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Low water can test your fishing and boating skills

By Staff | Jan 22, 2020

(Editor’s note: Capt.Bill Russell’s On the Water column will return next week.)

Slow moving, low water, negative tide days can test your skills and patience as shallow saltwater fish seem to sometimes disappear. Add long cold nights to the mix and soon temperature sensitive, sub-tropicals like snook downshift into survival mode while other inshore species like seatrout are stimulated to put on the feed bag or spawn, like black drum and sheepshead.

Casters need to slow their retrieve, and smaller lures fished on lighter, clearer lines working near bottom, have the edge. Added scents or bits of shrimp enhance the presentation.

Low water, negative day tides can also be bad news for those going way to fast on unfamiliar very shallow waters as one second you’re zipping along enjoying the Florida sunshine, laughing when someone mentions, “My, look at the bird right there walking in the water, must be shallow” –next second, if you’re lucky, you’re flying through the air with a soft entry into the water with the boat 25 yards behind you sitting high and dry on a sand bar, not a hull-eating, oyster bar.

Typically that’s not the case. Most injuries and deaths occur with soft bodies slamming into non-moving interior objects in most pleasure cruising type boats when running aground at speed. Deadly speed could be as little as 15-20 mph in a sudden stop, abrupt grounding with the occupants fully unprepared, especially with youngsters. The damage to both passengers and boat obviously increases with speed.

Many folks have a “lucky grounding” where they slide many yards up onto a soft sand mud bottom with little damage. Everyone gets out and pushes the boat off but often it’s far too heavy to move especially if you’re solo.

But with today’s cell phones and reliable on-the-water services like Sea Tow, help is coming to pull you back out to floating water again.

Wait? What? You don’t have sea insurance? Well, what are we supposed to do now Uncle Archie? Are words you never, never want to hear when you have the nice folks down for a Florida winter sunshine boating get-away run-aground, no-see-um eaten alive, no food or water left, kids are screaming, Aunt Emma needed her medications at noon, 9 hours stranding (or more) in your shiny new high dollar boat that used to have a hull bottom earlier in the day.

Well, captain? Who you calling?

As the captain, the safety of everyone aboard is your responsibility. No one is wearing seat belts.

If you don’t know — go slow! Understand tide charts and how local weather events can greatly alter the stated tidal predictions. Winter lowers the water even more and increases the risk when boating our shallow waters. Always stay in the marked channel.

It’s also spawning time for largemouth bass and crappie and a trip to one of the many world class bass lakes within an hour or two’s drive of Cape Coral could put a 15-pound bucket mouth hot on the trail of your wild-caught shiner. I don’t know what the Cape Coral largemouth record is, but I’m sure there are 10 pounders hiding under a back yard lily pad near you.

This past week, clients caught a mixed bag of fish including trout, sharks, redfish, pompano, ladyfish and lightning fast Spanish mackerel as we wind drifted the open grass bed flats of Pine Island Sound.

Easy family fishing with low tech high success rate shrimp under popping corks or floats put smiles on faces.

What was concerning was sea grass loss in many areas we fished, which I suspect is the direct result of the freshwater poisons we spew into these once pristine environments.

Without mangrove backwaters and thriving sea grass beds, the local fishery will eventually collapse as they are the nursery of the seas.

The fight for clean water continues.

Please contact us for information on 1- 4 person fishing/boating trips or our 2-hour, total beginners, fly fishing school.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.