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Warmer temperatures mean snook and tarpon are biting

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Apr 7, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Humidity and snook go together like a plate full of muskrat salad and cornbread. I’ll gladly take the snook and salad but thoughts of yet another steam bath summer make me feel sticky already. Twenty-two years here, and still waiting for my blood to “thin out” so I can finally “get used to it.”

But again, heat means big snook biting and the biggest meanest tarpon of the year already biting in the Keys, others already swimming north past the 10,000 Islands with many eventually gathering in Boca Grande Pass, others continuing to move further north, then westward. Who knows what drives some to stay and some to move on but they seem to have it figured out since fisheries biologists say they’ve been at it for about 120 million years. Just when you thought you knew everything about tarpon, did you also know that Michelangelo included a tarpon in his Sistine Chapel ceiling painting masterwork painted in 1510?

Google states that there are 13 species of snook worldwide with new species still being identified like the fairly recent find in Brazil. Florida plays host to five of these species and statewide they are on the move, with many already beachside preparing for their summer fling with the rest of the gang on the way.

Just before the recent full moon we did really well on a night dock trip on the Caloosahatchee using suspending and sinking MirrOlures around the pilings and DOA glow color shrimp skipped back into the darkness under the structure, which resulted in some hard strikes and close quarter epic battles, some of which were simply unwinnable even with the fairly heavy equipment we were using.

With all the newest lures to pick from, new anglers are often overwhelmed by the selection and miss out on some timeless snook producers like the old style sinking MirrOlure, which is deadly, especially around dock and bridge structure. This is a lure with zero built-in action, lip or wiggle, but looks alive if manipulated properly by the angler. Cast to pilings then let it sink downward on a tight line to near bottom, then a few rod tip flicks, mend line, then repeat that sudden twitch and fall dance till out of the strike zone. Don’t be in a hurry to retrieve it, slow and subtle near bottom is key while the lure flashes and appears to be and easy meal for a hungry 40-inch dock monitor.

When dock fishing at night you’re obviously looking for active fish but really looking for that one dock among many that tonight has all the right combination of food, current, structure, depth, even lighting, to attract them there.

If you can find live bait in the 10 to 12-inch size, put one under a float and do a slow dock run pitching the bait to the pilings with a slow underhand lob, or pitch it right up against the seawall, where big snook and jacks often trap their meals.

Use the trolling motor and very slowly and quietly night troll the miles of Cape canals dragging a large mullet or ladyfish under a float behind you. Have patience, go slowly and don’t be surprised if a leg-long snook takes the bait as you float it close by a dock or a scary big tarpon suddenly hits the night sky. Think 80-pound leaders.

Besides the typical gear used for any night trip, folks that love using lures should include a pair of lightweight, clear lensed glasses in their kit to protect their eyes during the nights fishing.

Snook harvest closes on May 1 this year so if you enjoy the taste then this is your month to bring home a dinner guest.

Kind winds means big and tasty snapper, grouper, kings, cobia, Spanish, found from just outside the passes out to the horizon in deep water. Permit are still available on nearshore structure.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. You an contact him at 239-282-9434 or via email at captgeorget3@aol.com.