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Tarpon Lodge, Calusa mound excursion to resume

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Nov 3, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED The historic fish shacks are one highlight of the seasonal “Cruise to Historic Tarpon Lodge & Calusa Indian Mounds on Pine Island” that will again be offered by Captiva Cruises starting on Nov. 17.

Captiva Cruises’ tour about the centuries of local fishing cultures is returning this month.

Offered during season, the first “Cruise to Historic Tarpon Lodge & Calusa Indian Mounds on Pine Island” will be held on Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost is $50 for adults and $40 for 12 and under.

“This cruise covers 1,000 years of fishing within the Pine Island Sound,” Captiva Cruises educator Richard Finkel said. “Going back to the indigenous Calusa, through the Spanish-Cuban fishing era, and the Punta Gorda Fish and Ice Company and historic fish shacks, through the specular sport fishing of today, including the tarpon and back-bay fishing.”

It departs from McCarthy’s Marina, which at one point was a hub of activity for Captiva as the historical mailboat would arrive there six days a week to drop off passengers and goods.

“We cruise north through the Pine Island Sound,” he said, adding they may go out into the Gulf if the conditions allow. “At some point during the cruise, we’ll go very close to the historic fish shacks.”

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

Finkel will discuss how the Punta Gorda company utilized the shacks.

“We go by Cabbage Key and Useppa Island and into the northern community of Pine Island, which is where one of the major sights of the Calusa culture was,” he said.

There will be wildlife sightings along the way.

“When we talk about the fishing cultures of the Pine Island Sound, we have to certainly include the wildlife,” Finkel said, citing fish, mammals like dolphins and birds. “There’s a good chance of seeing a variety of wildlife, which will be discussed as we see them.”

Arriving 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 Sound and Charlotte Harbor.

PHOTO PROVIDED One of the historic fish shacks in the Pine Island Sound.

“Passengers will get a little orientation to the history of that particular site, which goes back to 1926,” he said.

The property, which once served as a private home, was purchased by the Wells family and later converted into the present-day inn and restaurant. The same family also owns Cabbage Key.

“It’s just a delightful spot, right on the water, and they do a fabulous job keeping up with the Old Florida charm,” Finkel said. “And their meals are delicious.”

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.

“Passengers have an opportunity to go on a guided walking tour of the Calusa Heritage Trail — and learn more about the indigenous fishing culture of the Pine Island Sound,” he said.

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.

Finkel noted that the trail is managed by the center, which has ties to the University of Florida.

“They oversee the archaeological sites there and the educational programs,” he said.

An educator from the center will lead the guided tour.

“It’s about a 45-minute walk-and-talk that encompasses the Calusa,” Finkel said.

Participants will have a chance to see one of their pre-Columbian mounds.

The group will then reboard and head back to Captiva.

“We’ll do some more sightseeing along the way back,” he said.

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

Locals and visitors are encouraged to reserve a spot.

“This particular cruise is a good all-round synopsis of the fishing cultures of the Pine Island Sound,” Finkel said. “You get a good overview of the islands along the way and the historic fish shacks, and you learn about the indigenous fishing culture.”

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.