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Fishing | Changing weather conditions means changing fishing techniques

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Dec 1, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Like fish, anglers have to adapt to changing conditions to continue to be successful. Maintaining a positive attitude is also another important tool in your mental tackle box and another important key to a productive day on the water.

Most anglers don’t like wind but instead of cursing the wind go positive knowing that the wind blows the food chain and following predators against shorelines, which you would surely see and would want to fish. Unhappy that a negative tide is keeping you from your flats hot spot? Don’t be, as the lack of water concentrates the fish for you, as do our seasonal cold fronts.

The night flats get cold so a move to nearby deeper water is the only choice. Drop-offs, creeks, canals, channels, marinas all host chilly species till an afternoon sun warms up the flats again for hunting, or during prolonged cold events the fish will simply remain deep till it blows over.

This past Wednesday morning’s deep freeze but beautiful warm afternoon is typical or our passing cold fronts and why being on the water at the crack of dawn isn’t always necessary this time of year. Stay in bed; the fish are.

December brings low tides and cool, clearer water so slow down and lighten up the tackle for general fishing. As it gets cooler, dead baits on bottom or suspended under floats are the easiest meal for cold-shocked fish to catch while lures whizzing by at July 4th speeds are typically ignored. Slowly worked suspending twitch baits like MirrOdine’s can trigger fish on warming afternoons and those that have mastered the art of slow fishing with soft plastic shrimp will probably catch the biggest inshore, lure-caught fish of the day.

Reeling slowly in cooler water, as in very slowly, is something that, believe it or not, takes concentration and practice and is surprisingly hard for some, and near impossible for others that have a cast-and-move mentality to get accustomed to. Shrimp don’t move fast in summer unless under attack and, of course, in winter a bit slower. One of the best places to develop your slow and shrimpy technique is to practice in a swimming pool learning how to make your fake look like its alive. Spend a few minutes watching how shrimp get around in local bait store tanks and copy their movements. After all, if you’re from say Kansas, how would you know how a shrimp swims?

When fishing the shallows of Southwest Florida and only allowed one lure for all seasons, choosing the classic DOA Shrimp or its many clones would be a top pick if you can master the art of fishing slowly.

Downsize main lines and leaders and use proven knots instead of swivels, clips and other assorted hardware for sharp-eyed fish to see or for toothy mackerel to bite off. Remember that most braided lines are typically stronger than advertised, often several pounds over their stated pound rating. For general inshore fishing, 10 to 15-pound braid and a 30-inch 20-pound leader would be a good starting point.

Spanish and king mackerel are under the birds from the passes to several miles out so troll those Clark spoons along the edges or cast Got-Cha plugs and reel quickly to keep these fast movers interested. Wire leaders put fish in the boat but you get fewer bites. Think 40 to 60-pound mono if you don’t like lite, single-strand wire leaders.

Releasing big kingfish makes sense since at 20 pounds 90% are female and at 30 pounds nearly 99%. Catch-and-release for future big kings.

Small snook and redfish are along shorelines on both sides of Charlotte Harbor while near-shore reef anglers are catching sheepshead and an assortment of tasty snappers. Continued cold fronts will push tasty sheepshead in closer looking to steal your shrimp and fiddler crab baits.

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.