Chokoloskee is a kayak fisherman’s paradise. All three of the big three inshore species of sea trout, redfish and snook can be found here, along with numerous others species, tarpon, pompano and sharks just to mention a few. Chokoloskee Island was inhabited by Indians for more than 1,500 years before European explorers reached the area. By the time Spain transferred Florida to Great Britain in 1763, the area was uninhabited. During the first three-quarters of the 19th century, Chokoloskee Island may have been occasionally visited by Seminoles, white hunters, "Spanish Indian" fishermen from Cuba and various "refugees from justice." Rich in the history of Florida, it’s now just a sleepy little fishing village; it sports a population of just a little bit more than 400 people. With a large part of the 10,000 Islands located in the middle of and protected by the Everglades National Park, it lends itself to camping throughout the park. By obtaining the required permits, it’s possible to camp out on the outer islands or along the inland waterway. Along the inland waterway you will find one of the Parks more unique camping facilities, the “Chickee”. Fashioned after the Seminole Indians Chickee huts, they offer the opportunity to camp right out on the water.
Now if roughing it is not your style, Chokoloskee Island offers just about any style of comfort you may be accustomed to. Of the many trips that I have made, my most memorable one was a trip that eight of us took several years ago. Hauling our pop-up campers down there, we set up our base camp at the Chokoloskee Island Park and Marina. Located right on the water, we were able to launch the kayaks and begin fishing immediately.
Planning your trips around the tides here is everything, with an average swing of anywhere between 2 and 4 feet, and the narrow channels and cuts, you can “ride the tide” to your fishing location, then ride it back in to the launch. The biggest choice here is “Do I go to the outside, or fish the inland river system?” Riding the tide to the “outside” or Gulf coast shoreline will lead you through miles of twisting and turning mangrove lined channels. Padding the other way, you can fish several of the river systems, the Turner and Lopez being the closest for kayaking.
Among the other great kayak fishing opportunities here in Chokoloskee is an event that I have been to a couple of times over the years. One of the local guides, Capt. Chuck Wright hosts a “Paddle-In”; kayakers from all over the state converge on Chokoloskee and paddle out to one of the outer keys or islands, once there we get out for a traditional Florida Conch Chowder lunch supplied by our host and his wife. In years past, the event has drawn nearly 150 kayakers.
But what draws me to this beautiful area of Florida is the sense of adventure. I’m one of those guys that like to see what’s around the next corner; with 10,000 Islands there is always another corner to paddle around.
About the Author: Bill Howard is a Pro Staff Member at Yakangler.com, as well as Malibu Kayaks. He is also on the Columbia Sportswear Pro Team. Bill is an avid photographer and writer, contributing to numerous websites and publications in the Tampa Bay area.
In 2008 he completed a 17 day, 129 mile trip around Tampa Bay raising nearly $4000 dollars for the American Heart Association. He is also a board member for the Tampa Bay Chapter of Hero's on the Water.