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Don’t be surprised where you might spot a shark

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | May 4, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

For the last decade, no matter my day’s schedule or appointments, you’ll find me starting the day outside very early making a dozen or more casts in the predawn twilight, sometimes in bathrobe and Clogs, from the seawall. Over the many years this early ritual has resulted in some serious attacks by some serious snook, tarpon, jumbo canal jacks and even a few bull sharks which didn’t seem to mind mixing with our resident alligators.

One would think that living in the very top of the northwest Cape that bull sharks wouldn’t be a problem? Truth is, they’re everywhere in Florida and have been recorded 1,000 miles up the freshwater Mississippi River in Illinois. For some reason they really seem to like to gather to taste people around Florida’s New Smyrna Beach where record numbers of bull attacks have been recorded starting back in ’82, as in 1882.

This time of year we typically think of snook crowding the beaches, there for their spawning rituals, but not all snook spawn every year and not all hit the beach party with some giants and juveniles staying behind like the frisky 15-incher that ate my white fly this morning at sun up, and also like the submarine that 15 minutes later swam very slowly by me just a few feet off the wall, mere inches under the clear water and actually throwing a small wake. It was so deep-bodied that at first glance I thought it was a huge jack but as it passed closer by, basically under my feet, it was a jumbo Cape canal snook easily over 40 inches probably closer to 30 pounds than 25. I didn’t bother to cast, choosing instead to just enjoy the scene wondering how old this great fish was.

While others are chasing snook, the big draw for many is going off at Boca Grande where it’s filling up with tarpon, tarpon hunters and huge sharks like a 1,280-pound hammerhead caught back in 2006.

First time Boca tarpon anglers are well advised to seek help from an experienced friend or pro guide to understand this often crowded fishery and specialized techniques used there.

Fishing here is done by motoring – slowly – up tide and away from the boats fishing, then joining the pack at the back (never cutting in in front of someone), then drifting back through the pass in order while fishing, then turning around and repeating at the end of each drift. Remember at the end of your drift to motor back up-tide slowly so as not to disturb the other anglers and possibly the fish.

Typically a team effort with the captain controlling the direction and speed of the boat while closely monitoring electronics for depth changes and fish location, also watching out for other boats in the drift and giving way by removing lines and moving the boat out of the way to someone hooked up. Hooked-up boats have the right of way and, never anchor in this pass.

The captain, through speed control, is trying to keep the boat positioned in the drift so that his angler’s lines are as straight up and down as possible while telling the anglers to raise or lower their baits as he monitors the bottom machine.

Bottom fishing baits would include shrimp, squirrel fish, pinfish and threadfins, but small crabs floated on the surface out with the tide or 2-3 feet under a small drifting float is the real deal. Buy them if you have a source or scoop up your own as they drift out of the pass on big tide days during full moon periods like we are experiencing now. Often just outside the pass, big permit and more tarpon are also found.

Good boat handling, common sense, common courtesy and big tarpon make for a good day, or night, of spring fishing at world famous Boca Grande Pass.

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.