What a wonderful time to be returning to Southwest Florida and some of the best fishing of the entire year.
Cooling temperatures equal hungry fish and comfortable all-day outings.
If the boat has been sitting, the first step is to change out that water-separating filter before turning the key. If you have the type that has a clear inspection bowl visually check for water contamination or dump your filter contents into a clear glass jar, let it settle, then inspect.
Capt. George Tunison
Water-separating filters are cheap insurance and effective against the numerous problems caused by ethanol in our fuel (but not a cure-all).
After running out as much old fuel as possible on your first outing, gas up and if you are a fan of the fairly new ethanol treatments and old stand-by fuel stabilizers, add them now. Charge the batteries, air the tires, put on fresh line. and by all means go fishing!
Reds biting? Yes!
They are scattered all over the flats on the lower tide phases or in potholes or drop-offs, under the bushes on the higher tides. Right now topwater plugs are my go-to flats lure along with other various floating MirrOlures, soft plastics, and the old stand-by gold spoons.
On high tides, pitch and skip soft plastics, or bottom fish shrimp or cut fish, as far back under the branches as you dare cast.
Big trout continue to bite on the flats and, again, big topwater plugs catch big trout. If I'm looking for a jumbo trout I throw the biggest surface plug I have in the box, especially at first light. Big gator trout are aggressive feeders and will attack huge baits.
The standard DOA Shrimp or live ones under a cork, soft plastics on light jigheads, plugs, and various flies will catch the remaining trout during your trip.
Looking for a trophy sized snook? This is the time of year to bag a true whopper.
As the water cools these beach bums that spent the whole summer making little snooksters along the Gulf shorelines have returned to their inland, warm water locations for the winter. On Thursday afternoon, I caught a beauty casting a MirrOdine along an oyster bar in Matlacha Pass. Being too big to jump, she wallowed and thrashed her head several times on the surface before taking off on several tense, drag burning runs.
After 10 minutes spent carefully reviving her, she swam away strongly. My 40-pound-test leader was shredded yet held, which is a great reason to always use abrasion resistant fluorocarbon leaders for a shot at a trophy snook.
Not to be outdone, big snook honors and congrats go to local Capt. D.J. Menist of Florida Son Charters. Talk about a whopper! How about 55 inches? From the pictures I would estimate weight in the upper 40s or more. I did see the pictures and it was about the size of a small whale! What a snook!
Capt. Menist told me he spotted the big girl in the shadows and freelined a big live shrimp with the current, right to her. The shrimp bounced off her nose with no interest at all. Determined he later returned and tried again with a 15-inch live ladyfish. This time she coiled her massive body then shot forward swallowing the fish in one gulp. The big gal was very carefully revived and is now back home with an intense hatred and a new found respect for ladyfish.
As a guide and sportsman I think it rude and unprofessional when other guides give away people's secret spots to try to make themselves look good. I will say that Cape Coral has 450-plus miles of canals and it's filled with many other jumbo snook, just like this one, that probably has never seen a hook!
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.