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My first stolen tarpon or you can’t pick your family

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | May 12, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

For years I dreamed about tarpon, had read every outdoor book about tarpon, every magazine article and watched every video that I could get my hands on and at this point was more than ready to do battle. I was consumed by it, simply dying to catch one.

I saved my money and the next year my cousin, fishing partner and I flew down to the Keys for our first-ever May tarpon trip. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep! Early the next morning, we shared the charter boats transom both watching a rod on each other’s side, each loaded with a big mullet out swimming close to the 7 Mile Bridge mullet, extreme danger zone.

After 15 minutes or so of nervous chit-chat with my eyes always glued to the rod, I turned around and took 3 steps to grab a bottle of water. Hooked fish were jumping up and down the bridge structure. Suddenly a drag was singing, the captain yelling, as I quickly turned back I saw a giant chrome fish leap skyward, twisting and turning then crashing mightily back into the ocean, hooked up to my rod now being handled by Cousin Tim! I was crushed!

I take fishing very, very seriously and always have. Catching a tarpon had always been #1 on my bucket list. I didn’t speak to my cousin for a year or so and later he apologized. I swallowed my pride and accepted it.

Now everyone knows there’s nothing worse than a low down, conniving tarpon thief but he was family so eventually we started fishing together again, this last time on an expensive trophy musky trip way up in Canada. Fortunately Tim was an incredibly loud snorer which allowed me to not have to worry about him catching me in the cabin the night before pulling out 25 yards of his 80-pound Power Pro and ever so slightly nicking the lines with a razor on his 3 best casting rods that were already lure loaded.

Today’s huge and heavy musky lures cost from $30 to over $100 each. He raged and kicked as the 3rd lure snapped off on the cast, flying high and catching way up in a tall tree in the distance.

“I told you that you should have changed that old line” was all I quietly offered as he cursed everything in sight.

My 6-foot-4, 300-pound cousin left this world recently for much better fishing grounds which is the only reason I now feel physically safe relating this story again. All in all, I sure do miss him. Tight lines Cuz!

May is time to experience inshore angling’s greatest thrill, testing your patience, fighting skills, endurance and equipment. After all, this is the birthplace of big game fishing and where the first recorded tarpon catch occurred back in the late 1800s. Before that it was, “A giant silver devil, a fish that can never be tamed with rod and reel!”

Right now Boca Grande is tarpon central with a variety of live baits working, but small pass crabs get attention on fast moving tides.

Thirty miles out to over a hundred, bottom structure offers something for everyone from red grouper to the big tasty three — lane, mangrove, and yellow tail snapper, along with sheepshead and the occasional jumbo offshore snook. Keep a crab or two ready to cast to wandering and always unpredictable cobia and even permit that might come to the top.

Hit the beaches for boat or barefoot snook action day or night, with a real trophy a possibility. Cast the surf zones as well as moving inside the passes where over-slot and always hungry redfish are also looking for a meal.

Set up, chum and enjoy shallow water shark fun or fish grass flats for better than average trout.

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