situation before barging in and flailing away at each one without a game plan. Stay way back, shut down, be really quiet, read the situation, and get a plan together.
What do you see? Any tails breaking the surface? Is there baitfish present? Currents? Water-tide-wind direction?
Island 1 sits by itself on a shallow, featureless flat with little shoreline vegetation. Islands 2 and 3 share the same flat 25 yards from each other with a 24-inch deep channel flowing between them. Island 3 has a deep shady shoreline with current. Time is limited, forget island 1 and explore 2 and 3 as it contains many more features to draw in multiple species game fish.
Shade, depth, current flows are fish attractors. Expect to find redfish and snook. In fall don’t be surprised if a big gag grouper eats your lure on one of these inshore islands.
Attack these two islands with spoons, DOA Shrimp, top water plugs, etc. In the channel, cast up current retrieving your offering back with the current naturally. Don’t fight the currents with your lure. Game fish generally face into the current to feed on the less fortunate that are trapped in and washed along by the tide to their waiting mouths. A lure overtaking them from behind occasionally will draw strikes, but typically scares fish as its simply unnatural.
When setting up to cast position your boat to take advantage of wind, shade and currents instead of fighting the elements presented. Fish quietly and efficiently. Be mentally prepared for a big fish. You should be thinking “big fish next cast” with every throw.
If you hooked a 30-pound snook right now are you and the boat in the proper place? If your boat is along the mangrove edge and a jumbo eats your Zara Spook, good luck. There’s a chance she will head to open water, but probably will rip into the shoreline branches and roots, tangle and break off in seconds.
Position yourself for success, be positive.
Proper boat positioning and control are a major part of your game plan. Shots at real trophies, once-in-a-lifetime fish, don’t come often. For weekend warriors with limited time chances are further reduced. On these always unpredictable waters, at any time of day or night, your next cast and strike could tie you to a lifetime trophy catch and healthy release. Be ready.
Learning the art of “reading the water” comes with time, paying your dues over the years gaining experience and knowledge with every trip. When approaching any fishing situation take a few minutes to assess all the factors in front of you.
Think season, time of day, sunlight intensity, current flow and water temps, water quality, etc. Add all these factors together. Now you have a logical plan and a pathway to success no matter where you fish Southwest Florida shallows.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.flyingfinssportfishing.com.