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Enjoying another of those special fishing experiences

March 16, 2018
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

If you fished inshore this past Wednesday, you were faced with nearly impossible conditions. Days of wind and cold had turned the waters into a brown, chalky soup. High winds seemingly came from every direction making boat control, as well as accurate casting, a real chore.

Pro-blem was my friends had fled the dreaded dreary snow and ice of Philadel-phia to bask in the mid-80 degree Southwest Florida sunshine that had comforted residents all February, and after sitting inside for months, were dying to catch some fish.

The first day they hit the (cold) beach with my one friend casting his fly rod to the point of near exhaustion with one small baitfish to his credit. By the evening, the bottom fell out dropping the temperature to the mid-40s and the wind machine turned up to high speed.

The cold and wind continued so the next day was a shopping/touring day and thoughts of trout, snook or maybe a redfish had to be put on the back burner.

Thinking that Wednesday might offer some relief and knowing my friend was suffering from a bad case of fish fever, I volunteered to go. Leaving the ramp at idle speed, the wind blew water spray on us and we were cold and wet within the first 5 minutes.

We suffered long and hard as the wind and cold water punished us making fishing almost impossible. Seeking relief in a creek and hoping to find fish that were seeking the same, we slowly made our way trying to minimize the windblown cold spray flying from the hull.

Thoughts of last week's toasty temperatures made me want to turn around and head for the barn but understanding my friend's need to put a fish on the line, I soldiered on and kept quiet.

The creek offered little relief as the wind chased us from every direction. Manatees swam slowly by shaking their heads and giving us really odd looks. Finally I managed one 6-inch snook that pleaded for a quick release after feeling the above water frigid air for the first time in its short life.

That was enough as we made the long trip home in the worst possible craft for these conditions - a flats boat. Over the years I've been in nearly every flats boat made and in really high wind and chop, most offer a bumpy, wet ride. That day's return trip was no exception and by the end of the day I was glad to be home warm, dry and safe.

The next afternoon my disappointed friend stopped by and joined me on the edge of the canal where I was working on my seawall. I had brought an ultralight rod armed with a small jig from the house to cast when I took a break.

He picked up the rod as we chatted and made a few casts. On the third cast he grunted, setting the hook hard and with wide eyes yelled, "I've got something!" A juvenile tarpon in the 10-pound range had inhaled the jig and made a spectacular leap into the air, twisting and turning, throwing spray in the bright sunlight.After two more quick jumps it sounded, bending the rod deeply as I coached the first time tarpon angler trying to keep him calm.

A huge smile, a deeply bent rod and a screaming drag made all thoughts of Philly snow and wet, ice cold Matlacha boat rides disappear.

The tarpon made another huge leap as my friend pulled hard forgetting to bow. A classic side to side violent shake of the head dislodged the sharp hook sending the jig flying in another direction.

My friend stood on the seawall in disbelief. His first tarpon encounter had been quite a surprise and it was easy to see that he was instantly hooked.

These are the angling memories and moments that last a lifetime.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or captgeoget3



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