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Fishing | Weekend’s expected stormy weather could change fishing plans

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Dec 15, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Looks to be a good weekend for sailing but not so much for angling which is a shame as sheepshead and snapper-loaded nearshore reefs await your chum and baits. Wild weather might also keep king and Spanish mackerel anglers from catching both species, which are presently feeding from just off the beach to a few miles offshore. Whatever your offshore choice, make it a safe one and live to fish another day as windy weather is predicted.

Back inshore with shelter on both sides of Charlotte Harbor, finding a wind break usually isn’t that difficult. During last week’s cold spell we got out of the boat behind Two Pines and walked the gin-clear sandy shorelines casting soft plastics to any interesting feature ahead of us, connecting with a half dozen rat reds before moving back out to cast the 3 to 5-foot grass flat zones which produced several caught and released trout. In that super clear and very shallow water. I’m convinced being low wading versus standing high up on deck made a big difference in our redfish catch.

This cold front might move a lot more sheepshead inshore around local structures and docks where they can gladly steal your bait. Shrimp, fiddler crabs and oysters are all proven baits. Light leaders, thin wire ultra-sharp hooks and good hook timing will result in a delicious sheepshead dinner

Cold water really turns on the seatrout bite, making local anglers happy and bait shops busy selling shrimp and tackle. Unfortunately for those of us that really enjoy trout fishing, we don’t live in north Florida’s trophy trout belt. In Southwest Florida a 5-pound fish is a real trophy but northern anglers don’t get too excited unless it’s in the 10-pound class or larger. It’s true that not all gator or trophy trout live “up north” like the current world record 17-pound 7-ounce trout caught near Ft. Pierce in 1995, but your chances of landing a double digit fish are far greater starting in the Jacksonville area.

Since our trout run on the smaller side, downsize your tackle as well. Trout fishing in these parts is best enjoyed with lite or ultra-lite tackle. Rods in the 5 to 6.5-foot range labeled for use with 1/16 to 3/8 oz. lures are best along with an assortment of fly rods in the 3 to 6 wt. class.

Six to 8-pound mono works great but light braid in the 6 to 10-pound class is stronger and thinner for longer casts using spinning tackle. Ten to 15-pound leaders work fine.

If you’re experiencing line failure, the obvious question is my line old and need replacing? Hold it up to the light. Is the braid pale and frayed? Yes, change it or if you enjoy saving money on expensive braided line, take it off the spool and reverse it. Many inshore anglers completely fill their snook and redfish reel spools with expensive braided line when a 100 yards is often plenty. Granted both are powerful fish but when’s the last time any snook took out 100 yards of line? Spool up with inexpensive mono then top it off with your braided line and save money.

If old frayed and nicked line is not the problem, then inspect your ceramic line guides for cracks and chips using a magnifying glass for a better look. Dropped your rod lately? Cracked eye inserts shred line. Pull some cotton through the eye to help identify cracks.

New to the area’s waters? Taking a bigger boat through very shallow Matlacha Pass? Winter brings low or negative tides so by all means stay in close to the marked channel to avoid boat and passenger damage. Even at rather slow 25 mph speeds a sudden grounding can cause you to be thrown out and injured or sometimes worse, thrown around the boat’s interior.

If you don’t know – always go slow.

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.