There’s always a good place to cast a line
Spring winds continue to alter the plans of our local fleet. These are the days flats boaters wish they had bought the pointy model instead of the square one. Oh, my aching back.
Heading offshore? Are you new to the shallow Gulf in heavy winds or bad weather? You went anyway and now your new bay boat the dealer said could take some really rough seas suddenly feels really small as water starts rolling in over the sides. Now what?
Don’t be this guy, his trusting passenger or worse, missing. Stay home – buy fish and lie if necessary.
Good news is with hundreds of miles of fishy canals in the Cape and lots of islands dotting the flats, there’s usually always a place to cast a line. Seriously too windy to cast but just have to be fishing? Troll plugs or live baits through the many miles of canals to score on snook, tarpon, trout, redfish and, at times, even grouper. My neighbor caught a very large canal grouper at the very top of the Cape on a lure.
Good trolling plugs are Bomber Long A’s, Yozuris, Rapalas – basically any slim minnow profile lure will get the job done. Experiment with color and size and depth control.
We typically run two lines and troll fairly close to the walls with a shallow running plug and a deep runner patrols the center of the canal as we move forward. Scan your electronics for any canal structure and, just like trolling offshore, you might want to make multiple passes over it in different directions. You may have found a hotspot that could produce for years.
Also, keep looking at your screens to find schools of fish including tarpon. Mark all interesting points as well as catches on GPS or record in your log for future reference. Note time, tides, moon phase, water temps.
Successful fishing is the result of knowledge, experience, patience, often hard work and good old luck.
Trolling past docks can produce whopper snook but chances are slim you’ll boat a huge one as it will immediately break you off on the pilings as it dives back under cover after grabbing its prize.
Often we’ll pick a stretch of canal to troll looking for active fish patrolling the seawalls. If we find no takers, it’s time to switch modes returning to the choice docks, skip casting and pitching live baitfish or plastic shrimp. With this method you have a much better chance at getting that trophy and to open water.
To get really serious about dock snook, anchor up and arm up with big rods able to cast pound-sized live baits attached to 80 to 100-pound braid tied to 100-pound leaders. Not talking about 5 to 10-pound fish trying to get back under the pilings, but 25 and up which are nearly impossible to turn on your flats outfit especially in heavy current.
Slow trolling canals with live baits is another deadly method to put lunkers on the line, including tarpon. Smaller ladyfish, mullet, shrimp, pinfish all make good -slow – trolling baits. You can run one line and drive the boat solo or run multiple lines staggered at different depths and distances behind the boat fishing with a partner.
Often I’ll slow troll baits using my electric only, which is quieter than the 300hp ethanol burner on the back. The trolling motor also allows more boat control so I can bring baits closer and slowly past good looking spots.
Stopping the motor and slowing the boat before drifting by a hotspot allows the baits to naturally and slowly sink through the water column as the baits pass the structure teasing some big boys near the bottom into biting. Often a big lazy trophy won’t chase too far if he’s not that hungry but a bait in right in its face usually changes his tune.
For best results, slowly troll at night.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or captgeoget3 @aol.com.