Florida is a hotspot for fishing, and no wonder! Along with saltwater fishing in the warm Gulf waters, it also offers canals, rivers, lakes and excellent backwater fishing. For the uninitiated, backwater fishing refers to fishing in the network of tidal creeks, bays and mangroves that this coast is riddled with.
West Coast fishing calls for smaller, lighter rods than other areas of Florida. Experts recommend a rod length of 6.5 to 7.5 feet and lures from 1/8 to ½ an ounce for successful fishing in the area. Fish tend to hang out wherever there are structures, rocks and oyster bars. The area has many such places along with artificial reefs guaranteeing some nice catches.
Southwest Florida’s coastline has hundreds of islands and thousands of miles of shoreline providing rich seagrass beds that attract all manner of saltwater fish. Thousands of acres of wetlands are under the protection of state or federal law, particularly around Charlotte Harbor, which is one of Florida’s largest estuaries. Clean unpolluted waters support stands of mangroves whose roots provide a natural nursery for young fish stock. Other coastal areas are designated aquatic preserves with strict regulations controlling these pristine waters and ecosystems to support marine life.
The area offers ample fishing opportunities from fishing piers, bridges, canal banks and even right off the beach. Freshwater fishing is plentiful in the many retention lakes and rock pits which are stocked with bass, panfish and catfish. Better still, join a local fishing charter and enjoy a memorable day’s fishing with a knowledgeable expert. Tackle, bait and refreshments are usually included in the price along with some tall fishing tales and an unrivalled sense of camaraderie.
Catching Gamefish in Southwest Florida
The big attraction for fishing enthusiasts is the diversity of gamefish that call these warm Gulf waters home. Some of the most sought-after gamefish are tarpon, spotted sea trout, snook and redfish. Such is the profusion of certain species, the waters around Boca Grande have earned it the nickname “Tarpon Capital of the World”.
Many avid resident anglers and visitors aim for the “Grand Slam — hooking one of each of the “Big Four” game fish listed above in the same day.
Fishing Around Fort Myers and Sanibel
Options abound around Fort Myers, Captiva and Sanibel Islands for all types of fishing. Tarpon, grouper and other game fish love these sheltered temperate waters and catches of snapper and redfish are common.
Many fishing charters operate from Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island with easy access to the Gulf of Mexico. Sport fishing, night fishing and family fishing trips can be organized to suit all ages and levels of experience. Offshore fishing in this area provides excellent catches of grouper along with cobia, shark, barracuda, bonita and king mackerel.
However, you don’t need to get out on the water to enjoy some excellent angling. Pine Island Sound is a well-kept local secret where the tidal flows provide excellent fishing for tarpon, sheephead, snook, jacks and other species. Fishing jetties and piers in the area provide good catches, particularly in the early morning. Incoming tides bring new fishing opportunities to the many creeks, inlets and passages so you’ll want to check the local tide chart before heading out.
The cooler months are the high season for flat fishing and this is when the nearshore waterways around Fort Myers and Sanibel come into their own. Snook, large trout, cobia, Spanish mackerel and amberjack are prolific in the freshwater canals in the area as well as inhabiting the broad Caloosahatchee River.
Whether you are a first time visitor or are lucky enough to reside in beautiful Southwest Florida, you will find some rewarding fishing in the area. Offshore, inshore, freshwater, saltwater and lake fishing are all found here in abundance. In an area already known for its beaches and golf, fishing adds another dimension to this area’s fun outdoor amenities.
Written by: Nita Ettinger