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If you’ve never fished for tarpon, you ain’t been fishin’

June 2, 2017
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Tarpon fishing fever can often cause one to abandon good sense, work, responsibilities, bills, even loved ones. I personally know these things to be true and my ex-wives will, for the first time in recorded history on any subject, all agree with me.

Although Cape Coral's canals and the Caloosahatchee River host resident tarpon year-round, the migratory fish heading north from The Keys and below signals the real start of tarpon season in these parts.

Typically a resident fish takes on a darker, golden green hue from living in our tannin-stained river, while the migratory fish are bright chrome and, many say, are much stronger fighters.

What causes a tarpon to stay in Cape Coral year-round verses vacationing far south of here is not fully understood, as well as many other facts about this very old species of fish. Tarpon inhabit the Gulf and in spring migrate all the way up the east coast to the Delaware Bay and to the west, Mexico and throughout Central America. Even Africa, where the really big ones hang out.

No matter where you find them or method used to try and sink a hook in their tough jaw, to me nothing beats a jumbo sized fish that can jump 10 feet in the air, peel off a hundred yards of line, reverse course and be jumping on the other side of the boat, all within what sometimes seems like seconds. If you haven't yet enjoyed the Florida silver king experience, as they say, "You ain't been fishin!"

Although tarpon fans fish for them in various ways, to me nothing beats night fishing for them, especially with lures.

Big eyed tarpon are built for night feeding and the Caloosahatchee is often "tarpon central" for night anglers.

Night fishing requires more attention to boat and angler safety. Always wear clear eye protection at night especially when casting lures.

The big misconception is that the Cape Coral Bridge is "the" bridge when, in fact, all of the bridges hold tarpon year round all the way up river to the Franklin Locks.

First-timers to night tarpon fishing should be aware that the big line of boats parked 40 yards back from the bridge are all fishing live/dead baits near or under the bridge.

Driving between the bridge and the boats will tangle everyone's lines and cause you to lose potential friends immediately, in a big way.

Quietly go out and around the pack, find a suitable opening, and anchor up.

If you are a lure or fly guy, using your trolling motor to position and cast in and around the bridges, it's just good sportsmanship and common courtesy to fish other areas of the bridge and not bother anchored, bottom fishing, bridge boats.

It's a big wide river with lots of bridges and opportunities.

Night lure selection tackle boxes should contain a selection of light and dark hair (bucktail) and plastic jigs. A selection of plastic swim baits and a handful of Bombers and MirrOlures with trebles replaced with single hooks.

Slow down at night, wear eye protection, and have the proper tools at hand to safely and efficiently release your trophy tarpon.

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



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