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Changes for harvesting popular fish

May 27, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Hurry if you want a snook to take home for dinner because snook season closes for recreational harvest in Gulf of Mexico state and federal waters starting June 1, including Everglades National Park and Monroe County, through Aug. 31.

Reopening on Sept. 1 allows them time to spawn, providing little snooklets for the future.

Gag grouper season will open for recreational harvest in most state and all federal Gulf waters June 1. The black grouper and gag minimum size limit increases from 22 inches to 24 inches total length in Gulf state waters starting June 1, to match recent changes in Gulf federal waters.

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Capt. George Tunison

The gag grouper recreational season runs June 1 through Dec. 31 in all Gulf state waters, excluding Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor and Jefferson counties (which have their own season from April 1-June 30) and excluding Monroe County (Monroe follows the Atlantic state season).

Don't forget that Gulf state waters are from shore to 9 nautical miles out. Federal waters begin where state waters end and extend to 200 nautical miles.

Tarpon, cobia, sharks, snook, big redfish, even permit are on the chew from the beaches to far offshore on secret GPS numbers.

If you are having trouble finding fish in the backwaters head to the passes for a better bite. Tarpon are in the passes and out in front along the beaches as well and behind the passes. Black water tarpon fishing is starting in the deeper recesses of Charlotte Harbor as well. The game is usually conducted by fishing live pins or white baits under floats or choice live ladyfish under floats or free lined.

Along the beaches it's often a waiting game as you anchor and wait for a group to come into eyeball range or watch for rolling fish in the distance. After finding the fish try and figure which way they are heading. Take the boat out and around them so as not to spook them. Try and get 75-100 yards ahead of their predicted path of travel and intercept them.

When they get within casting distance try a pinfish under a float or a pass crab several yards in front of them. Fly guys will follow the same routine to get a shot at their Silver King. It's usually clear water so long casts are a positive.

With the tarpon migration shark fishing is in full swing. If looking to catch a monster and to pay your local chiropractor his fees I suggest you target your sharks near a pass at night. Either on foot or in a boat the real heavyweights gather where their tarpon prey is thick.

I'm not sure if on foot you will be able to subdue a 1,500 pound hammerhead without being taken for a swim, but it's for sure that sharks of this size swim and eat in our waters, which is why I swim in my pool.

On a smaller note light tackle shark fishing is a blast, highly under rated, and accessible to all. Rig up with your heavy snook gear, but add a two-foot piece of 50-pound single strand wire to your leader or line using an Albright Knot.

Add the circle hook to your wire leader with a Haywire Twist. Both knots are easy to tie with some practice and are illustrated in most angling knot books or online at

Stop on the way to the fishing grounds and score some chum blocks to hang behind the boat after anchoring. Sit and wait for the scent to disperse in the water column behind the boat.

I like fishing two rods, one with a live ladyfish and one with a dead lady on the bottom. Put the livie under a float to keep it visible to you and your shark.

Remember sharks are made of rubber and can easily twist and bite you.

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



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