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XXL Outdoors Fishing Trips in Punta Gorda Florida.

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FISHING WITH A PURPOSE: XXL OUTDOORS

Captain Josh Greer Discusses Old School Methods & New School Conservation While Guiding For Red Fish In Punta Gorda, Florida

Captain Josh Greer Of XXL Outdoors Using Poling To Angle Quietly Off Punta Gorda. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

Fishing is a way of life for Captain Josh Greer of XXL Outdoors. But like all guides, it is about knowing the geography and the behavior and balance of the fish being pursued. Punta Gorda on the West Coast of Florida with its topography features, shallow flats and major red fish angling make this point undeniable. Greer spoke with The Buzz while out on the waters along the crystal bay about old school methods, new school conservation and finding that gut instinct.

The Buzz: How did you get into guiding because it's a lifestyle, but it's also a game, especially around here? Can you talk about that from your perspective?

Josh Greer: What brought me to guiding? I was working in the fishing industry [with] BassPro and some tackle shops and stuff, just part-time jobs, [but] barely making it. And I saw-- obviously my entire life, I fished. There's pictures of me fishing before I remember fishing. And I said, "You know what, I'm kind of good at this fishing thing…let's see if we can make some money doing it." I saw a lot of the old-timers, appreciated their hard work and the lifestyle that they lived and decided that's how I wanted to live.

The Buzz: Can you talk about the art of guiding? Because it is an art, especially when we're talking about gut instinct.  The different elements, including the rippling of the water which you call “nervous water”… these are important aspects of the craft that you only learn by experience.

JG: Guiding is an art. It's that whole “waterman” culture of living off the water…being on the water. You got to slow down and take in the water, your environment and learn little tricks. All that stuff has to come second nature to you. Being a guide, you have to worry about what your customer is doing, where he needs to be, how he needs to be set up. All of these things of read in water, seeing nervous water, looking for fish, looking for pieces of fish in grass or whatever the case may be. It has to be second nature. That just has to be in your head automatically because you've got all these other variables to worry about.

The Buzz: There is also the importance of old school methods…like pushing a boat instead of with a trolling motor because of the sound. You understand the psychology of—and I'm not trying to be too metaphorical with it --- but it’s the psychology of the fish.

JG: Right.

The Buzz: And it worked out this morning. I mean we were catching all these fish because they didn't see us coming.

JG:  Especially in today's world, technology has made fishing very easy for everybody to do, which is great. But everybody is not good at fishing necessarily because they got away from the basics. You know, poling a boat is as primitive as you can get. It's essentially a stick. Yeah. It's a high modulus graphite CNC stick and a very well-designed poling boat, but the art of poling a boat is very old-school. It's very primitive. But that takes you down to the level to where the fish are at. They don't understand technology. They don't care about technology.

A Caught Red Fish From The Flats Before Being Released. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

The Buzz: They're the same as they were hundreds of thousands of years ago.

JG: Exactly. So if they don't understand all that—[and] a lot of times they don't necessarily like it. They don't like the sound of a trolling motor. They don't like the sound of an outboard. They don't like the sound of rods and reels hitting the deck of the boat. That old school kind of hunting mentality comes into it…sneaking around, being quiet, slipping in easy. And that goes into play with reading the water and figuring out how the wind [moves] -- so you've got to approach everything the right way with the right angles and where's the sun is at? [And if you’re] going to cast a shadow where the fish are going to see your shadow? There’s a lot of that stuff that comes into play to make it work right.

The Buzz: Coming back into these islands from the outreach of Punta Gorda’s inlet, can you talk about fishing back in the flats from your perspective in terms of how the topography for red fishing works.

JG:  Our area, Charlotte Harbor, within Punta Gorda, is relatively shallow water. We’ve been in less than two feet of water all day long which is kind of discouraging to a lot of people. It scares people. They think they're going to run aground…which goes back to slowing down and taking time and poling a boat and learning-- because these fish live in that shallow water. [But think about it in how people] do a large amount bass fishing up north. All fish are structure oriented. It's that different kind of structure when you're walleye fishing in Michigan. There you’re fishing in 30 feet of water and hills and creeks, underwater riverbeds, stuff like that. Here, we look for deeper shorelines, a pothole, a little oyster bar in the middle of 3 feet of water where it comes up to 2 feet of water. So it's the same kind of stuff…just the proportions are different. You're not looking for this great big coral reef sticking out like you are in the Keys or in the Bahamas or somewhere offshore fishing. You got to think small.  6 inches of water depth change is a big deal. That's a ledge, if you will. That's a hole. That’s what our fish concentrate on…the little things.

The Buzz: You seem to have a joy of fishing. Did you grow up doing it?

JG:  I'm a fourth generation native Floridian, born and raised in Homestead, Florida, down south there. I grew up fishing on the water on Biscayne Bay National Park. There's pictures of me fishing before I remember fishing. Fishing’s always been a part of my life. My dad recreational fished. We ate fish once a week. So, fishing's always been there for me. When I decided to make it a job, if you will, obviously it became more important to me. I never realized…OK. I thought I was really good at fishing, but now I really have to be really good at fishing because I take, sometimes, people that are not great at fishing and make them a good fisherman. [In that way] fishing has grown with me and become more and more of a passion for me because of the experiences I get to share with my customers. I've caught a million redfish. I don't care if I catch another redfish, but when a guy catches his first one, the look on his face brings me back to being that little kid. It shows that my hard work, my passion, my dedication-- they all appreciate that at the moment that they catch that fish.

Captain Josh Greer Of XXL Outdoors Angling For A Red Fish Off Punta Gorda. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

The Buzz: Now can you talk about the conservation aspect…

JG:  Conservation's huge, especially in our area, because our area's very unique in the fact that we have three major river systems that flow into our estuary. [But] we have a lot of people here and not a huge resource. I mean, we have a lot of water, but it's not huge. It's not Everglades National Park. It's not the whole Gulf of Mexico. Charlotte Harbor's fairly small, so there's a great importance for conservation…for letting the fish go. There's going to be a big push for some more closed seasons because, as we talked about earlier, a picture lasts a lifetime. If you kill that fish today so you get the joy of fishing today [but when] you get a meal tomorrow night, it's done. It's over. It's gone. You don't enjoy that fish anymore. I don't enjoy that fish anymore. Nobody enjoys that fish anymore. I'd rather catch the fish, take a good picture and take a short video clip. You have that forever. You can share it with your friends. Everybody gets to enjoy it. We let the fish go, and the next guy that gets off the airplane in Punta Gorda gets to catch him and enjoy the same thing all over again.

The Buzz: Can you describe the feeling of catching a redfish?

JG:  A redfish is a bottom-feeding fish. They eat off the bottom a lot. We use a lot of shrimp and crabs, shrimp and crab fly patterns, lures, stuff like that. The fight is very similar to a small-mouth bass. A lot of people can relate to it, where they pull really hard. They know that they're not really supposed to be in this shallow water, so when they get hooked they kind of freak out…and they go for deeper water or structure…and fight really hard. Even the little fish fight super hard. Red fish…they're not my favorite… but they might be close to my favorite because of their resilience. They never give up. They fight you all the way to the boat. They fight you in your hands. They never give up. They're bulldogs.

The Buzz: Can you talk about the allure of the outdoors, and the importance of the outdoors, especially fishing, both for the older, and the younger?

JG:  Well, what’s special about fishing is there's no age limit on it. I've had 90-year-old guys on my boat catching fish, and I've had three-year-olds on my boat catching fish. For the older people, I think it takes them back to that time when they were a kid, and they were fishing with Dad. And for the younger generation, it's about building those memories, so that later on you can remember, "Remember that time we went down there and fished with Dad and we caught all those fish?” That’s the draw to me.

The Buzz: My last question has to do with Punta Gorda. You live here. You came from Homestead. Could you talk about what you like about this city? What draws you?

PG: The thing I like about Punta Gorda is we're pretty laid back here. We're easy going. It's not quite that island lifestyle that you get in places like The Keys and stuff, but it's similar. We kind of revolve around this harbor and the water in one way, shape, or form…not necessarily fishing, but boating, and sailing as well as swimming and kayaking. Very laid back. There's a really good food culture here. A lot of the time during the year here, it is slower paced, and there's not a lot of people, not a lot of hustle and bustle. The wintertime, we get busier with our visitors from the north, so you have a great mixture. In 15 minutes, you're on the most beautiful beaches in the Gulf. In another 15 minutes, you're in the center part of the state with pine trees, oak trees, and all the wildlife you want. It's got something for everybody.


Tim Wassberg

A graduate of New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Film/TV Production & Film Criticism, Tim has written for magazines such as Moviemaker, Moving Pictures, Conde Nast Traveler UK and Casino Player. He enjoys traveling and distinct craft beers among other things.

Fisherman's Village Marina

Make Sure To Park Your Boat At:

Fisherman's Village Marina, which offers more than one hundred boat slips to accommodate power craft and sailing vessels up to 60 feet LOA and 7-foot draft. Family cruisers, fishing boats, sailboats and sport craft all find safe harbor with friendly dock hands and modern amenities.

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