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Tarpon Lodge, Calusa mound excursion to resume

By Staff | Nov 13, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED One of the fish shacks within the Pine Island Sound.

Captiva Cruises’ tour about the centuries of local fishing cultures is returning for the season.

Offered from Nov. 19 through April, the “Cruise to Historic Tarpon Lodge & Calusa Indian Mounds on Pine Island” will be held on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost is $45 for adults and $35 for youth.

“Both are very unique places in Southwest Florida,” Captiva Cruises educator Richard Finkel said.

“The Tarpon Lodge is a historic site that goes back to 1926,” he added. “Right across the street is the Randell Research Center. It maintains an archeological site, where they have digs every so often, but they also have the Calusa Heritage Trail. It’s a great place to learn more about the indigenous Calusa.”

Departing from McCarthy’s Marina, the tour travels to Pineland on Pine Island.

PHOTO PROVIDED The Fortune Fish House is one of the highlights of the “Cruise to Historic Tarpon Lodge & Calusa Indian Mounds on Pine Island” that is offered by Captiva Cruises from Nov. 19 through April.

On the way, participants will get an up-close look at the historic fish houses in the Pine Island Sound and discuss the area’s diverse fishing cultures, from the Calusa Indians and Spanish Cuban Ranchos, to the Punta Gorda Fish and Ice Company and the famous tarpon fishing and sport fishing present today.

“We talk about the Pine Island Sound and back bay estuary,” he said. “We talk a lot about the fish shacks. We talk about how those shacks were utilized in the commercial fishery in the area.”

There will be wildlife sightings along the way.

“Like birds, dolphins,” Finkel said. “Which are all part of the fishing culture in their own way.”

On Pine Island, participants will embark for lunch at the Tarpon Lodge and Restaurant. They will learn about the family business’ storied tradition of fishing in the Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor.

PHOTO PROVIDED Lunch for participants will take place at the Historic Tarpon Lodge.

“It was the house that was built by the Wilson family,” he said. “The Wells family bought and converted it into an inn and a restaurant in 1999. The family also owns Cabbage Key.”

Participants can get a feel for the area’s history through the photographs on display of local fishing.

“And the atmosphere overlooking the Pine Island Sound is beautiful,” Finkel said.

Afterward, the group will head across the street to the Randell Research Center. A program of the Florida Museum of Natural History, the facility is dedicated to learning and teaching the archeology, history and ecology of Southwest Florida through the Pineland archeological and historical site.

Participants can take part in a walking tour of the Calusa Heritage Trail to one of the pre-Columbian mounds of the ancient Calusa with a center guide, who will elaborate on the indigenous culture.

PHOTO PROVIDED Captiva Cruises' vessel the Santiva was named after the original boat that carried mail and passengers to the island from the downtown Fort Myers area before the Sanibel Causeway was completed.

“Their guides have a wealth of knowledge,” he said. “Going on the Calusa Heritage Trail is a great way to gain insight into the Calusa culture.”

Finkel noted that a portion of the cruise price supports the trail.

“They have a classroom with some exhibits, and they have a book shop and gift shop,” he said.

Participants then will reboard and head back to Captiva.

“We like to use the trawling net on this particular cruise because it ties into the fishing cultures of the Pine Island Sound and the marine life,” Finkel said of using it on the return trip. “We like to do a sample of what’s living in the seagrasses.”

The vessel utilized for the tour is the Santiva, named after the old Captiva mailboat.

Residents and visitors are invited to reserve a spot on the seasonal expedition.

“A lot of people might not be aware of the Tarpon Lodge or Calusa Heritage Trail, and both of these sites are jewels in Southwest Florida,” he said. “And we get an up-close look at some of the sites within the Pine Island Sound, like the fish houses.”

Reservations are required; lunch is not included in the price.

Captiva Cruises also offers trips to Cabbage Key, Useppa Island and Boca Grande, along with beach and shelling excursions to Cayo Costa State Park, sailing adventures, sunset cruises, and dolphin watch and wildlife adventures organized in partnership with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

For more information or reservations, call 239-472-5300 or visit www.captivacruises.com.