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Fishing for tarpon a unique experience

May 3, 2010

What a fish, and yes they can and will scare you! Let a "green" tarpon jump in your boat and destroy it and you will understand what I am saying.

Those platforms on the backs of flats boats are used to stand on to pole the boat, right? Wrong, they are there to climb up on in case an angry tarpon decides to join you in your boat on one of its many wild jumps.

Tarpon are the reason I live in Florida. Unpredictable at times, ancient, powerful, spectacular fighters, that will test your will and your tackle. Actually, in these days of putting robot vehicles on Mars it's odd that not a whole lot about tarpon is understood, such as spawning locations and just where they go when they simply disappear.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Tarpon occur in many parts of the world, but the largest specimens live along the coast of Africa with 300- to 400-pounders reported. Our fish are a bit smaller, but 200-pound-plus fish are caught here quite often. Any size tarpon is a thrill and will give you a great fight, incredible jumps, and memories that will last a lifetime.

When most anglers think of big-game fishing, it usually involves big boats, gas, time, and big money. Big-game tarpon fishing in our parts can be done from a simple jon boat with a 5-hp motor. Soon, the Caloosahatchee will be filled with tarpon as well as the passes, the beaches, flats and even the residential canals of Cape Coral. This past Thursday night we hooked and fought four tarpon at the U.S. 41 bridges fishing live ladyfish around the bridge piers.

There are a large variety of methods to catch tarpon. They are scavengers and will eat dead bait on the bottom, inhale lures and fly rod offerings, or jump on a frisky pinfish, ladyfish, shrimp or white bait. One of the most exciting ways to catch hot weather tarpon is at night, fishing any of the bridges that cross the river. The bridges attract bait which in turn attracts predators. Attach an eight-foot piece of 100-pound test leader material to your line with a strong swivel. Add a large circle hook to the end of your leader then lip hook a 12-inch live ladyfish to the hook. Anchor your boat uptide of the bridge and let the balloon float back to the bridge. Sit quietly and wait. If you are lucky a tarpon will swim by and eat your bait.

When fishing the bridges at night, if you see boats anchored there, please do not drive your boat between them and the bridge. You will tangle and cut the lines. Go quietly out behind them and find an opening in the bridge to fish. When fishing at night be extra cautious as well as courteous and quiet.

Casting large plugs like a Bomber or various top water lures around structure will sometimes produce a violent, strong, strike that you will never forget. Bottom fishing with catfish chunks will produce tarpon as well.

Slow trolling live hand sized pinfish or white baits works as well as casting these baitfish to pods of moving tarpon along the beaches. As you can see there are many ways to fool the silver king.

If you have not fished for tarpon I highly recommend a day or night with a good guide. It will be a fun and exciting learning experience that in the long run will save you time and money. Good guides are teachers and enjoy sharing their knowledge that only many years on the water can provide.

Even though snook season is closed the fish are seemingly everywhere and are biting with gusto. Please release these fish carefully as they are on the way to the beaches and passes to reproduce. After the cold water fish kill these guys deserve a break.

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



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