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Fishing | Where to fish for big bass, what’s biting in the Gulf

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Mar 29, 2024

Capt. George Tunison

Like dwindling numbers of inshore sheepshead catches, freshwater crappie season has slowed as well. Florida largemouth anglers, especially those looking to cross that first double digit bass off their bucket list, will almost always rely on large, wild caught, golden shiners to get the job done.

Florida bass anglers all have theories where the state’s biggest bass live but I believe your best shot for a lake monster is fishing the central Florida lakes like Lake Toho, where my first 10-plus-pounder was taken. Use a small float and a hook with a light wire weedless option so the shiner can swim back into that “dangerous” lily pad field without hanging up. Wild caught and well-kept healthy shiners almost always out produce hatchery or farm-raised specimens. For faster bass action head over to Lake Okeechobee for the annual shad spawn.

Inshore, our typical redfish, snook and trout are biting well around the mangroves and grass flats but still running on the small side. This will only improve as the weeks go by and more and more baitfish arrive. Look for pompano, whiting, bluefish, Spanish and king mackerel and sheepshead in and around the passes and along the surf zone.

Lots of various sized, often too curious for their own good, hard fighting and great on the grill cobia have been caught recently in, near and offshore so having a cobia ready rod on any saltwater trip makes sense. They will readily hit pinfish and whitebaits but what every cobia really wants, dreams about, is cobia candy — a live eel. No live eel options then go to 10 to 20-inch plastic eels or worms on a jig head using a simple, non-erratic, straight retrieve. Another popular and proven lure choice to load a cobia rod with is larger, multi-color jigs, which can be cast quite far. Cobia are bound to show up when you least expect it so there won’t be time to rig a rod. Often confused for sharks, curious cobia will sometimes swim right up to the boat.

Another always exciting to catch and big money tournament draw, kingfish, are moving into local waters and available to even the small boat angler, as they are now in close to the beach and near shore reefs. Often mixed in with schools of Spanish macs, this razor-toothed super predator is one mean machine and will take a trolled plug, spoons, down rigged baits or livies under kites. For a big boy, think large, live baitfish around the boat, freelined or under floats. Blue runners and goggle eyes are often used but other lively larger baitfish also work.

The email box was full of requests for more information about a previous article concerning Keys baitfish, gamefish and especially sawfish, affected by a mysterious and deadly disease or condition known as “the spins” and my comments about wading. There have been no reports of humans being affected by this condition that I can find and I was just trying to inject a bit of humor into Florida’s continued reporting of statewide water woes.

On the other hand, since this problem has been reported as far north as Miami, local anglers should be aware and immediately report any sightings of fish struggling, spinning and eventually dying to the FWC to help track this toxic event. So far biologists haven’t isolated the cause but current thought is it’s a mildly toxic, typically harmless microalga gone wild, which, sad to say, isn’t surprising.

Since the beginning man has used the waterways and oceans of the Earth as a dumping ground, a practice that continues to this very day, every day, worldwide. Recent reports of several Southwest Florida waterways being tested and showing extremely high bacteria counts, mostly from human waste. Round and round we go, year after year, and where it stops no one knows.

FWC Fish Kill Hotline – 800-636-0511. Endangered sawfish sightings or questions – 844-472-9374.

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.