Fishing on Sanibel Island, Florida

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Visiting Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

On Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Cayo Costa, Boca Grande and Pine Island, fishing has been a way of life for thousands of years. Evidence of this is found in the large shell mounds left by the native Americans six thousand years ago.

Fishing on Blind Pass beach, Sanibel Island, Florida.

Fishing after sunset near Blind Pass, between Sanibel and Captiva.

The waters of Pine Island Sound are still dotted with fish shacks that used to be used to house the day's catch until it could be sent to the packing house. Now these fish shacks are being used as vacation get-aways by the lucky and the well-to-do.

The major fish targeted in the waters around Sanibel are Tarpon, Snook, Redfish and Spotted trout. A lot of mullet are caught too (with nets). About half of all the redfish, trout, and mullet taken on Florida's west coast come from the Charlotte Harbor waters, which include four bodies of water: Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound, Estero Bay, and San Carlos Bay.

If you are fishing on a budget, all you need is a fishing pole, some tackle, bait, and a salt-water fishing license. If you have some money to spend and really want to catch fish, your best bet is to charter a fishing guide.

A fishing guide will provide the boat and the fishing poles and bait, and most importantly, professional fishing guides know where the fish are! You don't need to have a fishing license if you are fishing with a professional guide, since you are covered under their license.

Fishing on Sanibel Lighthouse pier

From the Sanibel fishing pier you can see the causeway and bridges to the island.

Fish commonly caught on Sanibel and surrounding waters:

Redfish- these bottom feeders are caught on the grass flats, along the beaches, and in the waters of Ding Darling refuge. In other words, just about anywhere.

Tarpon- In April they start moving north from the Florida Keys. They can grow to 250 pounds and are famous for jumping out of the water when hooked. Boca Grande Pass is the most famous spot for catching Tarpon, but many guides will tell you they can hook you up with just as many Tarpon in other places. The pass can get very crowded during the season.

Snook- A serious game fish and excellent eating too. They have very sharp gill plates that can cut most any line, making them a real challenge to land. Pay attention to the closed seasons. These fish are highly regulated.

Spotted sea trout - Small but feisty, this speckled trout is one of Florida's most- caught game fish. Spring and Fall is the peak season. Found on the grass flats.

Of course, flounder, sheepshead, snappers and grouper all have a high probability of landing in a skilled anglers cooler.

Wade fishing Sanibel Island

During our honeymoon on Sanibel, we saw someone fishing out in front of our beach condo every morning. We saw the same fisherman every day. How's that for a lifestyle? Wake up. Walk 200 feet. Cast your line. Do it again tomorrow.

Sanibel Lighthouse fishing pier

Sanibel has a fishing pier at Lighthouse Park. It's not a long pier but it does the trick.

Here are some folks setting up their fishing gear next to the fishing pier.

Spanish mackerel caught on Sanibel fishing pier

This unlucky Spanish mackerel on a stringer is proof that the fishing pier does produce fish.

It isn't necessary to have a boat on Sanibel, but it does extend your reach and expand your opportunities.

Backwater charter boat in Pine Island Sound

Much of the charter fishing in the area takes place in Pine Island Sound. This charter boat is zooming south along North Captiva Island. These waters are very productive and have provided food fish for humans for at least 6,000 years.

North Captiva Island

The quiet waters of Pine Island Sound make for a great fishing trip. It's a very scenic area. In this photo is North Captiva Island.

Sheepshead under the Useppa Island docks

I took this photo of the dock pilings on Useppa Island. Notice the sheepshead lurking just to the right of the piling, underneath the diagonal bracing. The ospreys love catching sheepshead too. They are better at it than I am.

Cast netting for bait in Blind Pass. Sanibel Island.

Blind Pass is seeing renewed life as a fishing spot since they've opened it up (it has been blocked by sand for years). This fisherman is casting for bait at sunset on the Sanibel side of the pass. You can see the rock jetty on the Captiva Island side of Blind Pass.

Sunset and fishing boat, Sanibel Island, Florida.

Copyright: David McRee,