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I'm headed down to Pine Island with wife and two kids (6 and 11) next week. We'll be staying in a vacation rental in Bokeelia, and I'm bring my skiff (Pathfinder 17T). This is more a family trip than a fishing trip, but we'll likely spend a lot of time on the water.

A few questions for people familiar with the area. We've never been there.

The wife would like to go to Cayo Costa to sit on the beach, swim, shell, sift for shark teeth, etc. Assuming typical weather and a fair amount of experience on the water, is it reasonable to run over there from Bokeelia in the skiff for a morning? Looks like three miles or so to the closest point. If so, any recommendations on what part of the island to go to? Not really looking for the sandbar/party scene. Is there anywhere around the island with some rocks where the kids might be able snorkel and see a few fish (I know it's not the keys)?

Is there any can't-miss-it, non-fishing stuff to see or do nearby -- restaurants, bars, aquariums, harbors, museums, tackle shops, seafood markets, historic sites, scenic stuff, whatever?

Fishing-wise, here at home (Mosquito Lagoon) I spend most of my time with topwaters and weedless plastic jerkbaits on 10-lb. gear. I'm assuming the same basic approach will work in that area? For the kids, I'm not opposed to soaking bait if it keeps their rods bent. Any recommendations on places and/or approaches for fairly fast action, even on small fish?

Our rental doesn't have a dock or ramp, so we'll be launching and pulling the boat every day. Is there a preferred ramp in the area -- preferably with a ice, tackle, beer, etc. available nearby?

Looking forward to seeing the area, and I'd appreciate any tips you all can offer.

151306
 

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Some thoughts: Assuming typical weather, a morning hop over to Cayo Costs should be easy, but it isn't "right there" if it gets choppy. I find the slow speed areas through the Jug Creek to be kind of a pain and easy to get stuck on lower tide stages, but I don't know that water very well. I'd call one of the marinas, or maybe Pineland, and see if I could find a place to leave the boat. Don't be late if you launch at the public ramp. I've almost always found some luck on the bars and grass to the north of Bokeelia and up towards the Intercoastal where the bars meet the harbor. Of course, early and late are best, but the tide has to be moving. I don't know where to snorkel. I love to anchor up--bow out, at Captiva Pass get out and walk the inside of the pass on an outgoing tide, especially late in the day. Beach right around the corner, but the water is pretty nice there too on the inside just get a little ways away from the pass with kids as the currents can be strong and who knows what is in that pass. Also, next to the state park entrance in Pelican there is a bar where a lot of people hang out and would be comfortable for kids. On the beach side of Cayo Costa, the bars often produce and the outlet to the lagoon usually has some fish. I'm no help as far as fun things to do, but I will say that I've never enjoyed Cabbage Key in the summer, no AC at least the last time I was there. The restaurants I've been at in Bokelia were fine.
 

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Bokeelia boat ramp or Pinland Marina are your closest ramps. Cabbage Key is a fun place to go for lunch. On the weekends it’s crazy though. There is a tortoise walking around there that your kids can feed flower blossoms to. The inside of the place is covered in dollar bills, which is cool. I usually get a burger. You’ll see boats beached all along Cayo Costa. During the week isn’t bad. Weekends get pretty crazy around that area, and in a 17t it could be really choppy even if the weather is cooperating. There is an old Tarpon documentary done by (maybe) PBS a long time ago, that talks specifically about Pineland and how it’s a historic place for the early tarpon fishermen. That area is where tarpon mania started. It would be cool to watch before or when you are there. Boca Grande pass is a legendary place. Not only stuffed with Tarpon, but also where the world record Hammerhead shark was caught. Pics of it are crazy.
Fishing: The islands/keys south of Pineland marina usually hold snook and reds. High tide up in the mangroves, low tide out from the mangroves. Sand spots/potholes hold trout along the edges. Lots of small white bait out there, and big Threadfins. Take a 1/4in net if you have it. 1/2in if you want to go for Threadfins. Although a sabiki works best for them and keeps them lively longer. Just throw it directly in the school. The passes have tarpon in them. The rocks by redfish pass hold snook.
 

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Thank you both! Will throw in a few sabikis. Hadn't thought of that. Will also check in with marinas about a short-term slip.

Fortunately, we arrive on Sunday afternoon and stay through Thursday, so hopefully will avoid too much craziness.
 

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Pineland will be your closest ramp with the most parking to Cayo Costa you can also park on the backside of Cayo Costa and take the trolly over to the beachside its a state park so there is an entrance fee but also a dock for your boat and a small gift shop/ nature exhibite inside for the kids you can take everything with you on the tractors that shuttle you back and forth. Cabbage key is nice but expensive I prefer the lazy flamingo in Bokeelia not quite as pricey. Snook will be along the beachside as will bait if you throw a castnet. Redfish and trout will be on the grassflats.
Lehrs economy tackle in North Fort Myers is the oldest tackle shop in business in town and the owner Mr Westra is a wealth of knowledge and super friendly we also have a Bass Pro but thats gonna be an hour plus from you our traffic is horrible.

I had the tailfisher same boats as yours basically and took it to the beachside all the time but it would stay out of boca grande in it go thru Captiva pass.
 

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Slips available for rent at 4 Winds Marina by the day. Second the lazy flamingo which is in the marina over Cabbage Key but if you have never been I guess it is kinda cool. Own a vacation rental right there at the marina. Nice little marina but no ramp. There is a $10 ramp up at the end of the island called Bocilla Island Seaport. It is literally at the end of the road being Capt Con's restaurant.

Cayo is a short hop out. You can anchor up inside and just to north of Captiva Pass. Bring Bug Spray out there.

Randall Research Center right by Pineland Marina is a cool thing to check with the kids. Calusa Indian archaeological site.

Same program tacklwise as where you are from. Lots of points, grass flats, back creeks etc to hit. Lots of baby tarpon around now if that is your thing and you can find them. Look for out of the way quiet areas. Might still be some snook out on the beaches but I don't go out there so I don't know. Fast action - deeper grass flats can hold a smorgasbord.

Have fun in PI!
 

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Thanks again, gentlemen. It was a great trip to a beautiful area.

Day 1 we went out through Captiva Pass, swam and had lunch on the beach side of Cayo Costa, then went back in through Captiva and up to Quarantine Rocks for a bit of snorkeling.

Day 2 I took my son out fishing early. Hit several spots in Pine Island Sound. Caught a few trout and smaller snook. Saw lots of slot to overslot reds and tons of snook, but they weren't particularly interested in our artificials.

Day 3 we all went to the shoals north of Bokeelia to wade, shell and catch bait. Loaded up on whitebait and small pinfish, then went fishing. The live bait worked better, and we got a beautiful top-of-the-slot red and several more snook. Then we headed back to Quarantine Rocks and did some more snorkeling. When the tide started running out, the kids caught a zillion mangroves and small snook on shrimp from the beach, which was kind of the highlight of their trip.

We stayed at little VRBO place right on the water near the Bokeelia Fishing Pier. Highly recommend it. Less than $100/night, hose and electricity in the carport for flushing and charging batteries, incredible view. There was a single ramp less than a quarter mile away behind Cap'n Con's and the pier that was $10/day and had plenty of parking.

We didn't do much besides boat and fish. Randell Research Center was closed except for the interpretive trail, and it wasn't really interpretive trail weather. Took the kids to the Mango Factory, and they got a kick out of going out and gathering them up from the ground for $1/pound. Had a beer and fries in Matlacha, but the wife was on edge about Covid stuff and we decided not to stay for dinner.

The very first evening, we waded out in front of our rental place and got killed by the no-see-ums, but after that they really weren't bad at all.

A few photos:

Cayo Costa lunch
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Bait boy
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Storm blowing in -- view from the deck of our rental
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Panorama from the rental place
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Chunky red (note half-eaten lunchable on the cooler in the background; it ain't easy fishing live bait from a 17T with two kids, the wife, and a full load of beach gear)
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Beach fishing at Quarantine Rocks (not my deck boat!)
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Happy kids
152405
 

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Doing it right !!
Play with the kids.

Fish hard with your buddies.

Sounds like a great trip that will be remembered for years by all.
WTG!
 

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Living right!

Send me the 411 on that VRBO when you get a chance.
 
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