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Michiganders get lesson in flats fishing

December 2, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Visiting from Michigan the Gilberts decided they wanted to try their hand at saltwater flats fishing. Actually, Mr. G., an experienced bass and walleye angler, wanted to try his hand at salt water flats fishing.

While hubby was at the back of the boat adding water to Matlacha Pass, Mrs. G confided in me that she secretly hated fishing, fresh, salt, TV fishing shows, mounted fish or otherwise, but dearly loved her husband.

Of course, she never told him about it sitting for countless hours over the years in various boats reading or sunbathing as Mr. G mindlessly flailed away.

Article Photos

Capt.George Tunison

Occasionally, after long hours she would pick up a rod and make 10 or more casts just to help pass the time, which also pleased Mr. G.

The game plan was to try and get the Gilberts their first Pine Island Fall Slam - a trout, redfish, and snook.

For fish one, I suggested we bait with shrimp and wait out a redfish under the bushes also making life easier for Mrs. G.

Mr. G didn't agree. He was a caster. The run-and-gun type that would much rather catch one fish casting than five sitting with bait.

He also insisted Mrs. G join in as well, as this was a once-in-a-lifetime fishing adventure for both of them. She finally gave in and I handed her a rod rigged with a redfish spoon.

The sun started to break the horizon as I poled, closely scanning the surface for any activity, or better, tails glistening in the early light. A school of mullet close to a bar looked promising so ladies first. Predators often mix in with the school.

Mrs. G made a nice long cast past the school careful not to let the spoon sink into the shallow rocky bottom and started the retrieve, but no takers.

She continued her retrieve past the bar to prepare for a second cast when a huge boil appeared where her spoon was and something vicious bent the light rod nearly in half.

I haven't checked the world record for ladyfish in years, but the ladyfish that flew out of the water in front of the boat rattling its gill plates like a big tarpon could have been a contender.

Mrs. G screamed but held on as Mr. G proudly coached his wife through the fight as I poled hard away from the bar to give fighting room.

After a drag-screaming fight the ladyfish came close to the boat.

Starting to climb down from the poling platform to catch and release this seriously big ladyfish Mr. G said those now infamous words, "Don't come down, I got it!"

Knowing a jumping, thrashing ladyfish hooked on one of three hooks of a treble is a dangerous thing, I protested. Again, "I got this!"

Both now kneeling, Mr. G touched the giant on the nose with the Boga Grip causing it to launch itself up and over Mrs. G's shoulder landing squarely in the middle of her back, attaching itself between her shoulders by the two remaining exposed hooks.

I watched horrified as the ladyfish went into overdrive and Mrs. G into a boat dancing, screaming panic as the anchored ladyfish flipped and flopped completely sliming her hair and bleeding back.

I flew to the rescue trying to subdue the screaming woman and attached fish. I quickly cut away the ladyfish's body, leaving the head attached for the moment.

Suddenly, 30 years of intense bottled-up fish hate came out as Mr. G stood speechless. It was ugly, and we were both now scared of the slimy, bleeding, screaming demon in front with an upside down, bloody ladyfish head attached to her back, gills still pumping.

Last I saw them they were headed for the ER for a double hook removal. Not sure when they will be returning.

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



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