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Where to look for tarpon?

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | May 26, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

With tarpon the talk of the town, the only question is where will you look for yours? Obviously Boca Grande Pass comes to mind first, where fish and fishermen are stacked up. Other fish have taken to daily coastal excursions sometimes miles off shore, other times a stone’s throw from the surf, mixed in with summer’s beach-bound snook.

If your destination is Boca Grande, be aware that special FWC management and gear regulations apply not only in the pass but extending out into the Gulf and also eastward into Charlotte Harbor. Save yourself a lot of grief and check out the FWC website that illustrates the boundaries and outlines the special tackle regulations. One important rule is, “Fishing with gear that has a weight attached to a hook, artificial fly or lure in such a way that the weight hangs lower than the hook when the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited when fishing for any species year-round within Boca Grande Pass.”

Over the last two weeks I’ve witnessed some of the largest bull sharks I’ve ever seen in this area and also a few tarpon attacked in Boca Grande Pass, which is typically bad news for a fight-weakened silver king. If your hooked fish comes under attack during the fight, loosen the drag, free spool, whatever you need to do to give the fish, possibly 25 years old or more, an opportunity to escape.

Along the beaches a variety of presentations will interest these tarpon, from dead baits on bottom to live crabs, pinfish, shrimp and whitebaits under floats to stealthy, well-presented flies or a large selection of soft plastic eels and swimbaits.

Get out your sailfish gear as these amazing jumpers and fighters are showing up on reefs as close as 30 miles off the coast where several members of the snapper family are also ready and waiting for your chum. Using longer and lighter fluorocarbon leaders ups your catch when fishing for these sharp eyed and tasty fish.

Reports of various sized cobia also visiting these nearshore structures and we still have big permit available looking for your crabs to crush.

Trophy snook hunters might also want to join the nearshore fleet hooking over 40-inch snook as by-catch.

If you’re day beach walking to find your snook and scoring but on smaller fish, change your game and come back at night for an improved shot at a really big linesider. Big fish like a mouthful and a large Rapala X-Rap casts a mile down the beach covering the surf zone on the retrieve. Throwing an X-large top-water plug or popper close to the beach at night, especially near a pass, can also produce some lifetime memories. Remember that casting parallel to the beach rather than long casts out into the Gulf work better for snook when beach walking.

Go deep to catch your bottom fare before Old Sparky cranks up this month making early out and early back to the dock the safe ticket when heading far out into the Gulf. New to the area? Just understand we have some of the worst lightning in Florida and the Gulf can turn from nice to nasty rather quickly. Staying to catch “just a couple more” can be a fatal decision.

Great multi-species fishing abounds from the beaches to the horizon and tarpon season is in full swing, but unfortunately all is not well inshore as Matlacha Pass has been suffering from unwanted algae die-offs making a mess of things. This recent event is just part of the problem as the continuing loss of vital seagrasses is a bigger issue. A recent TV report quoted a biologist stating that 90% of the important seagrasses in Matlacha Pass are gone.

We are quickly suffering the same fate as Florida’s once famous Indian River Lagoon that lost their vital grasses and their fish, due to bad water quality.

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.