Fishing, Sightseeing & Fun Boat Cruise Adventure for a Windy Florida Day

Speckled Trout Fun near Captiva and Sanibel Islands in Lee County, Florida.

  • Big Boat Comfort and Capability Allows for an Unforgettable Cruise Adventure
  • Enjoy Watching Loggerhead Turtles, Dolphins, Pelicans, Eagles, Osprey and Nature at Work
  • Fishing Fun – Sea Trout, Barracuda, Hammerhead Shark and Stingray
Dolphins followed us out and the ladies enjoyed every second of this personal adventure at sea. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

Vacation time in Florida can be such fun! My better half discovered that we were not far from Sanibel and Captiva, the shell treasure chest of the world. So Rose started to search out the adventure trail and found there were charter boats for fishing that would conduct shelling and eco-tour trips too. We had a match! Love that woman.

One phone call later, the date was set and the plan was solid with friends from Michigan to join us aboard Southern Instinct Charters with Captain Ryan Kane (http://www.southerninstinct.com/).  The plan, according to my better half, was to compromise fishing and touring, weather permitting, but there is not much weather that can hold back the capability and comfort aboard Captain Kane’s 36-foot long Contender.  With triple engines, getting to wherever you want to go is not an issue and it doesn’t take long to get there at about a mile a minute.

The long boat gave the four of us plenty of room to move around and we enjoyed comfy seating while listening to the stereo tunes of golden oldies and country western music. While the boat doesn’t appear to have a rest room, it does! The ladies were thrilled. I thought to myself, “We can do this again and stay longer!”

Remote islands near Sanibel and Captiva offer secret shelling treasure adventures for those that approach by boat. Forrest Fisher Photo

Bob and Shirley Holzhei, from Michigan, met Rose and I at 7:00 a.m. at Port Sanibel Marina. Captain Kane had the ice chest coolers filled with chilled beverages, snacks and plenty of water.  Live bait was in the rear well and we had an access ladder just in case we needed to search the offshore beaches for pirate treasure. This charter boat was perfect in every way, I knew we were in for the time of our life on this day.

One sad thing was that while the sky was clear of storm clouds, the weather report offered that the invisible wind was sending waves five to seven feet on the outdoor gulf waters. It looked like we might be looking at a rescheduled trip. Not for Captain Kane, he said, “OK, let’s go kids! No planning calendar today! We’ll just go out and have some fun. We’ll see how it really looks and if it’s too rough, we’ll tour North Captiva and Cayo Costa islands to be safe. We’ll fish for speckled trout with popping bobbers and live shrimp. We’ll have a great day! We’ll do the deep sea fishing to waters less travelled on another day. Sound ok?” Who could say no?!

Captain Kane was so reassuring, we were thrilled to be heading out of the marina with a cast of pelicans and dolphins that had found their way in there.  But we were not in Disney, this was real. The ladies loved every second. They never stop talking about it, even months later

The three giant outboard engines hummed up from idle speed to flyaway throttle and we were getting somewhere fast. Yikes! This was fun. About 5 miles out (4 minute drive time, we were airborne), Captain Kane said, “Looks like we made a good call, it’s so rough out there.”

I thought, for sure, there was no better way to spend the day with friends and it turned out to be a trip we will never forget.

We toured deserted outer islands and watched dolphins chase the boat, Rose said they were talking to us, but I thought they were playing. We watched loggerhead sea turtles – some were nesting on the isolated beaches, we saw a mother and father eagle feeding their young with fresh fish, watched ospreys capture fish after a 300 foot nose-dive, and we enjoyed a slow ride along areas protected from heavy surf. This was an adventure like none other.

Bobbers and live bait fishing is productive when the Captain knows where to anchor the boat. Forrest Fisher Photo

Not long later, Captain Kane asked about fishing and we were all in. The fishing license is included with Captain Kane’s charter license, so everyone wanted a rod. We anchored in a protected inshore area near a sandy point and deserted natural island where the tide current was holding shrimp and baitfish not far from the boat. Good captains know these gentle weed lines, clam beds and secret spots from years of trial and error.

Using a slip bobber that created a popping sound when pulled with a circle hook just below, offered a live shrimp to a hungry trout attracted by the sound. It did not take long for Captain Kane to have all of our lines in the right place.

A few minutes later, Shirley hollered, “Hey, I think I have one, it’s pulling so hard. Bob, please come help me.” Bob said, “I can’t, I got one too!” Forrest, “I don’t want to lose the rod, can you come back here please, Bob has a fish on too.” I hollered back, “I do too!” Rose was the only one that had just reeled her line in to check the bait and shared, “I’m coming back there to help you Shirley, hang on.” Captain Kane was helping everyone at the same time. Fun?! Are you kidding?! This was incredible. Unforgettable! Not your ordinary fire drill. Memories are made of this. Shirley landed a small hammerhead shark and was ecstatic, and scared too. “I caught a shark! Can you believe it?” Captain Kane was careful, but sure-handed with the small shark and Shirley had a chance to touch the skin. “It feels like sandpaper!” She screamed a bit. I think they were happy tones.

Shirley Holzhei landed a small hammerhead shark and enjoyed the thrill of touching the sandpaper-like skin for the first time. Forrest Fisher Photo

We landed 25 trout in only an hour or so, a shark, caught some wonderful warm sunshine. We also hooked a giant barracuda and lost it, then hooked and landed a giant stingray that took us 45 minutes to bring in. What a battle that was! Bob and I had to switch places a few times and do the anchor dance, under the line, over the line, under the line…stretch, oooohhhh, aaaahhhhh, ouch, roll, turn, don’t lose the rod. Man, what a time! More than 50 pounds in size, we landed the nearly 4-1/2 foot long winged sea creature that resembled a spaceship shape from a TV space show.

Rose Barus caught trout after trout, I think she might have been the hot fishing line in the boat. Forrest Fisher Photo

Captain Kane removed the stinger to make the large critter safe while aboard while we prepared to release back to nature, then gave me the 5-inch long stinger with directions to placed it in a bottle for safe travel home and soak it for 2 days in bleach to sterilize the poison normally found on the stingray barbs. “The stingray will grow it back,” said Captain Kane, “And the stingray is not harmed in any way.”

Captain Kane uses Dan James Fishing Rods in his boat because they are durable, lifetime guaranteed and made locally in Fort Myers (http://danjamesrodcompany.com/). They are guaranteed for life.

The 7’ lightweight fishing rods we used were so light, so strong and so just right.  I had to ask, what pound test was on that rod? “10 pound braid,” said Captain Kane. “Some of these rods, like the one that you caught that big stingray with, are new fishing rods in the development stage. I use only Dan James Custom Fishing Rods made right here locally in Fort Myers (http://danjamesrodcompany.com/). They cost more, but they are guaranteed for life, and Dan is a disabled military veteran and close friend, we fish often. You would never know he is disabled, he is an example for all of us who might think we have troubles. We share ideas about how to make fishing better for clients, how to make better boat adventure tours, better fishing rods and how to enjoy every single day we live life with our family and friends. We both share that kind of passion for our families and the outdoors.”

The stingray we landed took 45 minutes to bring aboard. Forest Fisher Photo

Captain Kane added, “Dan tests his rods with me and other charter captains, but in the shop too, you wouldn’t believe some of the abuse he wreaks on these blanks while testing them. He puts his rods together to be light and sensitive, yet uses a strong, high modulus blank so folks don’t get tired using the rods and can fish with confidence even when they hook a big fish like you did with that lightweight rod. You can push the limits with his rods.”

We headed back to the marina and all of us were happy to be on the water with such a knowledgeable captain. We explored and enjoyed some of the best that Southwest Florida has to offer. Captain said, “When you come back during summer, the winds are always lower in the warm months and we can run far without much trouble. We have natural and artificial reefs out here that hold giant gamefish like Tuna, Snapper, Grouper, Wahoo, Cobia, and more. We’ll do an offshore trip to have some fun with these, I’ll call you when it gets good! How’s that sound?”

Like music to my ears Captain Ryan. C’mon summer!

About Fort Myers: Our accommodations were nearby, but there are numerous choices. Visit this link for more info on charter fishing, lodging, beaches, hotels and Islandology (https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/islandology). 

Islandology, a new word for most of us. Very interesting video. Check it out. Click the picture.

Spring Break on Sanibel and Captiva Island

  • Where Spring Breakers meet Wave Breakers with Sunrise, Sunshine, Sea Shells & a Sunset Cruise 

@pinkhairgreenthumb

A spring break vacation doesn’t have to include spring breakers. If you’re looking for a getaway that’s more laid-back than party-central, there are plenty of beaches to consider – but there aren’t many as memorable as those found on Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

With miles of white sand and inviting lighthouses, there’s no shortage of peaceful beach escapes along these islands’ coastlines. Just because these secluded islands boast uncrowded beaches doesn’t mean they’re shy about events and activities. Read on to discover how to create timeless memories in these coastal communities. 

Make yourself at home

Forget all-night parties and opt in to warm, Gulf of Mexico waters, vivid wildlife and seaside charm. Quaint inns like the Beach Cottages of Sanibel offer cozy places to unwind, while properties like Captiva Island Inn offer stunning views of both Captiva Island beach and the bay, leaving you with plenty of options for beachfront dining, water sports, and more. 

 

@love_adventure_sunshine

Discover a shelling state of mind

Shell collectors travel from all over the world to explore the world-renowned beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Thanks to their gently sloping shores, the north-flowing Gulf Stream rolls hundreds of species of shells onto their beaches every day. There’s no family scavenger hunt like a shell-hunting contest. One that ends with finding natural keepsakes you’ll treasure for years to come. 

 

@sheshorelikestobeach

Let the water take you away

On Sanibel and Captiva Islands, the local marinas, resorts and outfitters offer a variety of cruises, kayaks, sailboats, paddleboats and more to get you safely on the water. Captiva Cruises shows you a Florida sunset the way it’s meant to be seen: On the water. If you’re looking to explore something more remote, book a day trip to Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Boca Grande or Cayo Costa State Park.

 

Dive in to sea life

You will be amazed with the variety of wildlife surrounding these laid-back beaches. Cruise to an uninhabited island for a chance to see manatees, dolphins and other wildlife up close. Kayak through mangrove forests and find yourself immersed in the mangrove ecosystem. Let island time sink in as you surround yourself with wading birds, back bay waters, and a natural experience you are sure to remember.

The relaxed, quiet pace of life on Sanibel and Captiva Islands offers a unique charm. For more ways to experience Southwest Florida’s relaxed rhythms and beautiful shorelines, explore all our communities and find the getaway that’s right for your spring break vacation.

Click on picture to order your free guidebook.

 

Outdoor Adventure in SW Florida is Memorable

The colorful Roseatte Spoonbill is plentiful in Southwest Florida

A little Florida sunshine is a perfect way to recharge your internal batteries.  One of our favorite spots continues to be Southwest Florida, home to the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel (www.fortmyers-sanibel.com).

Mystique

Ever since we were exposed to this outdoor playground through the adventure antics of Dr. Marion Ford and the writings of Randy Wayne White, the area has always presented itself with a certain mystique. While there are plenty of the normal tourist-focused areas that seem to dominate with the snowbirds from January to April, the region never ceases to amaze us as we make that extra effort to see where the back roads will take us and what hidden treasures are available to be revealed for the first time.

Wildlife

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is always at or near the top of our list, the largest mangrove wilderness in the country.  The bird life that inhabits the sanctuary is simply amazing.  This time around, it was the Reddish Egret that was in the spotlight, part of a new telemetry study to learn more about the habits of these rare birds.  As luck would have it, one of the special winged wonders took up residence in front of a group of camera clickers, also allowing birders to check off another feathered friend from a bird bucket list of sorts.  The Darling NWR is also part of a larger complex (also named after Darling) that encompasses the Caloosahatchee, Matlacha Pass, Pine Island, and Island Bay National Wildlife Refuges – a large complex of nearly 8,000 acres.  The majority of the lands (and waters) in these refuges are nesting and roosting islands for the plethora of bird life that either migrate through or call this important habitat home. Check out http://www.fws.gov/refuge/JN_Ding_Darling/About_the_Complex.html.

Adventure – Fishing

One morning we meet with local charter captain Ryan Kane of Southern Instinct (www.southerninstinct.com; 239-896-2341.  No one can appreciate what he does more than me as a fellow sportfishing promoter and ambassador of the area’s natural resources.  Kane really gets it and he’ll do whatever it takes to make each and every outing a memorable experience.

As we met at the Port Sanibel Marina, the outlook wasn’t the best.  Strong winds from the southwest from one direction; freshwater being funneled down the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee creating unsettled conditions near the mouth of the river, an estuary of sorts.  This isn’t Kane’s first rodeo, though, he opted to stay in from the Gulf of Mexico waters because of the winds.  Other local charters braved the winds to try and hit the Causeway Reef, an artificial structure that came from the old causeway that connected the mainland to Sanibel, before the winds peaked.  It was holding some nice sheepshead in the four to five pound range – some excellent eaters for the frying pan.  There was a question whether the tradeoff was worth it.  While the captains might think so, the passengers might not.  We went back to the basics and to Kane’s roots.

“This is Shell Creek where my grandfather took me and my brother to fish when we were little kids,” reflected Kane, who’s been guiding full time for six years now.  This is his favorite sheepshead spot and he still fishes it regularly with customers when conditions limit the areas he can target.  “It’s all about figuring out what people want and what would make the best experience overall.  I specialize in families, especially families with children since I have three of my own.  I’ll do just about anything to make each and every experience a memorable one.”

Captain Ryan Kane with a saltwater Sheepshead, loves to take families with children fishing.

No sooner had we started fishing a cut when a large manatee floated alongside his 24-foot Pro-Line that he’s converted into a fishing machine.  My wife Sandy was mesmerized and before it was all over she was petting the soft snout of the marine mammal that some people refer to as a sea cow.  That was the experience that she will remember for the rest of her life … and will keep her coming back for more.  It didn’t hurt that she also reeled in the biggest redfish for the day, allowing her to state: “I could get used to doing this.”

Ryan looked at me with a big smile. “I think that’s what every guy wants to hear from his wife!”  After catching four or five species of fish, we headed out into San Carlos Bay where we found a shoreline island with mangroves and a weed bed. “This looks perfect for redfish – it has everything they would be looking for in this kind of a wind,” said Kane.

Tossing a red jig tipped with a shrimp for bait, he almost immediately hit a fish.  However, it wasn’t a redfish.  It turned out to be our biggest sheepshead for the day.  The next 10 fish were redfish and we had a blast reeling in the magnificent fighters.  We ended up with seven different species for the day including a pile of mangrove snappers, ladyfish, pufferfish, catfish and even a sting ray reeled in by the novice Sandy.  All around us was incredible bird life and the picturesque scenery of places like Sanibel and Captiva islands.  Life is good.

Kane is expanding his business to include a bigger 36 foot boat, a Contender that he will be able to use off-shore as well as inshore when the conditions allow for it.  Families will be more comfortable and the added advantage of having a head on the boat will be worth its weight in gold.

Side Trips

In keeping with the dolphin theme of Florida (even if you are a Buffalo Bills fan), the Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery in Cape Coral is a new attraction that is really picking up a head of steam (www.wickeddolphinrum.com) not just in Southwest Florida and around the state but around the country.  Billed as Florida’s only true rum distillery made with all local products, this relatively new business that started up in 2012 from a Long Island family (yes, a New York connection) is already award-winning.  We received a private tour from head distiller Dan Termini and he gave us the complete low-down on the sourcing of all the ingredients, the cooking process, the fermentation and the distillation that takes place.  The end result is one great tasting product.  At the top of the list for us was a Coconut Rum that’s become a local favorite.  Don’t rule out the Florida Spiced Rum or the Rumshine.  They make a total of 11 different products currently.  They estimate that some 22,000 people will tour the facility in 2016.  And it’s all natural.

Dan Termini, head distiller of Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery, offers an educational tour for more than 20,000 visitors every year.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, Fort Myers – If you’ve never been to a classy dinner theatre before (or even if you have), the Broadway Palm does it right night after night with top quality performances (we saw Show Boat), tasty buffet dinner and more.  Check out www.broadwaypalm.com for a list of what’s coming up and what options are available should you be in the area. You won’t be disappointed.

Accommodations

Tip Top Isles Resort and Marina – This is a nice place we stumbled across with some assistance from the tourism office. Resident manager Mark Sturgeon was extremely accommodating and there were quite a few positives that jumped out at us.  One was the fact that they offered pontoon boat rentals at a reasonable price. They had a fleet of seven when we were there.  Room rates were also very reasonable considering it was peak tourist season.  Sturgeon was really high on an off-season special that included a single room for three nights and two half-day boat rentals for two people for less than $300.  Check out www.tiptopisles.com.  It’s conveniently located to Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island, as well as many other local attractions.

Outrigger Motel – Located on Estero Blvd. on Fort Myers Beach, this accommodation has a little bit of everything.  It’s also a great place to witness a sunset, Southwest Florida style! Sunsets are a tradition there, with the main gathering place at the Tiki Bar located just off the beach.  If you like shells or shell collecting, this is a prime destination and we haven’t found any place better in the continental U.S.  The shells at the Outrigger this year were the best we’ve ever seen there!  And if there’s a critter inside the shell, you must toss it back!  The rooms are spacious, comfortable and they even have a built-in kitchen if you want to cook up your catch after fishing.  Check out www.outriggerfmb.com for all of the details and seasonal rates.