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Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival coming to Pine Island

October 31, 2012
Pine Island Eagle

The 7th annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival will come to Pine Island on Saturday, Nov. 3, with a catch-and-release fishing tournament and also the return of Bluegrass for a Blueway & Taste of Matlacha to Matlacha Park.

The two Saturday events are part of the larger, four-day festival Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 1-4, that has activities on the Sanibel Causeway and at the Residence Inn by Marriott Fort Myers-Sanibel.

"We are pleased to have the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival on our gem of a shoreline here in Southwest Florida, giving access to landlubbers and islanders to this fast-growing eco activity that works for all ages," said Betsy Clayton, festival organizer and waterways coordinator for Lee County Parks & Recreation.

Article Photos

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Matlacha Park will host part of the Calusa Blueway Festival this weekend.

North America's fastest-growing paddling festival will again bring notoriety to the Greater Pine Island area this fall, bringing canoe, kayak and Stand-Up Paddleboard activity in pristine back bays and giving residents, visitors and businesses eco-opportunities galore.

The Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, which has been selected as one of the Southeast Tourism Society's Top 20 Events for 2012, will bring focus to the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail, recognized as one of the best U.S. kayaking destinations by Canoe & Kayak magazine. The user-friendly trail helps people experience the natural magic of the area's scenic waterways, with leggy mangrove forests, more than 300 species of birds and sugar-sand beaches.

Join a free afternoon in the park Saturday, Nov. 3, with live bluegrass music from Skeeterland and a fund-raiser for the Pine Island Food Pantry that features "tastes" from area restaurants.

Fact Box

If You Go:

What: Pine Island-based Calusa

Blueway Paddling Festival Events

When: Saturday, Nov. 3

Where: Matlacha Park, 4577

Pine Island Road NW,

Matlacha, FL 33993

Details: www.calusablue-

Bring a chair or picnic blanket. Get a chance to meet local non-profits. Come try a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard for free courtesy of Florida Paddle Sports and Pine Island Paradise Paddling, which are offering demos on SUP fishing and SUP yoga.

Restaurants offering "tastes" include Andy's Island Seafood, Bert's Bar, Barnhill's Seafood Spot, Miceli's Restaurant, Old Fish House, Perfect Cup and Sandy Hook.

Food will be served noon to 2:30 p.m. Event hours are 11 a.m. 4 p.m. at Matlacha Park, 4577 Pine Island Road NW. Call (239) 283-4110. It's free to attend; food tickets available for purchase at event.

If you're into fishing, join in the Calusa Blueway Fishing Tournament.

The catch and release fishing tournament is for anglers in kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards. It happens on Lee County waterways with digital weigh-in and award ceremony Saturday, Nov. 3, at Matlacha Park.

The first-place winner will be awarded a Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12, along with accessories, altogether valued at more than $3,000. The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 is compact and versatile, equipped with features such as vantage seating, under-seat tackle storage, horizontal storage for four rods and a livewell-ready cargo area.

The second-place winner will receive $500, based on 50 participants. The third-place angler will win $300, with the fourth-place winner earning $150, and the fifth-place winner taking home $50.

Anglers can start fishing at safe light and then return to the park with their cameras between 1:30 and 3 p.m. for the digital weigh in.

But first they need to attend the Friday, Nov. 2, captain's meeting presented by Angler's Inn with food from Bert's Bar.

The Inn will host the 5:30 p.m. event, where fishermen will pick up their measuring devices and hear the rules at a 6 p.m. meeting.

New this year is a streamlined online registration site for anglers, who pay a $60 fee to compete. Visit and click on "activities" and "fishing tournament" to find the registration link. Or go directly to and click on "programs."

Tournament proceeds benefit the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism, which is hosting the event along with Florida Sea Grant, Lee County Parks & Recreation and volunteers. A portion of proceeds also goes to the Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail.

For more information, contact tournament director Josh Harvel at (239) 233-0655 or or tournament liaison Joy Hazell at or (239) 533-7518.

"The Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival is now the premier ecotourism festival here in Southwest Florida," says John Kiseda, executive director of the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism. "It's all about responsible travel to natural areas that preserve the environment and improve the well being of local people."

For more information on the festival, visit or call (239) 533-7474. For Calusa Blueway details, visit



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