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River, canals stocked with winter fish

March 9, 2013
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Even though northbound tarpon and subtropical heat and humidity are heading our way we still remain in a winter fishing pattern with many inshore fish seeking thermal protection in deepwater canals, creeks, basins, and even marinas.

The Caloosa-hatchee is another prime wintering hotspot offering comfort to many species, including anglers looking to score. The river is often overlooked by many headed to Pine Island, Matlacha and Boca Grande, but those in the know find all the willing biters they need to feed their fishing dreams without leaving the river.

Probably the most overlooked prime winter fishery in our area is the 450+ miles of canals in Cape Coral that contain sharks, trout, tarpon, largemouth bass, redfish, jacks, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, grouper, and alligators. Anglers leaving the Cape for a breezy winter day on the flats might be better served by staying home, saving fuel and exploring their home waters during these cold spells.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Monster snook and tarpon live all through the system with a concentration of big fish right in the downtown area. Large schools of trout seek warmth and prey in deep canals and basins while jumbo jacks turn the water to froth as they trap baitfish along seawalls. Over the years I've taken surprise tarpon to 100 pounds and huge snook while making a few morning casts in a bathrobe and slippers while walking the dog near my seawall.

On Thursday morning I watched as seven big redfish attacked minnows along the rocks behind my home. My up north guest pointed and asked if they were carp as I sprinted to the house for a rod.

How does one, cash in on this purported downtown or backyard fishing bonanza? For winter snook think docks, bridges, current, and deep holes. If you have a dock you already or should know if it holds fish. Docks are feeding stations that create life as they are colonized offering food, depth, shade and safety to predators and prey alike. Classic snook-holding structures are best fished at night.

Dock lights or "snook lights" placed on docks are designed to attract prey and predators to the structure and can hold that snook of a lifetime if you know how to entice them into biting. There easily could be a 40-pounder that calls your dock home, every night.

When dock fishing always remember you are an uninvited guest. Most dock owners aren't real happy about a bunch of loud swearing party guys fishing around their property in the middle of the night. Even respectful anglers with limited casting ability scratching up the gel coats of docked boats or actually climbing onto docks to retrieve lures are a big problem for owners, and rightfully so.

Do not go on anyone's dock for any reason, you are trespassing. If you can't cast accurately in the day, learn. Then fish docks at night especially if boats are present. When fishing a dock and an owner asks you to not fish there, do not argue, leave. There are hundreds of docks. It's easy to find another.

Look at the cone of light from the dock light shining on the water. Make quiet casts to the dark areas outside the cone where the predators prowl while waiting for hapless baitfish or shrimp to be drawn to the light.

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



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