Over the last two weeks supersized snook sightings have been the norm aboard my boats.
Although not lucky enough yet to bag a true jumbo this year, I can tell you from first hand sightings they are big and on the move.
Wednesday afternoon we quietly probed a shoreline and quietly drifted up on two tremendous snook laying side by side gathering warmth in a protected bay.
Capt. George Tunison
Both in the 25-pound club, they slowly moved away from the boat to relocate just 20 yards away. We let them rest as they seemed more interested in warming themselves rather than actively feeding.
Rat reds are still on the move and eating, and show a preference for spoons and small soft plastics on incoming tides. Zman and CAL paddletails work great in gold, new penny, and white. This is a time for long limber rods and light line allowing extra-long searching casts along mangrove shorelines and pothole-grass flats. A full spool of 10-15 pound braid with a 15-20 pound leader is the ticket for long range red work
When the water gets up and under the bushes switch tactics and skip cast soft plastics up and under to get the bite. For visiting anglers its worth repeating that few anglers take the time to learn to skip cast and are happy angling the safe zone edges of structure without getting back to where 90 percent of the fish are actively foraging on high water.
A good skip caster should easily be able to skip cast the length of a flats boat allowing access to mangrove covered shorelines and way back and under docks.
For this task choose a limber tipped rod with backbone. Grab a handful of soft plastics and start practicing both forehanded and backhanded as you won't always approach your skip target from the same side or direction.
Start with the rod tip an inch above the water never allowing the tip to rise any higher during the entire forward motion of the cast. Sweep the rod forward smartly and release. If done properly your skipped bait will shoot low above the water as a skipped stone back and under to those great old big ones that learned to stay far away from open water when a boat load of anglers approaches.
Most bites will be instantaneous as soon as the bait reaches the end of the cast so be ready to fight as soon as you get the bail closed. When you get the big bite don't do the rookie sky high hook set driving your line up and into those mean ol' mangrove branches for an instant parting of you and your now history trophy. Rather stick the tip in the water and use your hips to swivel and apply power, keeping the line low under the branches for your only hope of getting your bruiser out to open water.
Not a place for light rods and light line - 20 pound braid minimum and a 40 pound fluorocarbon leader is my go-to setup in gnarly mangrove conditions.
Fly rodders get in on the action with weedless streamers and poppers along woody shorelines. With a lightweight weedless fly, cast into the pocket and let hang on the branch tips. Jiggle lightly and the fly will fall lightly on the water for a super stealthy and natural presentation. A fly rod is a deadly accurate tool in the hands of an experienced long-rodder.
Women are invited to explore the finest of fishing at the next "Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!" seminar, March 8-9 at the Matlacha Community Center, 4577 Pine Island Road NW in Matlacha.
"Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!" is a national organization dedicated to attracting more women to sport fishing and to promoting conservation and responsible angling.
To learn more about this hands on two day event, visit ladiesletsgofishing.com; call 954-475-9068.