Florida Fishing Charters

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Charlotte Harbor is 100 miles south of Tampa and 30 miles north of Fort Myers and includes the areas of Boca Grande, Pine Island, Gasparilla Island, Placida, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda.  “A tranquil getaway on Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast and a premier charter fishing destination”.

Charlotte Harbor redfish, snook and sea trout fishing is among the very best in Southwest Florida.  

Spring tarpon fishing along the beachfronts is known as the best in the world.  

Other sport fish species available; sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, bluefish, cobia, bonito, snapper, grouper and flounder.  mangroves, grass flats, canals, beachfronts, passes, and artificial reefs.  The fishing and exploring possibilities are endless.

This twenty five mile long, five mile wide Harbor lends itself perfectly to guided light tackle and fly fishing.  Sight fishing is exciting along the flats and mangroves of the East Side, Bull Bay, Placida and Gulf Beaches.  Blind casting the grass flats of the West Wall, Cape Haze and Turtle Bay is very productive. On windy days the Peace River, Myakka River and endless canals provide shelter and consistent action.  There are over ten area boat ramps that make for short runs to productive fishing

SW Florida - Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report April 4, 2016

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Conditions: Early morning low tides will provide great fishing along oyster beds, the edges of the grass flats and the deeper mangrove points. Water clarity and salinity continues to improve in lower Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass. The rest of the Harbor has very good conditions and excellent fishing. Fishing pressure should be lower this week now that spring break is behind us.

 

Species to fish for this week: Redfish, Spotted Sea Trout, Bluefish, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Spanish mackerel.

Bait the fish are feeding on: shrimp, crabs, pinfish, ladyfish. Some whitebait in Matlacha Pass, Gasparilla sound, Upper Pine Island sound and on Bokeelia Shoals.

Fishing Tactics: Look for moving water near structure. Snook, redfish and jacks lay in wait at these ambush points. As the tide reaches flood move to the edges of grass flats and fish the potholes for staged up reds and trout. At high tide snook and redfish will cruise the mangrove shadows looking for an afternoon snack.

My fly fishing tip of the week: Keep an 8 or 9 Wt. rod rigged with a wire bite tippet. There’s been several schools of jack crevalle and spanish mackerel throughout the Harbor. Also, it’s time to keep that rigged 11 or 12 Wt. tarpon rod with you. I’ve been seeing a few rollers in the deeper sections of the lower Harbor and upper Pine Island Sound.

My spin fishing tip of the week: Keep a rod rigged with a short wire leader for the spanish and jacks. Best offerings for these toothy critters are hard plastic swimming plugs, poppers and metal lures. The flashier the better.
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7 day outlook: Cooler temps and off-shore breezes until mid week. The wind will shift to on-shore Wednesday. A slight chance of showers on Wednesday evening and Thursday. Winds should be light to moderate all week. We’ll have morning incoming tides this week providing lots of moving water.

 

 

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Dobbs Family Fishing for Trout in Matlacha Pass

When it too cloudy and breezy to sight fish and the snook are sulking you go catch seatrout and ladyfish. The Dobbs family from Ontario caught plenty of them on this trip to Matlacha Pass.

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David Soule Fly Fishing for Ladyfish and Redfish in Matlacha Wildlife Refuge

David Soule from Maine enjoying a morning of back country fishing in Charlotte Harbor's Matlacha Pass Wildlife Refuge. The first segment is catching ladyfish and the second is David's first redfish on a fly rod. He caught it blind casting an Orvis Helios 2 8wt into the mangroves with a hollow fly whitebait pattern I've been working on.

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Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report March 21, 2016

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Keven Stevens and Jason Webber with a nice Matlacha Redfish. Check out the video

Spring is here and the fishing is excellent. Water temps in the high 70s with good water clarity. Snook Reds and trout all eating flies and lures.

Species to fish for this week: Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Bluefish, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, Tarpon

Bait the fish are feeding on: shrimp, crabs, pinfish, ladyfish. Some whitebait in Matlacha Pass and on Bokeelia Shoals.

With the clearer and warmer water tactics change to fishing moving water along the grass flats and sight fishing for reds and snook on the sandbars and oyster beds. The fish will be more aggressive but also a bit spookier. Stay back and make long casts, if you can see the fish – they can see you too.

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My fly fishing tip of the week: I get asked about bite tippet a lot – Use a minimum of 20# for smaller fish. 25#-30# for baby tarpon and snook. Always use fluorocarbon. Check the tippet after EVERY catch. Not just by sight, do a pull test.

My spin fishing tip of the week: Same holds true for spinning gear: 20# for the little guys and 25#-30# for biguns. Check the tippet after EVERY catch.

We'll see a cold front pass through the first of the week. Winds should settle down and the fishing will be good through the weekend.

 

There's been some 10-12 pound jack crevalle cruising the flats - keep a 10 wt rigged with a white bait fly!

Check out the latest videos posts!

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Great Back Country Fishing in Matlacha Pass with Keven and Jason

Keven Stevens and Jason Webber had a great day of back country fishing with me in Matlacha Pass Wildlife Refuge on the southern reaches of Charlotte Harbor. We were fishing with fly rods and light tackle spinning gear. Check out the nice redfish hooked in 14" of water on a MirroLure Twitchbait then watch a school of 10-12 pound jack cravale smashing bait in 2 feet of water on a grass flat. We also caught sea trout, ladyfish and snook. NICE!

Keven and Jason, it was great getting to know you, safe travels home and hope to fish with you again! Capt. Dave

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Jason Webber Light Tackle Fishing for Redfish in Matlacha Pass


Jason Webber and Keven Stevens had a great day of back country fishing with me in Charlotte Harbor's Matlacha Pass Wildlife Refuge. We caught sea trout, ladyfish, snook, jacks and this nice redfish on fly and spinning gear. This 28" red was staged up along the mangroves in 12" of water. Jason caught it on a MirroLure twitch bait. Great getting to know you guys! Safe travels home.

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Light Tackle Redfish Fishing in Charlotte Harbor's Bull Bay


Curt hooks into a nice redfish in 12" of water along the edge of a oyster bed in Bull Bay. Two laps around the boat later we get a couple good "grip and grin" photos and release Mrs. Red. Curt did a great job! Caught it on a 1/4 oz. jig tipped with a live shrimp using 12 pound spinning gear. Finished up the 4 hour trip with redfish, trout and snook.

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Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report March 15, 2016

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The fishing is excellent on Charlotte Harbor right now! Water temps have climbed into the high 70s and the redfish, snook and sea trout are all loving it. This 29" redfish was caught sight fishing in 15" of water on an oyster bed in Turtle Bay. Dick and Curt who are staying on Boca Grande also caught trout and snook on jigs and twitch baits. Even with the 10-15 knot winds its easy to find good light tackle and fly fishing in the backcountry. the last two weeks in March are going to provide some great fishing for sure! 

 

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Bruce and Geraldine Yaw Fly Fishing in Matlacha

Bruce and Geraldine Yaw from New York State joined me for a morning of backcountry fly fishing in Matlacha Wildlife Refuge in Charlotte Harbor. We were joined by porpoise, manatee, eagle osprey, egrets, heron and ibis. A neap tide and cool water temps made fishing a challenge but we persevered and caught sea trout, lady fish and snook all on flies. Some folks poo poo ladyfish - but on a 6 or 8wt rod they are a hoot. 

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Help Loading the Boat

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It's always nice having help loading up after a charter. These pictures were taken at the Placida Park boat ramp near the Boca Grande Causeway.

A snowy egret on the poling platform ans a great egret standing by on the dock made sure all those pesky shrimp were gone from the livewell.

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Spring fishing has arrived in Charlotte Harbor. The snook are moving on the sand flats, spotted sea trout are on the grass beds. The water temps are rising. The water clarity has improved greatly.  

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SW Florida - Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report March 7, 2016

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Conditions: Due to rising temperature and dry conditions; water clarity will improve and the water temps will increase into the 70s. There’s some white bait showing up in Matlacha pass and other location in the middle portion of the Harbor. Welcome to spring in SW Florida!

Species to fish for this week: Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Bluefish, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, tarpon

Bait the fish are feeding on: shrimp, crabs, pinfish, ladyfish. Some whitebait in Matlacha Pass and on Bokeelia Shoals.

Fishing Tactics: With the clearer and warmer water tactics change to fishing moving water along the grass flats and sight fishing for reds and snook on the sandbars and oyster beds. The fish will be more aggressive but also a bit spookier. Stay back and make long casts, if you can see the fish – they can see you too.

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My fly fishing tip of the week: I get asked about bite tippet a lot – Use a minimum of 20# for smaller fish. 25#-30# for baby tarpon and snook. Always use fluorocarbon. Check the tippet after EVERY catch. Not just by sight, do a pull test.

My spin fishing tip of the week: Same holds true for spinning gear: 20# for the little guys and 25#-30# for biguns. Check the tippet after EVERY catch.

 

7 day outlook: Seems winter is behind us here in Southwest Florida. The cold front that passed through the past weekend was week brought light winds. This coming weeks will be dry with daytime highs in the low to mid 80s. Don’t forget to pack your sandals and sunscreen!

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Charlotte Harbor Pine Island Sound March Fishing Forecast

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The fishing will be good on Charlotte Harbor this month despite all the news and social media hype about water releases from Lake Okeechobee. The water in and around Pine, Sanibel and Captiva Islands is brown (turbid) and has an elevated nutrient level but is not toxic.

 

Turbid water along the Lee County coastline is being caused by freshwater released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River. Such releases have taken place for years during the rainy season but they rarely happen this time of year. The releases are due to recent record rainfall and are necessary to keep homes, businesses and agriculture around the lake from being flooded and destroyed. Currently 4 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water a day is going into the Caloosahatchee. There’s 2 billion gallons per day going into the St. Lucie River and another 2 million gallons per day going into the Everglades through Shark River Slough. This will continue for several more weeks. No one disputes that something has to be done to stop the releases into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. The water must be allowed to flow into the everglade as it once did. Unfortunately it will take 5-10 years to accomplish this.

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This chart shows Charlotte Harbor. It encompasses 270 square miles. There are over 15 launch ramps on the Harbor providing access to great fishing. The shaded area is where the turbid water from Lake Okeechobee is. Fishing in this area will not be all that good in March. The rest of the Harbor will have great fishing for redfish, seatrout, sheephead, cobia, jacks, snook and more.

 

If you are fishing the lower east side of the Harbor in March you will find the best action will be during the dropping tide. If you are fishing the lower west side of the Harbor the incoming tide will provide the better action.  The upper Harbor will have good fishing conditions on all tides. Fish the deep holes around the mangrove islands for trout and redfish early and move to the grass flats as the water warms. The Snook will be around or on the sand flats and will eat when the water temps warm above 70*.

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My fly fishing tip of the month: Fish with bulky and brightly colored flies in the Upper Harbor and smaller, more lifelike flies in the lower Harbor. Slow down your presentations when the water is cold.

 

My spin fishing tip of the month: Downsize your lures, especially if your fishing jigs with soft plastic tails. We’ve been getting a lot of bumps and short strikes on the larger baits.

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TheTanners Trout Fishing in Charotte Harbor's Turtle Bay

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Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report February 22, 2016

Charlotte Harbor is a 270 square miles of estuary with 15 boat ramps. There’s tons of productive water to fish. Yes, there’s lots of dirty water in Pine Island Sound but the rest of the Harbor and Gasparilla Sound has good clarity. Red tide has been moving in and out of the passes but with all the fresh water around it has not been an issue in the Harbor. The best fishing this week will be along the East and West Walls and in Bull and Turtle Bays.

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Bait the fish are feeding on: pinfish, ladyfish, shrimp, crabs

Species to fish for this week: Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Bluefish, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook

2016-02-22TannerTrout4Fishing Tactics: Sight fishing is limited to araes near the Sound do to lots of fresh water in the Bay. There's plenty of good blind casting action though. Fish the deep holes around the mangrove islands for trout and redfish. The Snook will be around or on the sand flats.

My fly fishing tip of the week: Murky water is a way of life on the Harbor after heavy rains. Embrace it, the fish are there and they will eat. Fish with bulky and brightly colored flies.

My spin fishing tip of the week: Downsize your lures, especially if your fishing jigs with soft plastic tails. We’ve been getting a lot of bumps and short strikes on larger baits.

7 day outlook: Seasonal temps early in the week. We’ll have some showers Tuesday and Wednesday. A cold front will move through late in the week. Most of the action will be Redfish and Trout with few snook mixed in. 

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Dick Perry Enjoys some Turtle Bay Trout and Ladyfish Action

02-16-16Perry1Dick Perry From Troy Michigan joined me for a 4 hour back country fishing trip in Bull and Turtle Bay on Tuesday. It had rained over an inch before sunrise and we had a neap tide. Not exactly perfect fishing conditions. Gasparilla Sound was muddy as we left the Placida boat ramp. Thankfully the conditions in Turtle Bay were better. It was a little iced tea colored which typical when it rains but definable fishable. After spending an hour or so trying for some snook we changed gears and worked some deep grassy spots. We were fishing 3/8oz jigs with soft plastic tails and kept getting short strikes. We went to shorter tails and had better luck but still were missing most of strikes - even the ladyfish strikes... It was a morning of typical non aggressive fish due to the neap tide.02-16-16Perry-trout3 
So what do you do in a situation like this? Take the soft plastic tail off the jig and replace it with a live shrimp tail. Wallah, no more short strikes.
Morel of the story: Never leave the dock without live bait on the days the tide isn't moving.

 

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Brown Water in Pine Island Sound and along the Barrier Islands.

Lots of Media hype - But, there's plenty of good fishing to be had. (See my 02-15-16 Fishing Report)

Brown water along Florida’s Lee County coastline is being caused by freshwater released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River. Such releases have taken place for years during the rainy season but they rarely happen this time of year. The releases are due to recent record rainfall and are necessary to keep homes, businesses and agriculture around the lake from being flooded and destroyed. Currently there is 4 billion gallons of water a day draining from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River. There’s also 2 billion gallons per day going into the St. Lucie River which flows to Florida’s east coast. The releases will continue for several weeks - until the lake level drops 4 feet. This must be done so the lake can hold rains that will come in June, July and August.

Questions:

Is the water in and around Pine, Sanibel and Captiva Islands safe? Yes, it’s not polluted nor is it toxic, just brown. It’s much like what takes place on the Kennebec River in Maine after every big rainfall.

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WINK News CBS affiliate Ft. Myers photo  

Do these releases hurt fish and the ecosystem? Temporary releases like these do not cause long term damage.

Is the fishing productive in the brown water? No. Just like the Kennebec, the reduced salinity and lack of clarity makes for tuff fishing.

Will the good fishing return? Absolutely, soon after the water clears and the salinity increases the bait and the sport fish will return.

A bit of perspective:

This chart shows Charlotte Harbor. It’s the 2nd largest estuary in Florida encompassing 270 square miles. The oval shows the area that I fish. The shaded area is where the brown water is. There’s miles and miles clean and productive water to fish. Gasparilla Sound, Turtle and Bull Bays, Cape Haze and the West Wall all have great fishing for redfish, seatrout, jacks and snook. With over 12 launching ramps on the Harbor it’s easy to get to the fish.

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In a few weeks the discharges will be reduced. Pine Island Sound and its barrier Islands will once again provide great fishing. But for now, know that there’s lots of great fishing to experience on Charlotte Harbor and lots of great swimming and sunbathing too.

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Let’s go fishing!

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SW Florida - Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report February 15, 2016

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Conditions: Water temps are in the mid to high 60s and will warm as the week progresses. Lots of fresh water runoff in the lower Harbor and Pine Island Sound right now. Better conditions exist in the upper Charlotte Harbor, the West wall and over toward Placida.

Bait the fish are feeding on: Some whitebait in the upper harbor, pinfish, ladyfish, shrimp, crabs

Species to fish for this week: Snook, Redfish, Seatrout, Jacks, Ladyfish

Fishing Tactics: Mobility is the key right now. There’s lots of good fishing where you find clear water. You may have to run a bit to get away from the stained fresh water but when you do the fish will waiting for you.

My fly fishing tip of the week: Use bright colored bulky flies in stained water and natural colored smaller flies in the clear water. Strip slowly in the mornings, speed up as the water warms up.

My spin fishing tip of the week: Been having good luck with suspended twitch baits in soft rubber and hard plastic. Most of the hits have been during pauses in the retrieve. 

7 day outlook: Seasonal temperatures, with light to moderate winds. Chance of showers Monday night into Tuesday. Morning below average low tides will provide good bar and bank fishing. 

 

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The Obsession Grass Flat Special

 

 

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This shrimpy – crabby back country fly pattern is something I developed over the past 8 years. It’s tied whistler style with splayed grizzly hackles, bucktail and some flash. Works great on dark bottom and grass flats. I use bead chain eyes but small dumbbells work well too. Usually tied on #1- 1/0 hooks and always with a weed guard. Redfish and seatrout eat them up. Also have caught mangrove snapper, jacks, and several other species on it. Works best with a short strip and pause. One of my favorite flies in Matlacha Pass and Ding Darling Refuge.

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My version of the Schminnow

 

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The original Schminnow was created by Norn Zeigler a journalist and fly shop owner on Sanibel Island in 1995. It is a widely used fly throughout Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and most of Southwest Florida.

 

My version has a small Estaz body and tail of both bucktail and synthetics. I tie these flies with mono, bead chain or dumbbells eyes to allow them to be fished at varying depth. Hook size ranges from #2 to 1/0. The fly is easy to cast and fishes well at all retrieve rates. Though the Schminnow was designed to catch snook, it will catch seatrout, redfish, jacks, tarpon and even flounder. By the way, Maine striped bass and bluefish eat them too.  

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SW Florida - Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte Harbor Fishing Report February 8, 2016

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Conditions: We will have extremely low morning tides this week. Water temps will be cool in the mornings but warm up in the afternoon. Pine Island Sound, Ding Darling, and areas around Sanibel and Captiva will have poor water quality due to the record level of discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River. Even Matlacha Pass will see some water issues this week. The upper Harbor, East and West walls will provide better fishing opportunities.
Bait the fish are feeding on: Some whitebait in the upper harbor, pinfish, ladyfish, shrimp, crabs
Species to fish for this week: Snook, Redfish, Seatrout, Jacks, Ladyfish
Fishing Tactics: Typical winter tactics include taking advantage of extremely low water levels by fishing edges and structure. Cool water requires fishing slow and deep. As the water warms on the mud and grass you can speed your retrieves back up.
My fly fishing tip of the week: Slow presentations along the edges of oyster bards and banks with crab or shrimp patterns should produce this week. Use weighted flies or sinking intermediate lines to get down to the fish.     
My spin fishing tip of the week: Jig heads with soft plastic tail fished slow along edges and bars should work. Take advantage of this week’s super low tides by fishing structure and contours. 
7 day outlook: This week will be mostly dry with morning lows in the 50 warming into the 60s mid day. West – northwest winds will drop on Wednesday. There will be very large tide swings this week. Water temps will cool due to the nighttime lows. 

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