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Chilly temps won’t deter all anglers this weekend

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Dec 23, 2022

Capt. George Tunison

Put away your snook rods and break out the ice fishing gear for the predicted Christmas weekend big freeze, something a temperature sensitive snook or die-hard angler never wants to hear. With daytime temperatures dropping into the 50s, made seemingly colder by cloudy skies and a steady north wind, a holiday weekend fishing trip may be challenging for locals with “thinned blood,” although visiting T-shirted Midwest-erners might find it quite comfortable to be out on the water.

Funny how time changes things — remembering winter trips breaking ice with our canoe paddles, pushing and straining just to get far enough out on the pond to catch crappies and yellow perch. The many times sitting near frozen in a before sun-up duck blind next to a young Lab, both of us shivering in anticipation, both scanning the skies for called ducks coming to our decoys. Red nosed, frozen feet, finger and paws, we thought nothing of it. A great many decades later plus another 20+ years of Southwest Florida “thinned blood” now running through me, when it comes to cold weather, I’m feeling more and more like my old hunting partner, just content to lay by the warm fire anytime it gets below 65 degrees.

Fortunately for our snook and anglers, this cold snap is predicted to move through rapidly, although the inshore fishing may remain tough for a few more days after the holiday as temps slowly warm back to normal and fish recover. Hang in there, spring tarpon season is just 15 weeks or so away!

If the weather won’t stop your weekend trip, remember that cold water does sometime help the angler by concentrating fish in certain areas and, if found, can really turn into a banner day of fishing. Often a day or two before a major change can be productive. Just might be worth getting out there today before the snow on Saturday.

Our local seatrout like the cooling water but if it cools too much, fish drop off the 2 to 3-foot flats and into more comfortable deeper water close by. Continued cold will push fish even deeper away from your normal shallow hot spots and into main channels, deep canals, basins, marinas and up creeks.

Redfish aren’t really bothered too badly by the cold and as long as the refrigerator is full, they’ll stick around and keep eating, sort of like some relatives I’m expecting this weekend. Continued cold will also push them up into creeks, canals and deep water areas where they will remain hungry and biting with slow-presented shrimp, the bait of choice. Cut ladyfish and mullet work almost as well. Casters that find live bait messy throw jigs loaded with GULP Shrimp, slowly pulling or short hopping it along the bottom equals redfish creek magic.

If you’re live bait and casting fan, then try a real shrimp on a jig head. I like to bite off the shrimp’s tail so it doesn’t cause spin on the cast and also releases more scent into the water. I thread the shrimp onto my jig head hook backwards, so the shrimp is slowly hopped along bottom facing away from me. The key is – slowly – retrieved. YOU TUBE is a great source for shrimp rigging information.

This cold snap should move more sheepshead inshore to local structures like bridges and docks and away from our near-shore reefs. Gag grouper are still in fairly close and trolling plugs is a great way to find them. The same goes for king fish up to 50 pounds which are still in the area. Tripletail scattered due to red tides but several cobia reports still came in.

As the weather settles, near and offshore anglers will return to a large variety of fish swimming from top to bottom.

Lots of junk still floating, slow down! Help out folks less fortunate still dealing with Ian and Merry Christmas to all!

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