Sanibel Island Fishing & Captiva Fishing

Sanibel Island Fishing

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The pristine waters surrounding Sanibel Island and Captiva Island provide excellent opportunities for fishermen of all skill levels…from the novice to the World Record seeker. Whether offshore, inshore, back bay, pier, beach or wade sea fishing, fish can be found here year ‘round.

Offshore Fishing

Sanibel Islan Fishing - Offshore

The emerald green and shimmering blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico provide some of the best Deep Sea/Offshore fishing off the islands of Sanibel  & Captiva. The Gulf of Mexico is a shallow body of water allowing anglers to be 20 to 30 miles offshore and be in only 50 to 75 feet of water. There are no coral reefs, but numerous artificial reefs and ship wrecks offer great fishing and diving.

The Gulf of Mexico offshore of Sanibel Island and Captiva can be divided into two separate categories, they are State and Federal waters. The emerald green waters out to nine miles from the beach are known as State waters, while the clean shimmering blue ocean stretching from nine miles and beyond is designated United States federal waters.

State waters, always within sight of land, are where most of the fishing activity occurs and these waters share species typical of our Inshore waters; Tarpon, Snook, Redfish, Snapper, Shark, Tripletail, Florida Pompano, Grunts and smaller Grouper are common catches.

In the wilderness of deeper blue water out of sight of land, the true “Offshore” or Deep Sea environment features the best Grouper fishing in the state of Florida. Deep Sea fishermen are typically focused on species of fish that make good table fare, and offshore of Sanibel and Captiva this list is long; Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, Black Grouper, Scamp Grouper, Yellowtail Snapper, Red Snapper, Lane Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, Hogfish, Permit, African Pompano, Porgy’s and Cobia are typical catches year round.

Offshore fishermen also typically encounter larger pelagic species such as the massive Goliath Grouper, Amberjack, King Mackerel, and various species of Shark. Offshore fishing guides must be licensed with a restricted access federal permit to fish waters beyond nine miles from the beach, but strict and effective management measures have allowed our waters to remain a vibrant resource for generations of fishermen.

Sanibel Island fishing charters  are available with local professional guides. Check out: www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/see-do/outdoor-activities-and-sports/ for reef and wreck locations.

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Inshore / Back Bay Fishing

Sanibel and Captiva Islands area offers prime fishing for many species including the much sought after snook, redfish, sea trout and tarpon.

    • SNOOK: Because the habitat around our islands contains numerous inlet river mouths, oyster bars and mangrove shorelines, there is an abundant snook fishery here…12 months a year.
    • REDFISH: Our islands have one of the healthiest, largest redfish populations in the State of Florida. Picture the excitement of sight casting to a “tailing” redfish in crystal clear, shallow water or pulling a hefty redfish out from the mangrove shoreline.
    • SEATROUT: Seatrout are becoming more plentiful as well as larger due to good fishery management. With more fish and larger fish, the sea trout is gaining a healthy respect as highly sought after saltwater gamester.

Sanibel Island Fishing - Tarpon

  • TARPON: Tarpon fishing is so spectacular around Captiva and Sanibel Islands, it deserves its own write-up. This area is the cradle of tarpon fishing. The first tarpon caught on rod and reel was in 1885 by W.H. Wood using bait and thumb stall reel with linen line right here on Sanibel Island in Tarpon Bay.

 

The annual migration of tarpon starts around mid-April and goes well into the month of July.

Tarpon fishing in famous Boca Grande Pass (known as the World Capital of Tarpon Fishing) with professional captains is usually drift fishing in large boats using at least 50# tackle.

The fleet of Sanibel professional fishing guides fish primarily off the east end of Sanibel offshore, anchored up, chumming and use light to heavier tackle.

For the light tackle and fly fisherman, professional tarpon guides use skiffs from 16 feet to 23 feet cruise the beaches and back bay areas in hot pursuit of the migrating fish.

This area offers the ultimate in tarpon fishing…so many casts, so many opportunities.

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Fly Fishing

Sanibel Island - Fly Fishing - Hefty SnookSanibel and Captiva Islands is a place where anglers enjoy saltwater fly fishing at its finest. Experienced fly rodders fish this area every month of the year because of the abundance of fish and the unsurpassed sight casting opportunities. Fly fishermen making the transition from freshwater to the salt may want to take advantage of the local Professional Fishing Guides skilled in the art of teaching.

Picture casting to a redfish tailing up over the shallow water flats and watch it charge and eat the fly. Or, seatrout often in the two to four pound range as it straightens out a fly line. Or, a snook strike a fly so violently that the hookup is almost instant and runs with incredible speed interrupted only by its acrobatic jumps. Or, picture this: a 100 pound tarpon following the fly with its huge bucket mouth open, see the fly disappear into its mouth, and as it turns off with such force and speed it starts going into uncontrollable jumps. This makes tarpon on fly the ultimate challenge.

There are numerous other species that can be pursued on fly whether inshore or offshore: ladyfish, jack crevalle, spanish mackerel, kingfish, barracuda, cobia, permit, pompano, flounder, snappers, shark, etc.

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Fishing Without a Boat

Sanibel Island Fishing - Onshore Fishing at Sunset

Off the beaches: The causeway beaches, the beaches near the Lighthouse end of Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach and the beaches off West Gulf Drive are areas to fish in shallow water with light tackle using live bait, artificial lures or fly rods. Early morning or late afternoon, anglers can walk the beaches and cast to snook, sea trout, whiting, sheepshead, flounder, mackerel or pompano.

Fishing pier: Fishing from the pier, or just alongside it, offers catches of redfish, snook, sheepshead, black drum, snapper and other species. Fishing on the pier usually requires heavier tackle.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge: good fishing along Wildlife Drive for mangrove snapper, seatrout, redfish, snook and sometimes baby tarpon.

Time of Year to Fish / Species

All Year:

  • Snook
  • Redfish
  • Sea trout
  • Spanish mackerel
  • Snappers
  • Grouper

Spring and Summer:

  • Tarpon
  • Pompano
  • Cobia
  • Permit

Spring and Fall:

  • King mackerel
  • Tripletail
  • Black Drum

Winter and Spring:

  • Sheepshead

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Rentals

Marinas on the islands rent boats, canoes and kayaks. Marina personnel give quick lessons on boat handling and charts for the area for those who want to adventure on their own.

Tour boats and some professional fishing guides offer charters for: shelling, sightseeing, lunch, birding, eco / nature, or photography. Some guides are Certified Master Naturalists. Snorkeling and SCUBA dive charters and instructors are available in this area. Also, fishing charters for the disabled are available.

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Fishing License Info

Fishing: Most residents and visitors must purchase licenses for fishing in salt or fresh water. You can purchase a license at The Bait Box on Periwinkle Way; at Bailey’ Center at the corner of Tarpon Bay Road and Periwinkle Way; at Tarpon Bay Recreation; at Jensen’s Marina; at Adventures in Paradise, at Norm Zeigler’s Fly Shop, at  Whitney’s Bait & Tackle; and at all the marinas. Rules and regulations on size and bag limits plus open and closed seasons change. Most bait stores distribute free lists published by the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission. You do not need a license if you are: under 16; over age 65 and a Florida resident; effective August 1st, 2009 all Florida residents fishing from land or a pier now require a license; or fishing from a boat covered by a Vessel Saltwater Fishing License. The Tax Collector’s office and bait shops list criteria for residency.

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Good Fishing Spots

  • Tarpon Bay (Recreation Area of J. N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge)
  • Sanibel Fishing Pier located bayside of the Sanibel Lighthouse
  • Fishing from the Beach
  • Fishing, snorkeling and scuba dive charters and instruction are available with local professional guides.
  • Check out http://www.lee-county.com/naturalresources/artreef.htm for reef and wreck locations.

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