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Fish can be predictable in cold spells

January 30, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The good news is that May is right around the corner, it's not going to snow and we need not worry about hurricanes for awhile. Even better news there's a call for a weekend warm-up.

This past week's deep freeze confounded some anglers and led others to big rewards. Cold spells can, of course, slow or even shut down fishing on the flats for most species. The upside is prolonged cold concentrates fish in often predictable specific locations sometimes making them easier to find. These spots can be utilized season after season.

This usually means deep water. Deep water to a Southwest Florida flats rat means anything over the knees. For the purposes of this article let's talk 10 feet or more.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Novice anglers will learn that deep water offers fish thermal refuge or temperature comfort zones during times of extreme cold and heat.

A classic example is Matlacha Pass. Take the section (channel) from the bridge north and south, to the first speed signs. If it gets really cold, for a prolonged period, schools of trout will vacate the flats and reposition deeply along the channel seeking cold relief.

The wise angler will use simple electronics or maps to follow and probe the channel edge or dropoff to find mega-schools of trout that can be caught on every cast. Others fishing the shallows come up skunked telling everyone back at the ramp how bad the fishing was.

Our northern friends used to catching reservoir or deep lake walleye and smallmouths understand this deeper fishing and using electronics to follow channels and should have no trouble finding local, ice cold winter trout during prolonged cold spells.

Bait of choice? Cast soft plastics or live, small to medium shrimp on a quarter-ounce or larger jig head depending on current flow, wind, and depth.

Best results come from casting to the lip of the dropoff and hopping the jig down into deeper water. Use 10-pound test or less, fluorocarbon leaders.

With hundreds of miles of wind protected and often deep canals here in Cape Coral something usually is biting in your backyard canal.

Before you go fishing this weekend take a close look at your tide chart to pick periods that will provide the best action.

Look at the chart for the 29th, as an example.

A low at 6:11 a.m. with a negative tide of -0.2 feet, rising to a high tide at 1 p.m. at 0.8 feet. Good tide for spotting tailing redfish. Decent water movement, biting fish.

The high at 1 p.m. at 0.8 falls to a low tide at 4:09 p.m., but only falls to 0.7 feet. Hardly any change, little tidal flow, usually very slow fishing. Watch football.

The low at 4:09 p.m. at 0.7 feet rises to a high at 10:14 p.m. at 1.6 feet. Lots of flow, good fishing.

Other factors influence the fish as well, but this is a good general rule.

Saltwater fish use moving tides to feed. Use your tide chart to avoid dead, non-moving tides for better angling success.

Cold water will increase your odds of finding willing sheepshead ready to eat your fiddler crabs or shrimp at a bridge piling or dock near you. Some of these guys get big and will shred light leaders. Tackle up. Delicious in the pan.

Go up river in your redfish, trout, tarpon, jack and snook hunt. Warmer waters spell faster action.

Upriver reds love bottom snacks of shrimp and cut ladyfish. Start your search just east of the I-75 Bridge on both the north and south sides of the river, on the flats and mangrove edges.

Trout can be found far up river, even Spanish macs at times due to the higher winter water salinity levels.

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



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