While some might visualize a Florida fly fishing trip on the flats with a guide perched high atop a poling platform, still others yearn for freshwater spots where bass and bluegill abound. Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach offers freshwater buggy whippers of all experience levels a place to perfect tight loops or popper techniques.
If you want to try fly fishing for our treasured Florida-strain largemouth or a few feisty bluegill, look no further than these five spots. For more information on fishing in the area, read about the Top Species to Catch in Charlotte Harbor.
Audubon Pennington Nature Park
Operated by the Peace River Audubon Society, the Audubon Pennington Nature Park off of Alton Road may be better known by bird watchers, but shouldn't be overlooked as a freshwater shoreline fly fishing stop either. The canal that twists through the oak hammock and pine flatwoods is home to chunky largemouth bass and popper-pouncing panfish. Bring along a 6 to 7-weight fly rod with floating fly line for best results due to the shallow depth of the canal.
Pack your fly box with #8 and #10 poppers for panfish, a few 1/0 Clousers or popping bugs for largemouth bass, and then plan a trip to Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area. Whether you want to cast from shore, kayak, or boat (electric trolling motor only), Webb Lake is 395-acres full of fly fishing opportunities. The open area near the first boat launch allows ample room for shoreline casters, and the second launch will put kayak or boat anglers in close proximity to loads of lily pads.
If you want to take the whole family along to try freshwater fly fishing, Lake Betty in Port Charlotte is the ideal place to do it. Lake Betty Park (located off of Conway Boulevard) has a fishing pier and plenty of open shoreline space for easy casting. Largemouth bass are the primary species to target. Tie on a Gartside Gurgler or Muddler Minnow and make parallel to the shoreline.
Bissett Park is another spot that is well-suited to family fly fishing trips. Located off of Path Avenue in Punta Gorda, the park has a variety of convenient amenities along with a sizeable freshwater pond that holds plenty of largemouth bass. While there are no kayak or canoe launches here, there are open shoreline areas near the tennis and shuffleboard courts.
Hathaway Park provides a convenient access point to Shell Creek Preserve. While there are a few places to cast from the shoreline and the pier, a fly fishing trip here is best spent by kayak or small boat. You will find that some of the most scenic portions of the creek are east of the park, as it narrows and winds towards its headwaters North of Bermont Road. Cast small poppers alongside the lily pads for strikes from bluegill, while switching over to baitfish-imitating streamer patterns near submerged trees and brush piles.
Now that you have places to freshwater fly fish, make sure you have a current Florida freshwater fishing license, available from MyFWC.com, and pick a spot to visit. There's a trophy bass or burly bluegill out there somewhere, and it's just waiting for you in Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach.