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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva

Fishing Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass by Hobie “Pedal” Craft!

by on Jun.18, 2016, under CAPT. TOMMY'S BOOK SIGNINGS, TALKS, TRAVELS, Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, Middle Charlotte Harbor, Siesta Key to Boca Grande

 

 

 

pineisland

Charlotte Harbor “turns into” Pine Island Sound at an imaginary line drawn east from the mouth of Boca Grande Pass.  And for the most part, all the water in the upper half of the sound, as well as much of Charlotte Harbor, is moved by the action of that pass.  The lower half of the sound is affected by the pull of water from the Caloosahatchee River at Fort Myers and generally feeds into San Carlos Bay, to the south.  Matlacha Pass lies to the east of Pine Island and it’s water typically flows more strongly to the south on falling tides. What all this has to do with fishing is that the ebb and flow of the tides here and the constant filling and flushing of the harbor, the sound and Matlacha Pass all move bait, and with it–lots of inshore species of game fish.

This is big water, and that generally calls for big boats.  However, there’s plenty of good fishing within range of paddle or pedal craft.  On a recent trip, sponsored by the Hobie Cat Company, the leading manufacturer of pedal craft, I had the opportunity to fish the shoreline of Pine Island in a variety of weather conditions.  With summer thunderstorms building and winds howling, I experienced the ease with which I was able to move about, using my legs to power the boat, and all the while being able to continue fishing. Hobie not only pioneered pedal-style “kayaks”, but that segment of their business is now significant–with fishing “boats” the largest part of that segment.  I’ve paddled conventional kayaks and tried to fish from them, but there’s no comparison.  The ability to navigate your craft while still fishing has tremendous advantages.   Hobie’s MirageDrive, Turbo Fins and Vantage Seat have made their Pro Angler the go-to boat for serious kayak anglers!

Fishing a fully rigged Hobie Pro Angler in Matlacha Pass

Fishing a fully rigged Hobie Pro Angler in Matlacha Pass

While there are several primitive roadside launch spots on Pine Island, Hobie did their research and put us in the water (in about 15 kayaks!) at some places where we’d have easy reach to the fishing grounds.  That’s not to say that we didn’t pedal as much as 5 miles, but the beauty of the rugged Pine Island shoreline is such that you don’t have to go far to catch fish.  And, when you get “home” you want to be able to easily load the boats onto trucks or trailers and have a cold beverage.  Luckily, locals like Frank Stapleton (Hobie’s Sales Rep) and John Donahue (local writer and man-about-town) know the area well and provided welcome guidance for fishing, launching and cold beverages.

The flats west of Pineland Marina and the Tarpon Lodge offer excellent kayak fishing.

The flats west of Pineland Marina and the Tarpon Lodge offer excellent kayak fishing.

Buzzard Bay, north of the bridge at Matlacha, offers great kayak fishing in protected waters.

Buzzard Bay, north of the bridge at Matlacha, offers great kayak fishing in protected waters.

Hobie, along with PR Pro Ingrid Niehaus, put on a first class event.   We stayed at The Tarpon Lodge at Pineland, and even had a fun dinner at Cabbage Key, also owned by the Wells family.  The event was also sponsored by the local tourism office, The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel.  And, in terms of easy access to water, we found great kayak launches at Pineland Marina and at the county park/boat ramp at Matlacha, on the east side of the island.

Dollar bills….a Cabbage Key tradition–along with the original “Cheesburger in Paradise”

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Tarpon Lodge

Tarpon Lodge

Cabbage Key

Cabbage Key

Dollar bills....a Cabbage Key tradition--along with the  original "Cheesburger in Paradise"

Dollar bills….a Cabbage Key tradition–along with the original “Cheeseburger in Paradise”

There are lots of options when it comes to fishing the waters here.  But there are no limitations to tackle.  Some of our group used light spinning gear, while others used baitcasters or fly rods.  The Hobie boats are stable, making it easy to get out and wade, or to stand while fishing.  The waters are generally shallow, making it a perfect place to throw topwater plugs (MirrOlure Top Dogs) or soft plastics (D.O.A. 3-inch shrimp or CALs).

 

 

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Fishing the flats in Pine Island Sound, just a short paddle from the Tarpon Lodge and Pineland Marina

 

 

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There’s no problem standing up–or fly fishing–from a Hobie Pro Angler kayak!

 

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It’s just a short paddle north from the Matlacha boat ramp to the backwaters of Buzzard Bay.

 

 

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Florida Sportsman Expo Set for Fort Myers, FL, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2015

by on Jan.14, 2015, under Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

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The Florida Sportsman Expo is back at the Lee County Civic Center in Ft. Myers on Jan. 31 – Feb. 1, 2015. If you love the outdoors, you do not want to miss this show! For the 23nd year, Florida Sportsman Magazine will be hosting the extremely popular Florida Sportsman Expo at the Lee County Civic Center in Ft. Myers over the weekend of January 31, 2014. Visitors will be treated to a huge array of indoor and outdoor events for anglers, hunters, boaters, off-roaders and gun enthusiasts. For those who have attended the Florida Sportsman Expo in the past, they will be delighted to find this year’s Expo greatly expanded over previous years. Each day brings fishing seminars from the area’s ‘s best angling experts. The Riggin’ it Right Academy has room for up to 60 anglers to take turns sitting at tables with all supplies and tackle while Florida Sportsman staff gives hands-on instruction on properly rigging baits and lures. Those interested in fly fishing will receive free fly casting and fly-tying instruction. Learn how to effectively throw a cast net or fish from a Kayak. Hunters will enjoy seminars by some of the most successful outdoorsman in the area and this year, for the first time ever, you can buy, sell and trade firearms. On display will be Boats, RVs, ATVs, Airboats and much more, with special show pricing. Additional deals will be available on fishing gear, tackle, electronics and accessories.
Ask FWC Officers about rules and regulations!

Ask FWC Officers about rules and regulations!

A partial list of the seminar topics to be covered include: • How to catch more and bigger grouper • Targeting smoker kingfish • Secrets of slow trolling live baits • New techniques with GPS & fish finders • Night fishing for monster snook • Sight fishing for bull reds • Targeting inshore snapper • Best plastic lures for the flats • Top methods to fish bridges & piers • The ABCs of Kayak fishing • Tampa’s latest hot spots “It’s a great chance for everyone from beginners to experts to learn new tactics, pick up added skills and take advantage of show specials”, says new Expo Director Dave East, who’s also the Boating Editor for Florida Sportsman and host of the Florida Sportsman Best Boat TV series. “If you love the outdoors, you don’t want to miss this show” There will be prize drawings each hour for all attendees, sponsored by The Sportsman Channel. Another free drawing is sponsored by Fishing Nosara where an attendee will win a 7-day, 8-night vacation adventure to Costa Rica for some fishing, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking and more. A trip of a lifetime valued at $5,000 – FREE for just attending the Expo. Editors from Florida Sportsman will also be on hand to greet visitors, plus listen to your comments and story ideas. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will display exhibits of interest to boaters and hunters as well as the Florida Sportsman Grand Slam Tank, a 500-gallon mobile saltwater aquarium. Kids will be kept busy and win free prizes with the FWC’s “Fish ID” contest. “Everything’s included in the one low admission price” notes East. “It’s going to be a fun day on both Saturday and Sunday for everyone who loves the outdoors”
Tickets at the Lee County Civic Center box office are $8 for adults and kids 12 and under with parents are free. Show hours run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 1.
For a discount coupon and more details visit www.FloridaSportsman.com/Expo.
Learn techniques from the professionals!

Learn techniques from the professionals!

Lee County Civic Center 11831 Bayshore Road North Fort Myers, FL 33917 For directions: http://www.leeciviccenter.com/directions/

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Grab your mask and summon your adventurous spirit! Join us under the sea as we search for the elusive bay scallop in Charlotte Harbor! But don’t wait too late — space is limited!

by on Jun.27, 2014, under Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, Middle Charlotte Harbor, Upper Charlotte Harbor

Saturday, July 26, 2014
9 am-2 pm
Calling Volunteer Boaters and Snorkelers!
Approximately 40 boats and up to 150 snorkelers are needed!
Join us in a resource monitoring program to document the health and status of bay scallop populations by snorkeling and looking for scallops in select areas.

This is a **No Harvest** event.

We are recruiting:
Volunteers with shallow draft boats. Canoes and kayaks are also welcome. Please let us know if you can take additional snorkelers on your boat. And please bring a dive flag if you have one.
Snorkelers without boats are welcome; however, boat spaces are limited.
Volunteers need to bring sunscreen, a mask, snorkel and gloves, and be able to snorkel/swim 50 meters (about 150 feet). Fins/weight belt are optional.

Scallop searchers will meet at Gasparilla Marina to receive survey equipment and instructions for the monitoring event. Lunch will be provided once you return to shore.

Reservations are required to participate in the event and space is limited so reserve your spot today!

Registration and More Information
Contact the Organizer | 941-764-4346 | UF/IFAS Charlotte Co. Extension on Facebook

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Marina at Edison Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers, to open in March 2014

by on Mar.05, 2014, under Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva

FORT MYERS, FL –

More changes are coming to downtown Fort Myers. The latest includes breathing new life into a longtime hot spot along West First Street.

We toured the former Royal Palm Yacht Club – now the Marina at Edison Fort – to find out what this change means for the future of the area.

Right on the water, sits a piece of paradise. It’s been undisturbed for years.

“This is God’s greatest dining room, Southwest Florida,” said Grant Phelan with Phelan Holdings, INC.

It’s a place some claim is unlike any other.

“There is nothing as nice in Naples or anywhere else as right here in Fort Myers, and on this river,” said Phelan.

Many may remember it as the members only Royal Palm Yacht Club.

Now, it’s the Marina at Edison Ford; and ‘God’s greatest dining room’ is open to all.

“We put a tremendous amount of sweat, tears and equity into it,” said Phelan.

Phelan and his business partners gave this once staple a new lease on life.

The popular Southwest Florida Pincher’s Crab Shack is now new to downtown and set up on the second floor.

“This really does put the icing on the cake for us,” said Chris Pendleton president and CEO of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates partnered with Pincher’s Crab Shack. Pendleton says the revitalization opens new doors for the area.

“It really connects us not only to downtown and the new River District and what’s happening in Fort Myers; but it also connects us to Captiva, Sanibel Island [and] out to Fort Myers Beach,” said Pendleton.

Those that have seen the highs and lows can’t wait to see what comes next.

“We’ve been sort of excited watching this unfold – all the activity and all the beautification thing that they’ve done,” said Libby Maxwell with First Harbor Towers Condo Association.

Phelan’s goal is to turn the Marina at Edison Ford into a downtown destination.

“Let’s turn West First Street into the nicest area of downtown Fort Myers and an economic center for downtown Fort Myers,” said Phelan.

The grand opening for the marina is scheduled for the first week of March.

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Florida’s Ding Darling Kids Fishing Derby Nov. 9, 2013 at Sanibel Island

by on Nov.06, 2013, under Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, Middle Charlotte Harbor

From The Fishing Wire:

Kids of all ages who are able to hold their own fishing pole may participate in the free second annual “Ding” Darling Kids Fishing Derby to be held on the Sanibel Causeway Islands Park (Island A) on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) co-sponsor the event.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. on the causeway, and ages 15 and younger start fishing at 9 a.m. and finish at 11 a.m. Awards ceremony is at 11:30.

Judges will record catches during the session. After the results are tallied, they will award winners in two age groups: 10 to 15, and 9 and younger. Based upon total inches of fish caught, the refuge will award first, second, and third place prizes, plus awards for the largest and smallest fish hooked, in both age categories.

Participants should bring fishing poles, but Tarpon Bay Explorers will provide a limited number of loaner poles for those who don’t have their own equipment. Shallow Bait and Dale Shirley will be supplying the bait.

Throughout the day, volunteers and staff will teach fishing skills and safe, ethical fishing practices and will engage children in fish crafts.

“We had an exciting event in our inaugural year,” said Ranger Becky Wolff, the refuge’s education specialist. “Thanks to everyone who contributes to this effort.”

The event is made possible also by support from the Lexington Fishing Club, Sanibel Island Fishing Club, and Lee County Parks & Recreation.

For more information or to volunteer for Kids Fishing Derby, contact Wolff at Rebecca_Wolff@fws.gov

or 239-472-1100 ext. 236.

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January 18, 2013 Red Tide Update for Southwest Florida

by on Jan.19, 2013, under Bradenton and Sarasota, Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, Middle Charlotte Harbor, Siesta Key to Boca Grande, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore, The Sunshine Skyway and Beyond to Egmont, Upper Charlotte Harbor

A bloom of Karenia brevis, the Florida red tide organism, persists in the coastal waters of southwest Florida, with the highest counts detected this week alongshore and offshore of Sarasota County.  High concentrations were also detected alongshore of Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties. Low to medium concentrations were found in the Pine Island Sound system. 

Bloom Boundary: The red tide currently affects approximately 140 miles of coastline from Pinellas through Collier County. Respiratory irritation and multiple fish kills continue to be reported in the affected areas.

Click image for southwest coast current status report - January 18, 2013

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Paddling The Calusa Blueway in Lee County? Get The New iPhone App!

by on Jan.08, 2013, under Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva

Available at the Apple AppStore

Early inhabitants navigated the Great Calusa Blueway guided only by sun, moon and stars. Now, you can glide the same Florida waterways and explore Lee County’s paddling trails with the improved safety and convenience of the Calusa Blueway app for iPhone. The app has recently been updated to include:

• GPS navigation from multiple launch sites
• Interactive trail map with places of interest
• Tops stops along the trails
• Key of the Blueway’s birding, flora, fauna and wildlife
• Boating tips and regulations

…More

What’s New in Version 2.0

• GPS navigation from multiple launch sites
• Interactive trail map with places of interest
• Tops stops along the trails
• Key of the Blueway’s birding, flora, flauna and wildlife
• Boating tips and regulations

iPhone Screenshots

iPhone Screenshot 1
iPhone Screenshot 2
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Heading to Lee County to Fish or Boat? Try The New Lee Waterways iPhone App!

by on Jan.08, 2013, under Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, Middle Charlotte Harbor, Siesta Key to Boca Grande

Description

This is a must-have app for boaters in Lee County, Florida! It’s packed full of great features like an interactive map with public boat launches, reef and shipwreck coordinates and speed zones. It also includes a saltwater fish identifier, satellite weather radar, fishing and diving tips, boating safety regulations and more. So before you launch your next excursion, launch our app and get the most out of Lee County Florida’s waterways!

• GPS navigation from multiple launch sites
• Saltwater Fish and Special Species Identifier
• Artificial Reef and Shipwreck Maps
• Satellite Weather Radar
• Fishing and Diving Tips
• Boating Safety Regulations

…More

• GPS navigation from multiple launch sites
• Saltwater Fish and Special Species Identifier
• Artificial Reef and Shipwreck Maps
• Satellite Weather Radar
• Fishing and Diving Tips
• Boating Safety Regulations

iPhone Screenshots

iPhone Screenshot 1
iPhone Screenshot 2
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Charlotte Harbor and Gulf Waters Fishing Report from King Fisher Fleet, Punta Gorda, 1/2/13

by on Jan.02, 2013, under Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, Middle Charlotte Harbor, Siesta Key to Boca Grande, Upper Charlotte Harbor

Gulf of Mexico

January is a peak month for close-to-shore bottom fishing on small ledges in 30 to 50 feet of water.  Gag grouper, mangrove snapper, triggerfish, large sheepshead and grunts will make up the bulk of the catches with a few hogfish, black sea bass, yellowtail snapper and mutton snapper mixed in.  Sometimes the smaller ledges (18 to 24 inches in height) produce the best fishing since these little ledges are overlooked by many offshore anglers.  While most of the action will be near the bottom this month, there will be occasional visits to the area by schools of bonita and Spanish mackerel so it may pay to fish a freelined shrimp while you’re bottom fishing.  Some years cobia show up on offshore wrecks in January, and on some of the deeper ledges and reefs there will be a few amberjack.  Red grouper is open this month and will (probably) be closed in February and March, so get ‘em while you can.

Charlotte Harbor

More Charlotte Harbor anglers will spend more hours targeting trout  this month than any other species.  Trout will be found in canals, boat basins and waterways during cooler weather and will move out onto nearby flats after several days of temperatures approaching the 80 degree mark.  The old standby shrimp/popping cork rig is hard to beat for numbers of trout, but skilled anglers can sometimes catch more fish on jigs.  Redfish can be found in most area mangrove creeks and canals and are starting to appear upriver.  Sheepshead spawning season is now getting underway and these tasty zebra striped fish are bunching up around pier and dock pilings and on the artificial reefs in the harbor, and a few table-sized mangrove snapper are inhaling baits at those same locations.  Pompano have been on-again and off-again in recent weeks with catches made along the edges of the flats which border the ICW and, surprisingly, back in some of the larger creeks.

Notes:

*Snook season closed until September 1, 2013

*Gag grouper season is closed, opens June 1

*All other grouper close Feb. 1, open April 1

*Gray triggerfish  in Federal Waters opened January 1

*Greater amberjack will close June 1, open August 1

Elissa Allen
Marketing Director
941-639-2628
www.kingfisherfleet.com

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Charlotte Harbor and Southwest Florida Gulf Fishing Report–from King Fisher Fleet, Punta Gorda

by on Dec.05, 2012, under Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, Middle Charlotte Harbor, Upper Charlotte Harbor

Gulf of Mexico

It’s transition time in the Gulf.  Gag grouper are moving onto inshore structures in good numbers as they do every fall/winter, and early-season action indicate that it’s a strong run this year.  It may be frustrating to release these beautiful fish during the closed season, but they sure are fun to catch!  Good news:  the ledges inhabited by the gags are also holding mangrove snapper and grunts, and the winter sheepshead run is just starting to get underway too, so if you fish shrimp on a few light rigs you’ll be able to take home enough quality fish for dinner.   These fish can now be caught in as little as 30 feet of water offshore, so you don’t even need to leave sight of land.  What about the mackerel?  Spanish mackerel have thinned considerably, but kings were caught in fair numbers just off the beach in the last week of November.  Good king mackerel action which lasts until Christmas has happened here in past seasons and may be the case for 2012.

Charlotte Harbor

Mackerel fishing can be good in the lower harbor during early December, but your odds of success go down as the calendar marches forward.  Redfish action has been sporadic with some good catches in Bull Bay and in Matlacha Pass.  Pompano have appeared on both sides of the harbor outside the bars and around some creek and canal mouths.  Mangrove snapper and sheepshead are hitting shrimp fished around rip rap in the canals and at the artificial reefs, and the sheepshead fishing will improve as winter progresses.  Black drum are beginning to gather around the bridges and in some of the Punta Gorda canals.  Don’t forget that trout season is not closed during December this year.  Trout have been scattered on the flats on both sides of the harbor, but will soon begin to school in dredged canals and in a few of the deeper creeks as the water temperature drops.

Notes:

*Snook season closed until September 1, 2013
*Gag grouper season closed November 1, opens June 1
*All other grouper close Feb. 1, open April 1
*Gray triggerfish closed in Federal Waters on June 11, opens January 1, 2013

Let’s Go Fishing!

Capt. Ralph Allen

www.kingfisherfleet.com

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