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Despite red tide reports, hungry seatrout are out and about

By Staff | Jan 7, 2021

Capt. George Tunison

As of mid-week, the FWC website red tide sampling map showed no measurable concentrations of Karenia brevis from Sarasota south past Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. Unfortunately samples collected at Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel showed medium concentrations.

Samples are evaluated on a cells per liter of water scale with low concentrations being >10,000 – 100,000 cells per liter. With high levels testing at >1,000,000, Lighthouse Beach samples indicated a medium level with Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach showing high concentrations of the toxic tide as well as high concentrations around Naples and even further south around the Ten Thousand Island area.

While we are being spared toxic tide woes, our spotted seatrout are also enjoying the clean water and are looking to eat. It’s time to try your hand at beating the 17-pound, 7-ounce all tackle world record. Actually, in this southern part of the state that’s probably an unrealistic goal. Around Pine Island a 5-pound class trout would be considered a trophy or gator trout.

Looking at the records for really big Florida seatrout, names like Ft. Pierce, Crystal River, both Indian and Banana rivers, and Melbourne Beach stand out.

Back in 1984, Ms. Barbara Arthur wasn’t satisfied with just one IGFA 4-pound line class world record Melbourne Beach seatrout. That fish weighed 10 pounds, 6 ounces. In 1986 and 87, she collected two more world records, again in Melbourne, with trout weighing 12 pounds, 2 ounces on 12-pound line and an 11-pound, 11-ounce trout to capture the 16-pound line class world record.

If really true trophy trout are your passion, clearly the northern part of Florida is the place to try your luck. Another place to visit is Texas where seatrout addicts use their boats just to get to their wading spots.

Wading hip deep, dragging a stringer of bleeding trout around the often dark waters of Matlacha or Pine Island sound while trying to drown out thoughts of “Jaws” background music isn’t something you’ll often find me doing. In Texas, It’s, “We’re here! Time to wade!”

Out west it seems like the women also have the touch when it comes to world record seatrout. In Texas, Ms. Viola Hernandez captured two records catching a 9-pound, 2-ounce seatrout on 2-pound test and a 14-pound, 6-ounce trout on 8-pound line.

A further examination of the world record seatrout list shows the mid-1980s to be a peak time for big trout with 90% of the listed records caught starting in1984 on through 1987. No big spotted trout records were broken again till 1995 when a Florida-caught 17-pound, 7-ounce fish was registered capturing the 20-pound line class world record.

Interesting to note this mid-80s cycle of big southern spotted seatrout trout was occurring at the same time as the northern seatrout, or weakfish, populations were exploding in the Delaware and Chesapeake bays. During those years the Delaware Bay was known as the weakfish capitol of the world.

Currently a 19-pound, 12-ounce weakfish caught by a New York angler in 2008 while bottom fishing for rock fish is the current record.

Threadfins and pilchards are always top baits for snook regardless of the time of year. A handful thrown along a brushy shoreline can really get them eating. Using a bait-bat you can better control and get more distance with your chum. (A bait-bat is a short, fat, plastic baseball bat with the top cut off. Load it with bait fish or fish pieces, diced shrimp, etc., and use it to broadcast your bait towards the area you want to fish).

A lively shrimp under a cork is, of course, the all-time seatrout catcher but it’s also hot combo for winter snook under docks. From an anchored boat, use the current and your rod tip to send your float/shrimp exploring around each piling.

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