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Fishing | Winter fishing on the water, and along the shore

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Jan 4, 2024

Capt. George Tunison

With unsettled weather predicted for the weekend, try to hit the water hard this afternoon as the tide starts to move in at 3 p.m. With a morning high at 11 and the low at 3 p.m. today, there’s almost no water movement predicted on the Saltwater Tides.com tide chart. That dead tide prediction coupled with frigid water temperatures makes for slow mid-day fishing.

Cast net bait is scattered or gone so think everybody’s favorite Mr. Shrimp and don’t be late to buy it as it’s been selling out early at local bait stores.

Winter’s low, clear water allows for some of the year’s most challenging redfish hunting as long as it doesn’t get too cold driving them, like all others, into a deeper water slumber period. Bring patience, stealth and long casts using lite lines, and a quiet boat and push pole for best results. Don’t be afraid to get out of the boat and chase winter reds on foot as well along sandy shoreline stretches. This boat-less casting approach makes you much less visible to clear water redfish looking for a shoreline snack.

Winter reds will always take a shrimp, live or dead, if you can find a deep water creek or mangrove edge, canal dock, bridge or marina to toss it to. Let it rest on bottom or rig it on a jig head and slow hop or crawl it back with frequent pauses to let the scent disperse. Biting off the tail before casting releases more scent into the water. Remember you don’t need a live-well to keep and use bait-shrimp. Shrimp can be taken from the dealer’s tank and immediately sealed in a jar or plastic bag then well iced till use. Very well iced till use is the ticket.

Buying shrimp for local sheepshead fishing? You won’t need expensive tarpon and big snook hand-picks as their large size isn’t what they are looking for. Try smalls or cut up the jumbos and fish with pieces on small thin- wire ultra-sharp hooks for sure hooking results. Remember to take along that square point shovel or rake to scrape barnacles off cement or docks for a free chum session.

Millions of U.S. anglers grew up bobber and minnow fishing, catching crappies from local ponds and waterways, and winter in Florida is crappie season. Crappies also love shrimp! In my area we would hand net “crappie magic” or grass shrimp along the shorelines and the fish could not resist them. Crappies are members of the black bass and sunfish family with the white and black species the most encountered.

The world record 5-pound, 3-ounce white crappie is quite old dating back to 1957 with a 5-pound, 7-ounce fish holding the black crappie title caught in 2018. There’s plenty of crappies available at big Lake Okeechobee right now, and guides to take you to them.

There are lots of smaller snook and rat reds on both sides of Charlotte Harbor shorelines and scattered trout throughout the whole area waiting to eat your shrimp or slow fished soft plastics. Adding scents pays off.

Although we do have good winter fishing in Southwest Florida but if chasing rat reds, small trout or tasty sheepshead doesn’t get you excited it’s time to get the crew together and head across the peninsula to experience some big water action. Winter winds turns on “sailfish alley” and Stuart is considered the sailfish capitol of Florida with reliable action occurring anywhere from Ft. Pierce down to Miami. The further south towards Miami you fish the closer the reef line, meaning more fishing and less riding time. Trolling, sight casting and kite fishing are typically used techniques. Most boats take a party of up to six anglers and expect to pay $1,000 to $3,000 for a full day, everything included and worth every penny for a lifetime, big game, angling memory.

Happy New Year!

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.