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Fish scarce except in creeks, canals

December 15, 2014
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Due to severe weather in Southwest Florida, inshore fishing was cancelled earlier this week. Many anglers agree with that headline after coming home cold and fishless.

Others scored by fishing creeks and canals upriver. Winds permitting, offshore anglers found grouper, snapper, cobia, and other surprises on near and far ledges and rock piles.

Wednesday's trip in Matlacha featured cold, muddy water and high blue skies after a severe front. That's called a tough fishing day or a guide's nightmare. Fortunately, trout, huge ladyfish, and small jacks on 6-weight fly rods saved us from being skunked.

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Capt.George Tunison

If you've never tackled a five-pound ladyfish on a light fly rod you've been missing out on some serious fun. The poor man's tarpon nickname is well deserved.

Often cursed as a nuisance, these are serious high energy, high jumping, drag pulling sportfish on light tackle, especially light fly tackle.

That's all my crew wanted to fish for after catching the first few. Don't you want to try for a redfish, I asked? Heck No! These are great! Ok!

Of the six species of ladyfish that swim in subtropical and tropical seas around the planet, some grow as large as 25 pounds. The IGFA lists the all tackle record at eight pounds and the FWC lists the Florida record at 6 pounds, 4 ounces, caught at Coco Beach.

I want a 25-pound ladyfish on fly! What a fight it would be. If a 25-pound lady was tail-tied to a tarpon of the same weight my money's on the lady.

Those having experience with these silver rockets also can imagine the incredibly gel-coat staining nastiness that would be left behind if a 25-pounder got loose in the boat. Yuk!

With a gradual week long warm-up into the mid-70s by Wednesday, overall fishing will improve and lighter winds will allow visits to highly classified offshore GPS numbers.

This Saturday weekend anglers in Matlacha will face a high tide at 6:07 a.m. and a low at 2 p.m. Others launching at Pineland will see the same conditions only an hour earlier.

Exploring the oyster bars and islands of Pine Island on the Saturday afternoon incoming tide, after a morning warm up, may be a good weekend game plan for redfish.

Finding fish both on outgoing and incoming in the same day is a bonus. Don't fish one tide and leave if your catch is low. Take a break and wait for a tide change and you may be surprised.

Look for trout on the flats, deeper flats, and if still no luck seek deep water like a channel, canal, basin, etc.

Try a half-mile stretch between channel markers probing the channel and more importantly the channel dropoff or edge were fish position or school. Slowly follow along the channel with sonar and trolling motor casting jigs.

Try casting up onto the flat and slowly hopping the jig down to the bottom of the channel. Keep moving and covering water till you find them.

Target channels with lots of twists and turns versus long straight stretches for increased action.

If the channel is deep enough and cold enough you can score big by vertical jigging. In the shallow waters around Matlacha that sounds strange, but on both sides of the bridge the channel is comparatively deep.

During a cold winter try fishing the North Channel from the bridge to the first marker using shrimp-tipped jigs, but bend the barbs down as you may have to catch quite a few fish. Drop it to the bottom and slow hop as you troll, slowly following the channel.

With cold and clear winter waters remember to downsize lines and leaders. Spending extra bucks for fluorocarbon leader material is worth the money. Increase your leader length, spinning or fly fishing, and shun hardware, such as swivels and clips on your lines.

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



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