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Today, all the talk is about tarpon

April 19, 2019
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Tarpon are certainly the talk of the fishing community, and as more swim in from the south daily, the opportunities to experience one of angling's greatest thrills increases.

Look a bit offshore and you'll see small fleets anchored up waiting to jump some of the greenest, meanest fish of the year. A good place to start is off Sanibel Island, where the early season tarpon fleet usually camps out.

Other classic spots for early tarpon are the Sanibel Causeway spans and for fish continuing north through San Carlos Bay and heading into lower Pine Island Sound, areas off Chino Island should be examined.

Again, groups of anchored boats will show you the general areas, but do not barge in the middle of the fleet disturbing the fish and the anglers there that paid their tarpon dues by getting out of bed earlier than you and getting set up for the dawn bite.

Get within range of the pack and shut down the engine. Drift or troll motor your boat into position without disturbing others and the fish with motor noise.

Pass activity will only get better and those staked out along the beach will enjoy the thrilling sight of the silver king taking to the air in the golden dawn.

The Corp has been releasing water in advance of the summer deluge and I certainly hope we don't repeat last year. My all-time favorite tarpon hunts take place at night casting lures to unseen river giants and last year because of the algae disaster, I was forced to take my night clients north to cast the Peace River bridges.

Whatever the method, day or night, the high flying tarpon puts on quite a show providing life-lasting angling memories leaving anglers world wide coming back for more. An added bonus is that here in Southwest Florida, tarpon can be caught on foot from our hundreds of miles of canals, or from Jon boats, canoes and kayaks to the fanciest craft on the water miles offshore.

We all know that lighter line and leaders often greatly help in getting more bites from savvy fish but with abrasive mouths, sharp gill plates and body armor along with shear power, too light a leader results in lost and sometimes mortally wounded game fish.

A few years back I started "bridling" live bait fish after talking to an avid offshore big game angler and doing more research. For those unaware bridling means passing a rubber band or light wire through a baitfish's head, near the mouth, twisting it right in front of the fish's lips where the exposed hook is then attached.

Keeping the hook exposed versus the traditional hook through the bait will greatly increase your hook-up ratio as well as caught fish when using large bait fish like live mullet for tarpon or trophy sized snook and also allows you to fish a lighter leader (within reason) for more bites and, consistent and secure circle hook, lip hook-ups.

Another big plus is that a big baitfish swims stronger, lasts longer and acts by far more natural without a 13/0 hook stuck through its head.

Bridling can be not only be used for large baitfish like bonito or mullet, but downsized for large pinfish or jumbo whitebaits.

It's another trick added to your arsenal to improve your hook-up ratio and land more of those tarpon that gave you the fin as they jump to their freedom.

However, if you take your tarpon this year please respect the resource. General tips would include using adequate tackle to bring the fish to the boat in a timely manner as to not exhaust it where it becomes shark snacks. As the waters warm this becomes more critical. Use circle hooks. Always have proper release tools onboard. Keep the fish in the water while reviving it by holding the jaw and moving the boat forward till it kicks away strongly.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or



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