It was not too long ago while bringing up the idea of looking for fish closer to home that I mentioned that one day I would like to put in some time exploring the Peace River. For me, because I live in Punta Gorda and not too far from Laishley Park, it provides lots of water in close proximity to a nice facility. It is hard to beat the combination of easy access and minimal fuel expense. Well, I took a few hours one day last week and decided to go ahead and take a look around a few areas not too far from the ramp itself. Considering this is really just the mouth, and not far enough up the river to get into sections that provide that old Florida type feel, I was still impressed by the amount of good shoreline and fishy looking areas. Probably the most interesting aspect was the mix of both sawgrass and mangroves that covered the shoreline. These are both great fish habitats and that quickly became apparent by the abundance of bait. There were lots of glass minnows, mullet, and species that resembled small pilchards. I’m sure the lack of rain and resulting higher salinity is partly responsible for keeping some of these species in the river. From the outset, it was all the birds that I saw along the shoreline that really got my attention. Typically, this is always a good sign that there are fish in the area.
As for the fish, well I really didn’t even go out with the intention of fishing per say, but I always take some gear, because every time I don’t I always end up with a school of fish busting bait within easy casting distance. So this trip, just in case, I decided to take along a seven-weight fly rod. Besides, I can always use the practice. I saw ladyfish, jacks, and snook. As usual, the snook were busting glass minnows up against the shoreline and the ladyfish and jacks were chasing bait all over the flat. I fooled a few ladyfish and a couple jacks with a Puglisi fly while practicing my double haul.
All in all, it was a couple relaxing hours and I never even got out of sight of the I-75 Bridge. There were more flats and lots of shoreline in the same area that I never even got close to exploring and I can only imagine the potential further up the river. Next time out, I’ll put in a bit more effort and hook up my GPS and maybe even bring a river chart. In case you’re interested, Waterproof Charts puts out a good one that has the Peace on one side and the Myakka on the other. It’s the best river chart I’ve seen. On this particular day, I had a good bit of water; a 2.2 incoming tide that was pushed even higher with a west wind. However, I have a feeling that even with less water, this would great area to fish a smaller boat like my 17-foot Maverick skiff. I did see a couple boats even smaller than mine, and it’s too early to tell, but there may even be a possibility that there are some spots where a smaller boat can get in some fishing without getting run over. As I get the chance to push further up the river, I will let you know. As for fuel, I didn’t even burn one bar. In my boat, one bar is a little over two gallons, so I probably used less than $5.00 in gas. If you think about it, there’s not much you can do for less than that these days. Now that’s something to think about.