5 tips to Help you catch more fish around Sanibel & Captiva

I received a phone call last week from a vacationer to the island wanting to know if I could get him out fishing that afternoon.  Already booked I offered to go the next day but he was going to be driving home.

He had been fishing from the beach and was tired of catching catfish.  This is a common problem for new fishermen to our area.  I remember going through that phase myself.

So what can you do to catch more fish in the Sanibel & Captiva waters whether from shore or a boat.  By following the tips listed here, you’ll soon be catching fish like a local.

Redfish caught on a pinfish and Float.


1)Minimize Terminal Tackle!  Its common to find stainless braided leaders with crimped on hooks and swivels and sliding egg sinkers in the local tackle shops.  We call them “tourist rigs” they are designed for those that can’t tie a knot.   Catfish are about the only thing besides a shark that will hit these rigs.    Most of our fish have very sharp eye-site. They rarely fall for those rigs.  Catfish are not picky and typically these rigs are being fished on the bottom with some sort of cut bait.   Use a 30-40 lb leader, fluorocarbon if your budget allows, but its not necessary, however, in addition to disappearing in the water making it harder to see, it offers additional abrasion resistance to a snooks raspy jaws and or barnacle encrusted dock pilings mangrove barnacles.

Learn to tie line to line a 3 ft length of leader and directly to the hook.   A sliding egg sinker can be added to the line known as a “Knocker Rig” its highly effective.   Use a small hook or a cast net to catch live bait, and either fish it on a float or free lined.  I often use whiting or a lady fish if caught, even small jacks off the beach for large snook.  So that’s it.   Keep the rig simple.  Use live bait if you can.  At times, a lure like a spoon or jig can out produce live bait.

2)Find the Fish:

Its sounds simple enough.  Fish where the fish are.  What clues will help here.  Well, the lower tide stages off the beach will have dirtier water, and often mostly catfish  as the water will be off color.  I prefer to fish the higher tide stages and after it drops about halfway and the water turns color, its time to head for the pool.  Not always but often enough.   Other clues include the birds diving on bait schools.  Follow the baits schools and cast into them.   The bait moves up and down the beach with the tide.  Walk out and look left and right and head towards the birds.  Some area’s on the beach are more productive than others on a consistent basis.  the sand bars that run parallel to the beach can have wash through’s.  These areas can funnel bait and fish will use them as ambush spots. Learning to recognize them can lead to more and bigger catches.

3)Know your Prey:

Each species has preferred baits and lures.  You can increase your odds by simply giving them what they want.   Shrimp are great bait in the winter.  But a waste of money for the dinks @ $3.80doz in the summer when there is lots of bait swimming up and down the beach.  Shiners and Pinfish are the preferred bait for Snook and Trout and Redfish off the beach or a ladyfish.   Cut Mackerel is good too and the fresher the better.  Bucktail Jigs, Mirrorlures, Gold or Silver spoons can be deadly as well.   Fly’s are deadly too especially when the fish are zoned in on Glass Minnows or Anchovies, smaller baits with flash.

4)Know your Bait:

What are you targeting?  Anything that will hit?  Stinky frozen shrimp is not a good deal.  Its pretty hard to find fresh frozen shrimp.  Most of the frozen shrimp sold in the bait shops are the remains of dead  shrimp from the bottom of the shrimp tank.  Its the rare operator that cleans their tank and freezes these often enough to keep them from becoming rancid.  As mentioned above save the shrimp for winter fishing when other bait is scarce.  Use Pinfish, or Shiners in the summer. there are two types of shiners your likely to encounter. Scaled sardines and Thread Fin Herring.  Of the two, the scaled sardines are preferred baits for snook in 4-5″ sizes.  However a large Thread Fin Herring free-lined is also deadly for snook and anything else passing by.   Try the bottom with the larger baits, catfish often are less likely to bother you.  Sometimes, I will even used cut catfish for tarpon, sharks and cobia seem to not mind picking these up either.

5)Know your seasons

Knowing your seasons will often determine where and what you are fishing for.  Wildlife Drive in Ding Darling is often very good in the winter and spring for redfish, snook, sheepshead and juvenile tarpon and some decent snapper.  There is Sanibel Fishing Pier when the wind allows, Algiers Beach is a stellar location for Beach fishing as is the Lighthouse Beach.  Blind Pass Bridge and shoreline is very accessible and is always a hotspot no matter what time of the year.   Lesser not spots are at the end of Dixie Beach Rd on the Bayside.   The famed Rocks on the beach, a short walk up from Private Beach access 7.  It’s not so much rocks as limestone ledges created by the tide and currents scouring and keeping the sand from building up there. These same currents bring large amounts of bait and this is a well known big snook spot.  There is an interesting spot that can be very productive but parking is an issue, its the culvert that connects Clam Bayou to the Bay.  its Midway up San-Cap Road.

So, get out and get a line in the water!

Capt Paul Primeaux

Copyright 2018 all rights reserved. May not be used without permission.