The thermometer had just hit 80 as I put the finishing touch, lure number 100, on my 2013 Christmas tree.
The pine swayed under the combined weight as I made adjustments thinking about camels' backs and that it's probably good that I'm not a cat owner. Finally finished, and within one hour in the boat and casting under my favorite dock. Hot sun, sandals, and tees for Christmas week 2013, here in Paradise. Gotta love it!
My line jumped and instinctively I set the hook into number 1 of more than 20 snook and one lone, blind in one eye, redfish caught and released this past Wednesday.
Capt. George Tunison
Pays to be a line watcher as a full 50 percent of the strikes were only detectable because of watching the line closely. Lethargic fish can still suck in a soft plastic, mouth it, and blow it out, without you feeling anything. Hi-viz yellow braid lines work great for this fishing and don't bother the fish at all. If your line slightly jumps or "tics" set the hook, he's got it.
Using gold and glow flavored DOA Shrimp liberally coated with both PRO-CURE shrimp and ladyfish scents, we would skip cast under sun warmed docks, let fall motionless while closely watching the line. Twitch once, feel the "tic" or see the line jump, set the hook.
Your first and only priority after the hook set is to try and get the fish going toward open water and away from structure and break-off. This is usually accomplished with a combo of blind pig luck, muscle, experience, and more luck.
In dock fishing, as in bottom grouper fishing, what you do in the first second or two following the strike is the key and usually determines the outcome.
If you're new to this, learn to skip cast first so you don't beat up other folks' property. Become a line watcher, and learn to fish ultra-slow. Stay off others people's docks. If you snag a lure break it off. If you are asked to leave it's always best to do so without question or protest.
Learn to skip cast forehanded and backhanded so no matter what way the boat faces you can present a lure under the structure.
Scents really help the fish hold your lure longer allowing you a better chance to detect the strike.
Fish inland docks in the Cape or any canal system. Use your temp gauge and look for sun warmed canals or basins out of the wind. Two degrees difference can be a real game changer in winter fishing, especially for heat seeking, sub-tropical, snook.
Typically, strong current flow and snook fishing go hand in hand, but this past Wednesday's catch came in back water canals with almost no current flow. Again, warmer.
Check old gnarly crusted docks first rather than newer "clean" docks as they host more life.
It sometimes takes some scouting to find the hot dock. If found by luck, take a moment and ask why are the fish here, and not on the other 10 you've fished today? Look at all the puzzle pieces in front of you. Wind direction, current, depth, light angles, etc. Now you have a dock pattern and know what to look for season after season, especially after you've sharpened your skills by catching the resident beast that's lived under this one for five years.
The other good news is once found, you probably have found more than one fish and multiple catches can be made, unless you blow the fish out by bad boat control or because your partner won't stop slamming cooler lids and kicking tackle boxes. We all know him. Game over before you start.
If you've found that hot winter dock with lots of fish present, chances are there's a jumbo hanging deep. Float a ladyfish under there and hang on for a holiday battle.