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Tarpon fever diagnosed by calendar

May 7, 2011

Every year in late April into May I get a very bad case of tarpon fever.

Many tarpon addicts don't even fish for other species unless they used them for bait. To some, tarpon fishing is a lifestyle, a religion, an addiction - and often hard work with little success. Tarpon are finicky and sometimes simply will not eat anything you present to them. At other times they will chow down on anything in sight.

Tarpon are an ancient prehistoric fish that continue to survive and thrive in warmer climates in many parts of the earth. The fact they have a primitive lung system allows them to inhabit and hunt oxygen depleted waters.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Being scavengers, food is all around them from top to bottom and the majestic tarpon will slurp a piece of dead fish off the bottom like a lowly catfish as well as inhale a two-inch, well-presented fly. I've heard of them being caught on hot dogs and catfish is prime bait.

The wonderful thing about tarpon fishing is it does not have to be a rich man's sport like some other big game saltwater fishing pursuits. The hunt for a giant black marlin can cost thousands of dollars and lots of travel time. Even going offshore in our area will cost hundreds in gas and it's a pretty safe bet you won't catch anything as awesome or down right heart pumping exciting, as a silver king.

Sure, you might get to pull on a goliath grouper while you're out there or stay home and attach your line to your wife's VW and try and pull it to you. Big kingfish are exciting, cobia are strong, but when all is said and done they're not tarpon.

Our tarpon can be accessed on foot, in a canoe or kayak, Jon boat or raft, and provide some of angling's greatest thrills no matter if fishing from shore or in today's overpriced flats and bay boats.

If you haven't heard, the local tarpon bite is really starting to take off. Our resident fish have been feeding heavily and the main body of migratory fish are almost here, all being shadowed by giant sharks. For many tarpon time is shark time and these next several months offer the shark angler a chance at a real whopper of over 1,000 pounds.

This past month sharks of all sizes seem to be everywhere on the flats chasing anything that moves and offers the light tackle and flyrod shark angler guaranteed fun. If you need to kill a shark for the table you must be prepared. A shark must be bled and iced at once or release it unharmed.

Never underestimate a shark's speed both in and out of the water. Understand a shark being structured of cartilage instead of bone allows him to twist and turn like a snake. Holding a small shark vertically by the tail for a picture is a great way to get a picture of a shark attached to your thigh while doing the shark two step.

If you are new to tarpon and shark fishing spend the money and time fishing with a local USCG licensed guide. A good guide is a teacher and for your fee you will get a lifetime's worth of fishing knowledge that in the end will save you many times your guide costs, and more importantly your time.

The redfish bite continues to be awesome. Daily I've been catching and seeing some really big redfish along with snook of all sizes. This past week I've drifted up on small pods of jumbo reds in the 20-plus-pound class and have been broken off by reds under the bushes that felt like they weighed 50 pounds.

Gold spoons, gold plugs, gold spinnerbaits and big topwaters are top lure choices.

If casting lures isn't comfortable for you then anchor and fish cut bait or shrimp on the bottom and hold on.

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



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