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Find tarpon early in morning

April 10, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Early April and I've got over 20 tarpon notches in my belt - a 50-pounder and 19 little guys ranging from two to 12 pounds.

It's still dark outside and I'm anxious to be fishing as I pick out my gear. No heavy gear today as I'll be using a 5.5 foot ultralight with a bit of backbone and a 1000 series Shimano Stradic reel. For most folks that's a good bluegill and crappie outfit.

Eight-pound Power Pro braided line (end doubled with a 20 turn Spider Hitch) then tied to a 30-inch piece of 15-20 pound fluorocarbon leader material with a back-to-back uni-knot. The other end tied to the lure with a loop knot completing the outfit.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

I walk by the fully equipped boat in my backyard and over to the neighbor's seawall where happy little tarpon are feeding and rising to the surface blowing bubbles on the way back down.

That's what you want to see, tarpon rising and going back down in one area (feeding) rather than rising and moving as they relocate to another spot.

A few casts and a beautiful seven-pounder nails my lure and takes to the air over and over as line screams from the little reel as the fish continue to roll and feed. A few minutes later another crazed four-pounder gulps down my lure and goes airborne.

Quickly switching to a 4-weight fly rod and a very small white and Mylar Deceiver Minnow, I set the hook into yet another mini-monster acrobat that feels like a 50-pounder on the tiny rod.

The secret lure? Think small as in tiny jigs and flies. I'm using jigs weighing from 1/32 to 1/16 of an ounce. Pompano jigs work great, but most are too big. Find lighter jigs in that style.

Then it's over, just like that. Gone. Now, it's waiting till morning again. This past week their feeding window has been very short, only 25-30 minutes.

The Cape has almost 500 miles of canals and tarpon weighing between one to over a 150 pounds swim in most of them. Be warned, they are sometimes, most times, difficult to fool with lures.

The kings of tunnel vision, tarpon often key on specific bait sources and shun everything else. Other times they are simple scavengers wolfing anything in sight.

At times the only predictable thing about tarpon is their unpredictability.

Find your backyard canal tarpon almost anywhere in the Cape. Be on site before dawn and look for rolling fish. If they aren't in your canal ask a neighbor or a friend across town. Scout the area. Put in your time at dawn and find them, then return when ready and start fishing the area on foot (respect no-trespass laws) or by boat.

Make notes on a dedicated calendar as to what the time, tide, and weather conditions where when you saw/fished for them. Try to establish a pattern for the fish in your area.

For the last five days tarpon rolled and ate at my neighbor's seawall like clockwork. This morning gone. No trace. Approaching weather front? Bait moved? Tide stage too low or high? Something larger scared them away?

Good news is they live and grow here in relative safety as most folks use our many miles of canals to get out to the "good fishing." That's okay by me.

Size your lures to the tarpon you see rolling, but think stealth. No snaps, swivels. Use line-to-line connections and the smallest tackle practical to land the fish safely.

Obviously my mini-equipment is suited to my particular conditions. If you are on a tight canal with lots of docks and larger fish, ultralights will just insure breakoffs and swallowed hooks and dead tarpon. Size accordingly.

While enjoying these mini brutes take great care to gently handle (minimum) and release them.

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



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