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Stable weather pattern means good fishing inshore and off

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | Feb 18, 2021

Capt. George Tunison

Pick your weather window and enjoy Gulf of Mexico reef fishing on nearshore structure or venture out to the hundred foot mark and beyond.

Starting Tuesday, we’ll enter into a sunny, stable weather pattern, with light winds. That’s if you believe the weather wizards and their predictions. 

One local captain reported fine catches and early-in-the-trip limits of red grouper this week (22 to 32 inches) out in the 85 to 120-foot zone with grunts, squirrels and pinfish the choice bottom baits. His weapon of choice for these deep grouper is a heavy jig loaded up with ladyfish meat with a lively live bait further up the line.

On the way back inshore, pause at the nearshore reefs and sample some great sheepshead fishing and a possible shot at a permit or cobia.

New to Southwest Florida offshore fishing? Go to the FWC website for all the info you’ll need to locate your new fishing hot-spot. Great interactive maps and GPS coordinates will get you there. From Tampa all the way to Naples, concrete ruble reefs to sunken ships host schools of fish, year-round.

In the Gulf, red grouper season is open year-round with a 20-inch size limit with two per person limit. Grey snapper (mangrove) have a 10-inch size restriction with a daily bag limit of 5. Sheepshead can go home to Cape skillets and ovens when they reach 12 inches with 8 the harvest limit. Use an ultra-sharp, fine wire hook for solid hook-ups on these legendary bait stealers.

Tip those small pompano jigs with small bits of shrimp and start your pomp hunt in and around the passes. Do the hop-and-drop retrieve making sure to always make contact with the bottom stirring up sand or sediment mimicking an escaping meal to get the attention of one of Southwest Florida’s best eating fish. Keep your grouper – pass me the pompano!

Serious pomp anglers take their long rods and fish the surf up around Cape Canaveral for steady coastal pompano action. Here locally these mini-permits have an 11-inch harvest limit with 6 allowed per day.

Check the internet for some delicious pompano recipes. Crab-stuffed baked pompano is simply amazing.

For the on foot angler who likes to explore our local canals, creeks and ponds and catch whatever is biting, the alligator gar is always fun and an interesting fly rod or hard lure target. If you want to talk record-breaking sized gar or line class gar world records think Texas. Of the 22 IGFA All Tackle World Record line class awards for gar listed, 20 were caught in Texas. Out west the Trinity River is gar central.

During 2020, three new IGFA world records were established in the fly rod category with James Schmid catching two of them, bagging a 53-pound gar on 12-pound tippet and a 34.5 pounder on 20-pound fly tippet.

Due to several issues, the true gar giants of Texas, Alabama and Louisiana seen in pictures taken during the early 1900s are mostly gone. Hook-and-line fishing and sight fishing with a bow and arrow are the two most popular harvest methods. Others use jug lines or trot lines to catch these prehistoric fish with a long beak full of sharp teeth.

During prolonged cold fronts, think deeper water in creeks, even marinas for mostly rat or undersized local redfish along with snook of all sizes, sheepshead and trout. During weeks of warming weather these fish filter out and feed on the flats then retreat back to their creek deep water sanctuary at night.

If you fish marinas, don’t be a nuisance. Your lead head jig bouncing off expensive gel coats or snagged in dock furniture is why many marinas don’t allow fishing. For marinas (think docks and big snook) that allow fishing, the accurate and quiet pitching, flipping and skip caster has the advantage.

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