Understandably, this month begins a period where I prefer fishing early. The cooler morning water temperatures present the best opportunity to look for redfish and snook outside the cover of mangroves where they’ll spend most of the day as soon as the water temperatures rise with the sun. Overall, rainfall amounts factored in with tide help determine where I’ll look on any given day. For instance, if we’re getting consistent afternoon soakers, I like looking around tidal creek areas on an early morning outgoing tide. The east side of the harbor anywhere south of Ponce Park in Punta Gorda and all the way down to Matlacha can be good under this scenario. Moreover, that covers lots of real estate so there’s enough room for everyone to explore. The west wall and Turtle Bay also have quite a few tidal creek areas that can fish well under these circumstances.
If I’m out and we haven’t had a whole lot of rain, I like to look around flats adjacent to mangrove shorelines that are in close proximity to the Intracoastal Waterway. Here, I’ll generally load at the Placida ramp at cover ground anywhere from outside Catfish Creek to all the way down to the Cabbage Key area in northern Pine Island Sound. This too, is a lot of ground and only a fraction can be covered in the limited time we have on any given morning before it gets too hot. Whether tidal creek or intracoastal, it’s hard to beat a top water bite first thing in the morning. In the event that floating grass makes that difficult, try going to a suspending plug or even a weedless soft plastic. These are all good ways to cover ground and look for a bite. This time of year, it’s not unusual to find yourself with calm slick conditions and a flat that can be very visual. By this, I mean the mullet are very apparent as well as pushes from both redfish and snook. You may not see the fish at first but you may begin noticing single V wakes pushing off. Slow it down and some sight fishing opportunities may present themselves. This is one of my favorite times to get the fly rod out and see what happens. It’s also the time you want to be on the poling platform and not running the trolling motor. Furthermore, don’t be surprised if you run into a few small blacktip sharks as they’ll be cruising flats throughout the harbor.
Off the flats, this is one of the best times of year to do some mangrove snapper fishing. Inside Boca Grande Pass in about 20 or 30 feet up on the hill is a great place. Live bait or shrimp dropped to the bottom can provide some great fun. Inside the harbor, the Alligator Creek Reef is another good spot. Tarpon should also start grouping up in the upper harbor at the mouths of both the Peace and Myakka Rivers. The bridges are always good places to keep an eye on. In addition, the canal systems of both Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda hold small tarpon as well as lots of mangrove snapper and some good sized black drum. The perimeter canals are the best place to look.
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