homepage logo

Seatrout rules to change, plus a few tarpon tips

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | May 21, 2021

Capt. George Tunison

If you miss taking a few trout home for dinner, the FWC tells us you’ll soon be able to although grilled snook or redfish still won’t be on your plate again this year in Southwest Florida.

Starting June 1, 2021, from Sarasota Bay through Gordon Pass in Collier County:

Spotted seatrout harvest will resume with a six-fish recreational vessel limit. Commercial harvesters will also be held to the recreational three-fish bag and six-fish vessel limits.

Snook and redfish will remain catch-and-release only through May 31, 2022.

For anglers to the north in the Tampa Bay region, normal snook, trout and redfish harvest rules will return.

For the angler that enjoys challenging the silver king using lures, the subject of retrieve style and speed is often brought up. Hop it along the bottom? Straight reeling just under the surface or in the middle of the water column? Try an erratic, twitching retrieve? Fast? Slow? Can I catch one trolling?

At one time or another, any one of these lure retrieves might get the interest of a tarpon and yes, they can be caught trolling lures.

If there’s visible surface feeding activity or when fishing in shallow water, the obvious choice would be a surface or near surface presentation. In this situation try long Bomber-type hard baits with single hooks if they’re feeding on larger baitfish like ladyfish. Try large MirrOdine or MirrOlures with added singles and DOA Baitbusters to mimic smaller forage. Another great surface technique is to add an original Hogy eel to the VMC Barbarian Soft Circle Hook which features a wire screw lock, bait keeper. Thread the nose of the plastic eel onto the coiled spring wire and cast. This lure set-up allows the circle hook to be fully exposed in front of the bait for sure hook-ups. Try this rig on beach tarpon and at night under local bridges.

Unless actively feeding up top, tarpon typically occupy the middle of the water column looking upwards for prey. With today’s electronics, including side scanning, anglers have a window on the underwater world like never before. Find their position and present your retrieve at or slightly above their level in the water column.

Whatever lure style or technique you chose, most seasoned tarpon anglers advise using a slow and steady retrieve. Actually a dead-stick, non-jerking, straight out/straight in retrieve often works best with most tarpon lures. An erratic retrieve often spooks them.

For the past 20 years I’ve caught small tarpon in the Cape’s canals using very small jigs, light line and a boring, medium slow, straight in, mid-water retrieve with no rod tip movement or lure twitching always proving to be the best retrieve choice, time and time again.

If you want to tackle your tarpon by trolling then pick one or our local bridge structures and start a trolling run. Troll parallel to the bridge (both sides) and close to the structure, then try trolling through the bridge pulling your lures with the current.

Fish a two-rod spread starting with a medium diver and shallow runner to cover the water column and experiment with lures and depth presentation to get dialed in. Don’t be surprised if a long-as-your-leg snook turns up attached to your hook as by-catch. Try trolling jigs and soft plastic swimbaits as well.

Got company down that wants to catch a lifetime memory? Pull on something big? No problem this time of year. Three quick choices would include our tarpon, sharks and super grouper, the Goliath.

Break them in right. Go big! Take them to Boca Grande and drop a bait down around the pilings. No casting experience required and best enjoyed if they’ve only caught farm pond bass. Don’t forget the camera to record their wild eyed panic as a 400-pound grouper tries to pull them out of the boat.

Great fun and a definite lifetime memory.

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