Hand-in-hand with boating, fishing is also a big activity here. You can fish the canals, the harbor or take a trip to the gulf for a real treat. Learn more about the fishing Charlotte Harbor offers.
Punta Gorda is ideally located in a fisherman's paradise. Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands have emerged as one of the world's top sport fishing destinations. With over 129 square miles of protected fishable waters, over 75 square miles of pristine grass flats and deep sea excursions into the Gulf of Mexico, Charlotte Harbor's incredible diversity of great fishing is hooking anglers from around the world. Tarpon, snook, redfish, barracuda, cobia, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, pompano, bluefish, jacks, sheepshead, numerous species of grouper and many other species of sport and game fish regularly traverse between the Gulf of Mexico and Charlotte Harbor. While some fish are seasonal, you can catch many species year round.
Fly fishing for tarpon, snook, redfish, shark and more is increasingly popular, bringing dedicated anglers to the Charlotte Harbor area in search of their own personal records or International Game Fish Association world records. Numerous charter services and private guides are available that cater specifically to the fly fishing angler and all other methods of fishing.
The entrance to Charlotte Harbor from the Gulf of Mexico is between the islands of Gasparilla and Cayo Costa, best known as Boca Grande Pass. Boca Grande Pass is synonymous with one fish in particular, the mighty tarpon, which rolls through deep Boca Grande Pass in the spring and summer and inspires tournaments with fat purses.
TARPON fishing is truly big game fishing and not for the faint hearted, often tipping the scales at 100+ pounds. Tarpon usually start to move into Boca Grande Pass in April and peak in May/June, then scatter around the beaches and Charlotte Harbor. Tarpon are jumpers, often leaping 20 feet or more. Most fish bolt skyward several times between screaming runs before settling down to a game of tug of war. One of the best kept secrets in SW Florida is how great the tarpon fishing is in upper Charlotte Harbor during the summer months. (By the way, Punta Gorda protrudes directly out into upper Charlotte Harbor providing instant access to this great fishing area.) In this area tarpon will range in size from 40-150 pounds. Live bait, pass crabs or artificial baits offer a variety of fishing methods. Try sight fishing for rolling tarpon or drifting live bait through schools of roaming fish to find what works best for you. You can also fish the local Punta Gorda canals or around the bridges for smaller tarpon between 10-40 pounds. (May through September is the best time for this type of fishing.) Or, you can sight fish for larger tarpon off the beaches, best done in May.
SNOOK are now Florida's most targeted game fish. Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass offer great snook fishing. Snook are "Catch & Release ONLY" from May-August and also from December 15 – February 1 each year. Snook are caught using live minnows, lures or flies. The backwaters, grass flats and mangrove shorelines of Charlotte Harbor are ideal locations for snook fishing.
REDFISH are another prevalent sport fish in the area. Charlotte Harbor redfish are powerful, skinny-water fish that make flats fishing fun. A schooling fish, they are often found in groups of 100 or more, moving together as they grub the bottom for food. They are caught using live or artificial bait. They are aggressive feeders and pull with incredible power when hooked. Redfish can be fished 12 months a year but spring and fall rate as the top months for this great fish. Low winter tides in the area create seasonal flats that become alive with cruising redfish. Reds venture into water less than 12" deep searching for food. Reds will stick half their bodies out of the water at times as they grub in the grass for baitfish and shrimp. You can actually stalk individual fish. Accurate casting is the key to successful sight fishing under these conditions and offers a challenge to even the highly experienced angler. Reds also offer excellent sport for the inexperienced or newcomer to saltwater flats fishing. The other great thing about redfish is that hunting for them often turns up many trout and snook, as all three inhabit much of the same water. You just can't go wrong when you are on a redfish hunt.
SPANISH and KING MACKEREL are migratory species that cruise Charlotte Harbor in the Spring and Fall. Often, there is usually sizzling summertime action with the Spanish too. They average 1-3 pounds and are usually caught around the passes and near-shore Gulf waters. Using light gear can heighten the excitement. You can frequently see the fish running around behind the boat in your chum line. The kings are more seasonal but much bigger. Look for them in March/April or October/November.
POMPANO are great fish on the dinner table and for bending your rod. They pull like jacks but are a top gourmet choice for fresh fish dinners. Catch pompano using small jigs tipped with fresh shrimp or sand fleas and fish around the passes. The jigs are bounced along the bottom until it gets grabbed and the fun begins. They dart swiftly about when hooked. Pompano average about a pound but can reach over 5 pounds. These fish provide lots of action and are great for those with little patience waiting for bites. Pompano are here year round but November through May is usually best.
This is just a sampling of the myriads of fish that can be caught in or around Charlotte Harbor and Punta Gorda. Whether you fish from a boat, cast from the beach, kayak the flats and mangroves or just drop a line off the dock behind your house or condo, Punta Gorda and Charlotte Harbor offer fantastic year round fishing opportunities.