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Weather’s nice and a variety of fish are biting

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Dec 9, 2022

Capt. George Tunison

Taking a look at today’s FWC Red Tide Map shows most areas along our coast and inshore to be problem free with some patches reported off Boca Grande as well as some high concentrations still lingering around Sarasota. Red tide isn’t the only water problem to worry about locally as who knows what else may still be in the hurricane soup, so by all means still treat all on the water cuts small or big, asap.

When’s the last time you updated or at least checked out your first aid kit? Take a few minutes and make sure you’re well stocked. Nice to have when you need it.

Don’t put away your tarpon sticks just yet as reports keep coming in of continued activity in the 20-foot hole areas of Charlotte Harbor, as well as the mouth of the Myakka River where ladyfish and old reliable catfish chunks are getting the interest of some hungry, high spirited, holiday tarpon. Till we get a really cold blast, an early December tarpon hunt might pay off.

Are these fish just late in migrating south or just resident river fish just fattening up? I vote for river fish. Others have reported coastal fish this past week and in Boca Grande Pass. Before heading out give Fishing Frank’s a call for an up-to-the-minute report as they are usually a great source of info concerning the upper harbor, Peace and Myakka River, tarpon information. (941-625-3888)

Nothing like the sight of a triple digit weight chrome missile flying out of the water and the soon to follow back and arm straining tug of war, but I also get a huge kick out of hunting for and catching small tarpon in the Capes miles of canals with lite tackle spinning and fly rods. Lite meaning, little 15 inchers to 40-inch acrobats, and sometimes much bigger fish get in the act. The PGI canals a little north of here also offer some fine juvenile tarpon fishing and right now, some huge canal tuna (jack crevalle) as well.

Hunting canal tarpon is usually a challenge requiring patience and research. If they aren’t showing themselves in your canal, then go into scout mode, which means sitting and watching at other spots and asking friends/tackle shops if they see them in their waterways. Over the years I’ve discovered areas along the Northwest Spreader Canal that “often” hold tarpon of varying sizes, especially this time of year. I’m fortunate that these guys show up in my canal 3-4 times a year and then simply vanish again.

Now that you’ve paid your dues and found areas of activity, here comes the hard part — getting them to eat an artificial lure. Juvenile tarpon are well known to be very picky, frustrating anglers tossing lures.

Experience has taught going small is the right tactic when it comes to gear, line, leader and lures. Basically I’m fishing a 6-foot lite spinning rod and small matching reel with 8 to 10-pound braid and 3 to 4-foot-long 12 to 20-pound test fluorocarbon leaders.

My go-to lure year after year is a simple, short-skirted pompano jig in white or chartreuse. For flies, a little 1.75-inch Puglisi Micro Minnow pattern in translucent is my number one choice. This week I’ve had some success with DOA’s 2.75-inch shrimp and smaller Vu Du 1.75-inch shrimp.

Best jig retrieve is a boring, medium speed, straight line retrieve a couple of feet below the surface. Be ready as your line often goes momentarily limp or light feeling as they track it then suddenly inhale it from behind. Be a line watcher and set the hook quickly if anything doesn’t look or feel right.

Lite winds, blue skies and the inshore reds, trout and pompano are biting. Nearshore reefs to 100-foot depths and beyond, there’s a hungry fish waiting for you this holiday season.

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