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Anglers thriving on tarpon, reds

February 21, 2014
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Fishing just gets better and better as the beautiful warm weather continues.

Forecasts for 80-degree winter weather continue until Tuesday here in paradise as more snow and ice returns to the Northeast.

If this trend continues, look for migrating tarpon to return early from their southern winter vacation spots to join their Cape resident brothers and sisters that prefer staying in town no matter what the weather or season.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

What makes one tarpon pack the station wagon and relocate to another zip code as summer turns to fall and the next choosing to hunker down in the Cape is another mystery in a long line of unanswered questions concerning this ancient fish.

For those not in the know a resident river fish is dark hued, often golden in color from living in our tannin stained waters. Chrome silver is the color of a migratory tarpon fresh from a winter's vacation somewhere south of Miami. This time spent in a warmer climate must be good for them as many believe these are the strongest, wildest, brutes you will encounter all season.

After tangling with a few of these big guys many tarpon anglers develop an appreciation for a nice 10- to 50-pounder. They fight like mad, jump like crazy, and you can fight several without being drained like battling a behemoth. It's not often that size driven anglers want to catch smaller fish, but tarpon aren't just any ole fish. If this sounds crazy get back to me after doing battle with a green monster off Sanibel this May.

New to the game? Join the Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters Club which is filled with a great group of dedicated anglers waiting to share their experience and wealth of tarpon knowledge with anyone wanting to learn.

From the site: the Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters Club began in 1971, the same year that Cape Coral was incorporated. Prior to 1970, the Cape's members were part of the Fort Myers Beach Tarpon Club. The "new" club in Cape Coral continues today with over 100 members, some of whom have caught over 600 Tarpon in their career.

Some recent seasons have seen releases of approximately 500 fish. The club also participates in tagging research programs and has tagged more than 2,000 fish, with some interesting recapture results.

In 1988 the club became a total "catch and release" club in order to enhance the survival rate of Megalops atlanticus (tarpon). Steps for additional protection were taken a few years later with rules requiring the use of circle hooks, which are much less likely to jeopardize the Tarpon.

If you're not the club type then hire a competent local guide. A good guide is a teacher that can supply a lifetime's experience in a few hours. Never forget that the greatest gift a visiting angler can receive is the gift of local knowledge. A good guide is a solid investment, not an expense.

On Thursday my clients caught endless numbers of trout and some nice reds from four to seven pounds. Trout loved gold flake CAL plastic paddletail grubs using light leaders. The reds inhaled small gold spoons with gusto.

That same day we saw lots of big snook and a few huge reds sunning themselves a few feet away from the bushes. These guys wouldn't respond to lures. In this situation leave the area for 30 minutes then return.

Quietly set up and toss or skip cast a live shrimp or ladyfish chunk back under the shrubbery and wait. Ten minutes, no action, move a short distance, repeat. The biggest red of the day that had little interest in our lures inhaled a chunk of ladyfish 30 minutes after we first spotted him in the clear afternoon water.

Poling anglers have the decided advantage with these spooky specimens in clear winter waters. Stealth equals success in shallow water fishing.

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



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