Southwest Florida is synonymous with incredible inshore fishing. Whether you’re targeting Pine Island Sound for gator trout and bull redfish, or you’re coming the beaches of Captiva for snook…this area does not dissappoint!
he barrier islands of Sanibel, Captiva, North Captiva & Cayo Costa are known for their pristine, white sand beaches lining the edges of the Gulf of Mexico. The beaches are littered with intricate seashells…drawing people from around the world. The surf is home to a variety of sought-after fish species including tarpon, snook & jacks. These predators push bait right up onto the beaches, and great fishing is easily accessible.
Pine Island Sound is nestled between the aforementioned barrier islands to the West and Pine Island to the East. The sound is filled with all different types of marine habitat. This includes oyster beds, tidal flats, salt marshes, seagrass and mangroves. The sound is host to some of the best fishing Florida has to offer…with massive bull redfish on the flats & bars, and monster snook in the passes between the islands.
Before European influence; the area surrounding Pine Island Sound was home to the Calusa Indians. The Calusa tribes survived off the waters…thriving on a diet consisting of bony fish and shellfish. Using nets made from palm fibers, the Calusa’s caught mullet, pinfish, pigfish among a number of other species. They also collected oysters, scallops, conch, crabs and clams.
This entire area is still host to the forage species that draw in the gamefish. Tarpon & snook ball bait in the Gulf surf and in the passes…redfish and trout on the flats and bars. Here’s how to fish the barrier island beaches, Pine Island Sound & surrounding areas.
Sanibel/Captiva Beach Fishing
Summertime and early fall provide tremendous fishing opportunities from the beaches of Sanibel & Captiva. The big snook spawn in inlets and passes, then head to the surf to feed. These fish swim along the shallow trough, right along the shore and push baitfish seemingly onto the beach. You can see the snook swimming parallel, 5 feet from shore…dorsals, backs and tails out of the water.
These snook and other gamefish are eating pilchards, threadfin, mullet and glass minnows. To catch bait; throwing a cast net is your best method. A bucket with aerator and lid is necessary to keep your baits lively.
Tackle wise; medium to medium heavy spinning gear with 10-15lb braid will do the trick. For leader; 30lb. fluorocarbon for smaller baits & 40 lb. for the larger baits. Hook size is important for presentation. For small-medium pilchards 2/0 – light wire circle hooks. For large threadfin & mullet – 5/0 light wire circle hooks work best.
Artificials also work very well on the beaches! Try a soft swimbait, like a Berkley Gulp. When the fish are feeding on tiny bait, like glass minnows – try a Rapala X- Rap in glass ghost or sil
When the water clarity is clear, you can sight fish to tarpon and snook. A lot of people tend to over cast to the fish…try to wade ankle deep & cast your bait directly parallel to the beach. You don’t tons of expensive gear or a boat for this type of fishing…the beaches are easily accessible and sight fishing is incredibly exciting!
Pine Island Sound/Flats & Passes
The flats, bars & passes around Pine Island Sound hold some of the most explosive shallow-water fisheries in Florida. Giant redfish schools comb the flats, searching for a snack. You’ll see their telltale giveaways; tails with black spots just above the waters surface. Sometimes the groups of reds are so thick, the water looks gold. The snook co-mingle with the redfish and both can be caught using the same presentations.
For tackle, Light to medium spinning tackle rated for 8-17 lb. test is sufficient. A 3000 size reel spooled with 10 lb. braid is perfect for this type of fishing. The light braid allows for long casts when the fish are spooky. Redfish & snook can be targeted with a variety of live/dead bait & artificials. For bait, live shiners are a go-to, and cut bait such as mullet, threadfin & ladyfish. soft-plastics like the different variations from D.O.A. We’ve also had great luck with topwater baits.
For the best shot at these fish, the local guides on Captiva Island are top-notch. Captain Ozzie Fischer with Bay Fischer Charters, runs an operation leaving from South Seas Island Resort, he can be reached at 239-872-8515. Another local guide: Captain Ozzie Lessinger leaves from McCarthy Marina on Captiva and can be reached at www.fishsanibelcaptiva.com & 239-910-7764.
For accommodations, there is no better option than South Seas Island Resort, located at the tip of Captiva Island. South Seas offers fun for the entire family, with tons of activities like parasailing, paddleboarding and golf. It’s beaches are ideal for swimming & shelling and offer breathtaking sunset views. Check out South Seas Island Resort at their website here: www.southseas.com