Gasparilla Island sits along the southwest coast of Florida, between Charlotte and Lee counties.

The only way on and off the island is the Boca Grande Causeway. Gasparilla Island and the town of Boca Grande harkens back to the days of general stores and local watering holes, which makes sense when you find out that this town is only 2.13-miles long. Hard to chalk up more small-town-America vibes than that. Yet, this area feels more like a faraway place that belongs in a destination where only a secret map can get you.

Beyond the beauty, this place is all about fish. Known for its world-class tarpon season, it also offers world-class fishing for prized inshore species such as big redfish, gator spotted seatrout and trophy snook.

Redfish caught fishing Boca Grande, Florida
During the winter, Boca Grande has some of its lowest tides of the year. When the tide heads out, these big redfish stick around the deeper spots.Christopher Balogh / Sport Fishing

Captain Randy Rhines of Sweetwater Excursions, who has been in Boca Grande for over 40 years, says these inshore species roam together. When you're on one, another might arrive — like striking gold twice.

"With snook, red and trout fishing, we are looking for potholes. The areas were tides are running strong," says Rhines. "All three of these species are ambush fish, which means they target bait when the tides change."

Trout caught fishing

Spotted in the Grass

Spotted seatrout tend to pile up in the Charlotte Harbor grass beds to feed on small crustaceans and baitfish.Christopher Balogh

With any fishing destination, there has to be a place to lay your head.

Gasparilla Inn serves that requirement with classical polish and Southern glamour. The Inn touches on the time of tycoons like Henry DuPont, J.P. Morgan, and Henry Ford — all guests of this historic hotel.

Don't expect the usual hotel stay. No stale muffins from a continental breakfast. It's all class with the Gasparilla Inn. With its golf club, beach club, and outdoor activities, there's plenty for the whole family to enjoy.

Gasparilla Inn in Boca Grande, Florida
Guests traveled by train to Gasparilla Inn until 1958, when the Boca Grande Causeway was built.Christopher Balogh / Sport Fishing

Boca Grande brings its visitors to a tropical escape within domestic lines. Backwater fishing backed by a grand, historic hotel. It's a hard-to-beat scenario.

Snook fish caught fishing Boca Grande, Florida

Snook

When winter comes, snook head to the backcountry flats.Christopher Balogh