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Rain-swollen spillways a hot target

July 31, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

While driving north on Burnt Store Road this past Wednesday at exactly 5:16 p.m., I witnessed my first, four handed, one rod, one snook catch.

I only got a passing glimpse as two men together hoisted a single sizable snook from the water using one deeply U-shaped bent rod. First time I've seen that it 55 years of fishing.

For most anglers rain is a pain second only to the anglers curse, wind. To others, especially those that pursue finned prey on foot, our summer rain means close quarter combat time with snook and tarpon around the many spillways all over Florida.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Any predator knows that rain swollen spillways/dams/weirs brings food the easy way, open your mouth and look up, here it comes. Savvy anglers are there early, late, and all night casting every artificial under the sun as well as those that equip themselves with a battery powered livewell setup filled with shrimp, pinfish, finger mullet, shiners, ladyfish, or even needlefish. Basically, anything live, wiggling, and small enough to be eaten usually will do the trick.

The Spreader Canal contains all manner of fish from tarpon, jacks, largemouth bass, snook, redfish, etc. that knows where their bread is easily buttered when it rains heavily so hold on as your next cast could be near your once-in-a-lifetime fish.

That all sounds great, but here's what to realistically expect. You won't be alone. It can get hectic as seven people try five different techniques at once from live baiting to fly fishing in a 30-yard long, 20-yard wide spillway. It also can be fun to just park and watch, like watching the show at any over crowed boat ramp during season or fishing at Boca Grande. Other times you can get lucky and have the place to yourself. Take your chances or find less competition at night (when the big dogs/bugs bite).

Early risers and night owls expect no-see-ems like you've never-seen-em before!

This year's rains have turned on the lil' nasties in a big way and they easily can chase you off your spot. I've been outside so long and bit so often that I'm nearly immune to fire ants and no-see-ems and able to fish in clouds of them while my partners scream for a new zip code, but lately it's gotten really bad.

Early a.m. tarpon fishing quite a bit this past week wearing gloves, a hat, a buff, long pants and sleeves, socks, and saturated with bug spray. Still, even using my deepest anti-no-see-um can't feel the pain meditation techniques, a few hundred in my eyes, ears, nose, lungs, sent me running for the pickup. How do the animals stand it?

Tip: a great all-purpose snook and bigger tarpon lure for this situation is a 4-inch soft plastic fluke or jerk-bait with no weight and the (Twist-Lock) hook hidden to make it weedless. Cast it up above the dam and let it wash over into the spillway below. Mend your line as it moves along imparting some rod tip twitches to bring it to life. I've had lots of luck with pearl white and gold flake in the Zoom line. Add a small split shot to get it farther down into the strike zone, but don't kill the random dying prey action these lures are famous for with too much weight.

Sharks are plenty, but redfish have left others scratching their collective heads. Snook still at the beaches and passes with many finished spawning and returning inland, which means any prominent point, dock, or current-swept structure may hold your trophy. Hard to beat a flipped or cast plastic shrimp letting it naturally wash into cover watching and mending your line as it washes along.

Make a dozen or so well placed casts and move on covering ground looking for active fish and your next promising structure or current break.

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



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