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125 years of chasing the tarpon

May 17, 2013
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

If you're heading to Boca Grande for some fast paced tarpon action, remember that seasonal tarpon rules are in effect from April through June.

The rules allow no more than three rods in use per boat and no breakaway sinker rigs or lures.

Fish-ing these local, world famous gathering spots for northbound tarpon has been going on since W.H. Wood and local guide John Smith took the first tarpon ever reported on rod and reel in 1885 in Tarpon Bay.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Soon, the rail line extended south to Punta Gorda and anglers from across the country made the long journey to Fort Myers. The first grand lodge, the San Carlos Inn, was built at St. James City about a year after Woods' first tarpon catch. It contained 50 rooms and the best area guides, both black and white, along with skiffs.

Anglers could also stay aboard the Floating Hotel Captiva anchored in Captiva and Boca Grande Passes. Other grand hotels soon followed. The Schultz at Punta Rassa and The Fort Myers Hotel were erected to serve wealthy sportsmen anxious to do battle with this newly tamed "uncatchable" giant silver fish.

It must have been quite a sight to see 10 or more skiffs each manned by a richly dressed sportsman from up north and their local guide, all tied end to end being towed out into Captiva or Boca Passes by a single motor boat for a day's tarpon fishing.

Boca Grande Pass is still crowded in spring 125 years later, but now with super sleek fiberglass creations with NASA quality sonar, all still pursuing that same ancient prehistoric fish.

Women got in on the fishing with Tom Edison's wife, Mina, an avid tarpon angler. Another frequent visitor to the estate, Henry Ford, also enjoyed tarpon fishing.

Zane Grey, Hemingway and many other famous authors, sportsmen and women pursued tarpon in these waters and wrote about their adventures for readers worldwide. Teddy Roosevelt fished for the silver king here in 1917. It was the new frontier for the wealthy traveling angler and the area grew to accommodate them and their money.

As author Randy Wayne White describes, "It was the birth of big game fishing."

A rich and colorful history surrounds this sometimes mysterious and always powerful creature. Whether your encounter with tarpon is on a fly, lure or bait it will be forever remembered and treasured.

Of major concern is the proposed closure of about one third of Florida Bay or about 100,000 acres to outboard motor use by Everglades' National Park. This anti fishing/boating proposal called the General Management Plan is yet another ongoing assault on the rights of taxpaying sportsmen and women by the anti-hunting/fishing/gun crowd so prevalent in Washington.

It could all be a moot point if the Everglades continue to degrade as the health of the bay and the Keys greatly depends on quality water flowing from the Glades.

This past week, my client caught seven snook from 12 to 18 pounds on the big MirrOdine in chrome. Our river is simply loaded with snook and all are looking to eat heavily.

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



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