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Shrimp is king of live winter bait

January 12, 2013
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

I was going through my log and found an entry for 1/9/10: Water temp 54 degrees in S. Matlacha Pass.

These past weeks it's been in the upper 70s in some wind protected bays. Almost daily we launch our boats surrounded by dolphins, eagles, manatees, world class game fish, even giant sharks. When one goes away then returns does it really hit home how truly lucky we are to live in Southwest Florida.

This week visiting pro angler Shannon Busby caught redfish to near seven pounds and a bonus 4.5-pound gator trout all on MirrOdine's worked slowly around islands and wind drifted open flats.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

For anglers lacking the patience for lures, this time of year shrimp is king. It's winter and shrimp are big and easy to care for because of the cold water. Don't feel like lugging a splashing bucket of shrimp in your Lamborghini? Here's a trick that's pretty neat. You don't need water to keep shrimp alive, that's right!

Go to your local dealer with a dry container that will fit in an ice chest. Transfer the shrimp from your dealer's well into the container, jar (I've used zip-lock type freezer bags with success) dry, no water. Put this container in your ice chest and make sure your melting chlorinated water never comes in contact with the dry shrimp. Use as needed and keep iced.

It's worth repeating that with winter's clear water it's always a good idea to stop well before your intended fishing area and scan the water and wind. Make long casts using light braid lines and longer fluorocarbon leaders. Turn off the trolling motor and get on the push pole or let the breeze silently drift you through an area.

Above all, be quiet and stealthy and remember if you can see a redfish he can probably see you. This is a good time of year to get out the insulated waders, get out of the boat and slowly and quietly walk up to a mangrove island presenting a low profile while making sidearm casts.

When wading never forget stingray proof wading boots and do the "stingray shuffle." Shuffle forward keeping your feet on the sand instead of taking steps and coming down on a very angry ray and his painful sharp spike.

Trout are on everyone's mind and the fish are coming out on the grass flats in 2-6 feet of water and hitting all the typical trout presentations. The classic shrimp under a popping cork is a surefire way to find them.

A large flat with afternoon sun, good grass growth to soak up solar heat and to warm the surrounding waters, near a deeper channel or a canal with some current, and you have found your day's trout hotspot.

This year resolve not to handle or touch fish you intend to release, especially trout. Learn to hold a fish in the water with a Boga-Grip or other release tool and use your needle nose pliers to remove hooks keeping the fish in the water as much as possible.

For nearshore fun go tripletail fishing. While slowly running parallel and several yards off the stone crab buoys, spot them floating under the buoy. Motor away and quietly drift back and freeline a choice shrimp downcurrent to the fish.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or, or



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