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Heat’s on, take care to revive fish

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

As the sun rose behind my house this morning baby tarpon were rolling on the surface of my canal in every direction for as far as I could see.

One- to three-footers chased bait and gulped air exposing their fins and backs on the dead flat mirrored surface.

As I've previously described small jigs, flies and light line are the tools needed to catch these guys in the Cape's canals. Size your baits or lures accordingly.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

A three-footer on an ultra-light standing in the backyard? Hard to beat anytime!

It's hot as blazes so slow your lure presentations, seek shade and depth during the day and fish at night as often as possible.

Give the fish a break and don't play them till exhaustion, especially tarpon. The heat plus the fight can kill these beautiful fish so don't under tackle and take the time to thoroughly revive your catch before release.

A weak tarpon is an easy shark snack so give them all the help you can to repay them for giving a great fight.

You've decided to join the live bait club and collect your own. Sabiki rigs work well, but often with one good throw of a cast net you've filled the well with nature's free snook snacks.

Choosing the net will depend on the size baits you intended to collect. This also dictates the mesh size of the net. One-inch mesh or larger for big baits like mullet for tarpon and big snook, down to 3/8-inch mesh for general duty, then down to 1/4-inch for minnows and small shiners, etc.

The other consideration is diameter of the net. Sizes range from 4 to 12 feet. Small nets are easier to throw than large ones. A good allround choice is an eight-footer, even a six for the casual angler.

Good nets open well and sink fast maximizing your time on the water. Cheap nets are usually light in the weight department and won't last season after season.

Buy the best net that you can afford and take care of it and it will pay for itself with many happy snapshots of you and your trophies.

Now that you've got your new net in hand and you're standing by the water's edge or on your casting deck saying to yourself, now what? Here's my advice, go home and on the way stop at a local tackle store or seek the advice of a cast net savvy neighbor or guide. Most will gladly show you the basics to work from. Practice makes perfect, as they say, so start and soon you will be throwing 12-foot perfect circles and collecting all your baits.

Now that you've become Mr. Cast Net check out your live well system. Lots of bait with insufficient aeration and or room coupled with Southwest Florida heat equals dead and wasted bait.

Make sure you have good water exchange and more than adequate aeration to properly care for these sometimes delicate baitfish now that you've spent the time and money to collect them. Good live wells are rounded so the bait doesn't beat itself up.

Now find a fishy looking shoreline and secure the boat. With a bait bat throw a handful of bait against the shoreline and watch it light up as redfish and snook magically appear and feast on the freebies.

Bait bats are sold locally and look like out of proportion cartoon wiffle ball bats with the top of the overly fat end opened up to accept your cut shrimp or live whitebaits, pinfish, etc. With a little practice you can throw bait long distances and very accurately.

Nose hook a livie and throw it into the mix for an instant hit. As the action slows toss more bait shoreward but don't overdo it. You're whetting their appetites not offering a full meal.

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



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