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It’s May, a variety of fish are ready and waiting

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | May 6, 2022

May fishing is under way and the fish are definitely cooperating. From back-country shallows to costly fuel-burning trips out to 150 feet or more depths, and all point’s in between, there’s a fish with your name on it. Although this area isn’t really known for offshore game like dolphin or big game fish like marlin, sailfish, wahoo and tuna, once you pass the 120-foot depths almost anything is possible.

If you do make the trip offshore, several varieties of delicious snapper await your baits, along with hard-fighting red and gag grouper. Check your FWC website for harvest regulations, reef fishing permits and proper release tools.

Nearshore reef fishing has remained steadily good and, multiple species like cobia; permit; snapper; small, medium and jumbo sharks; even a huge snook or tarpon are all a possibility, not far off our coast.

Back in the surf zone the snook will remain beach-bound till the cold winds blow again and are accessible day and night by foot or boat. Will dressing in light sky blue pants, shirt and hat help your daytime sigh-fishing snook hunt? Sure wouldn’t hurt as these fish are often right up on the sand, and can spot you from quite a distance. Don’t forget the bug spray for your nighttime beach excursions.

If you’re hanging around one of the passes, be on the lookout for one of Southwest Florida’s tastiest fish, the pompano. Small, shrimp-tipped jigs, on light fluorocarbon leaders bounced along the bottom will get the job done. Make sure to stay in contact with the bottom on your retrieve for best results. If you’ve never caught a pomp you’re in for a treat as this mini-permit powerhouse fights like a much bigger fish and is a blast on ultra-light tackle and most excellent on the plate.

May is, of course, tarpon time in Southwest Florida and unless you’re a diehard catfish tail bottom angler or part of the Boca Grande Pass flotilla, you’re probably looking to intercept tarpon moving along the coast with a variety of live baits, lures or flies.

For throwing live baits like pinfish and small crabs, or casting soft plastics like DOA Baitbusters, slender Hogy eels or hard baits like MirrOlures, gearing up with 50-pound test braided lines and 50-pound fluorocarbon leaders is a good coastal set-up to start with. Having the right rod makes a big difference. I like an 8.5-foot medium heavy rod with a good backbone and limber tip to fire light weight baits a long distance and still have the power to get a good hookset and get the fish to the boat before heat exhaustion, or before it becomes a shark attack snack.

If you’re casting crabs or baitfish using a float, instead of trying to lob a float and a 3 to 4-foot leader, use a more efficient bobber/float stop rig for longer casts and better accuracy. Simply add a small high quality swivel to the end of your line. Tie on your leader then thread a plastic bead on the line then add a free sliding float or bobber to it. Now add your circle hook. This rig allows the float and hooked bait to be at the end of your leader for easier casting. After the bait and float touches down the weight of your crab or baitfish will pull the line down below the float till the swivel or line to leader knot stops it.

With local anglers focused on tarpon and beach snook, I keep hoping to tangle with a 400-pound, 10-foot-long arapaima. It’s been about a year since the last one was spotted washed up in the Caloosahatchee. Was this an aquarium or aquaculture escapee? No one seems to know but the warm waters of Southwest Florida could definitely support a population in the summer months, but probably too cold in winter.

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