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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Upper Charlotte Harbor

Grab your mask and summon your adventurous spirit! Join us under the sea as we search for the elusive bay scallop in Charlotte Harbor! But don’t wait too late — space is limited!

by on Jun.27, 2014, under Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, Middle Charlotte Harbor, Upper Charlotte Harbor

Saturday, July 26, 2014
9 am-2 pm
Calling Volunteer Boaters and Snorkelers!
Approximately 40 boats and up to 150 snorkelers are needed!
Join us in a resource monitoring program to document the health and status of bay scallop populations by snorkeling and looking for scallops in select areas.

This is a **No Harvest** event.

We are recruiting:
Volunteers with shallow draft boats. Canoes and kayaks are also welcome. Please let us know if you can take additional snorkelers on your boat. And please bring a dive flag if you have one.
Snorkelers without boats are welcome; however, boat spaces are limited.
Volunteers need to bring sunscreen, a mask, snorkel and gloves, and be able to snorkel/swim 50 meters (about 150 feet). Fins/weight belt are optional.

Scallop searchers will meet at Gasparilla Marina to receive survey equipment and instructions for the monitoring event. Lunch will be provided once you return to shore.

Reservations are required to participate in the event and space is limited so reserve your spot today!

Registration and More Information
Contact the Organizer | 941-764-4346 | UF/IFAS Charlotte Co. Extension on Facebook

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by on Dec.02, 2013, under Middle Charlotte Harbor, Siesta Key to Boca Grande, Upper Charlotte Harbor



Sleep under the stars where the nights are always balmy and bright

CHARLOTTE HARBOR AND THE GULF ISLANDS, Fla. (Dec. 2, 2013) – If memories of a family road trip pulling the pop-up camper or an overnight outing with a group of scouts harkens, consider an excursion to Florida’s Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands to both recapture the past and create new memories for the future.

Campers love to explore the treasures of the great outdoors here in Southwest Florida where there’s a bounty of lakes, forests, rivers and more meandering through RV parks and campgrounds. In the great outdoors of Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands, nestled along the coast between Sarasota and Ft. Myers, the joys of RVing can be found in abundance.

Many of today’s amenity-laden parks are destinations in and of themselves and include swimming pools, lakes with boat/canoe/kayak rentals, game rooms, movie rentals/screenings, fishing ponds, bike paths and rentals, miniature golf, arts and crafts classes and more.  These venues and nearby nature preserves also serve as the perfect canvas for wildlife photography, painting and soft adventure excursions, too.

Whether you’re renting a cabin or turning up in a luxury RV, it’s time to hit the road. Winter camping in Florida finds parks and campgrounds filled with friendly snowbirds without children in tow, which makes for a more relaxing getaway for boomers/seniors. However, families take note, in summer, the outdoor lifestyle here is great for those with kids, as the little ones easily make friends with other campers’ offspring affording mom and dad a well-deserved respite in the great outdoors.

Which camping park you choose depends on what outdoor activities you enjoy. Rent a cabin, pitch a tent or hook up your RV to one of ten campground and camping resorts in Charlotte County. They are located close to shopping, beaches, restaurants, game fishing, dinner theaters and golf courses. Most feature a variety of recreational amenities and they’re reasonably priced. Following is a listing with brief description of the campgrounds/RV parks you’ll find in Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands:

Alligator Park, Inc.
6400 Taylor Rd., Lot 112
Punta Gorda, FL 33950


Alligator Park is a friendly, age 55+ RV and mobile home community. All sites are full hookup with 30 + 50 amp service. Swim in their heated pool, or stroll by the 30-acre lake, where fishing is allowed. Don’t be fooled by the country setting, with easy access to nearby Route 75 and U.S. 41, restaurants and shopping are within two miles. Enjoy dances in their new clubhouse or select a book from the free library. Clean laundry facilities, hot showers and Wi-Fi are available.

Gulf View Encore RV Resort
10205 Burnt Store Rd.
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
941-639-3978 or 877-237-2757
Pleasantly situated on Alligator Creek, you’ll find immediate access to great fishing off the dock or from a boat. Open year-round, the resort’s top features include: 200 sites, full hookups, hot tub, pool, showers, horseshoes, shuffleboard, and pets on leash are allowed.

Harbor Lakes
3737 El Jobean Rd. (S.R. 776)
Port Charlotte, FL 33953
941-624-4511 or 800-468-5022
Come join in the fun and enjoy the tropical lifestyle offered at Encore-Harbor. Numerous in-park activities are planned each season and besides 528 sites there are resort cottages available. Activities: Fishing, horseshoes, shuffleboard, swimming, tennis court, volleyball court. Facility amenities: big rig hookups, covered pavilion, dump station, Elec. 30 + 50 amp, exercise/fitness facilities, full hookups, hot tub, ice, laundry, parking, paved pads, phone hookup, picnic shelter, pool heated, pool outdoor, propane sales, rec hall/clubhouse, recreational area, restaurant nearby, restrooms, showers and tables.

Myakka River Motorcoach Resort
14100 Myakka Avenue
Port Charlotte, FL 33953


This is a brand new Class A motor coach resort on the shores of the Myakka River in the unincorporated community of El Jobean.  The 30-acre resort features three lakes, a clubhouse with library and billiards room, pool with 75’ swimming lanes, whirlpool spa, waterfront boardwalks and fishing pier, putting green, tennis courts, fitness room, large entertainment area and an activities calendar featuring water aerobics, yoga, crafts, and movie nights, plus a sunset patio to catch breathtaking Florida sunsets. The resort offers brick paved motor coach pads and patios, sidewalks and lots of grassy areas for pets. Nearby are bike trails along with the Charlotte Sports Park, ballpark home to the Charlotte Stone Crabs AAA team in summer/fall and the Tampa Bay Rays spring training camp.

Palms & Pines Riverside RV Resort
5400 Riverside Dr.
Punta Gorda, FL 33982


Located on the juncture of Peace River, Shell Creek and Charlotte Harbor, Palms and Pines offers an extraordinary opportunity to enjoy the panoramic view and natural resources of the region.  Shopping, restaurants, and medical facilities are within a few miles.  Relax beneath the palms, enjoy the sunshine and participate in the many activities such as bingo, cards, crafts and potluck dinners. There are boat docks, a boat ramp, fishing pier, shuffleboard, horseshoes, and mini-library, too. Rental spaces have complete hookups and grassy lots with concrete patios and are available for short or long term rental. Apartments feature full kitchens, air-conditioning, and screened porches.

Peace River Mobile Home, RV Park, & Fishing Camp
29208 Snook Cir.
Punta Gorda, FL 33982
There are 30 sites and 30 units/cabins for visitors’ accommodations.  Facility amenities include: boat dock, boat ramp, cable TV hookup, Elec. 30 + 50 amp, full hookups, hot showers, laundry, phone hookup, restrooms, showers, and water access.

Punta Gorda RV Resort
3701 Baynard Dr.
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
This friendly adult park offers 221 sites, full hookups, pool, hot tub, bicycling, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and is ADA compliant. Shuffleboard, horseshoes, a rec hall, convenience store and laundry plus dial-up Internet rounds out the facility amenities.

Shell Creek Resort Inc.
35711 Washington Loop Rd.
Punta Gorda, FL 33982
With 239 sites, facility amenities include: boat ramp, cable TV hookup, convenience store, Elec. 30 amp, exercise/fitness facilities, full hookups, groceries, hot tub, ice, laundry, parking, pay phones, phone hookup, picnic area, pool outdoor, propane sales, rec hall/clubhouse, recreational area, restrooms, showers, tables, and water access for fishing and swimming.


U.S. 41 S., 14880 Tamiami Trail
Punta Gorda, FL 33955



Fishing, horseshoes, shuffleboard, and swimming are top activities found in this lovely country setting. Facility amenities: full hookups, hot showers, patio, phone hookup, outdoor heated pool, rec hall/clubhouse, restrooms, showers dump station, Elec. 30 + 50 amp.

Water’s Edge RV Resort
6800 Golf Course Blvd.
Punta Gorda, FL 33982
941-637-4677 or 800-637-9224
A great resort for bicyclers, swimmers and those with a need for big rig hookups. Amenities include 167 sites, covered pavilion, dump station, Elec. 30 + 50 amp, full hookups, hot showers, hot tub, laundry, patio, phone hookup, picnic area, picnic shelter, pool heated, pool outdoor, propane sales, rec hall/clubhouse, recreational area, restaurant nearby, restrooms, showers and tables.

About Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands

Located halfway between Tampa and Naples on the Southwest Florida Gulf coast, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands is a charming collection of nine coastal communities surrounding the state’s second largest harbor. Florida’s premier year-round eco-tourism destination, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands offers a pristine unspoiled beauty that has served as the backdrop for seven major feature films as well as countless memorable vacations.  A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands has been named to SAIL magazine’s “10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States,” ranked by Golf Digest as “Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America,” and rated by MONEY magazine as one of the “Best Places to Live in the South.” The city of Punta Gorda was named as one of “Top Ten Places to Retire Healthy” by U.S. News & World Report. Englewood was named as #2 of the Top Ten emerging travel destinations in the U.S. by TripAdvisor.com.

For information about area events, activities and attractions, contact the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, 18500 Murdock Circle, Suite B104, Port Charlotte, FL 33948; 941-743-1900, or call toll free at 1-800-652-6090 for a free Visitor’s Guide; or visit the Web site at www.CharlotteHarborTravel.com.

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Florida Photo Release Tourney Sept. 20-21, 2013 at Charlotte Harbor

by on Sep.16, 2013, under Upper Charlotte Harbor

The Charlotte Harbor Photo Release Fishing Tournament will take place Sept. 20 and 21 at Laishley Crab House, 50 Laishley Court in Punta Gorda.

Beyond Borders Outfitters and the C.A.R.E. Auxiliary Society are partnering to present this inaugural fishing event officiated by Captain Rhett Morris. The tournament will benefit victims of violent crimes receiving shelter and services at The Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies, Inc. and will promote awareness about conservation and protection of the harbor fishery.

Tournament winners will be judged on an Inshore Slam, with the largest combined snook, redfish and trout, as well as a winner for the largest of each species. This is a photo release tournament with catch-and-release fishing only. Photos will be broadcast throughout the Crab House during the event. Spectators and anglers may participate in the auction and raffle.

Proceeds from the tournament will be used to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault and to fund preventive education focused on creating healthy relationships and life choices. At the same time, anglers on the harbor will keep sport fishing alive while highlighting the need to preserve nature’s balance with clean and healthy ecosystems on our waterways.

To support sustainable fisheries, scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory will assist with collecting and managing data about fish caught and released during this tournament, and they will contribute tournament prizes and share knowledge about their research and conservation activities with participating captains. Mote scientists study snook, tarpon, sharks and other key species in Charlotte Harbor, often working in collaboration with anglers.

The C.A.R.E. Auxiliary Society provides fundraising support for C.A.R.E. which is a 501 (3) (c) organization. Beyond Borders Outfitters offers world class saltwater fishing trips in Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass.

Event contacts:
Kim Fender, C.A.R.E. Auxiliary Volunteer: 863-990-1765 (cell), carequeen1@gmail.com, www.carefl.org
JoEllen Morris, Beyond Borders Outfitters: 941-628-2335 (office), 941-505-8481(cell), beyondbordersoutfitters@yahoo.com, www.tarponcharterflorida.com

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Dress Up After a Hard Day on the Water–Eat at Trabue in Downtown Punta Gorda


Maybe you don’t want to cook.  Or you’re tired of eating the usual “fisherman fare”.  Maybe it’s time to step it up a notch and try some of the  great, upscale dishes at Trabue Restaurant in downtown Punta Gorda.  Chef Keith Meyers offers fresh and modern American food, and features local seafood and produce.  Here’s you’ll find tasty, healthy and beautifully-prepared entrees and an extensive wine list.  Trabue is the original name given Punta Gorda in 1885 by Col. Isaac Trabue, who purchased the land from British investors.  Trabue, the restaurant, is located at 258 W Marion Avenue, just a short walk from most local hotels.

Trabue is stylish and attracts folks of all generations

Try some seafood at Trabue

A simple salad, and a beautiful presentation

Escargot, anyone?

If they're on the menu, give Chef Keith Meyers' lamb sliders a try!

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You’ll Find Everything You Need at Punta Gorda’s Fishermen’s Village

by on Aug.12, 2013, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, Upper Charlotte Harbor

Shopping, eating, fishing, boating, swimming or just plain “hanging out” in a nicely-appointed rental condo–you’ll find it all at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda.

Fishermen's Village Resort is conveniently located on the Punta Gorda harborfront.

Don't miss a waterfront meal on the patio at The Captain's Table Restaurant at Fishermen's Village

Locally-owned and operated shops and restaurants below, with rental condo above. Fishermen's Village is a one-stop destination.

Cool off from the summer heat at Fishermen's Village

Spectacular Charlotte Harbor sunsets are the end to a perfect day at Fishermen's Village.

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Resurrection at “Fat Point”–Punta Gorda Has Come A Long Way Since Hurricane Charley!

by on Aug.11, 2013, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, Upper Charlotte Harbor

I remember driving from Gainesville to Fort Myers in the fall of 2004 and seeing nothing but blue tarps and crushed mangroves alongside I-75 south of the Venice exits.  That was the year we had to postpone the annual meeting of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, and push it back to October.  And even two months later, when we finally had the Conference at Venice, much of southwest Florida was still in ruin.  Punta Gorda, or “fat point” as its name translates in Spanish, took the worst hit.  Many historic building were destroyed and the downtown was literally flattened and flooded.  Only a few structures remained, and those that did struggled.  Only after a huge community effort (and millions of dollars!) did Punta Gorda become what it is today.  Extremely walkable and bikeable, with over 50 independently-owned restaurants, shops and 4 very nice harbor-front hotels, Punta Gorda has become an excellent destination for anglers and sportsmen wanting to take advantage of Charlotte Harbor’s bounty.

The rooftop bar at the Wyvern Hotel is a great place to watch the sunset.

I can’t think of many more communities  the size of Punta Gorda that are more angler-friendly.  There are excellent boat ramps, marinas, and the city’s location at the mouth of the Peace River, in upper Charlotte Harbor, makes running to some great fishing spots easy.  You can read about fishing in The Saltwater Angler’s Guide To Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida, but now take a visual tour of “Fat Point”

Sunset along the waterfront at Punta Gorda

Dinner's great at Laishley Crab House, on the Peace River

Punta Gorda's bikes are free. Just be sure to return yours!

Laishley Park, Marina and Boat ramp complex is just upriver from town

Feeling old? Take a sip from Punta Gorda's Fountain of Youth. Just hold your nose!

Some original structure remains from pre-Hurricane Charley days.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night fun at Dean's Tex-Mex

Punta Gorda has over 50 independently-owned restaurants

The Sheraton Four Points Hotel is conveniently located harborside.

Fishermen's Village offers lodging, shopping, bars, restaurants, dockage and access to great charterboats!

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Peace River Seafood and Crab Shack–Be Prepared to Pig Out in Punta Gorda!

by on Aug.10, 2013, under FLORIDA'S BIG BEND AND EMERALD COAST, Recipes and Food, TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, Upper Charlotte Harbor

Just up the Peace River from downtown Punta Gorda is one of the true culinary treasures in Charlotte County, Peace River Seafood.  Located at 5337 Duncan Road (33982), the place isn’t fancy, but what it lacks in white linens and silverware is made up for in quality, fresh-caught (daily, in most cases) local seafood.  You won’t find salmon on the menu here!  Expect good fried and smoked mullet, shrimp, oysters and clams, all brought to your table with cold beer or tea!  And don’t forget the steamed crabs, the specialty of the house!

Eat inside or outside, and get used to using paper towels as napkins.

Crabs are the specialty of the house at Peace River Seafood in Punta Gorda

If you're not an expert at "crab cracking", Tori will give you a quick lesson.

Mahi wraps, fried mullet, shrimp (boiled and fried), oysters and clams--some of the freshest seafood around.

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Looking for Lodging in Punta Gorda? Give Some Thought to The Four Points by Sheraton Harborside

by on Aug.08, 2013, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, Upper Charlotte Harbor

When they say “Harborside” at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Punta Gorda, they mean it!  Nestled between the north and southbound lanes at the southern end of the US41/Punta Gorda Bridge over the Peace River, this place couldn’t be more perfectly situated in terms of a leisurely walk to one of  downtown’s many excellent shops and restaurants.  Or to a fishing trip in and around Charlotte Harbor!

The Four Points by Sheraton is conveniently located withiin easy reach of downtown Punta Gorda's food and fun.

The modern hotel features deluxe guest rooms, decorated in a muted nautical theme, as well as a pool, tiki bar, excellent restaurant, and business lounge for guests. And, with a parking lot large enough to handle a boat and trailer, what more could a traveling angler expect?

Enjoy the sophisticated comfort of the Four Points by Sheraton when you return from a busy day on the water.

Maybe access to the mouth of the Peace and Myakka Rivers as well as to all of Charlotte Harbor, where some of the best fishing in Florida happens?  If you’re not sure about the area, you’ll find the folks up the street (320 Cross Street, to be exact) at Waterproof Charts willing to help you select the proper fishing or navigation chart for your trip.  These are some of the best charts around, and I highly recommend that newcomers and seasoned visitors keep a copy of their Charlotte Harbor & Lemon Bay (#1F) handy on every fishing trip here.  Another valuable asset and neighbor to the hotel is Laishley Park Municipal Marina, with a boat launch and other facilities suited to fishing the local waters.

Laishley Marina has 85 boat slips and a public boat launch. It features a Day Room for a shower and cleanup and has Boater's Bathrooms which include showers. It also includes a large Community Room which is intended for use by community groups, private functions and civic and corporate meetings.

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At Punta Gorda Without A Boat? Give King Fisher Fleet A Try!

by on Aug.07, 2013, under CAPT. TOMMY'S BOOK SIGNINGS, TALKS, TRAVELS, Middle Charlotte Harbor, Siesta Key to Boca Grande, Upper Charlotte Harbor

Yes, there are times when I travel to good fishing spots in our state and don’t take my boat.  After all, sometimes I’m on a trip that’s featuring food and food writing, not fishing.  That was the case last week when I was invited to participate in Charlotte County and The Gulf Islands’ food writer trip.  I did manage to take a shorter-than-I’d-like trip with Capt. Ralph Allen, who owns King Fisher Fleet, with a whole bunch of boats headquartered at downtown Punta Gorda’s Fishermens Village.  Ralph and I took one of the smaller boats, a Hewe’s 18 Redfisher, and headed south towards Burnt Store Marina, on a high tide looking for reds and snook.  Charlotte Harbor, the 2nd largest body of water (after Tampa Bay) in Florida, was surprisingly calm and we were able to leave the fish biting on the East Wall, north of Burnt Store, and head quickly over to the area around Turtle Bay.  There, where we’d expected to find more fish on the falling tide, the bite was slow despite Ralph’s carefully and quiet poling efforts.  I blamed summertime;  Ralph blamed the fact that I insisted on using only artificial lures and that I made him leave his bait net back at the marina!  So it goes!

Capt. Ralph at work! Be sure to give your guide a big tip if he poles you around all morning!

Despite his "live bait" attitude, Ralph managed a nice keeper trout on a Rapala Skitterwalk plug!

In addition to a variety of inshore and offshore fishing opportunities, King Fisher Fleets also offers day trips to Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa State Park.  Cabbage Key is an isolated island in middle Charlotte Harbor, and its restaurant’s cheeseburger is supposedly the inspiration for singer Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise”.  Cayo Costa is an isolated Gulf beach island that’s just out-of-the-way enough to make you think you’ve left all your cares behind!

A sunset dinner at the Captain's Table Restaurant at Fishermen's Village is a great way to start the evening.

If you're lucky, the setting sun will light up the Peace River Bridge.

Be sure to bring your camera, or whatever device you have, to capture the beautiful Charlotte Harbor sunset.

Finally, don’t miss taking one of the King Fisher Fleet’s Sunset Cruises.  The hour-and-a-half cruise makes a loop around the mouth of the Peace River and the Captain does a really great job of setting the boat up for some wonderful sunset shots!  A good cheap date, or just time to relax after a seafood dinner at any of Punta Gorda’s great restaurants!

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Weston’s WannaB Inn, Englewood Beach At Its Finest! Fisherman Friendly, too!

by on Aug.07, 2013, under CAPT. TOMMY'S BOOK SIGNINGS, TALKS, TRAVELS, Siesta Key to Boca Grande, TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, Upper Charlotte Harbor

As a kid, in the 1960s, my parents’ idea of a great vacation was to drive to the border of Sarasota and Charlotte County and stay in a small motel at Englewood Beach.  There, we’d swim during the day and usually fish for snook all night.  Englewood Beach takes up the southern, Charlotte County, end of Manasota Key, and is accessed by a bridge from the mainland south of Englewood “proper”.  The island’s main road is Gulf Blvd, which runs from the entrance to Stump Pass State Park all the way to the northern end of the island.

Lodging options at the WannaB Inn Range from low-rise to high rise. All are comfortable and nicely appointed.

The fishing's great at Englewood Beach, as is the beachgoing!

At the aforementioned southern end of Gulf Blvd (At #985, to be exact and to help your GPS), lies Weston’s WannaB Inn, a true Florida treasure, and one of the most angler-friendly lodgings in the area.  At the WannaB Inn, you can launch your boat and tie up to one of the three docks on Lemon Bay, or rent a boat (powered by one of those “green” 5HP outboards that runs on propane).  Then, you can fish Lemon Bay while the rest of your crew basks in the sun at the pool or the beach, or takes a walk down Stump Pass State Park to the pass.  There are 80 clean and nicely-appointed rooms and suites at the WannaB, each with comfortable appointments, including kitchens.  And for the folks who just can’t get away from their iphones and ipads, there’s full Wi-Fi throughout the property.

Going fishing in Charlotte County is wonderful, but so is the local food.  I recommend you take the 15-minute drive to Placida and eat at least one dinner at The Fishery Restaurant (13000 Fishery Road, Placida, FL  33946  PH: (941) 697-2451).  There, always ask about the specials, and if they have shrimp and scallops over pasta, give it a try.  You’ll enjoy the food and the view to the docks and Charlotte Harbor.

Make the short drive to Placida's Fishery Restaurant

Enjoy the eclectic interior at The Fishery

Don't misss the scallops and shrimp at The Fishery

...and don't forget the view!

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