homepage logo

Fishing: Fighting the lure of juvie tarpon

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Oct 5, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

I got the call from a friend in Punta Gorda telling me I had to come up right away, “Tarpon are everywhere! I know that juvie tarpon are your thing and my canal is loaded up; you’ve got to get up here!”

I could feel the adrenaline starting to course through my veins, hands already trembling as he described the early morning and dusk action. I also knew that as soon as I hung up the phone, I should call my TA sponsor. (Tarpon Anonymous is a Miami-based dedicated group of professional therapists that council and help rehabilitate juvenile tarpon angling addicts using one to one counseling and group therapy.)

I called and was informed that my sponsor was away. I immediately caved. I could have called TA headquarters in Miami for an emergency sponsor but I was weak, confused and alone, instead loading the truck with gear and speeding north, powerless to stop.

That evening the little tarpon were indeed rolling everywhere as I made cast after cast with my light-weight spin and fly gear, of course catching nothing which, of course, I already knew would probably happen before I left home.

The following day I finally got through to my sponsor and told him what had happened. I’m starting to believe that he may be organizing a family intervention when he returns with everyone writing letters of concern for my well-being, some sobbing, upset with me “wasting so much time obsessed with these stupid fish little you never catch.” I was at a low point and very disappointed in myself as well, later drifting off to sleep vowing to gain control.

Early the next morning I opened the blinds and immediately saw that tarpon were rolling around my neighbor’s dock. I could feel the adrenalin start to pump and my hands beginning to shake. In less than three minutes I had turned off my unfinished scrambled eggs, early popped the toaster, grabbed a rod and was out on the seawall casting, clad in red plaid robe, mosquitoes and green Crocs. I couldn’t help it. I’m weak.

Actually, I do catch just enough of these 2 to 15-pound canal fish each year on artificial lures and flies to keep me going back for more, but it’s never ever easy. For whatever reason, I’ve found that smaller backwater flats and mangrove tarpon are much more catch-able than their canal-dwelling, usually closed-mouthed cousins. As for lures, think ultra-lite gear, long fine leaders and tiny lures and flies. For best results I’ve found that spinning rod retrieves should be of a steady, medium speed, with very little to no added erratic action. Try always retrieving in the upper third of the water column. For fly retrieves, experiment, but a foot-long slow pull then a short pause often provokes a strike, which could come on either the pull or pause. Stay alert.

For their bigger brothers still spread out here and there throughout the area, like us they to sense these first coolings of fall and although many will still hang on for quite a while longer, others have already left.

Those remaining will hit the road for the trip south to Miami and points far beyond when a few serious cold snaps come our way.

Then there’s the other local group that just loves Southwest Florida winters and are genuinely puzzled as to why their cousins want to make that long and dangerous journey south, just to turn around and come back months later.

The offshore red snapper weekend harvest continues this month and next along with open gag and black grouper, while inshore the redfish rodeo is definitely underway. Target snook on points, docks, lay-downs, any ambush structure they’ll be using on their way back to their winter homes.

From one foot out to a hundred, this month Southwest Florida has definitely got your favorite fish.

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.