Visiting anglers often ask where to find tarpon. They are all around us.
Although we are blessed with a large resident population of tarpon, fishing for them in the cool months is a hit - or mostly miss - proposition. Migrating northward, southern silver kings have been spotted for several months in our waters with the main body now arriving. Now that the water has turned bathtub hot this past couple of weeks they do seem to be showing up most everywhere.
Upriver the tarpon bite has been pretty intense near the power pant and the railroad trestle. The canals of the Cape are alive with them and for 10 days or so before the full moon I was jumping them daily on foot in local canals.
Capt. George Tunison
They are swimming through Matlacha Pass and we are watching them free jump as we fish for redfish. Matlacha Pass and the sound is a world class destination to quietly pole and present a lure or fly to a really big king in knee deep water for one of angling's greatest thrills.
The tarpon fleet will be anchored off Sanibel in the usual windy and rough waters catching the newly arriving big fish from the keys on their way to Boca Grande and points north and west as they migrate toward Alabama, Texas and Mexico.
These are some of the strongest fish of the year and one day's tarpon fishing off Knapp's Point is sure to put a very large shark on your line as well. I've hooked sharks so large at Knapp's its downright scary as well as backbreaking work.
As the silver kings head north from the Keys and unknown points farther south, they are accompanied by large groups of sharks with big bulls and giant hammerheads that bite 100-pound tarpon in half at the back of your boat. No matter how many times I've seen it, I'm always amazed to see a really big fish like a tarpon being run down and eaten by a submarine sized hammerhead that was lurking in the shadow of the boat.
If you are attached to a tarpon under attack try to help it get away by putting your reel in free spool or maneuvering the boat to try and give your king a chance to escape the giant jaws. Remember, a 100-pound-plus tarpon can be 50 years old, so give them every chance when giant jaws come hunting.
Boca Grande tarpon fishing is not for the inexperienced. It is best fished with specialized techniques, tackle and boat control as well as knowing Boca etiquette of drifting down with the fleet and returning out of everyone's way. Once you understand the pattern it becomes easier. Try and watch what others are doing before entering the pack. I highly suggest hiring a guide to learn this fishing.
Boca gets the glory, but this boat bumping, crowded fishing is not for me. When pass fishing for tarpon I prefer Captiva or Redfish Pass. Big fish and less crowded.
The beach tarpon scene is heating up. Early-rising anglers will see large schools of tarpon running the beaches. Figure their travel direction and get ahead of them. Quietly cast live baitfish to them and hold on. These fish can be right off the beaches or a few miles or more offshore.
Again, this is a great time to learn from a guide and can save you many seasons of unsuccessful tarpon fishing, wasted time and money.
Although I've caught them using all the above mentioned techniques I have to admit I'm hooked on night fishing our many bridges that cross the Caloosahatchee. First off, its cooler at night and secondly, some of the biggest tarpon I've ever seen hunt and live around all of the Fort Myers and Cape bridges. Bring heavy tackle and a strong back.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.