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Have crabs always — just in case

By Staff | May 9, 2014

Capt. George Tunison

The electric meters are spinning like tops as fishing and the weather heats up.

Spring winds often make it difficult for offshore crews to get out to their numbers and the hungry schools of mixed bag targets waiting for them. Never underestimate the weather or overestimate your boat’s ability in these parts. The weather quickly changes its own mind regardless of your favorite politician’s dire global weather prediction.

According to Al Gore, downtown Cape Coral should have been a few feet under water by now and the rest of us, at a slightly higher elevation, should all be enjoying fishing in our living rooms due to the great ice meltdown. Whatever floats your boat (or sells books).

While offshore, always have a few crabs on board just in case you spot that permit of your dreams. A crab lowered to the bottom of your favorite reef will be inhaled by ever hungry grouper. Tarpon love small pass crabs as well as jumbo redfish which gobble crabs of any size in the passes. Keep crabs alive in a shallow livewell or wet grass and moss as well as in a wet blanket or towel in your cooler.

If you’ve ever been bitten by a big blue crab claw you already understand the crab dance. To perform the dance moves properly; first get too close, get bitten then run around the boat jumping, yelling, and trying with all your might to shake off this unshakeable critter while blood squirts from your fingers or hand.

While trying to rescue the afflicted hand by instinctively using your free hand the lightning quick crab doubles down with his free claw which only serves to increase the dancing, screaming and blood loss. Awfully fun to watch, but hard on the dancer. It’s best to remove claws with pliers for safe handling.

Hook crabs through the end point of the shell and check your hook for a dulled point after driving it through the shell. I use a large needle to make a small pilot hole then insert my hook through the opening.

Start your spring tarpon hunt in lower Pine Island Sound, Sanibel Causeway, off Sanibel Island, Redfish, Captiva, or Boca Grande passes, or the top of Matlacha Pass.

Shad, mackerel, mullet, or catfish tails on the bottom all produce well early in the season. Shad on the bottom is the primo bait, but hard to come by for most folks.

The FWC states, “The commercial and recreational harvest of stone crab claws in Florida closes on May 16, with the last day of harvest on May 15. This closure occurs each year during the species’ peak spawning season to help protect and sustain Florida’s valuable stone crab resource. Stone crab season will reopen on Oct. 1.

“Stone crab traps must be removed from the water within five days after the close of the stone crab season.”

With the removal of the traps tripletail will be much harder to find. Trips love to hang under crab floats so if you want to tangle with a great fighter or put one in the pan make your move now. Never done the tripletail thing?

Go offshore a bit and look for a row of trap floats. Motor down the row (not too close as they will sink from view) and look for a brown shape under or very near the float. After spotting a tripletail circle back and free-line a live shrimp (or under a small cork) back to the fish, using the current. Plastic shrimp work and flies get bit as well.

Make sure you put max heat on at the bite or Mr. Trip will tangle you in the float rope every time. Regardless of size, the fight will be strong with jumps.

I believe it’s one of the best eating fish in Florida. For trophy tripletail head to north Florida where near 40 pounders are possible.

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