Archive for the ‘Southwest Florida Fishing’ Category

How Does Punta Gorda Keep the Canal System Looking So Gorgeous?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

ponce inlet croppedby

When you buy a waterfront home in PGI or BSI, it’s likely to be the first time you’ve lived on a canal. While it’s exciting to have this gorgeous waterway in your backyard, it’s normal to have questions about how the Punta Gorda canal system is maintained.

Recently, we learned of plans to start dredging the Ponce de Leon inlet. I used the news to strike up a conversation with Gary Disher, Punta Gorda’s Canal Maintenance Supervisor.

Disher was nice enough to explain everything new homeowners need to know about canal maintenance and the work happening on the Ponce de Leon Inlet.

How long have you been working with our canal system?

Disher: I started out as a contractor. It’s been about 3-4 years now that I’ve been working with them at some level.

Can you tell me a little more about the canal maintenance program?

Disher: It covers anything with the seawalls, depressions behind the seawalls. We do mangrove trimming, all of the aids to navigation, and the dredging program through the navigable portion of the waterways.

What do new residents, who maybe have never lived on a canal, need to know about maintaining their seawall and canal?

Disher: The best thing is that if anything happens to their wall they can get in contact with our Public Works department and they’ll be put in contact with me or the work order will go up front. Pretty much anything that goes on with their seawall we take care of. That’s a huge benefit to a homeowner.

I understand you’re dredging the Ponce De Leon inlet. Why is the dredging necessary?

Disher: We have an ongoing dredging maintenance program. We’ve got several inlets Bass, Pompano, Ponce, and the Burnt Store subdivision and other locations within the Punta Gorda canal system.

As the tides flow through, it carries sediment. Sediment settles and eventually the bottom builds up. A yearly thing we do is go out and do maintenance dredging to make sure our home owners can get in and out with their boats to the permitted canal cross sections for depth and width. We want to make sure whoever buys a home has access to the waterways.

You dredge every year or on a rotation?

Disher: It’s on an as needed basis. I was notified of one yesterday. A resident in Burnt Store Isles bumped bottom in a certain location. They’re going to give me some GPS coordinates. Then I’ll get the contractor out there with the dredge and make sure they remove that high spot.

With the Ponce inlet, it’s been quite awhile. I’m not sure how many years it’s been since we’ve done a full re-profile dredge. We’ve gone out and hit the high spots here and there. Now I want to go ahead and go through the headpins 1 and 2 all the way into the perimeter channel and make sure the entire channel is at its designated cross section.

If you didn’t dredge, what would happen to our canal system?

Disher: It would start limiting boat access, especially the larger sailboats would not be able to get out from the canal system and if they were bringing a boat in, they wouldn’t be able to get in.

If we don’t keep that maintained, I’ll get the call–especially in the winter low tides. Even when it’s dredged, we have some rather large sailboats in the area and if they don’t stay in the middle of the channel, they can find the bottom and I get the call. We’re just being proactive. We don’t have many issues now, but I want to make sure we’re ready for the winter season with all the residents coming back in.

When will dredging in the inlet begin?

Disher: We had a pre-kickoff meeting yesterday. We discussed are staging and how we’re going to route stuff. We verified the depths.

From the boat ramp out to the headpins or 1 and 2 markers, the dredge is to 8 feet deep. From the boat ramp in—inside the inlet from the mangrove line/shoreline to where the seawall starts at the perimeter channel–that’s permitted to  6 feet deep below low mean.

And you think this will take you to the beginning of the year?

Disher: That was our estimation. A good three months of digging possibly.

What do boaters need to know about passing through the inlet during this time?
Disher: They should keep doing what they’re doing.

We’re not going to be blocking the entire channel. They may have a delay if there is other boats passing. We talked about how to set up turbidity screens to allow boaters to still get through and get out.

We just want boaters to use caution. Just be aware of the workers and the dredge. We don’t want anyone getting hurt out there.

To sum up–Gary and his team are on it! You can move here and not know the first thing about canal maintenance. In fact, you can live here for thirty years and still not know anything about canal maintenance. You just need to know the number to Public Works: 941-575-5050.





Southwest Florida Fishing (part three): Tarpon Fishing Every Local Angler’s Favorite Sport

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Tarpon fishing southwest Florida

It’s the fish every local angler wants to catch.

It’s not just a fish. It’s bragging rights.

Reeling in a Tarpon is an adventure. They’re big and they fight. But if you catch one, you’ve got a great story to tell.

Tarpons are so much a part of life in Southwest Florida, they are the local high school mascot. That’s right, Charlotte High is also the Home of the Fighting Tarpon. So, when you go out to snag one remember who you’re up against!


The tarpon is a thick-bodied fish with a forked tail. It’s green or blue on top and silver on the sides and underneath. They range greatly in size. The world record is 286 pounds and 9 ounces. Typically, they range from 2-8 feet long and weigh between 75 and 200 pounds.


Tarpons are catch and release fish, as they are not good eating. You can buy a tarpon tag allowing you to keep one fish as a trophy. There is a one tag per person per year limit as well as a one tag per vessel limit.

Where to find tarpon:

You can find tarpon in channels, inlets, river mouths, and large passes. Many anglers fish for tarpon from bridges or piers. The tarpon likes warm water, so they stay south for the winter. In summer, they spread to northern Florida.

Here in Southwest Florida, you can find tarpons in shallow flats and anglers use fly and casting tackle to catch them.

How to Catch:

It seems most Florida anglers have their theories on the best way to reel in a big one. But all agree you need a heavy tackle. For the big ones in passes, channels, and deep bays, you’ll need lines of at least 30 pounds.  On shallow flats use heavier gear. You’ll need at least: 15-pound line on your spinning and casting gear, 10-weight fly outfit with a 16-pound tippet.

Live mullet, small crabs, and pinfish seem to work best when catching tarpon. Although, dead bait works for some.

After you hook a tarpon, let them run a bit. They are powerful fish. If you pull to tightly, they’ll break your line.

Eating tarpon:

Don’t even try it. They are not good eating and you can’t keep them. As stated above, tarpon are catch and release only unless you have a tag.

Upcoming tarpon fishing fun:

This Saturday, June 7th is the Suncoast Tarpon Shootout in Bradenton. Proceeds go to All Children’s Hospital and Heroes on the Water. For more information check out their website.


Southwest Florida Fishing (Part Two): Catching Cobia

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Every month the Punta Gorda Fishing Club holds a Fish of the Month contest for you competitive anglers out there. This month’s featured species is Cobia. We’re featuring it on the blog today in hopes that one of our readers will get out there and win! (Read the contest rules here.)


Cobia grow to a maximum length of about 2 meters (78 in). A typical cobia weighs 20 to 50 pounds, but they have been known to get up to 80 pounds. The fish has a flat head, small eyes, and an under bite. Its streamlined body is dark brown or gray with a white belly. Two horizontal bands flank the belly and are more pronounced during spawning.


1 per day or 6 per vessel whichever is less.

Minimum length 33 inches

Where you can find Cobia

Cobia swim past Punta Gorda as they migrate north in the spring. You can find them in shallow inshore waters, around navigation markers, and in grassy flats.

How to Catch

An unsuspecting cobia will bite at anything, but live baitfish—pinfish, mullet, etc—work best.

You may need a 30-pound-test line or heavier, as cobia like to play around buoys and other structures that can destroy your line. Although, once you get a clear shot at them you really only need a 10-pound line. Even the largest cobia can usually be brought up with spinning, bait casting, and fly tackle.

Be extra careful once you bring the fish aboard your boat. They don’t go lightly and can cause damage to the inside of your boat.

Eating your Fish

Cobia has a firm, white fleshy taste. It reminds some of a lighter swordfish. As with most fish, you want to bleed them immediately and cover them with ice. You can freeze this fish, but only if you take care of it from the line to the freezer. Don’t wait to get it on ice.

Cooking cobia is easy, since it is widely considered an excellent tasting fish. Most people grill it, but I’ve also seen it pan seared and even poached with a light butter.

Good luck on the fishing and the eating! If you win the Punta Gorda Fishing Club’s contest, please let us know. We’d love to congratulate you on our Facebook page!


Southwest Florida Fishing (Part one): Catching Spanish Mackerel

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Every April, the Spanish Mackerel decides to move north for the summer. (I know what you’re thinking—who does that?) As they head north, they swim right by Southwest Florida. And all the anglers get out their rods to reel them in.

This year you should too. To help you on your quest for this easy-to-catch fish, our first installment in our new series, Southwest Florida Fishing, is all about the Spanish Mackerel.


With its dark green back, silver sides, and yellow spots, it is easy to mistake the Spanish Mackerel for a young King Mackerel. However, you can tell the difference in its lateral line. The King Mackerel’s line dips in the middle of the fish whereas the Spanish Mackeral’s line stays somewhat straight.

The Spanish Mackerel usually weighs in between 1-3 pounds. It is common to catch one up to 7 pounds. The Florida record is 12 pounds.


15 fish per day. You can keep any fish at a minimum of 12 inches. Measure the fish from nose to fork in the tail.

Where You Can Find this Fish:

Spanish Mackeral are mostly coastal fish. You can find them in nearshore waters, grass beds, and shallow estuaries and inlets.

How to Catch:

Take your boat out trolling or stand at a pier. Either way these fish are attracted to flash and movement. They are speedy and assertive who bite at anything shiny.

Cast out and let your rig sink to the bottom. Keep your rod tip down. Keep the spoon below the water’s surface. A spinning reel can help you move the line fast enough to keep the Mackeral interested. These fish will bite right through your line so a monofilament leader of 25 to 60 pounds is recommended.

Eating your fish:

As soon as you catch your fish, bleed it out. Cut the throat and put it head first into a bucket of water. Then, keep it covered with ice.

Eat it fresh, as this fish doesn’t freeze well.

Grill or broil this fish, but don’t overcook. You’ll know when to flip it when it just begins to flake. The dark, fatty flesh of this fish can handle heavier sauces without being overpowered like many lighter fish.

You can find some excellent recipes here.

Start Your Punta Gorda Fishing Dream Today!

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

It’s no wonder so many people dream of fishing in Punta Gorda. Beautiful weather year-round, 129 miles of protected fish-able waters, and a variety of fish from redfish, snook, mackeral to the mighty tarpon all make Punta Gorda ideal for anyone looking to cast a line.

Once a month through August, we will feature a different local fish. If you’re new to Punta Gorda or to fishing, don’t despair. This post will get your fishing dreams started.

Spring seems to be a particularly good time to get out on the water. During the winter, temperatures occasionally drop down into the frigid 50s, but those days are long gone by April, which makes planning a day on the boat much simpler. Spring also begins the season for some local favorites: spanish mackeral, tarpon, pompano, and cobia.

Fishing with Kids

Fishing is a family affair. Growing up in Florida, I knew how to scale a fish at a very young age. Your kids can get started this Saturday, April 5, 2014 at the “Hook Kids on Fishing” event at Fishermen’s Village. Presented by the Anglers for Conservation, which promotes responsible fishing practices, kids will learn about casting, safety, knot tying, and conservation. The program starts at 10:00 a.m. and goes until 12:00. You can pre-register by contacting King Fisher Fleet at 941-639-2628. The first 100 kids (ages 6-16) to register receive a free rod, reel, and tackle box.

Local Resources

Whether you’ve been fishing for years or are new to the sport, the Punta Gorda Fishing Club welcomes you. Every second Tuesday of the month, the club holds meetings at the Civic Center. The meetings start at 7:00 p.m. With over 500 members, you can expect to find a wealth of expertise regarding local waters and species, along with a few new friends.

Membership to the club is $20. The club also offers outings, monthly contests, social functions, and informative clinics.


Forget predicting the tides in Southwest Florida. Your best bet is to check the tides before you head out. You can find Charlotte Harbor tidal information here.


When you are out on the water, nothing is more frustrating than not knowing where you are going or what you can catch.

Download the following apps to your Smartphone to help you out on the water.

Lee Waterways App for iPhone

Lee Waterways App for Android smart phones

Fishing Regulations App for iPhone

Fishing Regulations App for Android smart phones

Now, go out and catch some fish!