Don Pedro Island State Park is in the northern part of Placida Harbor and is actually divided by the Intracoastal Waterway. The eastern part, or “land base” (8450 Placida Road, Placida), has an excellent launch on the ICW — but it’s at the end of a 300-yard one-lane road. The gate at the east end of the road may be open so you can drive down to the launch, but from there you must return your car to the parking area and then walk back to the launch.
The narrow road can be tricky to navigate because there are no turnouts, so occasionally somebody has to back up. That can be an issue with a trailer. It’s faster to use a kayak dolly and stow it on board when you launch. There may be a few loaner dollies available at the parking area, but don’t count on that. There are restrooms, picnic tables and a very nice kayak wash-down area.
One issue with this launch in the past was that it put you directly into a high-speed area of the ICW. However, the slow speed zone has now been expanded to include the launch area and dock. Still, it’s wise to be alert when crossing the channel.
Great fishing starts right across the channel from the launch. You’ll cross a shoal bar with grassflats on the other side. This shoal will protect you from most wakes. Actually, the wakes are helpful — they push bait off the bar to gamefish waiting in the grasses. Drift or anchor a comfortable cast west of the shoal amd cast up on it or along the edge. This is an area where we regularly catch trout and pompano. These flats vary from about 4 feet 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 grassflats, mangroves and the nearby docks on Palm Island.
About 200 yards south of the southernmost dock, there’s a hidden entrance to a mangrove tunnel leading to a lagoon accessible only by kayak. It is easier to navigate the tunnel on a higher tide. This shallow lagoon looks very fishy, but we’ve only had limited action there. On our last trip we did see a snook feeding along the mangroves. Fish or no, the picturesque tunnels and this beautiful hidden lagoon always bring us back to Don Pedro.
The eastern shoreline across from this tunnel and to the south has some dredged areas that provide good habitat along the ICW. This shoreline is a good spot to be when the north wind blows. Wave and wake action along with tidal flows create feeding zones along the edge of the ICW. Check out any nautical chart to locate these deeper areas. Target the edge between the ICW and these dredged holes.
On the west side of the ICW, south of the tunnel entrance, the mangrove shoreline shelters many snook and redfish. Expect to find ladyfish, jacks, redfish and trout outside the trees. At the south end of this flat, you’ll see a small beach — a great spot to get out and stretch your legs. We usually fish on south towards the abandoned bridge and eat lunch there. You’ll find a tiny landing on the left after crossing under the bridge. It’s just big enough for two kayaks.
Across the bay (Rambler Hole) from this bridge is the beach-side dock for Don Pedro Island State Park. Folks can park their boats and kayaks there and cross over to the beach for a dip or some surf fishing.
In the center of this bay is a shallow grassflat. This flat is a great place to stake out your kayak and wade on an incoming tide. From your kayak, target the edges of the bar and the deep grasses at the south end. Farther south, the bays get really shallow but can hold redfish and trout on higher tides. Mangroves line all these bays and are worth a cast or two.
With its beautiful mangrove tunnel, hidden lagoon, beach access and variety of hungry fish, Don Pedro Island State Park is a great place for all kayakers to enjoy. Be sure to get your gear loaded and be gone before 5 p.m. when the park closes and the gate locks.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of the waterproof “Angler’s Guide to Shore Fishing Southwest Florida” and “Angler’s Guide to Kayak Fishing Southwest Florida,” contribute these columns to promote the excellent fishing available in Southwest Florida. Their books are available at most tackle shops in the area, AnglerPocketGuides.com, or Amazon as a download or hard copy.