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What a week — fish were biting before Eta arrived!

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | Nov 12, 2020

As of this writing, the wind is gusting to 60 mph with sideways rain. It was my turn to be on tornado watch so I found myself sitting by the window typing and silently praying  to the shingle Gods for old roof mercy when my friends had to go out. Yorkie actually lifted off and flew a good four feet backwards across the front lawn. At the same time I’m hearing reports that a sailboat is stuck under the Matlacha Bridge, possibly damaging the bridge and closing off Pine Island, votes are somehow still being counted and virus numbers are reportedly on the rise. What a week!

Before the front we were enjoying a really good inshore redfish bite and a strong Spanish mackerel catch. I look forward each year to catching both, especially on the fly. Watching a redfish try and wolf down a big topwater popping bug in a foot of water is a hoot, especially when they so often miss due to their mouths being positioned so far back on their neck. If a red strikes but misses, don’t panic and pull it out of the strike zone or, stop your retrieve. Just continue to work the bug and the red will usually try to eat it again, trying multiple times till he’s successful at getting a mouthful. This is 100% exciting and requires patience to make the hook-up.

The sudden splash of a topwater strike trips the trigger of an already tense angler often causing a premature hookset. Be it a topwater plug or a big fly popper/ bug, the old pros always remind us to not strike any topwater bite till you can actually feel the weight of the fish.

If no action on top, then I’m reaching for a weighted Clouser Minnow-type keel fly (the hook rides upward) pattern especially around oyster bars. Tie in a weed guard on your homespun Clouser and get in those mangrove nooks and crannies without fear.

Spanish mackerel should still be in and around the passes, nearshore and off the lighthouse beach on Sanibel Island.  

If you are new to chasing Spanish mackerel, there are many methods used to catch them but first, you have to find them. Your best friends are now birds and binoculars. Scan the area with binoculars looking for birds diving into the water. The mackerel are under the school of baitfish driving them to the surface and the birds are taking advantage of the easy pickings on top. This is where you need to be. Once you arrive on scene, try trolling a few small silver spoons such as the Clark Spoon or anything shiny behind the boat and around the edges of the school.

If you prefer to cast, bring frozen chum. After finding the fish by trolling or bird watching, anchor in the area and chum the fish right to the back of a boat. Add a light single strand wire bite leader or tie on a piece of 40-pound fluorocarbon for increased bites on spin or fly outfits.

Fishing for schooling mackerel is great light tackle fun and can make for a great family fishing day as the fishing is often fast and furious, perfect for the younger angler’s 8-minute attention spans, and requires little skill.

Nice hair or feathered flies aren’t cheap and don’t last long with the mackerel’s razor teeth. I use an aluminum foil wrapped, long shanked hook during feeding frenzies with great success.

Bigger macs strike topwater plugs and the strikes are violent and exciting for the crew.

Keep a big baitfish out behind the boat in hopes of enticing a big kingfish for a drag smoking, exciting run. If you get that bite remember to let the fish run or it may pull off on too tight a drag setting.

Weekend ramps are crowded. Courtesy and patience goes a long way.

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