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Secrets to catch big sheepies

February 10, 2017
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The smell from the oven made my mouth water as I pulled out a big pan of my baked blue claw crab stuffed sheepshead.

Nothing like fresh fish caught and cleaned just a few hours before. If you haven't experienced this locally abundant winter treat, by all means go to a bridge, dock, or piling near you and drop down a small, thin, very sharp hook, with a small morsel of shrimp covering the barb.

Lower your offering right down into the structure. If the current starts to blow it away from the pilings, add some split shot. As the current gets stronger you can go to a dropper rig.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

After you've had your shrimp stolen six times or so you might catch on to catching one and why these fish are dressed like convicts.

The secret is to set the hook when you feel him start to close his mouth around your shrimp.

Big sheepies aren't always around bridges and large structure. On the flats around bars, cuts and mangrove points, a light jighead bounced slowly along will take surprise, over 10-pound flats sheepies fight as good as they taste in the shallow water.

Minimum size for these master bait stealers is 12 inches. You can keep up to 15 legal fish per day.

Tarpon and a forecast for a warm May equals tarpon time as spring is right around the corner.

Always wanted to go toe to fin with a fish bigger than you? Don't know where to get started? Time to step up your game. Join the Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters Club. Here's a great place to get in the know. These experienced anglers can teach every aspect of the tarpon game.

This long standing club continues the tradition of this area's reputation as the birthplace of big game fishing.

A few years after the first confirmed hook-and-line catch by author, businessman and wealthy sportsman A.W. Dimock in 1882, grand hotels like the San Carlos Inn at St. James City (1886) and later Hotel Boca Grande (1910) were erected to cater to Presidents, famous writers, sports figures, and wealthy adventurers. All came to the Fort Myers area to try and conquer a fish once thought uncatchable on a rod and reel.

The Ultimate Tarpon Book, by R.W. White is a fascinating read that documents this early history and the catches of those early anglers, like Ernest Hemingway, Theodore Roosevelt, Ted Williams and Thomas Edison.

The Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters Club will hold an introductory public presentation for prospective members on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Cape Coral Yacht Club (5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral, FL 33904). The presentation is free and open to the public.

As the club enters its 46th season, members have caught over 10,000 tarpon and welcomes the chance to introduce new members to this exciting pastime.

During the introductory meeting, guests can learn the history of the largest tarpon fishing club in the world, gain knowledge about the "Silver King," and learn how the club promotes ethical tarpon catch and release. Subsequent meetings will provide members with detailed instructions on rod/reel selection, terminal tackle rigging, bait prep and on-water etiquette necessary to get your name in the club's record books.

Monthly meetings offer the opportunity to interact with world-class tarpon anglers and feature presentations by local tarpon experts on a variety of fishing techniques suitable for use in local waters.

For more information on the Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters Club, check out the website:

The offshore crews are praying for light winds and lots of bait to drop to the 40-foot zone in search of a hard fight with a rock-bound grouper determined not to leave his home turf.

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



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