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14-year-old bags first SWF cobia

May 13, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Matlacha is not my first pick for cobia fishing, but every year folks aboard my boat bag four or five on topwaters, spoons, and shrimp all intended for reds and snook.

Ver-onica Thomas, 14, first time visitor to SW Florida and to our famous fishing grounds, asked for, screamed for help, as her rod bent double and her trout float took off for parts unknown attached to what later turned out to be an 18-pound cobia. Cobia released and Thomas reportedly is still grinning.

Offshore cobia reports and tons of snapper stories being told. Grouper, Spanish mackerel, sharks, snapper on nearshore and offshore reefs. Red snapper opened May 7, but check your regs for ever changing rules.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Snook under docks, bushes, potholes, beaches, and passes. Walk the surf line or cast from a boat, snook are feeding. Great time of year to bag a trophy with big baits and heavy gear in high-current big structure locations.

Folks often say I don't want to use heavy gear as its not sporting. Try casting a one-pound mullet or ladyfish on your normal snook rod. Not going to happen.

Try turning a raging mad 35-pound snook away from that dock in heavy current using your normal 15-pound braid set-up. You probably won't.

If you target trophy snook around high current and big structure, not using heavy equipment, is what's not sporting as all you will do is be broken off by a trophy female breeder now back under the dock, with a throat full of hook and possible death.

60- to 80-pound braid Uni-knotted to a 36-inch piece of 100-pound fluorocarbon leader material all tied to a 5/0 circle (or 6/0 J hook) will get the job done as long as you have a stout rod to complete the rig. Others prefer a J hook as they feel it's important to set the hook quickly and hard instead of waiting for the snook to turn back toward the dock, activating the circle hook.

Just like in offshore grouper fishing the first seconds of the battle often determines the winner. When you get the big bite, try and crank her to open water, away from structure, then resume and enjoy the fight.

If possible, keep it in the water for a best shot at a healthy release. Old school methods of hanging big snook and tarpon by the lip/jaw with Boga Grip like tools for weighing and pictures damages big fish.

If you must, support the fish with two hands horizontally, snap a pic and get it back in the water. By law no tarpon over 40-inches is to be taken from the water.

Tarpon fever is in full swing offshore at Knapp's Point, through Pine Island Sound, in the mouths and in the passes, and being stalked on the flats.

Local canal action has been really good for several weeks for the most fun tarpon, the under 20-pounders.

Those that fish big live baits for tarpon and snook (large mullet and lady fish even large pinfish) should try bridling their baits this year to increase hook-up ratios.

Bridling involves using a large needle to draw a rubber band or wire through the fishes nostrils. The hook is attached to the wire or rubber harness, keeping the hook fully exposed outside, for a better shot at a solid hook-up. The bait stays alive, kicking hard, and looking for trouble.

Plenty of instruction on YOU-TUBE. Bridling needles are available mail order or locally at Bass Pro Shops.

If your rod doesn't have a hook keeper or attachment point to retain your lure or hook while off duty then add one to your rod using a simple plastic pull tie and split ring.

Put the pull tie through the split ring. Then cinch tight the plastic tie on the rod right above the handle.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or, or



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