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Fighting a goliath and trying lionfish

June 29, 2018
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Feeling strong? Want to wrestle with a goliath?

Go to a major area bridge and drop down a whole fish, even a stingray, next to a piling and hold on as a resident 500-pound goliath grouper inhales the freebie and then proceeds to try and pull you out of the boat. Not a place for light tackle of any sort, think 300-pound test, a jumbo rod and reel, a strong back and determination.

The trend is to now fight them on a rope hand line, which I get talked into at least once a year by dog tired clients wanting me to "share in the fun" too! No more, I'm tapping out, too old. I can think of better ways to end my Earthly journey.

"What caused his heart attack?"

"Grouper got 'em down at the Causeway."

Unless you are in good physical health and are pumped to do battle, don't even try this as you could really injure yourself from the strain. Picture a rope tied to a fighting-for-its-life 400-pound grouper with you on the other end trying to pull it off the bottom - by hand.

Put on your gloves and wear shoes for traction. Lock down your back, shoulder and arm drags. Toss out the bait and let it fall to the bottom. After you feel the tug of the monster below, pull hard and steady letting the circle hook find its mark then hold on and try to stay in the boat while the captain idles away from the piling. Keep pulling as hard as you can till one of you wins and you can remove the hook or lie still till the Coast Guard copter comes to transport you.

As with any grouper, the fight is won or lost by getting the fish away from bottom structure immediately. Give these guys a break and don't harass them without jumbo tackle otherwise it's just swallowed hooks and possible unnecessary death of these outsized bridge bullies.

With all the press over lionfish, I thought I would try some for myself. After having my first lionfish dinner this past week, I have to say it was mild flavored and delicious.

Florida has declared war on the lionfish. This beautiful but toxic non-native fish is doing well here in Florida and having a negative impact on our fish population, but it's really good on the plate which, in the end, may help control this strange looking creature. A lionfish will inhale anything big enough to get in its mouth, eating juvenile fish and small crustaceans with gusto.

The lionfish has a "mane" of 3 to 10-inch toxic feathery spines that surround this alien looking but beautifully interesting fish. If you get poked, its spines will release a very painful toxin into the wound which some folks find unbearable.

If you catch one, handle it carefully as they can be aggressive and can move their spines or quills to try and stick you. The FWC encourages you to "remove" any lionfish you encounter.

If you do get stung by a quill, put the body part in the hottest water you can stand and soak. Keep adding hot water to keep the temperature up. Hope you don't get stung in a bad place! If you do, for men, I suggest the use of a Thermos bottle.

It's black water tarpon time as summer fish move into Charlotte Harbor where they will find thermal comfort in the deeper parts or actively shadowing schools of bait in the day or at night.

Pick your area and put out a live bait freelined or under a float behind the boat while slowly moving ahead with the trolling motor while casting jigs or swimbaits around big bait pods on the surface from the front deck. Use the electric to maintain position giving it minimal use as tarpon can be at times, noise sensitive.

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



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