By Capt. Ralph Allen
Punta Gorda is a nifty place for kids to grow up. When my family relocated to this area, I was still a teenager. I quickly fell in love with Charlotte Harbor, spending countless hours with my dad exploring the estuary and chasing after almost every creature which lives here. We collected snook, redfish, trout, grouper, sharks, oysters, scallops, shrimp, crabs and dozens of other critters on our nautical safaris. As a result, seafood often graced our table, though we sometimes sold our catch at a local seafood house when the fishing was particularly productive.
A decade-and-a-half later, when my two daughters were born, we were lucky that I still lived in Punta Gorda — and even luckier that my profession lent itself to spending time with the girls on the water, as I’d been able to experience with my own father. My oldest daughter, Jan, is now 26 years old, and during those years we’ve shared many hours afloat. I can remember her first-ever fish, a foot-long silver trout taken some 20 years ago near the U.S. 41 bridges in Punta Gorda, and I can remember approximately ten years later when she bested her first-ever tarpon, an 80-pound fish that ironically was caught within a few dozen yards of the location which yielded that first trout. During the decade between that first wee silver trout and that first mighty silver king, she learned to mix smelly chum first thing in the morning and scrub slimy boat decks at the end of a long, tiring day. She learned to tie knots, to bait hooks, and to handle and unhook fish. More than once she got to huddle on the deck of a tiny open flats boat while hoping that a raging thunderstorm would soon abate, and she got to hang on for dear life as the boat bounced and pounded across the Harbor on too-rough days. And (usually) we laughed about it — if not during the worst of the most miserable moments, at least after we’d reached dry, stable land.
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