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Sanibel Island Fishing: Everything You Need to Know  

Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals
January 16, 2020

If you are thinking about going on a fishing trip then Sanibel Island fishing is an experience that you don’t want to miss. Florida is one of the most popular fishing destinations in the world and Sanibel Island is one of the most sought after areas. Once you journey there yourself, you will soon understand why. There are gorgeous waters here with a massive selection of different fish to choose from. You are sure to love casting your line and eagerly awaiting the perfect catch. You have countless options from fishing on the beach to heading offshore. 

People from all over the world go fishing on Sanibel Island thanks to its unique features. This includes countless spots on the island to go fishing and numerous species of fish to catch. Some of the types of fish that can be caught on Sanibel Island are snook, trout, king mackerel, tarpon, and more. 

Whether you’re interested in offshore, inshore, or on the beach fishing, Sanibel Island has it all. For a comprehensive guide to fishing on Sanibel Island, read through our article below to find all the information you’ll need. 

Sanibel Island Fishing Spots

When it comes to choosing where to fish on Sanibel Island, there’s no shortage of options to choose from. Each area offers something different in terms of fish that can be caught and equipment that will be required. Fishing newbies may prefer fishing on the Sanibel Pier, while veteran fishermen may want to take a fully equipped boat out to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Some of the most popular places to fish on Sanibel Island include:

  • Blind Pass Beach- This area is home to many popular varieties of fish including sheepshead, spanish mackerel, snapper, snook, and more.
  • Sanibel Pier-  Undoubtedly one of the most popular fishing locations on Sanibel Island. Proximity to the Sanibel Lighthouse and entrance to the island leads to many fishermen stopping here. If you’re fishing in the late evening, the pier also served as one of the best places to watch the sunset on Sanibel Island.
  • Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge- Few places on the island will match the beauty of nature found here. Be sure to adhere to all regulations for fishing while in the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
  • Gulf of Mexico- For fishermen looking for bigger catches, the Gulf of Mexico is the way to go. If taking your own boat, be sure you’re prepared with a fishing license and adequate equipment. 

As you can see, there is a fantastic variety of different Sanibel Island fishing locations for you to explore. The main point to consider here is what you want to catch, when you are traveling and perhaps most crucially of all, what type of experience you are searching for. If you are keen to have a relaxing experience, setting up a chair and fishing on one of the beautiful beaches can be the best option. Alternatively, you might be looking for something more adventurous. 

Heading out into deeper water will provide you with the opportunity to go scuba diving. Here, you will be able to get an entirely fresh perspective of the waters around Sanibel Island before you fish for the species that are the most difficult to catch. You also need to think about the area you are interested in before you book your vacation rental. This will ensure that you are within easy distance from the perfect spot for fishing. 

Offshore Fishing in Sanibel IslandOffshore Fishing in Sanibel Island

If you have the money in your budget to rent a boat or perhaps join a charter, then you can explore the fantastic option of offshore Sanibel Island fishing. There are numerous shallow bodies of water where you will be able to fish up to thirty miles off the coast. You can also find some fantastic artificial reefs that fish frequent. These make fun places to dive and fish so you can have a more varied day out on the water.

The water area around Sanibel Island is categorized as either state or federal waters. Within nine miles from the beach, you will be in state waters. Any further than this and you are in federal waters. The main difference is the type of fish that you should hope to catch. In the inshore waters, you will find everything from shark to Florida pompano and smaller grouper. If you head out into deeper waters, then you can discover permit, hogfish, scamp grouper, yellowtail snapper, and gag grouper. 

If you are offshore, you might also find that you encounter some of the larger pelagic species. For instance, you might find that Goliath Grouper, King Mackerel and a wider variety of shark. It is important that you follow the regulations if you are offshore fishing. 

Inshore and Back Bay Sanibel Island Fishing 

Many people think that inshore and back bay fishing is about how far you are from the shore. However, this is not the case; instead, it’s based on how deep the water is where you are fishing. Generally, it’s accepted that fishing will be onshore when the water is no more than thirty meters deep. This type of fishing on Sanibel Island can provide a thrilling experience and there are lots of species available too. For instance, you will be able to find snook, redfish, sea trout, tarpon and much more. 

Here is some great information on the different options available:

  • Snook- Sanibel Island is perfect for this particular species because there is a great variety of oyster bars, mangrove shorelines and inlet river mouths. You’ll find snook in all these locations.
  • Redfish- Sanibel Island has one of the largest and indeed healthiest populations of this type of fish in Florida. A big benefit is that there are areas around the island where the water is so clear that you can see the fish being pulled out from the depths.
  • Tarpon- Sanibel Island is a great spot for this species too. You might be interested to know that the first tarpon was caught in this area in 1885. It’s also worth being aware that the annual migration of this species begins around April. 
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Sanibel Island Fly Fishing 

If you are thinking about Sanibel Island fly fishing, then you will have a wealth of possibilities to explore here. Fly fishers love this location because it means that they can enjoy the benefits of saltwater fly fishing in a location that offers absolutely incredible views. Indeed, you will be able to fly fish around Sanibel Island every month of the year. There is a massive variety of species available for fishing too. This includes kingfish, flounder, snappers, permit, cobia, kingfish, and countless others. 

One of the biggest benefits of fly fishing is that you get a visual experience. If you choose the right location, then you will be able to see the fish travel through the water towards the line before you reel it in. Alternatively, you might witness some incredible feats here with massive fish swimming towards your line. This is going to present you with a fantastic struggle that only experienced fishers are going to win. Some of the fish that you will be able to catch here travel at incredible speeds and have such might you can feel the power as they pull against your line. It’s a truly thrilling experience and one which Sanibel Island will be perfect for. 

If you’re unsure about the right spots for fly fishing around Sanibel Island, do make sure that you ask at the local bait shops. They will be able to tell you the best places and they’ll ensure that you set out with the right bait for an incredible experience on the water. 

Fishing Without a Boat on Sanibel Island 

You might think that you are going to need a boat to fish around Sanibel Island. However, the truth is that this is not the case. Instead, you will find that there are plenty of locations where you can fish quite happily without a boat. You do need to be aware of the regulations around areas where this option is available. 

There are many benefits to this possibility. The main benefit is that you don’t have to worry about the cost of either renting a boat or arranging a charter. However, you do need to be aware that your options may be slightly more limited. There are species that you will typically only be able to catch when in deeper water. This includes yellowtail snapper, red snapper, and permit. 

One of the best places for fishing without a boat is at the South End of Tarpon Bay Rd on West Gulf Drive. This is located in Midland. Some of the benefits of this location include restrooms and shower areas as well as plenty of space for vehicle parking. There is also free bike parking where you won’t be required to pay any fees. To get started beach fishing on Sanibel islands you need to:

  • Make sure that you are exploring the best locations around the island
  • Research the species available in these locations
  • Make sure that you have the right bait to ensure you have the greatest chance at catching the fish. 

Sanibel Island Fish Species to Catch 

One of the most important considerations that you must keep in mind when you are planning your Sanibel Island fishing trip is what species you are keen to catch. The species that you choose will impact a variety of key decisions about your vacation. For instance, it will determine where you are going to be fishing whether that’s offshore in deep water or in the deep flats. It will also impact whether you are keen to try salt or freshwater fishing.

Different Sanibel Island fish species can be found in a variety of stretches of water around Sanibel island. Furthermore, you will also need to consider the type of bait that you want to use. While some species prefer live bait others will respond to the artificial baits available from shops around Sanibel Island. Of course, the main consideration is always going to be when you are going to be fishing.To catch the fish that you’re interested in, you need to know the best time to visit Sanibel Island.

Fish to Catch-All Year 

As expected, if you are interested in the fish you are going to be able to catch all year round, then you are going to have the widest selection to explore. This does include, snook, redfish, sea trout, and Spanish mackerel to name just a few. You will also be able to find snappers and grouper in some locations whether you’re there in the middle of winter or the beginning of summer. This is useful to note if you haven’t yet decided when you will be heading to Sanibel Island fishing. 

Winter and Spring Fishing Species

If you are planning on going fishing through Winter and Spring on Sanibel island, your options will be far more limited. The main species around through Winter and early Spring are going to be Sheepshead. These can be quite difficult to catch at the best of times. It’s important to make sure that you are fishing in the right area and that you are using the correct bait. 

Spring and Summer Fishing Species

Through spring and summer, you’ll find a wider variety of fishing species. Some of the best options that you may wish to consider include tarpon, pompan, cobia, and permit. All these are available in different locations around Sanibel Island through later spring and during the summer season. Do make sure that you are using the right bait for this period too. It’s important that you select live bait that you will be able to keep fresh. 

It's worth noting that Spring and Summer will experience more rain than the other seasons. Don't consider this a deterrent though. It won't rain everyday and even on days it does rain, there will likely be pockets where the rain will let up and the fish will be hungry. If you encounter unexpected rain on your trip, no need to worry. There are plenty of things to do in Sanibel Island when it rains.

Spring and Fall Fishing Species

Alternatively, if you’re curious about the spring and fall species then you have three main options. These are king mackerel, tripletail, and black drum. Again, each of these species are going to require you to have the right type of bait, regardless of when you are fishing. Don’t forget that the time of season also impacts whether you are going to be able to take home what you catch. It’s important that you are aware of this restriction so that you don’t end up on the wrong side of regulations. 

Sanibel Island Fishing RentalsSanibel Island Fishing Rentals

Once you start planning your Sanibel Island fishing trip, you do need to make sure you are thinking about the equipment that you are going to need. The good news is that you won’t have to buy this. Instead, you can rent and this is going to save you a lot of money on your trip. When renting, it is important that you make sure that you are price checking different suppliers. In doing so, you can ensure that you are getting the best deal for high quality equipment. You should also make sure that you are exploring reviews as well. This will help you find a supplier that you can trust. 

You will find that marinas on the island also provide you the option to rent boats as well as kayaks and canoes. If you have never steered a boat before, don’t worry. The marina personnel will be able to help you get to grips with the controls before you head out onto the water. 

Aside from this you should also think about the equipment that you could need. This might include:

  • Reels
  • Rods
  • Nets 
  • Artificial bait

It is important to make sure that you are fully kitted out with the right equipment. This is going to help guarantee that you do have a successful day fishing. Be aware that the equipment you need is going to differ depending on what type of fishing you are interested in exploring. The equipment you need for deep sea fishing is not the same as the type you need for fishing from the beach. 

Need to check availability of a perfect Sanibel vacation rental?
Take a minute to complete a short form and submit it to us so we can check the availability of the property you desire.

Sanibel Island Fishing Charters 

If you are unsure where to start with your Sanibel Island fishing trip, then you might want to consider exploring the different charters. There are many benefits of selecting a charter and it does make the whole experience far less stressful. With a charter, you can simply board a boat, get an expert by your side and be taken to the best places for fishing. You will also be provided with expert instructions. 

You do need to make sure that you are exploring different reviews for charters online. Reviews will provide information on the type of experience that you can expect. From Hey Mon Sanibel to Top Slot Fishing Charters and Cast About Charters, there are a wealth of different options to explore here. You’ll find that each charter provides a different type of experience. Some will be more suitable for people on their first fishing trip while others will be absolutely perfect for those with experience on the water. 

There are even charters that will be absolutely ideal for a family fishing vacation on Sanibel Island. Just make sure that you understand the limits and terms of a fishing charter you choose. One popular place where you can rent fishing equipment and hire a charter boat is Port Sanibel Marina

How to Choose the Best Fishing Guide 

If you are keen to catch fish in Sanibel Island but you are unsure where to begin, then the best option is always going to be using a fishing guide. However, if you take this route, then you also need to make sure that you find the right one. 

Some people have put off by the price. However, the right guide will provide excellent value for money and ensure that you don’t regret your decision. When you’re choosing the guide think about the location that you’re planning on fishing and the different conditions. For instance, you need to consider whether your fishing trip is going to be on saltwater or freshwater. 

Remember, Florida is one of the most popular locations in the world for fishing and Sanibel Island is an incredible area to explore. 

You do need to consider whether you want a private experience or you don’t mind sharing your trip with a few other people. This again depends on where you are going to be fishing. If you are keen to try deep water fishing, expect to be on a boat with at least six other people. If you are planning on exploring the grass flats, then you’ll probably have the guide to yourself. 

The trick is to make sure that you find the guide who specializes in the type of fishing that you are interested in. They each tend to favor different options and possibilities. You also need to consider whether you want to take home the fish you catch. Most will allow you to do this but there will often be limits on how many you can take home. You should be aware of these limitations before you head out onto the water with your guide around Sanibel Island. So, the main steps to follow are simple:

  1. Make sure that you know where you want to go and the type of water you want to fish in.
  2. Think about how many people you want to fish with. 
  3. Get a guide that specializes in the type of fishing that you are interested in. 
  4. Understand any limits on what you catch.

Best Bait for Sanibel Island FishingBest Bait For Sanibel Island Fishing

Are you thinking about getting the right bait for your fishing trip? When you’re choosing the bait for Sanibel Island fishing, then, you have a lot of considerations to keep in mind. You need to think about:

  • When you are going to be fishing
  • How you will be fishing 
  • What species you want to catch.

It’s possible that you could be fishing by the beach or in the deep sea. You might prefer saltwater or freshwater. Each option here is going to change the bait. You might also prefer to use live bait while some people will tend to prefer artificial options. Again, this changes the game completely. 

As well as this, there are countless different types of fish available to catch in Sanibel Island. They each require the right bait. You might for instance, want to catch tarpon, snook, redfish or seat trout. Alternatively, you could be looking to get a bass and if that’s the case then an artificial plastic worm is often the best choice. 

Or, you could be fishing for saltwater fish. If that’s the case, then most experts recommend that live bait is the best option. This is going to provide you with six main options including, clams, squid, sand fleas, ballyhoo, crabs and shrimp. You will find most of these options at bait shops around Sanibel Island. 

The bait you choose will always come with different challenges. For instance, you might be using clams. Keeping these fresh can be tricky but they are relatively simple to keep on the hook. As such, you will be able to use them to catch a wide variety of different fish. 

Sanibel Island Fishing Conditions 

Before you book your Sanibel Island fishing trip, it’s important to think about weather conditions. You need to make sure that you are prepared for the weather that you are likely to encounter during your trip. Do be aware that the time that you travel is also going to impact the cost of your trip. Arguably the best time to visit Sanibel Island is between December and April. However, you will also have the perfect beach weather. So, if you’re planning on fishing on the beach or perhaps even taking a boat out, then this is going to be the ideal time for you. 

If you are traveling between May and June you will typically experience the wettest weather on Sanibel Island. You will need to make sure that you are packing for this type of weather condition. When the sun is shining during this time, you should expect temperatures that are easily going to hit the mid-80’s at least. 

Through July and September the wet weather continues however the chance of hurricanes also begins to grow. As such, you need to make sure that you are keeping a check on weather conditions each day before you head out. It is vital that you do not travel out onto the water at a point when there is a hurricane warning. 

From October until November, there are fantastic conditions on the island. This does include lows in 60’s and highs through the 70’s as well as the 80’s. It’s worth noting that you won’t be wading into the water every day. But with the right wear, you can still enjoy a day fishing. 

Need to check availability of a perfect Sanibel vacation rental?
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Sanibel Island Fishing Rules and Regulations 

Before you set off on a Sanibel Island fishing trip it is important that you are aware of the key regulations and requirements that you need to follow. If you have fished in Florida before, you might think that you are aware of these rules. It is important to note that the regulations can change depending on where in Florida you are fishing. The main consideration here is whether you’re going to be able to keep what you catch. This can change based on the region and the time when you are fishing. 

Luckily, there is a fantastic app from the Florida Fishing Wildlife Commission that is going to keep you on the right track here. We suggest that you download it before you head out on your vacation. It’s worth noting that you might be asked to provide credentials when you are fishing in this area. You need to make sure that you do have all the right licenses in place before you start fishing. 

It’s worth noting that there are also different regulations depending on the species of the fish that you want to catch whether that’s a Barracuda, Black Drum, Mullet or Weakfish. Make sure that you look up the regulations before you fish. If you do not find a regulation for a specific species, you might find them in the unregulated section. 

To stay on the right track:

  1. Think about the species that you are fishing
  2. Check the different regulations for both the season and the location
  3. Make sure that you download the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission app for the latest info
  4. Get your licenses in order before you travel

How to Get a Fishing License  

When it comes to fishing in Florida, there are a number of details to consider in terms of fishing license regulations. There are numerous different types of licenses available based on what type of water you’re fishing in, your residency status, and more. However, typically, what you will need is a recreational license for a fishing vacation. There are fees for this license and you find these at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation website. This also provides details on any other permit that may be relevant to Sanibel Island Fishing. You need to make sure that you are complying with regulations for saltwater and freshwater fishing. 

There are also different licenses depending on whether you are a resident of Florida. If you are not a resident of Florida and you are simply visiting Sanibel Island for a fishing vacation, it’s easy to gain the license you need. You can obtain a license for:

  • Annual freshwater fishing 
  • Annual saltwater fishing
  • Three-day fishing 
  • Seven-day fishing 

The licenses discussed above can be purchased in person at a Lee County Tax Office location. You can also purchase a license online at

Plan Your Sanibel Island Fishing Vacation

Are you ready to get started preparing and planning for your Sanibel Island fishing vacation? This can be a fantastic experience for people of all ages. It’s going to be a fun and exciting adventure whether you have never fished before or if you are just looking for a new place to throw your line. To begin, you need to make sure that you are planning your vacation on Sanibel Island the right way. We can help you with that. 

Royal Shell Vacation Rentals has been providing rentals in Sanibel Island for over 20 years. Our vacation rental experts live in Sanibel Island, so we know what rentals will work best for your vacation based on your unique needs. All of our rental homes on Sanibel Island go through a strict vetting process before they're made available. This ensures that you won't encounter numerous problems during your stay. We also have a variety of luxurious townhome rentals on Sanibel Island available.

When you’re ready to plan your vacation, contact us. One of our experienced vacation specialists help you find the perfect Sanibel Island vacation rental, to make your vacation unforgettable. 

Need to check availability of a perfect Sanibel vacation rental?
Take a minute to complete a short form and submit it to us so we can check the availability of the property you desire.

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