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Will ‘global cooling’ bring ice fishing here?

January 19, 2018
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

I just finished up my ice fishing shanty project in time for the big freeze. I'm going to truck it out to Pine Island Friday and use a 4-wheeler to skid it across Pine Island Sound and position it over my favorite winter seatrout hole.

Having spent lots of time in Canada chasing a very unpredictable fish called the muskie, I've seen lots of ice fishing shanties but I was usually heading south by the time they were brought out for the season.

There were a few times I stayed long enough to fish in one. Seemed to me it was just an excuse to fish (drink) without crashing a boat. Four men huddled in a cold and uncomfortable wooden port-a-potty staring at a couple of holes in the floor for hours on end just isn't my idea of fishing or fun.

Typically I like to keep casting and moving and haven't thought about ice fishing until recently and how it could be a real boost to my charter business now that global warming has been replaced with an even greater weather threat, global cooling.

Always one to try and turn sour lemons to lemonade and with Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass ice covered for at least a month out of every year now and the ice season growing longer in the coming years, why not cash in?

Remembering previous very uncomfortable shanty excursions and how much I dislike ice fishing, I decided I might as well design mine for comfort. Solar panel roof, great lighting and heat, Internet and ultra-high definition TV, plush seating, Garmin electronics, stove, 2 insulated picture windows, 3 bunks and a small separate toilet area.

It's designed to sit on two pontoons which I can easily tow over the ice in Pine Island Sound and put in position for fishing, then later, slap on a 10-horse and a Minn-Kota and rent it out as mini-house/fishing boat during the warmer months.

I rigged the Minn-Kota trolling motor bracket so I can replace the trolling motor and shaft with an electric ice auger unit for winter use.

Speaking of ice fishing, cold water puts our two winter staples - the seatrout and sheepshead - on the feed. Ice cold water and winter's negative low tides works in the angler's favor.

During the coldest periods, trout will school and seek deep water channels, creeks, basins. Bunched up, competitive and hungry, it's easy to catch a boatload.

A good example would be fishing the channel running under the Matlacha Bridge. Use electronics to follow the channel north casting jigs or shrimp up to the edge of the channel and slowly fishing it down the underwater bank as you move slowly along. It won't be long before you'll find a school of hungry trout.

It's easy to catch enough for the table and as many fun catch-and-release fish as you want. It's also a good idea to bend down the barbs on your baits to minimize damage to these rather delicate fish. Using barbless hooks and needle-nose pliers simply grab the hook shank and turn it upside down. The fish slides off into the water with no handling damage.

Remember that trout are fine scaled so handling with a towel or even dry hands removes the protective barrier (slime coat).

After trout fishing, return to the bridge for sheepshead using fine wire hooks to get ahold in the human-looking mouth of this tasty fish.

Sheepshead have good vision so using fluorocarbon leaders helps. Using too light a leader will get you into trouble with a 10-pound-plus sheepie determined not to see the sun.

For the Silver King fanatics, tarpon are rolling on the surface of many deep water canals early in the morning. These fish will bite lures like small scented or baited jigs, and even shrimp under a cork but it's never easy fishing.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or captgeoget3



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