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Make plan to avoid lightning

September 3, 2011
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

After a long drought we welcome the summer rains even though they obviously make it difficult for those with limited recreation time.

I like summer fishing in a light rain as long as it doesn't involve lightning. Unfortu-nately, it's my understanding that the Cape is one of the premier lightning hot spots on the entire planet and that gets my full and total respect (most times).

As a captain it's my call as to when enough is enough and when it's time to get the clients off the water. It's very hard to tell three guys from the Midwest that we have to leave after fishing for only two hours.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Three guys who have saved their money and booked a trip, waited a year and driven a million miles all to spend six to eight hours with me to try and catch a trophy. It's a tough thing to swallow, especially when it "doesn't seem that bad yet."

How many times have I heard that? How many times have I thought that, fishing by myself while a jumbo red dumps line from my reel.

The story usually goes like this: I'm catching big fish, but it's now turned pitch black, bad lightning a mile away quickly bearing down. The wind is now starting to gust. I nervously glance back at the eight 100 percent graphite lightning attractors sticking straight up out of the center console. The Power Pole lighting attractor hanging vertically off the transom, and the six-foot dummy standing, also straight up on the front deck, which at that elevation makes the deck dummy, even closer to the sky than any of the other previously mentioned lightning attractors.

The redfish takes off on yet another run as I jump down from the front deck and think about loved ones and life insurance and suddenly notice a strange color and odor to the air and realize once again that it was "that bad" and I've waited way, way too long to get outta Dodge.

After finally boating the red, I go into hyper drive as I prepare to get moving. Everything is stowed as the throttle is floored and I roar off toward port. Within a hundred yards I realize that in mere seconds I probably will be a burnt-crispy critter found sometime tomorrow in the bottom of this boat.

At that point panic usually sets in and I wonder if I should head for the nearest shoreline, beach the boat and lay flat under the mangroves. But then get more nervous because of the "don't stand or sit under trees in lightning" thing that was ingrained in my mind from Cub Scouts 53 years ago.

Thoughts of submersing myself and breathing through a hollow reed and other such panic-driven schemes suddenly flood my mind as I keep on course, heading for home trusting my fate to the sky.

Finally, I make the dock as the adrenaline rush starts to subside and, suddenly, I feel tired. The wind then starts to die, the skies part and a beautiful sun appears, reflecting off the tails of laughing redfish.

Just what does one do in an open boat if caught in a bad lighting storm and the air is green and everyone's hair is standing straight up?

Other than pray, for me it's put all the rods down and stow them away from you if possible. Lay flat on the floor and away from as much metal as possible.

Pray again and try to plan better if you get another chance.

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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