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Cold snap pushes fish to deeper water

January 22, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Prolonged cold weather will push fish off the flats into marinas, deep creeks and channels, Cape canals, far up river or even deeper offshore.

Veteran flats anglers that become newbie/guest offshore anglers are often rewarded with the super trophy snook or redfish they've been hunting for a lifetime inshore.

For schooling fish like trout real cold snaps actually can improve the angler's odds as it bunches the fish in predictable locations. Once found these same locations will produce year after year.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Good example would be Matlacha Pass. A really long cold event will drive the trout off the flats and into the deeper and warmer waters of the channel. Use your depth finder or your jig, starting at the bridge and slowly work your way north fishing the dropoff or edges along the channel till you find a large school.

Cast up onto the channel lip and bounce your jig down the channel wall till you connect. Throw a live shrimp on a light jighead and slowly mend line as the shrimp sinks and kicks.

Soft plastics on 1/8- to 3/8-ounce light wire jigheads do the trick. Pick your favorite color and go to work. Z-man and DOA soft plastics work great. Other folks swear by GULP products. Adding bottled scent always helps winter time plastic taste better.

Fishing 5-6 foot soft tip ultralight to light rods with 6-8 pound braided line back to back Uni-knotted to a three-foot fluorocarbon leader of 6-8 pound test will do.

Fish the shrimp on a jighead properly so it doesn't spin on the cast. Bite the shrimp's tail off and rig backwards so the jighead is at the tail of the shrimp.

Rigging the shrimp just under the horn (but never through the dark spot) allows the shrimp to dance enticingly as it sinks on a jighead or small hook and a split shot or two.

The colder it gets the slower your retrieve. You're fishing too fast, force yourself to slow down.

When you're tired of catching trout and want something that pulls hard head back to sheepshead city - the bridge. Cape angler Rob McHenry did just that dropping a half blue crab toward the bottom and got to play tug of war with an over 40-pound brutish black drum.

Bring fiddler crabs or shrimp and your A-game to the bridge and fish straight down among the pilings for some hard pulling sheepshead. Turn your bite detector mode on high and, as always, hook the fish just before he bites or your bait will be stolen.

Offshore action on big kingfish. If you've never seen skyrocketing kingfish leaping high into the air marauding bait schools, be prepared for an impressive sight.

Spanish macs and kingfish attacks under diving birds. Bring those binoculars for a free admission ticket and, please, if you see other boats working a school of feeding fish by all means do not drive over the school. You will not make new friends this way. Now no one will catch fish.

Dragging or even casting big plugs through these birds may connect you with a 50-pound angry kingfish and an epic reel-smoking light tackle battle.

Winter's low, clear water allows for some of the year's most challenging redfish hunting in shallow water as long as it doesn't get too cold driving them, like all others, into a deep water refuge. Bring patience, stealth, and a quiet boat and push pole for best results.

By the way, if you see a poor guide poling a boat full of anglers, gas, ice, tackle, he's probably working pretty hard. Please give them a break and lots of room. It's a big pond.

On warming afternoons reds will always take a smelly shrimp, live or dead, if you can find a deep water mangrove edge, canal dock, bridge, or marina.

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



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