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Fishing | Change of seasons: snook closing, tarpon heating up

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Apr 25, 2024

Capt. George Tunison

Time is running out for those looking to snack on a snook. May 1st is the deadline with the grand reopening in our Southwest Charlotte Harbor designation starting Oct. 1; up north, Sarasota region anglers get an earlier snook start-up on Sept. 1.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that removing this great Florida sportfish from the water, let alone eating one, for many is sacrilege. I’m a catch-and-release kind of purist myself except for once a year. Just remember to remove the skin before cooking or you’ll be eating what earlier anglers called, “soap fish.”

Interesting to note that years ago snook were considered to be trash fish only good for fertilizing gardens or cat food and sold for a “penny per pound,” simply because anglers didn’t properly skin the fish before cooking, ruining the taste. Like most properly prepared fish, snook is delicious but considering how this great Florida sportfish is under attack by habit loss due to toxic city stormwater runoff, septic tanks and, of course, Lake O discharges, plus an every growing boating population and fishing pressure, it’s tough to be a snook. Carefully handle, photo and cleanly release all over and under slot fish.

After witnessing south Matlacha canals completely covered from bank to bank in floating mats of mostly large adult already dead or dying snook during 2010s big Southwest Florida freeze it’s good to see so many juvenile snook these past few years patrolling the mangroves, although upper slot class or year snook and truly big snook are less common these days. Another case of “It’s good, but it ain’t like it used to be” I’m afraid. Future water quality, continued sensible management and angler support will tell the tale.

Also interesting is that we have five species living in Florida’s brackish to salt waters, even far inland, like the freshwater snook population swimming in Lake Okeechobee. Like some other species, snook are protandric hermaphrodites, starting life as males with a portion later changing to females.

If you and the family just recently moved to the Cape from say, Minnesota, and, of course, brought your nice 18-foot Lund V bottom walleye boat with you, let me first say, “Welcome.” After spending many snowed-in days, actually years inside reading and dreaming about Florida’s famous tarpon flying through the air attached to your rod, you can hardly sleep. You’re also very excited about Florida’s Boca Grande amazing spring tarpon bonanza and hope to sample it this weekend.

The plan is to have you and the wife, visiting brother Fred, wife Clara, and, of course, their twin 12-year-old tornadoes, plus Remington, the family’s mindlessly yapping Yorkie, board the Lund and head off to the world’s greatest tarpon gathering for some big time Florida tarpon fishing.

You’ve heard that it’s deep in the pass so you’ve brought plenty of anchor rope to anchor right in the middle of it looking for that big one. Approaching the pass you excitedly yell to Fred over the noise of the 25-horse tiller control straining against its heavy load, the tide and Remington’s endless barking, “See that Fred, I was right. There’s a ton of boats right out in the middle! Let’s get our spot and anchor up!” which they unfortunately did.

Later that day the lucky group and even shark snack Lil Remmy were all picked up by the Coast Guard after the Lund went down soon after anchoring. The CG said it was a combination of a strong tide and suspected fellow angler small arms fire that took the boat.

If you want to experience Boca’s tarpon fishing, if at all possible go with a guide or experienced local to understand some basics like no anchoring, how to approach and drift with the pack, don’t run over the fish, keep the motor running, bottom fishing while drifting and common sense basic boating courtesy.

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.