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Redfish soon to be schooling

August 11, 2017
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Wish you had that T-Top now? Ever feel like hiding under the poling platform just to get out of the sun? My skin feels your pain.

Poling the boat at 9:30 a.m. on a brutally hot and windless August no-see-um infested Matlacha morning had me thinking (at my advanced age) about not only spotting fish, but also how 911 responders might reach us back here in the boonies. If I might suddenly succumb to a heat stroke, take a swan dive off the platform and plant my head a foot deep in the muck, stuck in vacuum tight like a dock piling.

All along the coast rat reds to sometimes 20 pounders soon will school up in super skinny water and put on the feed bag.

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Capt. GeorgeTunison

A redfish usually lives inshore until about 4 years old, or around 30-inches, then usually transitions offshore to live out its life returning in the fall to the bays, flats, passes, and inshore areas to spawn.

The fish generally school by size. A typical flats school might number 5 to 50 to well over 100 fish. Offshore anglers sometimes see massive schools rise to the top that covers acres and turn the water copper bronze as they swim near or on the surface.

If you happen upon one of these giant offshore schools a big plug retrieved rather quickly and erratically will draw several bruiser reds into a race with your plug as a prize. It's quite a sight to see a half-dozen 20-plus pound bull reds peel off from the school and race to claim your topwater offering.

To the flats angler quietly poling along on a golden blue dawn morning, suddenly seeing 3-30 redfish tails waving in the morning sun is heaven on earth. The angler knows he is seeing happy fish, heads down, cleaning the bottom. A lightly landing cast to the edge of the school with a spoon, topwater plug, fly or hunk of ladyfish on a jighead will draw a stout strike followed by several drag burning runs.

Until this schooling activity really heats up next month, look for reds along mangroves edges, under deep docks, creek mouths and along the passes where they will chow down on shrimp, ladyfish steaks, soft and hard plastics and fly rod presentations,

Tarpon are where you find them in deep water areas of Charlotte Harbor shadowing schools of bait, or around river bridges at night. North Matlacha Pass is always a good bet to drift and cast.

Put a live lady under a float while drifting. Cast plastic swimbaits and jigs as you drift along. The passes still will hold tarpon as well.

Put in your time looking for rollers. Ask friends, bait shops and local guides where they are seeing fish.

Shark fishing techniques vary according to the size fish one seeks or the location of the hunt. One thing for sure is unless you are a very experienced handler leave the shark in the water for a safe release.

If it's a small shark say a 2-4 footer, holding it high by the tail is a great way to get a picture of you being bitten in the side, hips or thighs by a shark that you held by the tail on vacation.

Remember, a shark has no bones and can twist and turn like they're made of rubber. If you think a shark is dead, chances are it's not and can still hurt you.

Even a small shark can seriously bite you.

If you intend to eat your shark, first make sure it's legal to possess as many are protected. Make sure you bleed the shark right away and ice it, otherwise don't kill a fish for nothing and waste your time as the flesh will taste rancid.

It's hot so fish early in the morning or at night for best results.

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



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