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Fishing with Capt. George Tunison | Recent storm muddies the waters, literally

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Jan 19, 2024

Capt. George Tunison

Recently Cape motorists, many driving way too fast, splashing and drowning their engines, were shocked to learn that their cars weren’t very seaworthy, and had to bail out. Will car insurance rates go down now if you carry a car life vest?

This same quick 8-inch deluge also muddied up the area’s waters making upcoming days of slow tides and chilly waters an even more challenging inshore angling puzzle to try and solve.

Saturday and Sunday mornings super low negative tides of -0.4 -0.6 could make for some good early sight fishing, but a predicted cold front dropping Friday afternoon’s high of 76 down to 60 for Saturday and an all-day slow incoming tide will have many anglers — and the fish, sleeping in. If you do go early anyway, make sure you don’t back the trailer too far back and drop over the ramp’s edge, which will assuredly ruin your morning, especially if you rip an axel or two off the trailer trying desperately to get back up the ramp. Low and slow all-day incoming tides continue till the 25th with the tide chart for Tuesday the 23rd predicting a 12-hour-long -0.7 for the Matlacha area and a nearly full moon. Talk about tough!

Dropping baits down to weekend nearshore reef dwellers might be more productive, but expect cold and breezy conditions. Find the usual cast of snappers, grunts, porgys and sheepshead with legal red grouper much further out.

For now most locals and visiting anglers are focusing on catching our inshore sheepies. Each year at this time I receive many emails asking, “How do I rig for sheepshead fishing and where do I find them?” For this mostly vertical fishing, starting with the hook, use an ultra-sharp, thin wire 2- 4 quality circle hook, attached to 10 to 20-pound leader material. Lighter leaders catch more sharp-eyed sheepies.

Rigging can be as simple as attaching a baited hook to your leader and a single split shot 10 inches above it which will be fine for slow current vertical presentations. Some simply tie on a light jig head and bottom bounce while others swear by a sliding weight, fish finder rig and a short leader.

For me, I like using a dropper rig with the sinker on the bottom of my line and the hook a foot above it on a short piece of leader line coming off my main line, keeping it out of the snags, but much more importantly, allowing for better bite detection. Actually, I tie a clip on the end of my leader line first which allows me to change sinker weights without retying as tidal conditions change throughout the day. There are several ways to easily create a dropper loop in your main line or leader to attach a dropper line to and plenty of instruction on YOU TUBE. You could use a simple 3-way swivel, but don’t expect many bites. Light lines and no hardware is the ticket to sharp-sighted, soft-biting, sheepie dinner happiness.

Bridges, docks, any structure that supports various marine life as well as shallow inshore oyster bars and nearshore reefs are all called home. Pick a bridge and start hunting as they won’t be at the base of every piling so stop and fish a few minutes then move to the next. Another technique is chumming them to your location with small bits of oyster, crabs or shrimp. Catching them requires a little practice but most catch on.

I heard that Bob and his top-flight crew at A-1 Marine in Matlacha are still laughing about that experienced captain with several decades on the water that pulled in in a panic for service because the boat “was dead.” “Must be some kinda bad short because the batteries are good,” Bob quickly reinserted the spacer under the kill switch button which some knucklehead had accidentally pulled out. Two-second fix! (Thanks again A-1!)

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.