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Stealth is key with winter’s ultra-low tides and clear water

December 7, 2018
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Resident anglers know that the cold water period brings very low or even negative tides to Southwest Florida as well as the year's clearest water.

Don't know the local waters yet? Go slowly and have tow insurance.

Inshore structures not seen in summer's higher tides suddenly become visible during winter's negative tide phases. Oyster bars; broken, sunken docks; cuts; drop-offs; and holes can now be added to your GPS hot spot list.

For the winter flats hunter, ultra-low tides and clear water call for stealth, long casts and lighter lines. The push-pole angler silently gliding along will definitely have the sound advantage over the trolling motor powered craft as well as the poling platform's added height/sight advantage.

It's a pretty good bet that any local snook over 30 inches has been hooked, maybe even caught more than once and is now naturally skittish and can easily tell the difference between a Minn-Kota and MotorGuide from a hundred yards away. The quiet anger typically catches more fish.

If your boat lacks a proper poling platform, a well secured sturdy cooler will make quite a difference added to the back and front of the boat for both casting and spotting fish while quietly poling. Well secured is the key phrase. Coolers or professionally made add-on casting platforms not firmly secured to the deck are a very real health hazard.

An extra 24 inches or more of height opens a whole new world when scouting for flats trophies but can also mean a longer stay in hospital from the dreaded slippery cooler slide-out and guaranteed harder fall.

Many times a large fish-filled depression or pothole on a flat, or an island shoreline can't be reached by your skinny water skiff due to low water on the approach. At this point you either move on to deeper pastures or secure the boat and slip into the fish's environment.

Like poling, wading is a stealth game allowing you to move quietly and slowly in and through the fish's environment also opening up areas others simply can't reach. Of course, the sight advantage/height is now gone, on the other hand, you now present a much lower profile than someone towering high above the surface.

Wading can be as simple as staking out the boat and jumping in with a rod and pocket full of lures or being more prepared with proper waders and wading shoes, to bait and tackle float rings you tow as you quietly move along.

If you've spent any time along the Gulf coast of Texas, you'll see that wading is an extremely popular and productive style of fishing for local trout and redfish.

With a healthy population of stingrays in our local waters, serious wading boots are highly recommended as well as moving, shuffling slowly along the bottom while scanning ahead of you.

Investing in waders is money well spent as they fight the cold, can provide storage for tackle while you are on the move and will keep your skin isolated from any type of natural or man-made nastiness unfortunately in our water.

Tow-along float rings can be quite creative, holding live aerated shrimp, coolers, tackle, camera equipment and a couple rods.

Low cost low key, anywhere there is hard bottom, getting out of the boat and wading offers a year-round stealth approach to fishing success.

With season upon us and with most afternoon anglers fishing till dark, the boat ramps become quite crowded by dinnertime. With everyone in a hurry to get cleaned up and relax, boat ramp etiquette goes a long way.

Always keep in mind that the boat ramp is not the place to load and unload boating equipment and tackle. Get in the ramp, launch or pick up - only - and move out of the way for the next guy.

Please turn off your headlights when backing/sitting (tilted upward) in the ramp. They are blinding everyone.

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



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