The Gulf Coast of Florida provides an abundance of saltwater species to indulge anglers of every kind. Naturally, certain locations garner more focus and publicity than others, which in turn brings in anglers in greater numbers. Port Charlotte is an epicenter, bordered by both saltwater and freshwater bodies.
Charlotte county boasts some of the most prominent fishing communities on Florida’s gulf coast. Placida and Punta Gorda, along with Port Charlotte, are at the top of the list! Being located off the gulf coast provides a diverse freshwater and saltwater fishing experience. A host of waterways run into or through Charlotte County’s Charlotte Harbor.
5 Top Destinations of Charlotte Harbor
Charlotte Harbor, as well as the surrounding islands, makes up the second largest natural estuary in Florida. The sheer size makes it one of the most sought-after fishing destinations on the Gulf Coast. Several popular sportfish can be caught in Charlotte Harbor year-round but let us not forget about the other saltwater winners that bring anglers from all around the globe.
Throughout the harbor and surrounding waters, a huge selection of fish awaits; Mangrove Snapper, Snook, Tarpon and Redfish like to hang near the inshore waters. Sea Trout, Cobia, King and Spanish Mackerel can be caught in the middle of the Port Charlotte waterways. Charlotte County local waters are seething with numerous other species like various Grouper Species, Permit, Sheepshead, Jack Crevalle, Pompano, Bluefish, and plenty more.
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Boca Grande Pass
Boca Grande Pass, located at the southern tip of Gasparilla Island State Park, is famous for Tarpon sportfishing. The Pass links the Charlotte Harbor to the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the deepest passes in Florida, with depths of up to 80 feet. These deep seas connecting the estuary to the Gulf of Mexico are filled with schools of fish, dolphin, and sharks. If you are lucky, you may even spot a manatee closer to the bays and shorelines.
Sportfisherman from around the world come to specifically target Tarpon, Snook and Goliath Grouper. Thousands upon thousands of tarpons gather together in this area from April through August, feeding all day and night, to prepare for the spawning season. Tarpon, among other species, spawn in the estuary and swim through the pass to re-enter the gulf. When scheduling a trip, beware that from May to June the Pass is filled with tournament fishermen out to catch their prized fish.
A large variety of fish can also be caught just off the shore near the Pass, making shoreline fishing a popular local activity. Sheepshead, Red Drum, and Whiting are among the most common caught along these shores. The Pass is also residence to fantastic Mangrove Snapper fishing during late summer, and when in season, some monster King Mackerel are there for the taking as well. The old phosphate dock at the east entrance of the Pass can house some monster-sized Goliath Grouper, along with larger Redfish and Snook.
Tarpon, Snook, Goliath Grouper, Mangrove Snapper, King Mackerel, Redfish, and more.
Turtle Bay is the largest bay off Charlotte Harbor and is good for targeting Snook, Redfish and Trout. Getting into the bay can be a bit tricky for non-local or first-time fisherman. Turtle Bay is a local Port Charlotte hot spot for fishing if you have a shallow drafting boat and know the waters. A captain or local who knows where the water goes from 2′ to 8″ or less could be a great asset on your first few trips out to Turtle Bay.
There are many deep holes and patches of mangroves to pull a winner out of. Turtle Bay also features sand bars, beaches, and flats that offer a variety of fishing techniques that can be performed here. Flats boats, skiffs, and shallow draft center console & bay boats would be best if you wish to use a power boat. Kayaking up the back of the bay allows for some good Redfish fishing. With its many beaches and sandbars, dry landers can get a fair piece of action as well.
You are most likely to catch your delicious Trout in the center, deeper, parts of the bay. Hitting up the back of the bay and opening your lines, you are sure to catch some decent Redfish. If you dare, Red Drum can also be caught in various small inlets scattered throughout the bay. Plan to target your Snook closer to the mouth and edges of Turtle Bay.
Snook, Trout, Redfish and more.
The Peace River is considered one of Port Charlotte’s best rivers for freshwater and brackish fishing. Fishing techniques include dropping your line from a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, boat, or from the riverbank. This serene Florida river boasts its usual freshwater Bream, Catfish, and Bass, as well as saltwater species like Snook and Tarpon. The Peace River starts in the Green Swamp and empties into Charlotte Harbor, making most of the river freshwater and the lower stretches brackish. The locals consider the Fort Ogden Bridge the dividing freshwater/saltwater line.
The river runs south for over 100 miles from Lake Hancock, north of Bartow, to our southern waters here in Charlotte Harbor. The Peace River offers excellent fishing for Largemouth Bass, Bream, and Catfish. Normal to low water levels offer the perfect time for freshwater fishing, while the fish are pooled up in the deeper spots. The Bass favor underwater structure and the Catfish favor deeper holes.
Large Snook migrate from Charlotte Harbor and have been caught year-round as far north as Fort Meade. Snook prefer the deep holes around tree snags where the current is strong. Tarpon can be caught in the lower portions of Peace River. The best time to target these Tarpon is April through June during their seasonal migration. Post spawn, Tarpon makes for a popular target July through October.
Snook, Tarpon, Freshwater Catfish, Largemouth Bass and more.
Bulls Bay is the smaller of the two Port Charlotte fishing bays. Along with most of Charlotte Harbor, Bull Bay is world famous for the fishing. The bay is made up of mostly shallow waters with grass covered bottoms, featuring few deep troughs and potholes. Surrounded and filled with these skinny waters, Bulls Bay can be challenging to navigate for the inexperienced.
There are several holes and locations where the Snook like to let the current do their dirty work and bring in Sardines and Pinfish to munch on. With such shallow water, knowing exactly where they are, approaching with minimal disturbance and dropping your bait right in front of them is often needed here; it is well worth the effort though when you snag one and see that rewarding bend in your rod.
Trout stick close to the entrances and the open waters, while Redfish hide along the shores and can be found next to the mangroves. Bull Bay is located close to the inter-coastal water way, giving it a unique mix of back bay waters and throughout much of the year you can sight cast like you would in open seas.
Trout, Snook, Redfish and more.
Gasparilla Sound lies about two-thirds of the way down Florida’s Gulf Coast, just north of the other popular southwest Florida fishing destinations of Pine Island Sound and Sanibel Island, and is direct neighbors with Boca Grande Pass. The sound is lined with mangrove shores; combined with this and its shallow waters, Gasparilla Sound does not garner the same amount of attention as its neighbors, but it most certainly does not lack in its level of fishing.
The grass and sandy bottom of this overlooked fishing oasis is a prime habitat for a plethora of species. Hooking multiple Spotted Sea Trout is a year-round occurrence in Gasparilla Sound. You will likely find your Trout lurking along the grassy edges of the deep sandy holes.
Gasparilla Sound offers fisherman a relaxing retreat, away from the hustle-and-bustle of nearby spots. However, the fishing is not likely to be labeled as relaxed, by any means. The Trout action of the Sound will please even the hungriest of angling appetites. With the presence of less fisherman to contend with, there is much more to go around.
Tarpon, Speckled Sea Trout, Mangrove Snapper and more.
Port Charlotte is an angling-haven for the fishing enthusiast. With its neighboring waterways such as Sanibel Island and Pine Island Sound, it’s the ultimate angler’s trifecta. Surrounded by saltwater and freshwater bodies, the beaches, piers, boat ramps and state parks all offer endless access to the beautiful Charlotte County waters.
Whether fishing from shore, power boat, pier, kayak or PWC, there is a location for everyone. Try your hand at the Tarpon mecca Boca Grande Pass or its neighbor, Gasparilla Sound; or dip your lines in 2 of the most popular fishing bays on the west coast, Turtle Bay and Bulls Bay. Take a break from the saltwater by sailing up Peace River to catch some freshwater Catfish or Largemouth Bass, along with some brackish Snook and Tarpon.