They are generally moving away from the passes, but still will be found on the flats, under and several yards away from the bushes as well as in and around potholes on the flats.
Also fish the mouth of the river around the Sanibel bridges and upriver along docks and canals in Cape Coral. A deeper water canal dock timed with a swift outgoing tide at night can be a snook magnet this time of year.
The bridges at river mouth are now producing Spanish mackerel, pompano, trout, ladyfish, bluefish and snook. Look for kingfish action to continue out of Boca Grande, and along the beaches as long as baitfish pods remain there.
Trout hit high gear
As tarpon seem to disappear for a lot of us, sea trout fishing kicks into high gear and can provide enjoyment all winter long. Although closed these next two months, catch and release trout fishing is at its finest.
There are still tarpon to be had near shore as they crash the roaming schools of bait, along with Spanish mackerel and kingfish. Most tarpon are moving south to Miami and then to areas below the Keys and parts unknown to winter over until spring stirs them into heading north once again along both coasts of Florida.
Where tarpon actually go during the really cold months remains somewhat of a mystery. It’s odd that we can put small roving, robotic, wheeled vehicles on Mars, but still don’t know where the majority of these prehistoric silver warriors go in the winter.
Not all tarpon disappear completely during the cold months as many resident fish stay put or move upriver or on offshore reefs. On Feb. 3, 2000, I caught a near-90-pound tarpon on a 3/8 oz. jig at 2:00 in the afternoon at the Cape Coral Bridge. Hardly the time of year or the place one would expect to do battle with the king.
If I said I was actually tarpon fishing I would be lying. I had just gotten a new boat and was conducting a shakedown cruise when I grabbed a rod and a handful of jigs as an afterthought. I will never forget my surprise when I felt a little “tick” on my jig, like a bite from a tiny sea trout. That brute came rocketing out of the water 30 feet from the new boat.
Use stealth tactics
For a split second I thought “Geez, that’s really odd, to see a tarpon free jumping here in February.” Then I realized, “Brain to arm, set the hook dummy!”
Tarpon school around the Franklin Locks all winter and usually are very hard to catch. Many anglers report throwing everything in both tackle boxes at these fish for hours with little response, but I still say it’s better than sitting in the kitchen, on a cold winter day.
Redfish remain active all year long in Cape Coral and will be found in the usual places, even on the flats, but can be tougher to catch on lures and fly rods due to skinny, ultra clear, winter water. Stealth tactics and long fluorocarbon leaders are the order of the day. Also look for Mr. Redfish in deeper backwaters, canals and docks in winter.
Hint: I know of a bunch of deeper water docks, in a certain marina on the east side of Charlotte Harbor, that hold large schools of redfish and trout for several months during the cold water period, along with tarpon, snook and herds of manatees.
This is a great time of year to get that fly rod out of the attic. Trout love a fly, and with thousands of willing biters it’s a fine time to hone your beginner fly rod skills.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (239) 282-9434
Capt. George Tunison