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Tarpon catch: There is a proper way

February 13, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

If you think that a 150-pound, strong-as-a-bull, chrome armor plated tarpon somersaulting 10 feet in the air and crashing back into the water stripping off 100 yards of line, then jumping five more times in the distance all while attached to your fishing rod sounds like a pretty amazing experience, you are right on the money, it is.

The old adage "you ain't been fishin' till you've tangled with a tarpon" is very true. If you're like most folks your first tarpon jumping majestically from the water will leave you either frozen in awe, wide mouthed with lower jaw planted on chest, or in many cases dumfounded and unable to move your hands as I scream in your ear "REEL! REEL!" For game hunters it's called buck fever, same illness.

Now the deal is sealed. You're committed and you've even gone so far as to buy a boat package. Now you want to get that first tarpon on the line.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Wonder what rod size I should get? What size hooks? What kind of hook? Where do I go? Lures? Baits? Day/night? There's a lot to this tarpon fishing.

You're right and as with anything, learn from the experts. Hiring a local pro guide will allow you access to years of real experience in just a few hours. Guides aren't cheap, but fumbling around the wrong areas with the wrong equipment for years wasting time and gas isn't cheap either.

Here's a starter plan to get you going, and it's free!

Go the 2015 Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters' Tarpon Fishing Clinic.

This is a must-see event for all beginning to pro tarpon anglers, learning years of information from a dedicated group of tarpon anglers some with hundreds of catch-and-releases to their credit.

Feb. 19, doors open at 7 p.m. The program begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, 5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral.

Their hands-on seminar stages cover the following - proper knot tying, tackle and equipment selection, bait selection and rigging, best techniques to catch and safely release a tarpon, and tarpon hotspots.

The primary purpose of the annual Tarpon Fishing Clinic is to educate the general public on the proper methods to safely catch and release a tarpon. The appropriate techniques for fighting big fish and achieving a high survival rate of release.

Through this event it is hoped that attendees will apply the knowledge received to conserve the tarpon fishery through reduced tarpon deaths due to improper equipment or mishandling.

This event is open to the public at no cost. Additional info: Ken Jaros, president, 618-713-0267, or

In winter shrimp is king. Put them under a popping cork cast, pop, wind drift and quietly cover water, pop, catch fish. When you start to catch, stop the boat and cast as you've found a school of trout. Stay quiet.

Rig a shrimp on a jighead and fish the bottom, slowly dragging or slow hopping all the way back to the boat which is a deadly technique under bridges, canals and big dock structures.

Rig a shrimp unweighted and weedless and cast on 10-pound braid across grass/pothole flats, slow retrieving at cold molasses speed intently watching your High-Viz yellow braid line for a strike. Reel slower!

Head over to Boca Grande and bottom fish for snapper with shrimp. Strong reports from Wednesday and Thursday of good snapper action. While there, fish all dock structures for sometimes big Sheepshead.

Black drum are still around always wanting a half blue crab on bottom around big bridge structures. Redfish in creeks and on sight fished early morning on flats. Snook in canals and creeks, as well as deep water both inshore and offshore.

Tasty offshore reef dwellers are waiting for anglers picking the safe weather travel days to come out and play.

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



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