Estero River Outfitters's tackle-and-bait shop equips amateur and experienced fishermen alike with a plethora of gear for adventurous outings along the nearby river. A varied selection of bait helps fishermen angle big catches with saltwater shrimp ($3.79/dozen), freshwater shiner minnows ($7.99/dozen), and night crawlers ($3.75). High-pitched Scotty crank whistles ($5.09) can be used to signal distress or to call unsportsmanlike conduct on an encroaching alligator and fillet/bait kits arm fish-preparers with two stainless-steel knives, a sharpening stone, and handled cutting board ($9.95). The Otterbox 3500 ($27.95), which can withstand up to 100 feet of water pressure, provides an airtight enclosure to keep cell phones, wallets, and other personal items dry.
Captain Glen Brownlee was a born fisherman. Some say he was delivered at sea with only the crash of waves and the caw of gulls as his lullaby; others say he was raised by a wild pack of tackle bobbers until his 14th birthday. Regardless of the tall tales surrounding this Fort Myers native, one thing is certain: he took up the fishing pole at a young age, scouring local salt and fresh waters for the area's abundance of game fish.
Twenty-five years later, Glen spearheads his own fishing company?Scales and Tails Charters?where he shares his lifetime of fishing expertise with others during trips across Southwest Florida waters. The seasoned sailor guides his Glen's 2005 Sea Chaser Flats boat to areas where fish are plentiful, so guests have a better chance of reeling in tarpon, redfish, and the rare but beautiful Chanel high-heeled boot. Not only does Glen provide his customers with professional rods and reels, he filets and packages their catches at the end of the trip himself.
The instructors at Sweetwater Paddlesports must have a natural affinity for the water and have nurtured passions for sports ranging from surfing and wakeboarding to boating. Drawing from these combined experiences, they've channeled their efforts almost entirely toward introducing others to standup paddleboarding. In group or private lessons, they introduce basic techniques for balance and maneuvering and what to do at a red light. To supplement this aquatic-sports training, Sweetwater also coordinates on-water standup-paddleboard yoga and fitness classes. The company's fleet—which can be picked up or delivered for rental—includes standup paddleboards by makers such as Tahoe and One World and kayaks by Jackson and Feel Free.
Allison Call and her brother Bo Browne, who both spent their youth fishing and kayaking in Southwest Florida's backwaters, have always talked about starting a business together. In 2012, they decided to turn talk into action with the help of their spouses, opening the family-run Bonita Kayak Company. They not only rent out next-to-new kayaks, most of which are outfitted with comfortable, high-backed seats, but also share their love for Florida's outdoors during guided treks and other outdoor expeditions.
During fishing tours, Bo expertly guides groups to the best spots and offers tips to reel in premium catches such as large-mouth bass, catfish, and tires from a Mercedes-Benz. The team delivers recreation or fishing kayaks anywhere within its delivery area, but one of its favorite drop-off points is at the Imperial River, which offers tranquil paddling beneath mangrove trees. "It's very cool because it's kind of an Amazonian atmosphere,” says Allison’s husband and business partner, Jacob. He also recommends the New Pass drop-off, which has easy access to the gulf and white sand beaches, where kayakers have a good chance of spotting dolphins, manatees, and Moby Dicks under witness-protection programs.
Jacob says that he and the rest of the team pride themselves on being personable and taking the time to connect with their customers. Running the business as a family has given them more time to spend with one another—and Jacob says that they have fun with it. "I consider myself extremely lucky to go kayaking and call that my job," he says.
Beyond the breakers that crash onto Florida's sandy coastlines, there's an entire watery world to discover. And Don Moorhead, the USCG?certified guide and captain behind Keystone Fishing Charters, is just the man to lead the way. Moorhead has been casting lines into inland and offshore waters since childhood, and over the years, he has developed a deep knowledge of the best fishing spots along the West Coast. Today, he shares that knowledge during chartered fishing trips aboard a 23? Shearwater bay boat equipped with features such as a GPS-controlled trolling motor and advanced Ahab-tracking system. Groups angle for speckled trout, tarpon, and other native fish using custom-made rods and other equipment. But reeling in a catch isn't the only reason to schedule an expedition?groups can also embark on sightseeing trips to encounter manatee, dolphins, and other marine life.
On Kayak Charters' guided eco tours, participants paddle through waters bustling with aquatic creatures, ranging from manatees to dolphins. The guides helm other scenic kayaking trips, too, along with fly-fishing charters. Kayak Charters complements its tours with classes on a wide array of outdoor skills, such as boating, navigation, and wilderness survival.