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Cold fish seek warm, deep water

February 20, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

As a young man, hurricanes almost always hit Florida's east coast then rumbled up to the Carolinas and often out to sea. This time tested and usually predictable weather pattern made choosing which side of Florida I would later move to an easy decision.

Being from a non-hurricane state it was "SW Florida here I come!"

After standing in a 200-yard long line at Lowe's for hurricane shutters (sold out), or hopefully a few sheets of plywood (sold out), not too long ago (and at the time perfectly willing to pay 100 bucks for a bag of ice, it was so hot) I told myself, this won't happen to me again! I'm playing it safe.

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Capt. George Tunison

I was at Lowe's at 5:45 a.m. Thursday hoping to avoid the lines for salt, shovels and snow blower replacement parts.

Let's hope this ongoing, worldwide weather pattern of Global Cooling doesn't last much longer here anyway. It's tough on our nicely rebounding snook populations and may force Al Gore onto government assistance to help maintain his mansion and private jet fleet.

The upside of dropping water temps is it may get this year's sometimes spotty sheepshead bite into high gear.

Continued cold water also will put other fish, like trout, into predictable deep water locations. Find them in large schools along deep channels, deep canals, deep creeks, deep marinas, and because of high salinity levels, far up the Caloosahatchee.

Snook will seek the same thermal protection and hide out in deep water and won't be much interested in putting on the feed bag thinking more about staying warm.

On sunny late afternoons during severe and prolonged cold snaps, travel slowly along local creeks and you'll often see subtropical snook, singles or in groups, leaving the deep and lying in the sun-drenched shallows bellies on the sand dorsal fins breaking the surface soaking up the sun.

It's tempting to fire a cast at them, but best to give them a break and not harass them as they usually aren't eating, just trying to survive.

Offshore crews are waiting out the winter winds to get offshore to catch a mixed bag of fish.

With subsiding winds and a bit of a warm-up pompano hunters should take advantage and hit areas around the various passes with bright colored shrimp tipped jigs.

These guys are a blast to catch as they fight hard because they are of the jack family. Unlike most jacks the pompano is one of the best eating fish Florida has to offer.

If you're new to these waters and you keep seeing fish rocket out of the water as you pass these are pompano. Immediately slow and quietly circle back to the area. Using light lines with light fluorocarbon leaders, armed with pink, orange,or fluorescent colored small jigs, quietly saturate the area with long casts.

Tip the jigs with morsels of shrimp. Pomps have outstanding eyesight so don't overdo the shrimp. Most dedicated pomp jigs have shorter than normal skirts due to short striking fish.

They will take a variety of baits. I've caught my two biggest, over four-pound pomps, on gold spoons while fishing for redfish on the flats in Matlacha and Pine Island.

Most purist pomp pros prefer putting the jig on the bottom and retrieving with short hops always falling back to bottom, stirring up little puffs of sand, mimicking panicked creatures trying not to become dinner.

After a long fight then seeing your first pompano, your words will be, "I can't believe this little fish fought so hard, it should be at least 10 pounds!"

Really cold weather will force redfish into the same protected areas of deeper creeks and into your backyard canal where a big shrimp live or dead, casted on a jig or waiting on bottom, may yield some surprising results.

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



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