Over the years, favorite launch areas come and go as the fishing evolves in one area or another. Hurricane Irma made some changes around here that shuffled our list of favorites. The red tide and associated algae blooms last summer kept us from some old favorites that we are only now starting to return to.
One spot that we recently found productive and fun to fish is the area around Peekins Ranch Cove, near the north end of Gasparilla Island. Gasparilla Pass keeps the water moving here with substantial tidal flows.
The grasses around here are a treat for sore eyes that have seen too much brown algae. Waving, green turtle grass growing from bright sand is a sure sign of good water. Good water often means good fishing, so we recently targeted this spot. This isn’t really a fishing report — think of it as a float plan with benefits.
Launching at the Boca Grande Fishing Pier opens up a real smorgasbord of opportunity for kayak anglers. To the north, past the fishing pier, the deep channel through Gasparilla Pass leads out to the Gulf. To the northeast, the old railroad trestle has enough fish-holding structure to keep anyone busy all day. To the southeast, you’ll find a large shallow sandbar that can be dry on very low tides.
The grassflats to the east of this bar hold lots of trout and are close enough to the pass to intercept the occasional pompano, bluefish, mackerel or redfish. Of course, sharks like this spot too. We usually head here first and drift both edges and the deeper grass on the east side a few times.
If there’s enough water, we like to drift right across the bar, checking the potholes that may hold fish. We sometimes park our kayaks here and wade a little. This area marks the northern entrance to Peekins Ranch Cove.
From this bar, look south and you’ll see a sandy beach nestled in the far mangroves. This is a great rest stop. The shallow flats east of this hard sand beach make it easy for kayakers to go ashore where most boaters can’t. These shallows hold an abundance of bait for kayak anglers equipped with a small castnet and a bucket. We usually net a few bait-sized pinfish, wade out waist-deep and cast a popping cork rig farther out.
The deeper grass flats east of here usually hold a bunch of larger trout. The grass starts near the beach and extend east about 200 yards before dropping off into a sandy wasteland. A north or south breeze is best for drift fishing this spot. We often score here using a DOA shrimp under a popping cork, or an eighth-ounce jig and plastic shad.
The entire eastern shore of Gasparilla Island in the cove is lined with docks. As the sea breeze builds after lunch, we usually head into the cove and hit those docks for a shot at flounder, redfish, black drum, sheepshead, snook and the occasional grouper.
We target the older docks barely standing, or those with well-used cleaning tables or bait corrals. The bigger the dock and lift, the deeper the water underneath. Spend a little extra time at these docks. If you brought shrimp, we hope you saved a few for this. A freelined shrimp slowly settling into the deeper shady water under a dock is irresistible for any of its residents.
At the northern end of the cove, there’s a special spot where we like to make a few casts. Just past the last dock, before you turn the corner back towards the launch, there is a large, deep sand hole that holds fish (mostly redfish and black drum) on a falling tide. We guess that this point, where tidal flows converge, is a good place to keep fish happy. If you Google it, you’ll see why we like this spot.
By the end of the day, we’re beginning to feel the effects of gravity from sitting too long and are tempted to head towards the launch. But we can’t just paddle past the shoreline between here and the launch; it’s home to snook and snapper. Or, we might consider going back to the sandbar where this trip began; it’s a good spot to stand up. Or, if you have more daylight to burn and your seat still feels comfortable, a short trip along the railroad trestle might produce a snook or sheepshead.
Luckily, this launch never closes, so we can enjoy fishing the sunset bite. The no-see-ums are the limiting factor for us.
When we wrote our waterproof Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida-Sarasota Bay to Pine Island, we wanted anglers to use the information in our book as if they had a guide along for the day. However, this detailed information wouldn’t fit in our pocket guides, so we hope this expanded version helps kayak anglers have a great day launching at the Boca Grande Fishing Pier.
Be safe out there and have fun. Please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit; protect what you love.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area or at AnglerPocketGuides.com as a download or waterproof hard copy.