Estero Bay, located just south of Fort Myers, is a major resource area within the Charlotte Harbor Estuary system. This relatively pristine ecosystem is under increasing pressure as a consequence of unprecedented population growth and development within its watershed. Habitat alteration and both point and non-point sources of pollution threaten the environmental integrity of Estero Bay and its tributaries. This project developed a rapid bioassessment protocol as a potential management tool specifically designed for use in Estero Bay, but is also broadly applicable to the evaluation of the relative health of other estuaries in South Florida, including the tidal portions of their associated tributaries. This protocol provides resource managers with increased resolution of the cumulative impacts of upstream disturbance and environmental stress on estuarine ecosystems. The project also included an initial data collection effort intended to provide an ecological snapshot of the upstream portion of Estero Bay. By involving college students and citizen volunteers as data collectors, the approach taken was cost effective and promoted public awareness, education and community participation with regard to aquatic ecosystem management. Results indicated that fish seining holds the most promise for a technique that gives consistent results over time. However, future projects may continue to test the use of fish traps in place for longer periods. It is easy to train students to use fish traps effectively and a single volunteer can place the traps, rather than the team required for seining. The experiences managers gained from the project illuminated a need for reference materials when training students to identify local fish species. Florida Gulf Coast University plans to expand the project to include the development of a photographic field identification booklet that can be utilized by volunteer monitors.