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Warm weather may mean an early start to tarpon season

March 2, 2018
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

With continuing warm weather throughout the region tarpon may show up earlier this year, putting the tarpon fleet off Sanibel in early April instead of May. I'm already seeing small resident tarpon rolling in my canal system after disappearing for months. These fish don't usually arrive till early to mid-April.

Snook are eating and wanting a variety of lures and baits with twitch baits (MirrOlures), spoons and fake shrimp being the hot lures these past few weeks along mangrove shorelines and dock structure.

Cast your sinking Mirr-Olure along a deep edge or dock and let it sink toward the bottom. With a few snaps of the wrist, twitch it out and away from the structure. Hopefully it won't make it back.

Casting large streamer flies that are tied with weed guards are great for repeated shoreline casting into mangrove edges. I like casting the fly into the branches along the edge and with a slight line tug, letting the fly fall naturally to the surface before starting the retrieve.

The Matlacha Bridge is the traditional home of some really big fish and is accessible to the walking as well as boating angler. Don't arrive here under armed as it's easy to get broken off by a rampaging snook in heavy current and possibly kill a large female. Your flats outfit and light line isn't welcome here.

A tried and true bridge method (for summer tarpon as well) is to cast a select shrimp up current letting it sink and mending line as it bottom bumps back to you. If the current is heavy, pin the shrimp to a jig just heavy enough to maintain bottom contact without digging down and snagging.

Selecting the proper jig to use around rock structure will save you time and money. Use jigs heads that are formed with the line tie eye at the point of the jighead. Jig heads that have the line tie further back on the head snag easily around rocks and other bottom obstructions including discarded fishing line.

If you don't know, the best time to fish this bridge is at night. Over the years thousands of snook have been hauled over the rails of the various bridges spanning Matlacha Pass as they are a fish magnet.

Friends that dive tell stories of giant snook, tarpon, even grouper that reside there.

Two problems when fishing there, the first being able to land a large hooked fish while fishing from the bridge if you don't have the proper net. Your only hope is to walk the fish to the end of the bridge to try and get a handle on it. I've seen many trophy fish broken off at the bridge because of undersized equipment trying to fight a big fish in heavy current possibly killing the fish uselessly and not just any fish but huge spawning females which, of course, are the future of snook fishing for all of us.

Many snook purists and other anglers are voicing concerns and wonder if a bridge net requirement should be put in place for bridge anglers to help protect these fish. I can hear the collective groan - more regulations. Sadly, in this world, without regulation and enforcement there would be very little game on land and very few fish in our sea.

The second problem at the bridge is out-of-season or over-slot snook theft and why the person standing next to you at night this year may be an undercover FWC officer.

Typically a large and out-of-season snook is landed and comes over the rail to be quickly wrapped in a towel and hustled off to a car for a quick get-away.

I have no problem with someone eating a legal fish or hunting and eating game animals. Poachers rob from us today while also robbing the future from those that come after us.

Report violators to the FWC at 888-404-FWCC.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or captgeoget3



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