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Tarpon still lurking about

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Nov 17, 2022

Capt. George Tunison

Don’t put away your tarpon sticks just yet because coastal as well as central Charlotte Harbor fish are a still eating with birds and bait schools your clues, especially in the harbor. With a prolonged cold front surely in the near future, it will all change rapidly sending migrating tarpon southward to Miami, the Keys and points beyond only to repeat the journey north again next spring.

Other tarpon like our golden hued resident or happy home body types will find suitable temperatures in local canals and upriver locations where they will winter and are catchable but be prepared to put in your time when going on a winter hunt. Over the years in the cold months I’ve seen, caught and watched others catch them starting at the railroad trestle bridge, I-75 Bridge, to far upriver around the locks. Years ago my snook jig caught, January and certainly not on purpose, Cape Coral Bridge tarpon, is the exception.

Having a friend with up-river knowledge is, of course, invaluable when putting together a plan to challenge our usually finicky resident winter fish.

Many snook won’t be heading to Miami but they will be following the tarpon flow up the Caloosahatchee as well, into local canals, backwaters and creeks as temps cool. One thing for sure, they will be hungry and a great time to get serious about catching a lifetime trophy-sized specimen. In 20+ years of fishing here I’ve been fortunate to catch some really quality sized snook on various lures and flies but if you real interest is a true snook of a lifetime, then keep out those tarpon rods. You’ll need big baits and big rod combos to lob cast a heavy 12-inch to 15-inch mullet or lively ladyfish around big structure like bridges and docks, to set the hook and to pull them from away from heavy structure and often fast currents.

A great example is the current swept docks above Punta Rassa, which at times are the home of some real monsters that you will never catch, without the proper heavy gear. For the fish’s sake, don’t even attempt it with lighter tackle as you’ll be broken off most times leaving hooks and potential problems in large and valuable females. This trophy fishing requires patience and persistence, boat handling skills, efficient anchoring abilities and the proper sized gear and baits.

Redfishing continues and with lower winter tides it’s a great time to sight fish and sharpen your silent boat poling skills. Nothing beats a properly used push pole when it comes to sight fishing and a dead quiet approach in clear shallow water. Using a poling platform and push-pole for the first time, anglers are amazed at the fish they now see and wouldn’t have from the deck below, while using a loud trolling motor.

Cold weather doesn’t bother reds but it does get the trout and pompano bite moving.

If you get into a big trout school, give them a break and bend down those jig barbs, catch the fish, then without touching the fish, grab the hook shank with your needlenose pliers, turn over your hand and the fish simply slips back into the water untouched and uninjured from that nasty barb.

Tip tiny pomp jigs with small bits of shrimp and hop along the bottom during the retrieve, and if you haven’t eaten pompano, by all means try it! Delicious!

Sheepshead will slowly move in as it continues cooling while tripletail will still be on offshore floats, and find Spanish macs in and around the passes to offshore.

Lite tackle anglers hope to find offshore bonito schools and pick a fun fight.

Kingfish will hit your trolled plugs or spoons sometimes surprisingly close to the coast and a good variety of snapper and grouper await your bottom baits offshore.

Try MyFWC to stay current on offshore regulations.

It’s time to change your fuel/water separating filter!

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