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Fishing | Spread the joy of fishing and the outdoors this year

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Dec 28, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Let’s hope you got that brand new boat, or engine, rod and reel, or electronics you were expecting for Christmas and that your New Year is filled with good health, happiness and angling success. This coming year spread the joy of fishing and the outdoors and get the kids on the water and fishing. Once that rod bends and the drag starts to sing, they’re usually hooked for life and that’s always a good thing.

When prospecting creek shorelines this winter, look carefully at your target. That yard-long submerged branch lying in a foot of water ahead of you might hide a redfish or snook or, actually be a snook. During our cold period it’s not unusual to see huge snook resting in super shallow water, belly to the bottom dorsal fins almost exposed, getting a badly needed mid-afternoon solar warmup preparing for the cold night ahead. Generally these cold fish aren’t in a biting mood especially if you are using lures and will slowly disappear to deeper water when feeling harassed.

Typically warmer mud bottom bays draw cold fish but wind protected, light colored, sandy shoreline spots are also known tanning stations. If you enjoy snook fishing but you’ve never actually seen or caught a truly large snook in the 35-inch to 40-plus-inch class, it’s a sight you won’t soon forget.

Collect or buy blue claw crabs and lower a half crab down to the bottom next to a bridge piling. I like using a sliding fish finder rig using a short 18-inch leader, a 6/0-7/0 circle hook and enough weight to keep it stationary in the current. Set up your baits in the eddy or current break behind structure then wait for Mr. Drum to follow his nose to dinner. These not-so-pretty whiskered fish get really large plus a picture of three laughing and struggling kids on one big bent rod is priceless. A 96-pound fish holds the Florida state record.

Before Christmas there was a very catchable mixed bag of Spanish macs and kingfish from the beach out to 3-5 miles and definitely worth another look when the weather permits a safe trip. Let the birds and your binoculars guide you to the fish, which you can attract to your anchored boat with chum or set up a trolling run with shiny metal Clark spoons which are mackerel candy. A school of frenzied biting mackerel is yet another local species providing fast action family fun.

Cold water has the sheepshead fishing going which will only improve through January but newbies might start to wonder about their coordination when their hooks always come up empty after a tug or two. A wise old sheepie can sometimes munch a fiddler crab off your hook without ever touching the steel. Keep a sharp eye out, pay attention and keep trying. The secret, and don’t tell anyone, is to set the hook just before the fish’s mouth is fully closed around the bait.

Nearshore reefs should still offer a variety of delicious snapper and sheepshead and for those able to access deeper Gulf waters. Red grouper season opens this Monday. Two per day allowed in Gulf or state waters with a 20-inch total length required to harvest.

Take that Christmas loot and upgrade those worn down, heavy as lead, deep cycle batteries with new Group 27 class lead acids at $100-175 each. Move up to top of the line AGM batteries in the $300 price range. Both of these batteries, as most already know, are heavy as in 60-plus pounds each. Better yet, go whole hog or in this case, lithium. Unfortunately, this technology isn’t cheap. Big box stores are advertising their Gen 2 High Output Deep Cycle brand in the $700 to $900 price range. Besides being the most efficient battery available, they offer tremendous weight/fuel savings important in boats coming in at a lightweight 21 pounds each.

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.