Peace River (Polk, Hardee, Desoto, Charlotte Counties): This scenic river runs south for over 100 miles from Lake Hancock, north of Bartow to Charlotte Harbor. Popular with canoeists, the Peace River offers excellent fishing for largemouth bass, bream, and catfish. Snook weighing over 30 pounds migrate from Charlotte Harbor and are caught year round as far north as Fort Meade. Bass, snook, and catfish prefer deep holes around tree snags where flow is strong. Tarpon are also caught in the lower Peace River. Commission maintained boat ramps are located near Fort Ogden at Deep Creek off CR 769 (Kings Highway) in Desoto County, and near Wauchula on CR 652 in Hardee County. Depending on water levels and other conditions, additional limited-access points are sometimes available. Locations follow US 98 east of Ft. Meade; west of US 17 at Gardner; west of US 17 at Brownville; west of Arcadia off SR 70; and at Lettuce Lake south of CR 761. Bank fishing opportunities are available near Gardner.
The river is very low right now, and with the rainy season ending, it will soon be only passable by canoe. Largemouth bass can be found in pools and around snags that offer current breaks. Spotted sunfish (stump knockers) can be found around snags in the river, use small popping flies or small jigs and spinners to catch. Plenty of bluegill (bream) and redear sunfish (shellcracker) can be caught with red wigglers and crickets fished near snags. Catfish can be found around snags and in deeper holes, and can be caught using chicken liver, frozen shrimp, and commercial stinkbaits. Saltwater species, such as redfish, spotted sea trout, and tarpon, can be caught regularly in the lower river where it is tidally influenced. Use shrimp, jigs, crabs, and topwater lures near bridges and snags to catch most of these species. Snook can be found well upriver, with many being year round residents as far north as Nocatee and Gardner. Use large crankbaits or shiners to try to entice them to bite, and then hang on!
NOTE: Low water will be an issue through next year unless the area receives large amounts of rainfall in the next month or so.