Shore & Kayak Fishing

February 14, 2024 at 8:30 a.m.


Return To Don Pedro State Park

Don Pedro Island State Park is in the northern part of Placida Harbor and is actually divided by the ICW. The eastern part, or “land base”, has a launch on the ICW but it’s at the end of a 300-yard, one lane road. The gate at the east end of this road is closed with a chain but kayaks on dollies can roll under it. You should probably remove your rods from the vertical rod holders for this maneuver. Once at the launch, stow your dolly aboard the kayak to avoid long walks back to the parking lot to place and retrieve it from your vehicle. There are restrooms, picnic tables and a kayak wash-down area. On the ICW, the dock and the sandy launch are in a “no wake” zone which makes for comfortable launching and landing. alert when crossing the channel. 

The tunnel before Ian


The great fishing starts right across the ICW channel from the launch. Paddle across the shoal bar to reach grass flats on the other side. This shoal protects you from wakes that push bait off the bar to waiting gamefish. Drift or anchor a comfortable cast west of the shoal then cast up on it or along the edge. This is an area where we regularly catch trout and pompano. These flats vary from about 4ft. deep at the south end to less than a foot at the north end. From here we usually fish south along the west side of the ICW and target the grass flats, mangroves, and the private docks on Palm Island.

About 200 yards south of the southernmost dock is the hidden entrance to a mangrove tunnel leading to a lagoon accessible only by kayak. After Ian, it required some clearing and remains more challenging to navigate. It is easier to paddle this tunnel on a higher tide. The shallow lagoon at the end of the tunnel looks “fishy” but we’ve only had limited action there. The tunnel and this beautiful hidden lagoon always bring us back to Don Pedro. 

On the west side of the ICW, south of the tunnel entrance, the mangrove shoreline is home to snook and redfish. If you fish along these mangroves expect to also find ladyfish, jacks, and trout. At the south end of this shoreline you’ll paddle under an abandoned bridge. Take a hard left after you pass under this bridge, and you’ll find a tiny landing. It’s just big enough for two kayaks. We often stop here to enjoy lunch and the view from the bridge. 

The tunnel after Ian


Across the bay (Rambler Hole) from this bridge is where the beach side dock for Don Pedro Island State Park used to be. Only pilings remain but this sandy spot is still accessible to kayakers. Folks can park their kayaks and walk over to the beach for some fishing or shelling. In the center of Ramblers Hole, there’s a shallow area. This is a great place to stake out your kayak and wade. From your kayak, target the edges of the bar and the deep grasses at the south end. Further south the bay gets really shallow but can hold redfish and trout on higher tides.

On a recent trip, we caught plenty of trout, lady fish, and one tiny barracuda. The trout were cooperative with both our jigs and DOA shrimp, but a slow retrieve along the bottom was the ticket. We were catching trout on nearly every cast and later in the afternoon, the larger trout showed up. We release all our trout, but someone looking for some trout to take home would have no problem catching a limit of slot fish. 

Don Pedro Island State Park, with its unique mangrove tunnel, hidden lagoon, beach access and large variety of fish is a great place for kayak anglers or kayakers to enjoy. Be sure to get your gear loaded and be gone before 5:00 PM when the park closes and the gate locks. 

Don Pedro Island State Park is located 9 miles south of Englewood on Placida Road. Turn at the state park sign across from Cape Haze Plaza. GPS=26.856035, – 82.302784