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Cooling temperatures don’t bother hungry trout, redfish

By Staff | Nov 10, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Water temperatures are definitely falling, which makes our local seatrout population happy and hungry, while always ready to chow down redfish take notice, but just keep eating.

With more cold fronts eventually coming, ever-growing in-shore redfish now big enough to spend the balance of their lives at sea will finally leave, leaving their sub-adult cousins behind for local anglers to carefully stalk throughout Southwest Florida’s clear water winter period. If you want to sharpen up your local poling and shallow water skiff stalking skills, winter is the time as our clear water reds become very educated.

Fall water temperatures and corresponding bait migrations along both sides of the peninsula bring in other species like kingfish, delicious tripletail, cobia and others, so the wise angler is rigged and ready for a variety of scenarios when probing near to offshore GPS numbers.

While many anglers still report rolling tarpon and some hook-ups, many have already left on their long journey south to Miami, the Keys, the Caribbean and points beyond. Cape Coral-loving tarpon will populate deep canals throughout the area and favorite wintering spots east up the Caloosahatchee as temperatures slowly drop, increasing their golden hued colors due to tannin-stained river waters. Never count out Boca Grande Pass in November, in past years even into December for a last-minute gathering and catches of silver kings. Juvenile tarpon will continue to roll and, of course, not eat lures driving many anglers to (madness) fish other easier species. Think small lures, baits and tackle and be sure to always take along a big bucket of patience.

Reports of sheepshead catches, a local winter favorite, are already starting on nearshore reefs and around some local docks. If you’ve never tasted one, make sure you give it a try this winter as they are great eating but a challenge to catch and for the first-timer, a challenge to clean. Wear gloves and bring the electric knife or be prepared for a little sharp spine and armored scale sheepie payback.

Tip: Certain canals and bridge structures in the downtown Cape area hold large numbers of eating-size sheepshead each winter. Using today’s advanced sonar imaging and side scanning technology and spending some quality time idling through Cape canals, it shouldn’t take too long to find a school of 12-inch or more future dinner guests. Once found (and if you remain tight lipped) you can usually return year after year when conditions are right and be successful again and again.

Another outstanding light tackle fighting and great eating fish, the pompano, arrives and while anglers on the east coast break out the surf rods and set up for surfcasting sand fleas to lure them, locally tiny and colorful, shrimp-tipped pompano jigs get their attention when bounced along sandy bottoms stirring up sand especially near passes. Mr. Pompano is definitely one of Southwest Florida’s tastiest fish and for its relatively small size is still one tough fighter on lite gear but afterall it’s to be expected, as pomps are members of the always hard pulling jack family.

Pick your favorite weather reporter and your days to go offshore, but with a big variety of good-eating bottom fish, especially lane and mangrove snapper and even permit still on nearshore numbers, being safe while saving gas still makes for a great day of variety angling and once again wise multi-species anglers pre-rig for a variety of possible encounters at sea.

Fishing heavy gear around bridges isn’t the only way to bag a jumbo snook. The Cape’s canals are home to a variety of species, including wintering snook of huge proportions that will also eat your big live mullet or ladyfish floated around docks and canal rip-rap especially at night.

Slow night trolling large-lipped plugs, Mann’s, Rapala’s, Yozuri and Bombers along Cape canal edges and docks will also put a big snook on your hook.

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