There’s nowhere I’d rather be right now than off the beaches. Because of the light winds and cooler air temperature, first thing in the morning will be best. Of course, first and foremost, it’s all about the tarpon. The migration out of the keys is in full swing and some fish are already moving north out of our area and other groups are just arriving. As usual, Boca Grande Pass is at the center of this activity, so I’ll spend my time looking both north and south of the pass. I prefer throwing flies, but live crabs and threadfins are also fun. Snook are also on the beaches right now and there just as easy to fish without a boat as with one. In fact, this is one of the best times of year to fish from land as snook are easily within reach as they like to move up and down the trough where the surf meets the sand. Of course, first light is the best time to fish and I can’t think of a better way to start the day.
As with just about any month, redfish are also a good bet. Only this time of year, I like to concentrate on grass flats that receive flow from the Intracoastal Waterway with its clean oxygenated water pulled from the gulf. Shorelines and adjacent flats where Bull Bay intersects with Gasparilla sound can be good as this entire area is influenced by both Little Gasparilla and Boca Grande Pass. A bit further south, northern Pine Island Sound has lots of potential. Here, there’s a lot of real estate to explore and anywhere from Mondongo Island down through Cabbage Key and Useppa can produce on any given day. If we receive enough rain, tidal creek areas on both the east and west walls could really turn on. These are great spots for numbers of smaller fish and because of their proximity to the open harbor, the mouths of these systems receive decent tidal flush keeping the water relatively clean. The shoreline south of Punta Gorda from Mangrove Point down to Alligator Creek is full of small tidal creeks.
Even though it’s starting to warm up, there’s still a good spotted sea trout bite going on if you get out early. Deeper flats in three to four feet with clean high salinity water content will fish best. It’s not a coincidence that some of the best trout fishing takes place where the highest bait concentration exists. Typically, good grass flats that lie just inside passes tend to hold good numbers of scaled sardines or whitebait. Inside Boca Grande Pass, flats on both sides of the harbor, Jug Creek at the top of Pine Island Sound, and Devilfish Key at the bottom of Gasparilla Sound lie close some of these deeper grass flats. Throwing top water first thing in the morning is a great way to look for trout and they’re generally very cooperative.
Sharks are prevalent throughout the harbor right now and there’s a good chance of seeing anything from a small bonnet head cruising the flats to a large bull or hammerhead anywhere in the vicinity of the tarpon. However, black tips are around in good numbers and are lots of fun. Just drop a bait, live or cut, anywhere around one of the many schools of threadfin herring scattered throughout the harbor and see what happens. You just never know; that’s what keeps us coming back for more.
Until next month, good tides,
Captain Michael Manis runs Flats captain Charters out of Punta Gorda, Florida. He specializes in fly and light tackle and can be reached at (941) 628-7895 or at www.charlotteharborflyfishing.com