February 26, 2014
Burnt Store Bar refers to a long, shallow sandy flat running the East side of Charlotte Harbor. The area has long been known for producing many varieties of large fish from redfish to tarpon. The bar runs from just south the mouth of the Peace River south to Matlacha Pass, about 15 miles. There are many kayak launch points from Cape Coral to Punta Gorda that offer access to the bar.
I was fishing this area with well known kayak angler Josh Harvel (yaknitup), and his son Matt. Josh has been around in the kayak fishing world. He is a prolific tournament angler and has won and placed in many events. He was the 2010 IFA Kayak Tour Angler of the Year. Josh is a member of many Pro Staffs including the Hobie fishing team and Bending Branches Paddles. Matt Harvel has followed closely in his father's footsteps, winning many IFA junior angler titles and placing in several tournaments. He was top 5 in the final standings last year. You can usually find both of them guiding in and around the Pine Island area at YakNitUp Kayak Charters, www.swflkayakcharters.com.
We met at 6am in Cape Coral and I followed Josh to the launch. We were going to fish for big trout and anything else that came our way. We launched at a little park around the Pirate Harbor area and made our way to the open water. The air was already hot and very humid. The water was like glass that was disturbed only by our kayaks as we glided out onto the bar. We all started by using different top water baits. My Spook immediately began getting attention by smaller fish. Josh and Matt were getting follows on their casts and before too long, Matt had a shiny new snook at the kayak. I noticed how healthy the fish looked, fat from all the baitfish he had been chasing earlier. Matt released the fish and we moved on.
As we moved to the deeper side of the bar, the trout became bigger and the hookups more often. I was switching between a bone colored Spook and a white Gulp Shrimp on a jig head. Both baits produced well, and if I had a missed bite on one, I would toss the other for a second chance hook up. Matt and Josh were changing it up as well and we were catching trout. Lots of them. We were drifting south along the bar and the bottom was fine grass with vast sandy potholes. There were trout in the potholes, over the grass and everywhere else. Most of them were 18” to over 20” with a few smaller ones mixed in. They all were aggressive and felt much bigger on our light tackle. There were occasionally other fish mixed in and we caught redfish, flounder and even small sharks. It was definitely a “catching” trip.
I asked Josh, who is well known for catching big over slot redfish, why he chose to specifically target trout on this trip. He said that trout are usually the by-product of fishing for redfish in this area, but the trout are a great game fish on their own and are a lot of fun on light spinning tackle. He couldn't be more right. We had stopped counting the number of fish we caught, but we certainly caught more than twenty slot and over slot fish each. By late morning, the heat was close to the threshold of being unbearable, so we jumped in the water for a little cool down and headed back in.
By the time we arrived at the launch we were reflecting on the mornings fishing. Even though it was very hot, we were ready to do it again. That is the sign of a good trip. If you want to fish this area, check out Google Earth and find Punta Gorda on the map. Follow the shoreline south and you will see the pronounced sand bar that runs just off the coastline. The fishing is good here all year long and there are plenty of launch points. Look for Josh and Matt while you are out there and tell them Bob sent you!