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Looking for fishing fun? Meet Mr. Ugly

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Feb 23, 2023

The timing is perfect. Relatives and friends are down escaping the harsh northern winter looking to warm up, hopefully go for a nice boat ride, and maybe try some fishing. Today’s crew is a mixed bag of seasoned citizens and 8 to 12-year-olds with just a little freshwater experience between them, but the 12-year-old made sure to tell me more than once about catching a 12-inch walleye.

Time to meet Mr. Ugly.

Load the crew and head to your favorite bridge and tie up. Just bring a couple of snook-sized outfits, some sinkers and hooks, and some live or fresh crabs to fish on bottom. Lower down the baits and tell them they’re fishing for baitfish for this afternoon’s big fish hunt.

It usually doesn’t take too long before a rod starts to bend and the screaming starts as that 45-pound “snag” starts moving taking that 65-pound wide-eyed walleye angler with it. This is the magic time for picture taking capturing never-to-be-forgotten action shots, at the same time knowing you’ve probably just created a lifelong angler. One of my favorite scrapbook shots is of three young kids all on one heavily-bent-down-to-the-handle rod, with Mr. Ugly down below trying to pull them out of the boat.

Yes, it’s black drum time here in Southwest Florida and it’s low tech and easy bottom fishing for sometimes huge fish. Half a crab is the hot ticket fished on bottom around big structure like bridge pilings.

It usually doesn’t take long for that scent to disperse, drawing the fish from quite a distance of course, depending on tide movement. Have patience but after 30 minutes with no action, relocate. They’re down there but not on each and every piling. Five pilings down you might find the mother lode. While fishing for your drum, have someone else fish for tasty sheepshead as well as they are both at their peak right now and frequent the same structure.

Crabs, clam and oyster meat are top bait picks for deep work and carrying a pack of GULP Shrimp or crab is a good back up choice if you happen upon a school feeding very shallow on an oyster bar with their backs exposed. Toss an unweighted GULP crab on a circle hook into the mix and hold on.

A drum is a fun fish that grows large and powerful, but without question is just plain ugly compared to its other croaker cousins, seatrout and redfish. Take an unsuspecting relative or friend drum fishing while they’re here for a good laugh and lasting memories. They just might beat the Florida state record of 96 pounds.

By the way, lots of people don’t think of black drum as table fare and also think they’re always full of worms. Actually they are quite tasty but avoid eating large drum as they often carry spaghetti worms. There’s a 14 to 24-inch size limit.

While seatrout fishing has been quite good over healthy grass flat areas in north Matlacha Pass, we’ve also been enjoying some great lite tackle bluefish action around inshore oyster bars. I can see the purist crowd turning up their noses but a 6-pound bluefish on a light spinning or fly outfit is a blast. Super aggressive, loves fast-moving topwater plugs in shallow water, lightning fast runs, jumps high and if given the chance will gladly take a bite out of you with its razor sharp teeth.

Pompano have been in the news and these powerful little and oh so tasty fish are prowling the passes and bars looking for that shrimp-tipped jig hopped along the bottom all the way back to the boat.

The offshore fleet continues to enjoy the favorable weather hitting close to home structures or burning fuel to catch the usual variety of hungry bottom fish in the 100-plus-foot depths despite red tide issues.

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