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Rise early to get shot at tarpon

August 30, 2013
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

During tarpon season I'm up very early, trailering the boat to the ramp and in many cases catching bait returning to meet a client at the dock before light.

It's a lot of work without guaranteed results. I do love tarpon fishing and if I wasn't a guide I would still subject myself to the same punishments.

This morning, I got out of bed at 6:30, grabbed a rod and drove 1.6 miles from my house without the boat, parked, walked 10 steps and started casting. Within 20 casts I fought and released two tarpon on a fly rod and one baby bonus backwater linesider.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Got back in my truck and went home, back in bed by 8 a.m. Paradise!

No they weren't 135 pounds, but one was a solid five-pounder that seemed to jump 20 feet high, the other a fatter eight-pounder that on one wild jump actually jumped into the bushes and back out again before settling down.

Cursing the rain? Other than Lake O's problems, no. Find a dam or weir, allowing fresh rainwater to pour over into the salt and you might possibly find yourself in fish central. Burnt Store Road is crowded with anglers taking advantage of the rain-swollen canals and the fish sometimes there are looking for an easy meal to fall over the dam into their waiting mouths. This is going on statewide, not just on BSR. Find your spot and get in on the action while the rain is here.

Smaller lures resembling the small prey trapped in the water's flow seem to work best. Small jigs and flies put most of my tarpon in the air.

On Sunday, Sept. 1, our test group of 100 snook boats will take to the water from Punta Rassa to Burnt Store Marina. Fishing barrier island passes, Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound. Each boat will carry a crew of three anglers, all of which are looking to cook a snook. Our snook-starved crews fish from 66.

If 30 boats keep three, and 30 boats keep two, and 30 boats keep one, and 10 boats lay an egg, that's 180, many of which are spawning females removed from the system in 12 hours based on our test group of 100. Two hundred boats 360.

If we took our 180 fish harvest and continued that for 10 days we've removed 1,800 snook with a good percentage reproducing females. If that continued for 30 days anglers would host 5,400 dinner guests. For four months nearly 22,000 possible dinners.

Obviously, these theoretical numbers can and will vary wildly with weather, angler catch rates, and how much more poison we will have to put up with from Lake O. But say within 20 percent either way that's still a lot of fish, also considering our test fleet of 100 boats will grow larger during visitor season.

So what, you say, pass the garlic butter and heat the pan! The FWC said an estimated 400,000 were lost statewide during the big freeze. Statewide, not in our test zone alone.

I've not seen population numbers of our local snook before the freeze, but with the closure, snook are plentiful and catchable. They start to finish spawning and continue to fatten for the upcoming transition inland in preparation for the cold water period. (Catchable is a bad thing if you're a hungry linesider, come Sept. 1.)

Am I against eating a snook? Not at all. I've waited like everyone else and will have mine although I prefer offshore fare. Just like Phil says on Duck Dynasty, "I love animals, they taste good!"

I'm sure he would relish a snook as well as his favorite local catfish. Am I worried about removing so many females so quickly from the system after coming back so strongly? Yes.

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



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