Pioneer fishing families of Cayo Costa to air in May

April 20, 2018
By Marcy Shortuse

■ STAFF REPORT
A documentary featuring some of our local history will be airing on WEDU in the near future, and it sounds like it will definitely be worth watching.
“Mullet & Mangroves, the Pioneer Fishing Families of Cayo Costa Island” is a half-hour documentary about the way of life, past and present. It makes its debut on WEDU-TV (PBS) on May 3 at 8:30 p.m.
“Everyone involved with the documentary had the same goal in mind,” said Ilene Safron, the program’s director/videographer, who owns Main Sail Video Productions, Inc., in Fort Myers. “It was to help protect and preserve the island’s history and natural beauty for future generations. I’m hoping that even with the sound down, when viewers see scenes of the island’s serene beaches looking just the same as when the Indians first arrived, it will make them ask, ‘Where is that? I would love to go there.’ ”
Bob Hite, who is best known as WFLA-TV Channel 8’s main news anchor for more than 30 years, tells the story through historical research and interviews with the few remaining pioneers who grew up on Cayo Costa. The history traces the island’s inhabitants from its native Calusa origins to Spanish colonization through modern- day fishing families and their descendants. Today, 94 percent of the island is a state park, where visitors arrive by boat for a day or stay overnight camping to enjoy its seclusion and nine miles of white sand beaches with millions of seashells, surrounded by the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The program was a collaboration of sponsors, which included nonprofit entities Friends of Cayo Costa, Barrier Island Parks Society and the Lee County Tourist Development Council, along with private in-kind donations. “It was very beneficial to record first-hand information by capturing the oral histories from the people who actually grew up on the island,” said Elaine McLaughlin, chair of Friends of Cayo Costa. “Preserving their stories is important, just as is preserving this unspoiled place that is a Florida hidden gem.”
The documentary can be viewed according to the schedule above.
For more information, go to floridastateparks.org/cayocosta.