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On the Water: Snook season ends as tarpon season begins

May 11, 2016
By Capt. Bill Russell , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

With the close of April, it brings an end to snook season and May begins the kick-off to tarpon season. Although there really is no official season for tarpon fishing, most agree that the height of great tarpon fishing begins in May.

As snook season came to a close, anglers reported good numbers of undersized fish, some oversized and a few in the legal slot. Many anglers catching slot or keeper fish report they are safely releasing them to help the snook population continue to rebound. Large snook, including several over 40 inches, were caught and released during last weekend's Fingers O'Bannon Invitational Memorial Snook Tourna-ment held at Cabbage Key.

With snook season closed, it's catch and release only but still a lot of fun. To ensure a safe and healthy release, never hang a large fish from its lips or mouth; this has proven to do irreversible damage to the heavier fish, likely leading to its death, plus it's illegal. If you are going to boat a big snook for a picture, hold it horizontal and support it with two hands, one under its belly.

For tarpon, live baiting with Atlantic thread herring, pinfish, mullet, hand-picked shrimp and small crabs, or casting artificials including flies are good options - the best bite is often early and late in the day. Areas where tarpon were reported included off the northeast side of Bokeelia in Charlotte Harbor, in the Sound from Tarpon Bay on Sanibel all the way north to Fosters Point on Captiva, in depths from 6 to 11 feet, and south of Rocky Channel. Off the beaches from mid-Fort Myers Beach north to Captiva also held concentrations of schooling tarpon. If you cannot get live bait, fresh mullet, ladyfish and catfish tails are also great choices fished on bottom.

When cut bait tarpon fishing, plenty of sharks and large stingray hook-ups are expected. Where there are tarpon there will be sharks, and some big ones. For that matter, sharks will be about anywhere from the shallow inshore flats to offshore. Many of the larger females including bull, lemon and blacktip move into our inshore waters to give birth as the water warms. Sharks are a very underrated game fish, when caught on moderate tackle they are an absolute blast, especially high flying blacktip and spinners. Be very careful when handling them, or better yet, leave them in the water at boat side, if you cannot easily remove the hook, cut the leader as close to the hook as possible.

It's time to dust off the gear and go chase some poons. The best part of tarpon fishing is the hunt, hook-up and the adrenaline rush that first jumps brings. After that, it's just a hard battle with a really strong, determined fish.Many seasoned anglers just as soon part ways with a big tarpon after the first couple jumps and try to do it again, rather than engage in a long battle. If you hook into a big tarpon, and he parts ways after a few magnificent leaps, don't be discouraged, be thrilled for the opportunity and go back on the hunt.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960, on the Web at or email:

Have a safe week and good fishin'.



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