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Snook very catchable in Cape canals

January 1, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Offshore and nearshore GPS numbers are producing a mixed bag of fish. Getting there in the wind and returning home safely is what counts.

Never overestimate your boat or your seamanship as a bad decision on the water or about the weather easily can become a tragic last trip. Your passengers' lives are in your hands and common sense safety should always come first.

Check weather reports in advance so you don't run into unexpected conditions. If there are any doubts, stay in port or fish in or near shore.

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Capt. George Tunison

Even in Florida's comparatively warm winter waters, ending up in the drink can render arms and legs useless in short order.

Because the water temps haven't dropped into the basement snook are very catchable not only on live bait, but lures as well.

Anglers aboard Flying Fins are taking snook in deep canals and shorelines on the go-to-bait for winter - the artificial shrimp.

Getting anglers to slow their retrieve is the biggest problem. Reeling ultra-slow is impossible for some anglers and takes concentration for others to fight the urge to reel quickly.

Find a target and position the boat down tide of it. Cast your bait 10 feet above the target letting the shrimp free fall toward the bottom and into the imagined strike zone.

Do not reel in a retrieve sense, but very slowly mend your line with the reel watching your line with an eagle's eye. All subtle lure movements are controlled with the rod tip, not the reel.

I keep a slight bow in my line as I pull the bait. A hit makes the line jump. Set the hook.

Every 4-5 feet give a subtle twitch with your rod tip popping the lure off the bottom mending line as needed as it falls back down. This is the time to be most alert as many strikes occur on the free fall.

Experienced line watchers catch loads more fish. Using Hi-Viz yellow braid (and 48 inches of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader) helps and doesn't seem to bother the fish.

Fishing deep canals to 10 feet we're using DOA's and LIVETARGET shrimp factory weighted. Below that depth down to 20+ feet we're adding a quarter-ounce Cal jighead (from DOA) to a DOA Shrimp or Gulp Shrimp making a great combo. The Cal jighead snugs up nicely to a DOA or Gulp and owing to the jigs design the combo is relativity snag free.

In winter I'm a big fan of adding rattles and adding scents to non-Gulp products. Add a sliding sinker to your sheepshead rig to get your fiddler crab or shrimp bait down to a local pier thief who's always ready to test your hook set timing.

I give the same advice each season to those frustrated by this fish's ability to steal bait and not get caught. To catch sheepies set the hook just as the fish opens its mouth to bite your shrimp. Works every time, guaranteed. Boca Grande docks and the Sanibel Causeway are good starting points.

For only the third time in 10 years I came across a whole school of tailing jumbo black drum on a bar in Matlacha. Thirty-five pounders covering the bar, tails as big as brooms, heads down devouring everything in sight.

I quickly reached for a pack of Gulp crab baits and a 6/0 circle hook. Cast out and left sitting on bottom for less than 30 seconds it was inhaled and the fight was on.

Four fish in the mid-30-pound class were fought and released by a very happy couple from NYC before the school moved on. Previous experience: two small bass caught in Central Park. Deeply bent rods and huge smiles all around.

Check the pass edges for pompano and look for Spanish macs, bluefish, jacks, and ladyfish under feeding birds just outside the passes.

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



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