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Bring out your stealth A-game

January 16, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

This is the time of year that separates the men from the boys when it comes to finding and catching redfish.

We have the clearest water of the year allowing shallow water reds to see you from quite a distance, unless you are lucky enough to happen upon a school nose down, tails waving, happily vacuuming the bottom with their insatiable appetites.

It's also a time for shallow skiffs and flat bottoms, kayaks, poling, drifting, wading, and being on your stealth A-game.

Article Photos

Capt.George Tunison

Trolling motors can be heard for long distances on a skinny water redfish flat. Loud talking on dead quiet waters as well as rocking the boat both alert fish to your presence long before you can get within casting range.

Slam a lid or drop a soda can, game over as the school or pod relocates to a new zip code.

Gone are the easy fishing, high tide days that deeply flooded the mangroves. All you had to do was throw a shrimp or ladyfish steak near the bush and wait, allowing the red to follow his sensitive nose to your offering.

Now we think oyster bars, pot holed grass flats, or deep water if it gets really cold for a prolonged period.

If ice isn't on the flats then reds will be at some point during the day.

I begin my search using my temp sensor looking for warmer water. Two degrees difference can be night and day during the cold water period.

Isolated bays with island wind protection and dark bottoms heat up much faster during the day than featureless sandy bottoms, drawing marine life and predators.

Choose an early morning with an incoming tide if your schedule allows for your best shot at seeing tailing reds, although this activity can occur at any time though mornings seem to work out the best.

I'll be using a long 7 1/2- to 8-foot spinning rod with a limber tip to be able to throw live shrimp, soft plastics, or even a spoon if the water isn't too cold. Long limber rods allow you to reach out with long casts without giving away your presence.

Use 10-15 pound braided lines coupled to a long 10-15 pound fluorocarbon leader is a good choice for often finicky winter reds. Connect line to leader with back to back Uni-knots and shun clips, swivels, and other hardware that reds can easily see and be spooked by.

One word of warning to visiting anglers and boaters: winter in SW Florida means very low water. Know your intended route to avoid running aground. Grounding at even moderate speeds can be deadly if thrown out of the boat, or worse, head-on into the boat's interior.

First time on our flats? Please be aware of your prop destroying bottom vegetation as it often never grows back, or may take a decade to regrow.

No grass, no fish.

Pole, trolling motor, or drift.

Be aware of your tide table when fishing flats in winter. The water is already very low even at high tide. The tide will drop quickly leaving you high and dry for hours, long hours if you don't get off in time.

Fishing plastic shrimp on 1/2-ounce jigheads around bridge structures has been putting snook on the hook this past week.

Cast uptide and allow your shrimp to hit bottom. Slowly drag/hop the shrimp back to you along the bottom with the tide. Watch your line as some hits can be subtle.

Bridge bottoms and channels are filled with snags. Using the wrong style jighead can ruin your day as you'll constantly snag on bottom debris or rock.

TIP: Chose a jig that ties the leader to its nose rather than further back on the jighead. I'm successfully using CAL Jig heads for this technique.

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



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