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Losing another battle in ‘The Great Salt War’

By GEORGE TUNISON - | Sep 11, 2020

Standing by the truck at 5 in the morning, I was concentrating on controlling my rising blood pressure by remembering my doctors’ advice about controlling stress by dissociating from the moment. He further advised me to adopt a personal mantra to also help distract me: “Fishing is fun.” “Fishing is fun.” Closing my eyes I kept repeating it till I was suddenly calm thinking about years ago when times were easy. Back then I was strictly a happy freshwater bass and musky angler and water was my friend.

Now, here in Southwest Florida, the water contains something insidious, a poison of sorts that endlessly robs my wallet and often disrupts my sleep especially knowing that “it” never sleeps.

Trip long ago booked, boat hooked up, everything well prepared the night before, even two new tires on the truck. People to meet at the dock, 5 o’clock and time to scoot!

Sorry, new tire flat as a pancake. During the night salt-caused rust had creeped in and sucked the air from the tire! Well, sort of. Without even looking, I already knew no nail or screw had punctured the new tire and also knew that today’s earnings would go towards a new set of wheels.

Backing in, getting the truck’s steel wheels wet and salty then letting them bake for 6 hours in a Southwest Florida summer heat parking lot before getting a fresh rinse had corroded and ruined yet another set, my third set, as in hundreds of dollars already spent, on “Old Silver” my tow vehicle.

Salt is at constant war with the boater and right now you know you should be outside wire brushing those battery and small O-ring connections, putting a fresh sacrificial anodes on the motor, greasing bearings, putting on your third set of trailer lights, replacing those livewell pumps and giving that once shiny now salt and sun faded hull some love with a fresh coat of wax.

I’m 100% convinced that “The Great Salt War” is an unwinnable one. As a boat owner, the best one can hope for is a temporary stand-off of sorts only achievable through constant maintenance and money till she sinks or is sold.

This unwinnable battle accounts for the growing popularity of boat club memberships for the casual boater. Choose a boat from the club’s fleet and call ahead to reserve it. Next day the boats at the dock, gassed up ready to go. Bring it back to the dock, get off and go home. Sounds like paradise!

With schooling redfish season starting up, fly anglers are cleaning fly lines and making leaders while others tie flies. A red certainly isn’t finicky when it comes to chow and will usually eat what’s before it, live or dead.

For mangrove, oyster beds or general flats fishing, “keel flies” are always a good choice as the hook rides upward avoiding snags. If you’re a dedicated edge caster, pick flies with weed guards. Dropping a fly onto branches then with a slight tug, pulling it off lightly dropping it to the surface below will usually result in a violent water explosion from a hiding red or snook.  

Un-weighted streamers are always a good choice over grass beds. With a slow sink rate, you can retrieve it over the vegetation and then let it slowly sink into potholes or depressions putting it right in the fish’s face often triggering a reaction strike.

Weighted flies like Clousers get the fly down in deeper conditions.

Floating poppers and sliders are an often overlooked choice for redfish and work great for schooling reds. I don’t like fluorocarbon leader material when using surface poppers as fluro sinks and can often hinder the performance of wide mouthed poppers, pulling them downward at an angle before the “pop.”

Most realize that reds love crabs and the various crab patterns are productive. Always carry a couple of gold spoon flies.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.