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Some tips for those newbies with a case of tarpon fever

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | Apr 1, 2022

Spring has certainly sprung and while tarpon anglers are waiting for hopefully big numbers of fish to arrive this year, some have already scored. An early season hangout would include a few hundred yards to a few miles off Knapp’s Point where you’ll often find a cluster of early spring boats that are anchored and bottom fishing.

Here’s a tip; new to the game and have a bad case of tarpon fever? Believe me I understand, but whatever you do, do not pick a nice spot in the middle of the pack, motor right in, anchor up, then crank up the tunes and start fishing. This disrespectful action could have a bad outcome, or at the very least, make you instantly very unpopular.

When approaching a fleet of boats anchored and bottom fishing or casting to a surface feeding school of fish, the first thing is to back down on the throttle, stop and observe. Never drive your boat through a surface feeding school of fish or anchored pack of boats. Likewise, if you encounter an angler or guide standing high atop a poling platform in the blazing hot sun, using a 20-foot-long pole to push a boat with fuel, supplies, bait, equipment and two 235-pound anglers through the shallows for hours on end, please give them a break and stay far away.

Keep binoculars handy for observing boats and conditions, and also for scanning for distant feeding birds and rolling tarpon. Which way is the tide moving? Is the anchor ready to deploy without banging yards of chain against the deck getting it ready?

Now quietly join the edge of the pack and anchor up, or stay back and start casting to the edges of the surface feeding school. Common courtesy and common sense go a long way.

Even when fishing an inlet from a boat, with anglers on both sides fishing from the rocks, give the shorebound anglers their room. Last year I took a trip east to Sebastian Inlet for some big snook and redfish action. This inlet is also a hot spot for jetty jockeys who fish from the rocks and take their fishing very seriously. If boats get to close, rocks will often fly, pelting expensive gel coats and often, human targets.

After hitting Sanibel, the arriving tarpon will split up with many traveling northwards along the coast, staging early in Captiva Pass, then later on to Boca Grande Pass. Others will round the Sanibel Lighthouse Point and enter lower Pine Island Sound where fishing somewhere between Woodrings Point, on up to Chino Island, can be early season productive. Some tarpon will enter Matlacha Pass while others may choose to mingle with their resident, river tarpon cousins.

Later in the month in north Matlacha Pass, starting somewhere between Big Dead Creek up past Two Pines, tarpon will gather. Scout and fish both sides of the 3- down to 8-foot drop-off that runs north out the pass into lower Charlotte Harbor for early morning action.

Inside Pine Island Sound visit the scenic fishing shacks when fishing nearby Captiva Rocks area where a tarpon, redfish, bigger than your truck hood ray or a really big shark could crash the early morning calm.

Eventually this northward migration route fills Boca Grande Pass with most of these fish later moving into Charlotte Harbor as the summer progresses, only to reverse the route when the cold winds blow, when fish once again become Miami, Keys and points further south, bound.

Fly fishing, bottom baiting, night plug casting, deep day drifting Boca Grande, tossing crabs off the beach, how do you want this year’s tarpon? Best news for newbies is you’re in the right spot. After all, this is where serious tarpon angling got started.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a tarpon this year do your best to insure a healthy release of these prize gamefish.

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