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Cool down puts fish in mood to feed

October 21, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The fall cool down has fish on the move with feeding up for winter being number one on their minds.

Although not considered one of the glamour species, the cynoscion nebulosus - or spotted seatrout - is a prime target for millions of Florida anglers. Easy to catch, plentiful, usually easy to find and not bad on the plate, the seatrout is everyman's fish.

That said, catching a trophy seatrout, or gator trout (in our area anything over five pounds), is an angling accomplishment. North Florida produces the real monsters where a 5-pounder is just a "good one" and folks don't get real excited unless it's over 10 pounds.

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Capt. George Tunison

The Florida record and all-tackle world record is the same fish, 17.7 pounds caught in 1995 at Fort Pierce.

A monster caught last year at Indian River near Melbourne broke the current length record of 79 cm. This fish of 14 pounds was measured at 87 cm. (34.25 inches) and released.

The typical size of our trout calls for ultra-light spin or fly angling to really enjoy these little scrappers.

Four to eight-pound test will do for spinning line and when using mono no leader is necessary. Braid lines call for a 24-inch or longer leader.

Fly anglers will do well with a selection of rods starting with a 5-6 wt. as a good choice.

Any streamer fly will do and for fun take a handful of surface poppers. Surface poppers and Zara Spook/ Skitter Walk type topwaters are killers for spin fisherman, too.

I stand by my previous statement that to take the biggest trout of the year on a lure use the largest topwater plugs in your box.

Be there before dawn, settle in and remain quiet. The trophy gator you seek is not a silly bite anything schoolie. This is a wise old buck, a loner that eats its little brothers and sisters and will inhale head-first, a pound-sized mullet.

Using that really big, three treble hook topwater will get the attention of a big fish looking for a big meal.

Remember, a top shelf predator wants to save energy and time by inhaling a big meal rather than chasing 10 small meals.

Being a solitary and very wary fish, maybe the most noise sensitive fish on our flats, long casts are a bonus. Loud talking, boat rocking, and lid slamming nullify your shot at a wise old gator. You're still casting long after he's been gone.

For the bait guy, pinfish and pigfish are top live baits under a float. King Shrimp is right there as well.

In Southwest Florida you are allowed four fish per day of not less than 15 inches to not over 20 inches with one of the four over 20 inches allowed.

The season is open year-round.

Get up early, practice stealth tactics in the boat, make long casts before dawn and during, put in your time and you will score your first big gator trout.

Don't like going offshore to catch your grouper dinner? That's okay, its fall. The grouper are coming in close to visit.

Chad Knowles from Chicago can tell you all about it. While casting spoons for redfish along a Pine Island shoreline (Chino Island is a great place to prospect) he grunted and set the hook in a good one. This redfish put up a great fight and as it got nearer the boat started changing colors and species.

Twenty minutes later after catching a 34-inch snook, another similar sized gag bit his spoon.

Two grouper, a great first snook, three redfish, several trout, and one big bruiser jack made for a fine introduction to Southwest Florida fishing.

Fall up-close grouper will be found along mangrove shorelines, in the passes, and any deep hole on the flats in Matlacha Pass through Pine Island Sound.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or, or



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