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Take care of bait and your catch

February 14, 2014
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Just as the weather starts to stabilize another front blows through to make an angler's life even more complicated in Paradise.

Good news is while everyone's scraping ice off their windshields, this weekend promises to climb back into the 80s here. Poor us.

This past Tuesday, clients caught and released trout after trout, sheepshead, rat reds, and small snook. Shrimp on jigs, under corks, or freelined, made the day.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Don't want a shrimpy mess in your boat or you don't have a livewell? Pack a dozen shrimp in a jar, plastic container or sealed bag, without water and place it in a small cooler packed with ice. Make sure no ice water gets into your shrimp bag as the chemicals and fresh water in the melting ice will kill the shrimp (and us?). As long as the shrimp remain very cold and away from the ice water they will live a surprisingly long time.

In summer's heat, icing down your livewell helps keep them alive, but here again the ice must be contained and not allowed to contaminate the well water.

Do you have a nice, full aerated livewell in your new boat but still lose shrimp? Make sure you have two standpipes for your well. A short one for shrimp so the water level in the well while operating is typically 5-6 inches. For baitfish, the longer standpipe and more water is used.

Don't throw away those dead shrimp. When beating the bushes and still fishing for redfish a dead stinky shrimp is cotton candy to many old reds and the stronger smell can call them in from a long way off.

Because we live in a very productive trout nursery area it's sometimes easy to stumble across a huge school of 12 inchers and catch a boatload.

With hundreds of new winter anglers on the water, many of them never fishing before, this info is always worth repeating.

The spotted seatrout is a delicate mouthed and fine scaled fish. Each one deserves every chance to grow up to be a true SW gator trout of five pounds or better. If you find a bunch chances are you can catch as many as you want, so give them a break and bend down a barb on your jigs or treble hooks. You won't lose any fish.

Once caught, without touching the fish, grasp the hook shaft with needlenose pliers and simply turn it over - the fish just drops off the hook. Perfect release as it's untouched. The fish needn't be removed from the water to perform this humane release

Besides the obvious tearing of delicate mouth tissue caused by barbs and a hurried release, often as much deadly damage is caused by other mishandling. Just because a fish swims away strongly doesn't mean it's alive 15 days later as poor handling leaves a fish vulnerable to a host of bacterial and fungal infections.

An easy way to kill a trout is by wrapping it up in that big beach towel, dragging it across the sand and rocks, or letting it flop around the boat as you try to get your size 16 Crocks on it to pin it down. Holding a trout with bare, dry hands has the same effect as all the above deadly methods resulting in slime coat removal which is the fish's protective barrier from diseases.

When you get lucky and catch your first SW Florida gator trout please release it with all due care. Big fish genes need to remain in the gene pool if we want gator trout. It's easy to catch a limit of eaters for the table.

Bigger snook are eating as well. After a long and unproductive day on the water looking for a snook bite, angler L. Busby took a 38-incher testing some new lures around his Matlacha dock. Some days it just pays to stay home.

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



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