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Lighter winds, cooler temps make for great fishing

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | May 13, 2022

It’s a great time to be fishing in Southwest Florida! Winds are down and it’s not hot as blazes just yet, so enjoy it while it lasts.

With plenty of natural bait in the water, all of our fish species are eating heavily both in-, near- and offshore.

Right now coastal and pass tarpon along with beach snook are on most anglers’ minds, with the offshore crews hunting tasty snapper and grouper. Near shore GPS numbers plus small crabs, could add up to a fine permit catch.

If you’re not the lure or fly-only type, then break out the cast net and fill your well with fresh live bait for fast inshore action, especially for snook, tarpon, redfish and trout. If you’ve wanted to learn how to use a cast net and what type to buy, most tackle stores will guide you in the right direction. There are several methods used to toss a net efficiently but if you don’t have a friend, guide or store to show you the way, then turn on YouTube as there are several instructional videos available.

Most anglers throw a 6 to 10-foot net. Mesh size is also important with 1/4 to 3/8-inch sizes the most common. Hunting larger baits like adult mullet, a 1-inch or more mesh size works fine. Monofilament nets are the best all-round choice. Take good care of your net as they aren’t cheap.

When trolling or casting big live baits this year, learn to bridle your baits for increased hook-ups. Bridling the bait means securing the hook to the baitfish with light wire or rubber bands, keeping the hook fully exposed instead of running it through the fish. Bridling the bait not only increases hook-up ratios but allows the bait to swim and struggle more naturally and last much longer on the hook. When fishing large dead baits on bottom like catfish chunks, you can easily bridle them as well for much better hooksets. Again, online there are many instructional videos to guide you.

Those who enjoy the taste of red snapper were happy to hear the announcement by Gov. DeSantis last month that the red snapper season would be extended. The summer season opens June 17 through July 31 then opening again for three weekends in October and two more in November. Harvest two per person per day with a 16-inch total length and make sure to sign up for your reef permit before dropping a line. Go to the FWC website for current information, rules and regulations.

If you’re not catching your own snapper but buying it, let the buyer beware! There’s a chance that if you’re purchasing snapper at seafood markets, restaurants, especially sushi bars, even grocery chains, that you may be eating something much different, than what’s advertised or labeled.

Seafood mislabeling or seafood fraud is big business worldwide and due to red snapper popularity, mislabeling red snapper is at the top of the fraud list.

A study by the University of North Carolina of restaurants and seafood markets across the Southeastern U.S. found nearly 73% of red snapper samples taken were something other than snapper.

Ever popular seafood menu item grouper is another often faked fish. Years back restaurants in Lee and Coulier counties were cited for selling bogus grouper and I suspect the practice continues to this day. Fake or mislabeled snapper and grouper is usually tilapia or catfish. For someone visiting Florida from the Midwest that grew up eating frozen fish sticks or frozen fillets, how would they know?

That Florida “snapper” or “grouper” was “the best fish we’ve ever tasted!”

Trout fishing is better than normal and sharp nosed redfish are always prowling the mangroves looking to eat.

Tarpon are probably in your favorite spots about now so get after them with your favorite gear, enjoy the fight, get them in quick and release them right.

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

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