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Tarpon fishing? Bring some protective gear -- just in case!

May 31, 2019
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

For the inexperienced tarpon angler, there are some basic tools that should be onboard: pliers, various hook-outs, lights, gloves, shin and knee protection, a helmet and change of clothes.

If you've never experienced a hundred pound-plus, green and mean, adrenalin pumped tarpon jumping in your boat during a fight, then you probably can't understand the need for tactical protective gear.

Met a nice couple last night that was fishing off Sanibel with the rest of the fleet last May when they had a big one simply free jump into the boat breaking the windshield while ejecting rods and coolers before they finally subdued it.

Personally, over the seasons I've had two hooked fish jump in the boat, one stayed in for an epic battle, the other was a 10-second hit and run slime job also ejecting equipment before bouncing out of the boat, but finally caught and released.

What do you do when you're suddenly faced with a hundred-plus pound, armor plated, bucking bronco in full panic mode breaking up your boat?

You can see if you can fit the whole crew up on the poling platform till it jumps out or settles down to avoid bodily harm or, man-up and fight back!

My first tarpon that jumped in and stayed in the boat happened on a night charter with a first-time saltwater fishing, very nice couple from Wisconsin that had some experience catching little smallmouth bass and walleye.

It had taken several hours of gentle persuasion to get his rather timid wife to agree to venture out on the water at night. Petrified of sharks and the ink black water, she finally got on board.

Arriving, anchoring and finally the rods were in the holders. After a few hours she seemed to relax as the three of us enjoyed the night sky and pleasant conversation while waiting for a bite.

After the second, "See I told you honey, this isn't so bad is it?" she smiled and agreed. The next moment the rod on the port side doubled over, the reel screaming as a big fish took to the air twice staying really close to the boat, then once again jumping landing squarely back in the skiff and proceeded to go to war on my Action Craft.

In the blink of an eye, she had climbed up onto the poling platform and was now hysterically screaming at the nighttime sea monster attack. A rod and reel and a Wisconsin cheese plate sampler they had brought went flying as I made my move and tackled the tarpon head on which caused it to panic even more, bucking its massive head up and hitting me in the head with its bar rail sized concrete jaw.

Seeing stars I finally subdued the fish, got the hook out and the fish back in the water.

During this whole knock-down drag-out, the lady had continued to scream which seemed to echo down the river and could without question be plainly heard all the way to Fort Myers, which scared me and I'm sure scared the already panicked tarpon even more.

After the fish disappeared into the river's dark waters, she calmed enough to cautiously descend the platform joining us on the deck. She had a faraway look in her eye, trembling and in shock and could only mutter, "Take me home, take me home" which I did right away. Curiously, I've never heard from them again.

If you've ever fought a tarpon in on-board hand to hand combat, no matter who wins, the battle you will get slimed by their thick protective coat as well as the boat deck turning into a super-slippery skating ring. Bring extra clothes with your helmet.

We are currently in Shark City and lite shark tackle action on the flats is a guaranteed blast on a snook rod. Watch your fingers!

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.



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