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Redfish spots are puzzling

June 4, 2011

Not long ago I caught two solid 30-inch redfish on topwater lures and noticed that neither one had any spots at all.

One with no spots is kind of rare, but two back to back? The record for spots on a redfish is over 500 from what I've found on the internet and depending on what article one believes.

Today I came across a news clip from December 2007 and a picture of Steve Johnson and a beautiful and rare redfish he caught and released in the Fort Myers area. The fish was 26 inches long, 6.25 pounds and 14 inches around.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

What made it unusual was that it had 302 spots on the port side and 304 on the starboard. The picture is amazing and the fish was DNA sampled and released unharmed.

I wonder if there is any rhyme or reason to who gets how many and on what sides when it comes to getting in line for your redfish spots? Diet influenced, genetics run wild?

I have seen so many odd variations, like last week's fish that had 14 on one side and one tiny tail spot on the other. Go figure.

Fishing is great with tarpon topping the list, but don't forget this is the time to bag a real bruiser snook as well. Whether walking and casting the beaches, fishing structure in the passes or the river, this month your chances of catching a jumbo snook are way up. Increase those chances by fishing at night around heavy structure, on strong outgoing tides. Use heavy gear if you want to have a serious shot at a great picture and a safe release.

A half or even whole fresh ladyfish is a good bait as well as mullet. Cast it out with enough weight to keep it pinned to the bottom in the current. I like using the old slip sinker or fish finder rig with a circle hook.

When using braid lines tie your main line to a swivel then add a strong three-foot leader. Add a sliding sinker of the appropriate weight to the leader then tie on your circle hook. Again use (just enough) weight to keep it on bottom.

I like to cast these rigs on a "baitrunner" style reel - a reel that allows the line to pay out under very slight tension then is shifted into gear to hook the fish - so the fish can make off with the bait and start to swallow it before you start reeling the circle hook into the corner of his jaw.

Remember, don't set the hook with a circle hook, simply point the rod tip at the fish and reel tight. Fish on!

"Everything is biting" was proven the other day when my party caught redfish, jacks, bluefish, trout, Spanish macs and snook all within a 100-yard long area. That same day a baby 100-pound bull shark that was in knee-deep water chased a big Zara Spook lure twice, but just couldn't manage to get hooked. Still it was quite a thrill for my Canadian clients that had only before caught 8-inch perch through the ice.

Other captains are reporting trout anglers getting a real but short thrill when tarpon inhale their cork and shrimp rig and swim off with the rig and $20 worth of braided line. Those little spinners get white hot when their spools are screaming at 4,000 rpm.

Big trout are still being caught at dawn on jumbo topwaters. What a great year it's been for big trout. If you are sitting in the boat early in the morning trying to decide what topwater to throw, it's easy. Pick your biggest one and start casting.

This tarpon season you will see many guides working schools of tarpon for their clients that have paid good money for their services, lodging, air and car fare, etc. Please be courteous and don't run through their fish or spoil their chances at a thrill of a lifetime trophy. After all, that could be you and there is plenty of fish for everyone.

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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