In the heart of Southwest Florida between Ft. Myers and Pine Island, there lies a hidden jewel called Matlacha. Historically a tiny commercial fishing village, Matlacha (pronounced Mat-luh-SHAY) has transformed into a laid-back, somewhat-eclectic blip on the map where you may find yourself wanting to spend some more time.
I recently got an invite to a small media gathering that was to take place in the colorful backdrop of Matlacha. I’ve lived in Florida for 36 years and had never heard of this town. Looking up the Matlacha Tiny Village where we would be staying, I became increasingly excited to see it in person and tap into some amazing inshore fishing. The event was organized by Hobie and AFTCO so we would be kayak fishing in the latest Hobie fishing kayaks. This would be the perfect combination for the shallow, mangrove-filled labyrinths of the mangroves in search of redfish, snook, and more.
Of course, as the date of the trip drew near, Mother Nature was conjuring up an extremely late-season Tropical Storm Eta. Everyone was glued to the predictions, but as fate would have it, the storm arrived the same day that we did. The water rose over the docks and everything was lashed down for the blow.
Tons of rain and gusty winds made for a pretty quiet day, holed up in my tiny home, which was a pretty awesome place to stay. It had everything you needed for a short stay in comfort. I couldn’t help but think of those people on tv who have three kids and two dogs living in one permanently: Wow! But for a visit, it was just right. The Matlacha Tiny Village is right on the water and the water level was rising, but we faired fine and by 10 am the next day the storm had quickly moved north leaving the sun shining and the water dropping. Time to get fishing!
The crew from Hobie was showcasing brand-new tech in the world of kayaks. They certainly have catered to anglers in the development of their 360 pedal drives, rod holders, ergonomic seats, and more. Lowrance was also there and rigging the kayaks with their latest MFD’s which now can network with other units and boat accessories. The new Elite Fishing System (FS) gives you access to the full line-up of Lowrance fish-finding tools – including ActiveTarget Live Sonar, Active Imaging, Fish Reveal, and preloaded C-MAP Contour+ charts – to help you make the most of your time on the water.
Another innovation that was showcased and has just been released was the Mirage iTrek series of inflatable kayaks and pedalboards that come in various configurations.
This is not just any blow-up boat; it is an incredibly stable platform and offers the ability to use Hobie’s pedal drive units, comfortable seating options, and unique fishing accessories. Now you can take your fishing kayak anywhere because it deflates and stores in a compact carry case; ready to use at a moment’s notice. The iTrek 9 hull only weighs 20-pounds and the iTrek 11 is 27-pounds. The iTrek series presently includes four models depending on how much fun you want to have and how many people you want to share it with. The Mirage iTrek Fiesta holds 4 people and holds up to 4 Mirage drives for maximum speed and agility while the iTrek 9 and 11 are geared towards a single angler choosing stealth and convenience in one package.
That’s a lot of adventure packed in a lightweight package!
We also had a full spread of popular Hobie fishing kayaks and we took turns taking them out to fish the mangrove shorelines of these Southwest Florida backwaters. As the group loaded up and left the rain-swollen canals, we dispersed out across the flats and filtered into a maze of shallow flats filled with giant jumping mullet, roving redfish, and lurking snook.
I was casting a Z-Man Minnoz and Gulp! Mantis Shrimp to the nooks and crannies in the mangroves. The places where the current was pushing through the prop roots of red mangroves proved best for me. Snook and redfish were hiding in the shadows and blasted the lure as it whisked past their hideout. No one fish was giant, but they were all fun on the right tackle.
The water was clear but stained from the tannin-discharges from Lake Okeechobee. It did not slow this redfish down as he inhaled my mantis shrimp and tried hard to make the mangroves.
I had fished from kayaks from time to time and dealt with some of the awkward moments compared to a technical skiff, but as soon as I used the Mirage Drive360, I knew that this was the answer to gaining full control of the vessel allowing you to maximize your fishing effort instead of fighting your boat position. Add in the PowerPole Micro Anchor and you have the best combination for fishing in a kayak.
Evenings were spent gathered under the water-side tent swapping fish stories and listening to the crews from various hosting partners like AFTCO who gave a great sneak peek at new fishing-centric apparel that will be coming out soon.
We also got to explore some of the Matlacha’s amazing local restaurants like The Olde’ Fish House Marina Seafood Market and Restaurant, Matlacha Cove Inn, and the Blue Dog Bar & Grill. Brimming with local history, these dining hots spots were laid-back and delicious. A winning combination with locals and visitors alike. The ritual of our morning coffee was satisfied with a visit to the Perfect Cup café along the central street lined with colorful gift shops and restaurants.
The entire trip was a sneak peek at a laid-back little town full of friendly people and great fishing. What’s not to love and I can’t wait to get back with my family and share this hidden gem.
To learn more about the Fort Myers/Sanibel area, visit this website.