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Some inshore waters and offshore spots good places to try your luck

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Mar 3, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Feeling a little weepy and wheezy? Beaches smelling fishy?

Can’t we catch a break?

One look at Thursdays FWC Southwest Florida coastal satellite images shows high concentrations of Karenia brevis or red tide stretching from below Tampa Bay all the way down to Marco Island could explain it. Respiratory issues as well as fish kills were reported.

The map indicates little to no issues east of Boca Grande, throughout Charlotte Harbor and down into Matlacha Pass which, unless something changes, is where I would concentrate my inshore game this weekend, especially along the east wall of the harbor.

Calm winds and currents, unseasonably warm air and water temperatures, no rain, plus still present storm-related chemicals and waste in local waters have obviously created more than favorable conditions for red tide to thrive.

Gusty winds are predicted by today, but this past week’s light winds and plentiful sunshine have allowed offshore runs to clean water in the 80 to 120-foot range where red grouper, mangrove and Lane snapper, grunts and porgies were waiting and hungry. Kingfish should be showing up in these same areas very soon. A little closer to the coast, sheepshead are still on nearshore reefs while tripletail, especially large specimens, are few and far between.

Red grouper is open year-round in state waters and closed to harvest in Federal waters seaward of 20 fathoms (1 fathom = 6 feet) between Feb. 1 to March 31. Total length minimum for harvest of 20 inches; two allowed per angler within a 4 grouper aggregate. Grey trigger opened March 1 to May 31 in state waters. One per person – 15-inch minimum.

Make sure you have signed up for the State Reef Survey before reef fishing.

Spanish macs are on the move and have probably moved offshore as well to cleaner water but could show up anywhere from the coast out several miles, and once found by running, scouting and watching for feeding birds to tip you off to their location, can provide awesome, fast, lite tackle spin and fly rod action for all aboard, even for the most inexperienced angler.

Borrowed from the internet is a great way to rig for Spanish and a fun and exciting technique for beginners to use. Simply put on your workshop tinkering hat and add some wire, some bends and crimps and an ounce sinker to a popping cork, ending up with a swivel on both ends. Tie a 3-foot piece of 40-pound fluorocarbon to it then add a small 0 to 1 sized Clark spoon to the other end. Cast it far then start a fast, erratic and splashy retrieve with the float which will certainly draw hungry macs to the surface dinner table and your helpless little “injured” spoon dangling below the faked surface feeding commotion.

Troll in “birdy” areas to locate them or anchor and chum them to the back of the boat for fast action. Tying on lures and flies using light single strand wire insures no bite-offs but 40-pound fluorocarbon gets lots more bites from these sharp eyed and toothed wolfpack killers.

Cast jigs, spoons and even top-water plugs for explosive strikes and by all means, never drive through a surface feeding school as it will put the fish down, ruining it for you and other boat’s fishing the feeding frenzy. Shut down the big motor and observe, then come in quietly on the electric and pick at the edges of the activity which keeps the school actively feeding. Driving through a school of actively feeding fish is a really bad way to make angling friends.

Inshore finds smaller reds and snook along mangrove shorelines where bottom-hopped plastic paddle tails cover water and catch fish. On continued warm afternoons, break out a slowly retrieved spoon and cover water along bars, points, creek mouths and mangrove edges.

Please check out the floridarighttocleanwater.org website for current info and FAQs.

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.