The Peace River is considered a "blackwater" river and is an excellent river for fishing. You can fish from a canoe, kayak, boat, or from the bank so bring your fishing poles. There are the usual freshwater bream, catfish, and bass as well as saltwater species like mullet, snook, and tarpon. The Peace starts in the Green Swamp and empties into the Charlotte Harbor Estuary so most of the river is freshwater and the lower stretches are brackish. The locals consider the Fort Ogden Bridge, south of Nocatee, as the dividing line between the fresh and salt water.
The State Paddling Trail (Bartow to Arcadia) is freshwater but when the river starts rising, the saltwater fish start heading north. While the lower Peace is renown for it's Snook and Tarpon, we have seen Tarpon as far north as Gardner and Snook as far north as Zolfo Springs. It's not unusual to see Mullet jumping out of the water from Gardner south.
During normal to low water is the time for freshwater fishing. The fish are pooled up in the deeper spots. Bass favor underwater structure and the catfish favor deeper holes. For those who put-in at Gardner and come down, the big white sandy beach about halfway to Brownville isn't called the Catfish Hole for nothing. For catfish, raw chicken livers. For bass, we favor Rapala jointed minnows, usually with the light belly and dark top, Smithwick Devil's Horse top water or the vintage minnow-looking Creek Chubs, but every fisherman seems to have their favorite. Just remember, it's dark water so you want some lightness that the fish can see. Rubber worms usually produce good results too, again, watch the light vs. dark depending on the water level and siltiness. The fish you will see in the "nests" at the edge of the water are Tilapia or Nile Perch. They're vegetarians but supposedly will bite on wads of algae or peas on a small hook.
When the river starts to rise, Snook congregate at the mouth of any creek emptying in to the river and under the various snags and strainers. The Tarpon start moving too, big ones have been seen rolling off the dock at Arcadia when the river is 2-5 feet above normal. The mullet seem to be around all the time, no matter the water level just jumping for the fun of it, or so it seems. Again, our favorites are the Creek Chub, Rapala, with some red-headed Zara Spooks thrown in. Keep it light colored and on top of the water. When the river is up, it's dark and moving, so something that will make some noise and splashing is good. September and October, when the high water starts to drop, schools of young Nile Perch (Tilapia) start coming down the river, it's like ringing the dinner bell for the Snook and Tarpon.Here are some freshwater fishing tips to get you started:
- In most cases you'll need a Florida Freshwater Fishing License. Licenses may be purchased from county tax collectors, license agents, at www.MyFWC.com/license or by telephone at 1-888-486-8356. But you'd better have a saltwater license and a stamp if fishing for Snook or Tarpon.
- Fish the deep pools and under banks and around natural obstructions.
- For bluegills and other panfish be sure to use ultralight tackle. A line weight of 2 to 6 pounds is ideal when coupled with #6 to #10 long shank hooks. Live bait works well for these frisky fish and most common is worms. Use only a small piece of worm - just enough to cover the hook. Other popular baits are crickets, night crawlers and grasshoppers.
- For bass fishing use heavier equipment such as a 6 foot medium action rod with 8 or 10 pound line. Since the water in the creek is tannin stained (darker color but clear and clean), use light colored artificial baits and lures. It makes it easier for the fish to see. Of course natural bait such as night crawlers is good too. Bass like moving water and any place that food can wash into the river. If the water is silty, use light-colored lures. If water is relatively clear, anything goes.
- Be sure to call us for an updated fishing report.
Check out the links below for more fishing info:
FWC freshwater fishing info on the Peace River: http://myfwc.com/fishing/freshwater/sites-forecast/sw/peace-river/
http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/fish/freshwater/ for types of Freshwater fish
Bass, Blue Gill, Stumpknockers, Sunfish, Bowfin, Gar
http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/fish/saltwater/ Snook, Tarpon, Mullet, Needlefish, Blue Crabs