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Enjoying Grand Slam Invasive Species Day!

By Staff | Jun 12, 2020

Tuesday was Grand Slam Invasive Species Day.

Once or twice a month, I throw a few lite rods in the truck, some canned veggies, usually corn, and an assortment of tiny jigs, flies, floats, 3-inch pieces of nylon rope, a few tiny Mepps spinners and hit several spots throughout the northwest and northeast Cape with the goal being to see how many invasive species and oddball fish I can catch in one morning.

The second half of the day is dedicated to the air gun shooting sports and the eradication of iguanas that are an interesting species to observe or to make a pet of, but can quickly become destructive pests thriving in seemingly uncontrollable numbers not far south of here and quickly gaining ground in the Cape.

To claim an official IS Grand Slam one must catch at least three different invasive fish species and three iguanas in eight hours. Bonus points if you cook and try both fish and reptile. Iguanas taste good!

On my Tuesday outing the first fish hooked was a foot long Plecostomus which was a first I’ve seen in Southwest Florida. Actually I didn’t “catch” it, I accidentally snagged it in the tail and reeled it in although it still put up quite a fight on my tiny ultra-lite outfit.

I’m not sure a Plecostomus would hit a jig or hard lure on purpose but since I catch about three or four mullet every year hooked right in the lips on gold spoons, which plankton eating mullet aren’t supposed to hit, anything is possible.

This was my first pleco on hook and line although in the past I’ve handled hundreds of these strange creatures by hand. Anyone that has or had a freshwater aquarium is familiar with these bizarre looking algae eating fish that make a living scouring the rocks and gravel vacuuming green vegetation with its bottom positioned round sucker mouth.

How did all these mostly South American, even Asian species get in our waters?

Some were stocked by fish and game official’s years ago. In 2010, I walked out to my Cape seawall to see what at first glance appeared to be a dead tarpon of 50 pounds washed up at the wall’s base. Looking closer I realized this wasn’t a tarpon but a giant Asian grass carp. I’d heard that they were introduced years ago in this area in an experimental program to control weeds. This had to be a very old specimen as I vaguely remember this type of carp as being sterile.

Now many Midwest rivers are so choked with Asian carp that riding in an open boat without a helmet and stout shield could definitely be detrimental to your health as they spring out of the water 50 to a hundred at a time freighted by the outboard. Getting hit in the chops driving at 50 mph by a slimy 15-pound flying carp must be memorable.

Most other invasive fish and reptiles we see today in our trees and local waters came from the aquarium and pet industry which I was part of many moons ago as a tropical fish and species importer serving the pet trade.

The incredibly destructive but bizarrely beautiful lionfish, the Asian eating machine killer the snakehead, the beautiful and powerful peacock bass, the many species of South American cichlids like tilapia and reptiles like pythons, boas and common iguanas were mostly all introduced to the environment by hobbyists and collectors years ago as their little pets grew to unmanageable sizes.

They’re here to stay so for something different, enjoy catching these exotics while exploring the many small canals and waterways throughout the Cape.

Tip: we have some big tilapia type cichlids here. They’re vegetarians so try corn. For alligator gar, tie on a 3-inch piece of nylon rope with one inch of the end shredded and fish in short jerks. No hooks required.

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