It's about time more marine anglers headed for Florida become familiar with this marvelous barrier island on Florida's southwest coast. Keewaydin (pronounced Key-Way-Din) lies south of Naples and north of Marco Island. With Little Marco River on its "inside" shoreline and the Gulf of Mexico beachfront and surf on the outside, this island is an angling paradise. In addition to the fishing, there are iguanas, turtles, ospreys, pelicans, porpoises and even schools of rolling tarpon to fascinate nature lovers. Keewaydin can only be reached by boat. This reduces the angling pressure compared to causeway-connected islands.
Probably the biggest draws for anglers are sightfishing for snook that roam the edge of the Gulf beach, sometimes in as little as a foot of water, and nighttime dock light fishing for the same species on the river side. This fishing is at its peak during the warmer months of the year.
The beach fishing on the Gulf side is a daytime sightfishing enterprise, where polarized sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat help anglers to aim their presentations to snook that are swimming practically on the edge of the sand. Most encounters involve solitary linesiders, though at times, pods of three to six will swim by.
I would recommend fishing for them on an incoming tide so there will be ample room in the height of the water column. Since you are basically flats fishing, exercise the same finesse you would to bonefish by keeping a low profile, standing still as possible and "leading" the fish with your lure or fly. If you are lucky, you may see some cruising or tailing pompano you can cast to as well.
During the dozen times I fished this island, I was the guest of the Kanzler family who owned the southernmost house on Keewaydin. I always made a graceful request for them to keep the dock lights on during my stay there. Many anglers will quickly recognize this as an intention to enhance the nighttime snook fishing on the docks along the Little Marco River. Indeed, dock lights attract snook that feed on the small baits like minnows that are drawn to the lights themselves.
In addition, especially during a falling tide, loads of linesiders that are hiding in the dock shadows crash shrimp pulled into the lit-up water by the tidal current. The popping sound of snook is something that a passionate angler never forgets.
After catching a half-dozen snook, you may find the school grows more cautious striking a lure or fly. These are the best times to "rest" the school for an hour and then fish for them again.
During one 24-hour cycle of fishing the nighttime outgoing tide at the docks and the incoming tide on the beach, I released 76 snook up to 12 pounds. This is some indication of the fishing to be had when anglers aim their sights on Keewaydin.
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