Footprints in the Sand; Kayaking

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Kayak ownership came to me late in life. For years I was a beach bum, a sailor, and a power boater. This all worked well until I no longer owned a vessel. I love being on the water, but I was reluctant to paddle or pedal a boat. After all, I’ve been powering around for years. Even running a trolling motor seems slow to me.

My first kayak trips were made away from my home waters thanks to my participation and membership in the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. They hold annual late summer conferences in different areas around Florida. For a few days we are treated to all kinds of outdoor activities suggested to us by the host of the area where the conference is held. This includes fishing, shooting, outdoor destinations, boat tours, eating establishments and yes, kayaking.

I honestly avoided the kayak trips. Paddle a boat, are you crazy? Well, some folks’ learning curves are a bit slower than others and mine was ironically at a snail’s pace when it came to watercraft.

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The jungle-like environs of the upper Estero River as seen from a kayak.

Several years ago at one of the above mentioned conferences I was asked to join a group for a test of a Hobie Kayak with their new MirageDrive pedal propulsion system. To say the least, it was an eye opener. Yes, it was pedal instead of paddle, but the idea is still the same. Either way you have to do a little work to get from place to place.

Honestly, I liked it. There was an overall feeling of being one with the water. It was so quiet. I could slowly approach shore birds without them taking flight, not to mention the many fish I saw that didn’t seem to be the least bit leery of my presence. In today’s vernacular… I was leaving no footprint.

In the years that followed I took many kayak trips on the crystal clear spring fed rivers of central Florida. Most of these were with paddle in hand instead of pedals and I have to say I could go either way. One thing is for sure, the paddle is cheaper than the pedal. But on that note, if you want to fish from a kayak you may want to consider the latter. Pedaling does leave your hands mostly free to fish.

I became a kayak owner a few years ago. I’ve since sold the first one and bought a second. Let me give you a little advice. Before jumping into kayak ownership I’d suggest renting. There are lots of places in our local area that offer rentals and many shops will also let you test drive before purchasing. Try different lengths and styles to see which type is the best fit.

Local access for launching a kayak is good in our area. While you can use the public boat ramps, there are also a lot of small put-ins all around Lee and Collier Counties. One of my favorites it right across from Dog Beach at the north end of the New Pass Bridge. There’s parking for 8 to 10 vehicles and the beach there has a gentle slope which makes it easy to pull or wheel your kayak to the water’s edge.

For me the ultimate “feels like you’re in the jungle” kayak experience close to home is the upper Estero River. Access can be had from Estero River Outfitters, or Koreshan State Park. These two locations are right across from each other on US41 in Estero. This stretch of river is mostly shaded, and with an early start it will treat kayakers to plenty of wildlife to see along the way.

Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman, retired spin & fly fishing guide and host of REEL Talk Radio on ESPN 99.3 FM from 7-10 a.m. every Saturday morning. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association. Capt. Rob also shares his fishing knowledge in a series of fishing classes at Bass Pro Shops.