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Fishing’s best now on, or close to, the bottom

December 28, 2018
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Christmas holidays in the low 80s? I'll take it, along with a couple dozen, big, handpicked shrimp and jig heads to pin them to and slowly fish them around deeper docks or bridge structures.

The action is on, or close to, the bottom so pick a weedless style jig heavy enough to get down and stay down in the current.

Get-ting anglers to slow their winter retrieve is the biggest problem. Reeling ultra-slow, jigging and letting the lure fall back is impossible for some anglers and takes real concentration.

The other issue is "touch" or feel or, learning how to jig the bottom without hanging up every cast. This fine art can only be developed with time on the water and losing lots of jigs to the junkyard of broken line, hooks, rusted rod and reel combos and who-knows-what littering bridge bottoms where big fish still live.

Using the right jig-head design helps greatly. Purchase jigs that have the hook-eye well forward or part of the "nose" of the jig, instead of placed further back creating a step or catch looking to find a snag. Jig-heads manufactured by DOA are a great example of a properly designed jig and will actually save you money by not losing so many jigs.

Sheepshead fishing is in full swing and every year I offer the same advice to frustrated first-timers that keep pulling up bare hooks that keep bait shops happy. If you master this technique, you will never come home without your limit. To catch pier thieves or sheepshead below you in deeper water around bridges using shrimp bits for bait, set the hook just as the fish opens its mouth to bite your shrimp. Works every time, guaranteed.

Use thin wire, super sharp hooks that get in between their mouth full of teeth and sink into tissue otherwise you're just feeding fish. Inshore I'm having good luck with Owner thin wire 1/0 and smaller hooks (circle hooks offshore)

If you're riding along scanning well known oyster bars for redfish signs and you suddenly see a dozen or so broom-sized tails waving in the air, stop and pinch yourself because you haven't suddenly died and gone to redfish heaven or somehow been suddenly teleported to Venice, Louisiana, on an $800 bull redfish charter. You're in Matlacha watching huge black drum happily scouring a bar, heads down and tails up eating everything that moves.

The first time I saw this many moons ago I indeed thought that I had hit the redfish mother-lode. Before that I chased school mullet using the same redfish rookie "mother-lode" misinformation.

If you do run across this bar feeding frenzy, quietly circle back and toss a shrimp or a piece of drum candy (a crab) into the mix and hang on.

Artificial anglers can drop a DOA Shrimp or GULP crab or shrimp on a circle hook into the party and it will be sniffed out and inhaled quickly.

A 40-pound flats drum is big fun on your snook rod. It's like being tied to a fast moving bulldozer.

When going offshore, first check weather reports so you don't run into unexpected conditions. If there are any doubts, stay in port or fish in or near shore. Obviously pretty basic stuff but the problem is, trusting the reporting source. Twice this month I've had offshore captains complain about reported calm seas only to be caught in 6 to 7-footers which to the bay boater (20-24 foot) can be quite a handful or worse.

Even in Florida's comparatively warm winter waters, ending up in the drink can render arms and legs useless in short order.

Weather reports are often like political predictions - dead wrong. Never overestimate your boat's abilities or your ability as captain in rough seas where your big bay boat suddenly feels small while praying that single engine keeps running.

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



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