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Tarpon are on the move, being caught

April 16, 2009

Are you ready? I'm excited. It's like Christmas in spring. After all, this is why I moved here.

We are blessed to be in tarpon central and these fish can be caught from the Franklin Locks upriver to the Gulf of Mexico, and all points, flats, beaches, and passes in between, including world famous Boca Grande and offshore.

This can be a year-round fishery using a variety of boats and techniques, and a full-time business for a large number of talented pro fishing guides. It's also a nice boost for the local economy. Lodging, food, beverages, bait, and some exciting tournaments for some great causes, everyone benefits.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

The most consistent fishing starts in the spring and soon the tarpon fleet will assemble a few miles off Sanibel to fight the wind and some big, tough, tarpon migrating north. Also, the river bridges usually start producing some fish about the same time

Our local tarpon like Cape Coral so much they stay all year and don't migrate when the rest of the gang heads south to Miami for the winter, and then to points much farther south. Where they go is somewhat of a mystery.

Some call our resident fish goldfish because they are tannin stained, a golden hue from spending so much time in the river system and don't shine like their bright chrome migrating cousins that spend more time at sea. Many say the sea-going tarpon offers a better fight, but any fish over a 100 pounds that jumps 10 feet in the air and peels off miles of line works for me.

Seems the biggest, baddest, tarpon of all live near the coasts of Africa with specimens over 400 pounds reported. Can you imagine the surface strike on a Zara Spook? You would need to add extra starting batteries to the boat and carry a heart defibrillator as standard equipment.

In the springtime they head north, some as far as the lower Chesapeake Bay. Those that choose to hang a left at Miami on the trip north feed in the Gulf of Mexico. I often wonder what triggers that direction choice, besides a million-year-old instinct.

From heavy rods to light tackle, fighting and landing a tarpon is one of fishing's most exciting adventures. If you have a ton of tarpon experience this year try something new, catch one in a kayak. Last year, not far from Boca Grande Pass, a sea kayak angler passed 30 feet off my starboard being briskly towed toward the pass and out to sea by a big tarpon, which was being chased by a huge shark.

At one point, a giant fin was plainly visible between the kayak and the racing tarpon. The shark sprinted in for the kill. The tarpon jumped and threw the hook and was gone. That's extreme 'yak fishing at its finest.

Welcome Capt. Roy Bennett of Hot One II Charters to the column. Capt. Roy is catching tarpon in 15- to 30-feet of water. His fish soon will be staging at Knapp's Point, but he is intercepting these "green and mean" fish along the way with a recent 110-pounder to the boat.

For gear, he likes 50-pound Suffix line, 150-pound test Triple Fish Leader Material all tied to a non-offset Mustad 14/0 circle hook. Right now his clients are using bait on the bottom in the 71-degree water. Good Luck!

Capt. Dick May of Easy Rider Charters, reports the strong winds on Tuesday and storms offshore, has made fishing difficult. The great trout fishing seems to be winding down, but the redfishing is picking up. Improving weather Wednesday thru Sunday. Whitebait is plentiful and remember it's still snowing in parts of the USA.

Don't forget the free morning of fishing for special needs citizens on April 25, 9 a.m. to noon at several locations. Register for this event at

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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