Winter Fishing in Punta Gorda, Florida by Jan Maizler

Winter Fishing in Punta Gorda, Florida


Jan Maizler


Planning a winter fishing story in Florida entails the art of working in the angling periods around the worst times of passing cold fronts. I always plan on at least two to three days of fishing to allow for weather change and variation. But when the fishing is part of a story trip, commitment dates are often made months in advance and no one knows what the weather will be until the time arrives. And such was the case when I planned a return visit to the city of Punta Gorda, Florida during the height of the winter season.

After a December of unseasonably balmy weather, winter began in January of 2016 with a rainy, cold, and windy ferocity. Though “PG” is tucked in the back recess of Charlotte Harbor, there is enough an expanse of water for cold fronts to kick up tumbling waves topped with blown-off whitecaps. When my wife and I arrived at Fishermen’s Village -our destination headquarters for this trip-the flags on the docks flapped with a rapid, intense cadence blown by the frosty winds of the second of three back to back cold fronts.

Nonetheless, checking in Fishermen’s Village is always a pleasure since there was the certainty of water view immaculate rooms, great food  and shopping under one roof regardless of the weather. Once we unpacked and enjoyed the cozy comfort of our room, I called my guide, Captain Ralph Allen of Kingfisher Fleet about the next two days of fishing and the weather that was forecast to prevail during our angling. Ralph said that the winds were forecast to come down tomorrow and possibly pick up again on the following day with the impending passage of a third cold front. But Ralph said he was sure we’d find some good fishing as the cold weather fish movements were becoming well-established. He told me to meet him 7:30 a.m. the next morning. It was good to know that his skiff and all the Kingfisher vessels were literally steps from my room at the Village.

Day #1-

By the time morning had arrived, the winds had come down completely and Charlotte Harbor looked as placid as a country lake. When I greeted Ralph he smiled as he told me that today we’d have a smoother ride on his skiff than prior days- some of which were fairly rough and windy. I hopped aboard and we idled out into the channel as the Village grew smaller off our stern. Once we reached the proper “lane”, Ralph goosed the throttle and off we went in search of fishing adventure.

In fifteen minutes we slowed down and entered a residential canal. Ralph explained that since the harbor water was cold, it was an established winter pattern for game fish to move into “inside” muddy-bottomed places where seawalls, docks, and boats generated more heat and shelter. Ralph took out two spinning rods rigged with jigheads and pinned a live shrimp on each rig. We quickly started catching seatrout and some pompano. The action lasted until the ebb tide stopped.

Ralph took advantage of the slack water to run a few miles south to a creek known for great action on the incoming tide. As soon as the tide started flowing in, we started catching seatrout on almost every cast, as well as some large pompano. Once I had my fill of these fish and some pictures, I asked Ralph if we could go in search of some big sheepshead. So we left this marvelous action and headed back in the direction of Fishermen’s Village. Soon, we were anchored of the mouth of a canal, pitching fiddler crabs under split shots at seawall riprap. The action was fast and furious with the vigorous current and I got all the action and pictures I needed in an hour. One of the sheepies pushed four pounds.

Day #2-

The second day featured cold, hard winds whipping up the harbor. Ralph said we’d simply take our time and ease through the bumpy bay. In less time than I thought, we entered a complex of canals where we hoped to catch a large black drum on fresh crab chunks. Though that was not to be, there were plenty of large tasty sheepshead.

On the way back to Fishermen’s Village, Ralph took me to a secret spot where we caught four snook up to 15 pounds. This last spot was very hard to leave-for obvious reasons-but the prospect of getting out of the cold weather and having a fine fish dinner made saying “until next time” a lot easier.


Fishermen’s Village

1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, Florida 33950

Phone- 941-639-8721

Web Site-


Kingfisher Fleet

1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, Florida 33950

Phone- 941-639-0969

Web Site-


Charlotte Harbor Visitor and Convention Bureau

Web Site-