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Gag grouper seasons to open soon

June 19, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Fans of offshore reef fishing, trolling big plugs, and even inshore types are looking forward to the gag grouper opener.

Gag grouper will open for recreational harvest in most Gulf of Mexico state waters and all Gulf federal waters July 1. The gag grouper recreational harvest season in Gulf of Mexico state waters will remain open through Dec. 3, closing Dec. 4.

Gag grouper also opens in Gulf federal waters July 1 and will remain open through Dec. 2, closing on Dec. 3. Gag caught in federal waters during the season may be taken ashore in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties, but boats with gag grouper aboard may not stop and must have gear stowed while traveling through state waters in that region.

Inshore anglers casting spoons and plugs in the fall are often surprised by a hard hit and strong fight as gags come inshore and mill around the mangroves, flats, holes and channels.

Last fall I caught several nice specimens around Chino Island in Pine Island Sound on gold spoons intended for redfish.

Trollers always do well with diving plugs like the Mann's Stretch series of large lipped plugs. Find your favorite rock pile and check the depth then chose the appropriate plug and go to work.

If your rocks top out at 15 feet, choose a plug that just ticks the tops of the structure as you come across the reef. In this situation I would use a Mann's Stretch 12.

Trolling can be a very exact science as well as productive due to the fact by covering water you're exposing your bait to many more potential biters.

Before going out and tossing a plug behind the boat, get to know your equipment so as to make proper presentations all the while keeping the bait in the strike zone.

The Mann's Stretch Series comes with the running depth printed on the label. Keep in mind that running depth will be ultimately decided by not only the lure but by tide and current movement, boat speed, line size and amount of line out.

Know, for example, how deep your Stretch 12 actually runs with 35 yards of 60 pound braided line behind the boat. Otherwise you will either lose a lot of lures by running too deep into the reef or your offering will be way above the strike zone.

I make trolling passes like corn rows moving over each pass till I'm convinced no one's home or get bit.

Over the years I've had some pretty amazing encounters trolling the bridge spans at Sanibel as well as in the Caloosahatchee with clients unable to cast, especially at night.

Offshore anglers reporting catches of jumbo bull redfish and snook of a lifetime size trophies.

Inshore, the redfish bite is under the brush and docks and on the flats in low light on both the east and west walls of the harbor. Any cut bait will work and old frozen stinky thawed shrimp is a go-to bait with a big nosed redfish.

Big snook in the passes and along the beaches for early morning sand walkers casting bucktails up and down the surf. Travel light, cast and cover ground and soon you may be doing a high speed Sanibel Shuffle as you and your trophy snook race each other down the beach trying desperately to keep line on your shrinking spool.

Tarpon, as well as sharking, is in full swing from the passes, beaches, harbors, rivers and backwaters to miles out in the Gulf.

Choose your location, gather your baits and go to work. Now is the time to get your silver king flying.

Whatever you do be prepared with all necessary equipment at hand to insure a fast and healthy release of these old fish. With hot weather and water, stress is at its worst. Have gloves, de-hookers, needle nose pliers, flashlights and cameras at the ready.

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



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