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Low tides, clear water flips fishing

December 9, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

As a fitting end to the inshore, schooling up phase of the redfish season, earlier this week I took an 183 redfish on a gold spoon in Matlacha Pass! That's 18 spots on the port side and just 3 on starboard, not pounds.

Most sub-adult reds that came inshore for schooling, food, and fun on our flats have moved to the passes and offshore (most local reds take off for the offshore life at roughly 30 inches) where they will grow into adulthood with some able to crack the 100-pound mark in places like North Carolina.

The redfish game changes as the brown water clears and we are faced with negative tides (very low water).

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

If you are a new boater to this area, become very familiar with your tide chart during the winter months in SW Florida. By all means do not stray out of the marked channel. We experience negative tides at this time. Staying on course is critical.

Never forget your tide chart, it is not gospel and the projected tide heights listed in it can be greatly affected by wind. Don't be surprised if your chart tells you there should be two feet of water on your hot spot only to arrive and find the bottom barely covered due to a strong north wind keeping the tide from coming in fully.

Skiff operators take great care in planning your trip into the shallow back country unless you are willing to get stranded high and dry waiting out the next tide change to bring the water back for your escape.

Winter's clear and low waters often take away a major component of local red fishing, which is fishing the bottom with fish chunks and shrimp under the flooded mangroves.

Now we look for redfish in creeks, deep potholes, under deep docks, residential canals, or sight fished on rising tides like we will experience this coming Monday morning.

For inshore casters, cooling waters means downsizing lines and leaders, lures and baits. The jumbo shrimp we crave all summer are plentiful in winter, but not always the best choice for a cold, weary fish.

For casters, cooling water also means slowing down the retrieve, which for some is a very difficult task.

Now is the time for slow moving, bottom bumping artificial or live shrimp cast on 20-pound test fluorocarbon leaders or lighter down to 10-pound test.

As it gets colder I'll switch from casting plastics to live shrimp hooked a variety of ways depending upon the application and species sought.

For hard lures, suspending twitch baits like MirrOlures are tops. Slowly fished with mild twitching is hot. Make sure to attach the lures to your leader with a loop knot for maximum side to side flash.

Throw your ladyfish chunks or shrimp under deep docks and wait them out.

Trout fishing continues to improve and cooling waters will make them school where unlimited catches are possible. Bending down the barbs will save small fish from mortal post-release wounds. Often these giant schools are comprised of juvenile fish. Please respect the health of released trout by not handling them, especially with dry hands or wrapped in towels.

Trout are suckers for the fly rod and all our local in- and offshore species.

Most people want to try the fly rod but never have for various reasons, mostly because they have been told it's too hard to learn. This is definitely not true.

For several years I've been offering a two-hour, one-on-one, friendly and fun, on the water introduction to saltwater fly fishing course at a very reasonable price.

This course includes all equipment and materials to get you up and running in this fascinating part of the angling world. Show up and get onboard.

Think safety this winter. Wear those life jackets.

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



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