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Fishing when it’s cold, and paying tribute to a pioneer

February 1, 2019
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

This past ice cold Wednesday seemed like the ideal sheepshead day and what better local spot than the Matlacha Bridge to pursue these tasty critters. Bundling up to fight the freeze, we dropped baits into every crevice, nook and cranny of the bridge structure with no sheepshead luck, at all. Lots of juvenile snappers pecked at the baits and one sheepshead was spotted wearing a wet suit trying to stay warm, simply staring at my bait.

Bridge anglers and motel guests at the foot of the bridge reported the same bad luck. Seems it was too cold for fish as well as anglers that all reported little to no action that day. After days of bad weather and cold rain, the news wasn't surprising.

With a warming trend approaching and, hopefully, a break in the wind machine department, the nearshore reefs might be a better choice as I've received reports that they are loaded with sheepies as well as snappers.

With ice cold wind driven flats, the inshore game moves off the flats and into wind protected creeks, canals, basins, channels and deep water marinas where slow live bait presentations near bottom rule the day. Coat jigs with scent products if you aren't a bait fan to help stimulate the bite. Again, super slow presentations are the key as frigid fish try to conserve energy. Next week promises to be much better with temperatures back in the 80s.

While waiting out these cold fronts, there's no need to hang up your rod. With hundreds of miles of canals in the Cape, there are always biting fish. Wind protected and deeper, these canals offer thermal protection and sanctuary for frigid fish.

From tarpon to 5-inch snappers, you'll find them all here, especially now. Many downtown canals hold huge numbers of winter sheepshead and time spent slowly probing these waters with today's electronics will be time well spent. These areas you'll hopefully find will hold large numbers of fish and better, will be there year after year.


With a background in B.A.S.S tournaments which eventually led to a career guiding in saltwater, I've had the pleasure to meet and participate in tournaments with some of the older superstars of angling, like Martin, Houston, Dance and other well-knowns. Through tournaments and guided trips in the Keys, I had the pleasure of meeting Stu Apte and other saltwater flats pioneers.

Although not a pioneer of the flats sports, Jose Wejebe, whose kindness, his willingness to share information and his incredible passion for the sport, soon put him in the top tier of salt guides and eventually led to his outstanding fishing show, "The Spanish Fly," where countless species were caught in film locations all over the planet.

To those that knew him, it was no secret that tarpon fishing was his greatest passion. Catching them on the fly rod was the challenge he enjoyed most.

While looking through fishing clips on YouTube I stumbled upon a show I hadn't seen called "Jose's Last One," where he shared a skiff in the Everglades with a good friend as they hunted tarpon in the heavily stained shallow waters. After a couple fish had skunked him with wild somersaults and dislodged flies, he finally managed to get a mid-sized beauty to the boat.

Happy as a 6-year-old with a new toy, it was a fitting end to a really good episode. Be it a tiny foot-long juvenile or a 200-pound monster, tarpon fishing was truly in his blood.

Soon afterwards he filmed his closing comments about tarpon and tarpon fishing and the show closes.

Sadly, three hours later he was killed in a small plane crash.

With so many local tarpon anglers, I thought I would pass this on to those that didn't see the show or the series. Well worth the time if you were a fan of his show.

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



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