During the cold months in Southwest Florida, novice or visiting anglers often ask where the best place and way to catch a nice snook, tarpon, or even a big jack.
I usually tell them to hire a good guide and volunteer my services. Then I tell them the obvious - find warm water.
That could be a power plant outflow, a deep cut, a deeper creek, a deep water marina, canal systems, or far upriver. These locations are good starting points during most Florida winters.
Capt. George Tunison
Homeowners' electric heat systems will put everyone's meters into hyper drive this weekend as the temperature's going down, which will put trout into feeding mode.
Fishing the Caloosahatchee River during the cold months is always a solid choice. The water is warmer and big fish are always there. A large population of resident tarpon frequents these upriver stretches all winter, usually congregating at the Franklin Locks where most times they are notoriously hard to get on the hook.
Big and ultra-mean jacks roam the railroad trestles and the I-75 bridge pilings waiting to test your gear. Throw big minnow shaped X-Raps or topwater plugs early or late in the day for a good shot at a 20-pound plus jack. Jacks like a fast erratic retrieve on top or subsurface.
Trout school all winter in the river and are very catchable. Reds roam the shallow flats and backwaters off the main river and love gold spoons. If you seriously want to try a tarpon in winter without heading to Miami then the upper river is a good choice along with the Cape's miles of canals.
Like any other fishery you have to pay your dues by investing your time searching and probing here and there, in likely or past productive winter spots. Always give the folks at Lehrs Economy Tackle a buzz for up-to-date river information and expert advice. Always consider a guide with local knowledge as an angler's greatest gift.
On February up-river excursions take a variety of baits and lures. Substitute Berkeley GULP products if bait is not your thing. I'm a believer in scents even moreso during winter and aboard my boat soft plastics are liberally coated with Pro-Cure Super Gel.
Plugs, plastics, spoons, jigs, and fly rods all work at one time or another and it pays to have a variety of offerings available.
Learn to slowly fish the D.O.A. Shrimp lure. The D.O.A Shrimp is the most natural swimming soft plastic shrimp imitation on the market today. It's extremely versatile and can be fished countless ways from surface to the bottom. Learning to skip cast this lure back under long docks, overhangs, boat houses, and mangroves is a great technique to master and will pay off big time.
Let the lure hit the water and slowly sink without reeling keeping a sharp eye on your line. Start slowly reeling back in a straight line with short hops or twitches every two to three feet then letting it free fall works great. The key is to go very slow and watch your line. Often a big fish will inhale this lure and all you may see is a subtle twitch of the line.
A good tip is to load a small jar with D.O.As and fill it with Berkeley Gulp juice. If not soaked in Gulp they're coated in Pro-Cure. Versatility and preparation are a must.