Tag Archive | charlotte harbor

Summer Fun

Another summer is coming to an end here in SWFL.  I hope everyone had a fun summer with their families and friends.  I took some time away this summer myself to spend time with family and made some new memories on the water.   Fall is around the corner and with the seasons changing so does the bite.

I am thrilled to walk into Fishin Franks and see larger sized shrimp making a come back.  These are great for fall red fish.  They cant resist a jumbo shrimp walking by them.  Fish them free-lined or on your favorite jig head.  If you aren’t a bait guy, gold spoon’s and soft plastics will do the trick.  These reds are starting to school up, feeding the best during early morning hours.  The rain forecast this week could throw this off.  I am welcoming weather forcast, this rain will cool down the water even more and could increase the bite. Redfish Release

Snook season opens this week.  You can buy your snook stamp anywhere you buy a Florida fishing license.  Catching and releasing in our area will greatly help the population grow.  Their population was decresed by the freeze a few years back, still recovering.   Target them with live bait in deep pockets along the flats, or right along any sandy drop offs.  Working a top water lure along the shoreline around first light will lure a hungry snook out to eat.

snook lemon bay

If your fishing from the shore line you have a lot of great options too.  The white bait is along the beaches from Boca Grande to Englewood.  Snook and flounder have been prevalent along gulf beaches, jacks mackerel, trout and a few small tarpon in lemon bay.  Have a great week on the water and try to avoid the rain,  the fish dont mind they are already wet!

Mallory Herzog- BigBullyOutdoors

A test of strength

Tom’s friend Andrew was in town on a fishing vacation.  His first stop was Miami area for peacock bass and snake heads.  His last stop was our Gulf coast for a little pull of a Goliath grouper.  Guys day out on the boat, both Andrew’s and Tom headed out in search of a local moster grouper, the conditions were perfect.  They brought along some frozen mullet for bait but soon learned these grouper were going to be picky today.  A few tries with the mullet on the knocker rig and no luck.  Not a nibble.  Then they started to notice some large jacks schooling around the area and caught a couple on swim bait’s.   These are fun to catch and drag screamers at this size!  They make nice goliath and shark bait as well.  Since the mullet werent working the guys gave the jacks a try!

boca grande jack

That sure did the trick!  Andrew hooked one on the line and sent it down next to the piling where the grouper like to hang out.  It wasnt down on the bottom for 3 mins before he was hooked up!  Andrew was in for the workout of a life time, these fish are pretty strong and know how to take you into structure to cut your line.  After a fight on the 80w reel Andrew landed his first goliath grouper!  Check out the video below of his adventure, watch in HD for best quality.

Tom’s Goliath!

Tom has been wanting to get a big fish every since he purchased his boat!  We took him out to a spot where we knew he would feel some serious pull on his Penn 80w!   It was a beautiful day and conditions and currents were in our favor.  Andrew carefully maneuvered us next to the structure where these massive goliath grouper like to hang out!  As Tom held on to his reel I tossed his bait against the side of the pilings.   It took a few passes, getting adjusted to the current flow and weight of the bait.

We started to get bites right away, one of them stealing our bait before tom was hooked up!  Its a fun feeling on the boat to feel the grab your bait the first initial bump is the best!  After a short fight Tom and the 80w whooped this fish’s butt!  A few snapshots and she was de-hooked,  back on her way down to be caught another day!  So much fun catching these from the boat, I cant decide which is more fun, boat or beach?!  Great catch Tom and fun day on the water!

Tom Rod bend

Tom Goliath

The wait? Yea, it’s over

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By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier

Well, whatever we were all waiting for seems to have shown up on our doorstep this week. No, not spring. Spring fishing.

As anglers sometimes I think we forget the fishing we wait all year for doesn’t just magically appear overnight. But once March comes around and we have a couple of 80 degree days everyone starts champing at the bit. Let’s not forget this: Mother Nature runs on her own schedule and the fish follow suit.

The talk around town lately has been “we’re about a month behind where we should be” and “there’s no white bait in the Harbor.”

Wah.

While white bait has been a little scarce so far, I think it’s our impatience as anglers that leads us to believe we’re behind schedule fishing-wise. However, the signs that “it’s on” I saw around upper Charlotte Harbor the past two days point directly to the fishing we’ve all been waiting for.

Cobia and shark season is in full swing, and the tarpon fishing is steadily heating up. And I know that not only because of the fish that have been caught this week but by the other occurrences this time of year that come with it. One of the things I love about fishing on the U.S. 41 bridge overlooking the Harbor is the vantage point. Recently I’ve seen sea turtles, spotted eagle rays – among legions of both cownose and stingrays – white butterflies (can you say tarpon?) and yes, some silver kings rolling around the bridge.

Sure, maybe the white bait could be more abundant. But there are plenty of whiting, sand trout, skip jacks, jack crevalle, etc. And the mullet are thick. So quit complaining and start enjoying the fishing. It’s pretty darn good.

Until next time, hook ’em up and fight ’em hard.

Never underestimate the brain power of the fish

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There is nothing magical about this hole in my net … at least I don’t think there is.

By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier

Whoever said fish are stupid never met the sand trout I caught for bait the other day.

I have an old mesh net that I use to keep live bait in when I’m fishing up on the U.S. 41 bridge in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte. It’s great for holding trout and whiting, and can be tied off with rope and let down into the water from up on the bridge. But I’ve had it forever, and it’s pretty beat up.

After one fish mysteriously disappeared out of it, I guess I should have investigated the matter. Instead, I chalked it up to the top opening not being cinched properly, hoisted the net a little farther up out of the water to avoid a repeat offense and didn’t give it another thought.

That is, until I happened to glance down at it while trying to catch bait.

One particular trout was seemingly stuck to the side of the net, something that isn’t uncommon with the combination of the fish’s teeth and the mesh. But I almost didn’t believe my eyes when, after about 15 more seconds of watching it, the trout seemed to magically pass through the net and swim away.

Had it found a portal in the space-time continuum? Did it teleport to the other side? Perhaps it rearranged its molecular structure and simply passed right through the net?

While all of the above would have been more interesting and made for a better story, turns out there was a hole in the net.

This wasn’t a big hole, mind you, this was basically a bait-sized trout hole. So I was pretty impressed with the fish’s ability to find its way through it. From my vantage point up on the bridge – granted it’s not exactly easy to see down to the water – it looked like the trout had seen the hole and started poking against the net until it found the mark. If you ask me that’s one smart trout.

I suppose the tricky trout could have just gotten lucky, but I’ll chalk this one up to the fish’s problem-solving ability.

Until next time, hook ’em up and fight ’em hard. Fish on, fellow anglers.

Throwback fish tale: My first cobia

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ICYMI Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in the October 7, 2010 edition of WaterLine Weekly Magazine. For more on cobia fishing from the Man on the Pier, check out this week’s (April 10) WaterLine.

 

By Matt Stevens
Man on the Pier

Sometimes the greatest moments in fishing come when they are least expected.

It was an agonizingly slow day at the old Bayshore Pier in Charlotte Harbor. I had walked up and down the pier and cast until my arms were getting tired, but the only thing that was interested in my lure was a croaker. I decided it was time to hang it up for the day — but the Gods of Fishing had other plans.

On my way off the pier, I spotted a big wake about 30 yards out, and figured I would see what would materialize from the murky water. I quickly realized that the wake was being created by a rather large manatee, so out of instinct I dropped a cast in front of it just in case there might be a cobia hanging around. Nothing happened, so I waited for the manatee to cruise under the pier so I could get a good look at it. As I leaned over the side of the pier, something caught my eye that immediately had my heart racing.

There was, in fact, a big cobia riding the back of the manatee in search of an easy meal.

Wasting no time, I made a short cast that landed in front and to the right of the manatee and started jigging furiously. The cobia shot off the back of that sea cow like a rocket and slurped up my bait.

It was game on.

Cobia have a reputation for being hard-fighting brutes, and this fish did not disappoint. My rod was doubled over as I tried to keep the beast from getting under the pier and breaking my leader on the pilings. I was also worried that the leader itself might just snap. My plan had been to target trout, so I was using 25-pound monofilament and didn’t exactly feel confident in its cobia-holding ability.

Battling to keep the fish out of harm’s way, I slowly walked it down toward the base of the pier. About that time I realized I was totally unprepared to land this bad boy. My pier net was sitting in the trunk of my car — a lot of good it was doing me there. Thankfully, a fellow angler saw my plight and had come down to lend a hand. When I thought the fish had tired enough to land, I handed the rod off to him and climbed overboard into the drink. Since I had planned on wade fishing that day, I luckily had my hip waders on.

But when I tried to get a hand in the cobia’s mouth, it became clear this fish was nowhere near tired out yet. After several very dicey minutes trying to corral the cobia, I finally got a good grip on it. My only option at that point was to walk it around the mangroves and through the grass at the base of the pier, so I could get it up safely on the sand. Except that carrying a 22-pound cobia while wading through the muck of the Harbor is much harder than it seems. And by the way, thumbing a cobia’s lip is a one-way ticket to raw thumbs. Cobes are not able to remove the fins from a hardhead catfish with their good looks.

At one point, I lost my grip and dropped the fish into the grass and was convinced the hook had popped out. It hadn’t, but I bear-hugged the cobia anyway, determined not to let my trophy get away. After what seemed like an eternity, I flopped the fish down in the sand and started my celebration.

The quest for a cobia was finally over.

“Oh, you big beautiful baby!” was what I think I remember saying. I stood there looking at the fish in dismay, still not fully believing what had just happened. Cody, the guy who had saved my butt by helping me land the fish, came over to check it out and I thanked him profusely as he snapped a picture with his iPhone.

It was time for the moment of truth, so I pulled out my tape measure to see just how big the beast was. But my tape measure tops out at 33 inches, ironically the minimum length a cobia has to be to keep. And this fish was much bigger than that. Another angler brought out a sufficient tape measure and the official tally was 43-3/4 inches.

It was the biggest fish I had ever caught, and I was glad to have that black cloud lifted from above my head concerning cobia.

During the spring and summer I had spent countless hours up on the U.S. 41 bridge fishing live bait in hopes of bagging a big cobia, but my efforts had been futile. It was simply a slow spring for cobes, and I never got a chance at one. But here it was almost October, and my first brown bomber had fallen for a an enticing artificial.

Until next time, hook ‘em up and fight ‘em hard. Fish on, fellow anglers.

Monsters of the shallow

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This picture, shot from atop the U.S. 41 bridge, doesn’t really do the size of this stingray any justice. It was a giant.

By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier

It’s that time of year again. The big boys are showing up in upper Charlotte Harbor, which means it’s time to target sharks and cobia, among other monsters of the shallow.

What had been a slow morning fishing the U.S. 41 bridge finally produced a little excitement today. As I was waiting for something big to hit the whiting I was soaking, I noticed the guy fishing just a little ways down from me had a run. When he set the hook the drag started screaming, so naturally I went down to investigate, thinking he had hooked a nice cobia.

The fish was really running in the beginning, and the guy – I never did get his name – figured it was a pretty big shark. I stuck around hoping to get a glimpse of the fish, but after several minutes I got called into action instead. This guy was tiring out quickly fighting the fish, and he handed the rod over to me. He was using a conventional setup, but the drag on the reel left a little to be desired for what was on the end of the line.

But I was able to put pressure on the fish, and after several minutes of hard fighting I gained some ground and got it closer to the bridge. It wasn’t really acting like a shark, and for a few seconds I had visions of a 100-pound cobia in my head. Either that or a goliath grouper. That’s when I asked the guy what kind of leader he had on, to which he replied “60-pound mono.”

No steel leader? That pretty much ruled out any lingering possibility of a shark.

After the fish tried to make an unsuccessful run under the bridge, I finally got it up to the surface to catch a glimpse: it was one of the biggest stingrays I’ve seen in Charlotte Harbor. My “guesstimation” put the fish at close to 150 pounds, and its circumference appeared much bigger than that of my pier net, which is 30 inches.

Probably for the best, the line finally snapped before we could decide what to do with the stingray, and it disappeared back into the shallows of the Harbor.

I also hooked and lost a large gar this morning; there are loads of them around the bridges right now. And while not really considered a worthy game fish, a gar the size I hooked, which was around 4-feet long, can put up a pretty good fight. These fish shake their heads and come up out of the water – while not really jumping – and put on a decent show. It’s hard to get a good hook-set in them, with their long, toothy mouths, and the hook popped on the one I was fighting before I got it in the net.

The cobia bite was non-existent the past two mornings, but that should change for the better in the coming weeks. The fish made an early showing this season, but the recent rain seems to have pushed them out for the time being.

Until next time, hook ’em up and fight ’em hard. Fish on, fellow anglers.

What a difference a day makes

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The howling wind that churned up Charlotte Harbor on Thursday seemed to help my cause, while Friday’s picture-perfect weather hindered it.

By MATT STEVENS
Man on the Pier

Fishing is fickle, plain and simple. One day you’re catching fish after fish and can hardly keep a bait in the water. The next day, you might as well be wetting a line in the bathtub.

That night-and-day scenario is part of what makes fishing challenging, and keeps anglers guessing.

Thursday was a solid day for sheepshead at Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda despite the 25-mph wind that blew consistently all day. But it was actually the wind that helped create ideal conditions, not destroy them. The wind turned the Harbor water quite murky, and visibility was low. This helped me catch the sheepshead that were hanging out close to the pier, as the murky water kept me and my tackle hidden from the fish.

After the cold front passed through Thursday night, Friday morning dawned clear, calm, cold and sunny. The tide was incoming just like it had been the day before. But without the wind churning up the Harbor, the water at Ponce was clear and visibility was high. I could see dozens of sheepshead – some were absolute brutes – but that was the problem. You see them, they see you. Spooky fish tend to turn their noses up at just about everything, and that was the case this morning.

Even after scaling back my tackle, switching to a fluorocarbon leader and casting out further from the pier, the fish still wouldn’t touch a live fiddler crab, something they had been eager to eat the previous day. But there could have been other factors at play as well. With the full moon coming up Saturday, the fish could simply have stopped biting. Or, they might have been more interested in each other – do fish celebrate Valentine’s Day? – the spawn should be starting very soon.

As fishermen we will always create endless scenarios in our heads for why the fish wouldn’t bite. The only one who really knows is Mother Nature, and she ain’t sharing.

Regardless, I didn’t catch anything. Thankfully I had a big fillet left over from the previous day’s fishing to eat for lunch.

Until next time, hook ’em up and fight ’em hard. Fish on, fellow anglers.

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