Halfway between Fort Myers and Naples, lies a charming beach community that offers amazing fishing. Just picture lush mangrove forests and miles of sparkling beaches. Then add in the fact that the area offers access to both Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, and you can begin to see why so many anglers love fishing in Bonita Springs.
Out in this part of Southwest Florida, there are many different fish to target and various techniques to try out. If you’re looking to start planning your fishing trip, read on and we’ll explore the vibrant Bonita Springs fishery together.
Top Fish to Catch in Bonita Springs
No matter the time of year you visit, there’ll be something you can catch. The Estero Bay estuary serves as a nursery for many species, including Snook, Redfish, and juvenile Tarpon. Outside the bay, the list of targets grows even bigger as the fish migrate along the coast of Florida. Here are just some of the top fish to catch in Bonita Springs.
There are very few inshore species that are as exciting to catch as Snook. They’re known for their speed and intelligence, and will often blitz to underwater roots in an attempt to cut your fishing line. If you do manage to keep them hooked, they’ll put up a hard fight and dazzle you with their acrobatic leaps.
While you can find them year-round, the prime time for Snook fishing in Bonita Springs starts around April and extends into October. You’ll usually find these feisty fish by pitching to mangroves, docks, and similar structures. Alternatively, you can try fishing around the inlets or along the Imperial River.
For many anglers, Redfish stand at the top of their list of inshore fishing favorites. And rightfully so – these fish are fun to catch, they put up a great fight, and they can grow to impressive sizes. Redfish are also ravenous feeders, making them a great target for novices and experienced anglers alike.
The best part about fishing for Redfish is that they’re very adaptable and can be found in many different areas. In Bonita Springs, you can find them hiding in the mangroves, grass flats, or in the channels connecting Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Known for their raw power, incredible stamina, and acrobatics that rival even Sailfish, Tarpon are one of Florida’s most beloved species. They’re notoriously difficult to hook, thanks to their bony mouths, and they’ll give even the most experienced angler a hard battle. Oh, and did we mention adult Tarpon can weigh over 200 pounds?
Estero Bay holds a year-round population of juvenile Tarpon. These will give anglers a small hint of what they can expect when taking on the monster-sized, adult version. Bigger Tarpon usually show their silvery scales around April, and it’s possible to catch them throughout May, June, and July.
With its lineup of saltwater favorites, it’s only fair to mention Bonita Spring waters also provide a home for the freshwater superstar – Largemouth Bass. These fish are blessed with intelligence and they fight hard once hooked. For many novice anglers, fishing for Bass is what gets them truly addicted to fishing.
To find Largemouth Bass in Bonita Springs, you should venture inland, up the Imperial River or one of the many local creeks and channels. There, you’ll get the best chance to entice the bite of these elusive fish.
Inside Estero Bay, Jack Crevalle, Spotted Seatrout, Snapper, Sheepshead, and Barracuda are just some of the many species you can add to the list of possible catches. In some of the local channels, you can even find the colorful Peacock Bass hiding. On the other hand, if you decide to ride further out into the Gulf of Mexico, the list grows even longer.
Reef fishing nearshore will put you up against the likes of Tripletail, Snapper, and Grouper. Targeting these delicious species is a great option for anglers looking to put some fish on the table. Of course, battling it out with a hungry Shark is always possible around these parts!
Best Ways to Fish in Bonita Springs
Boat and Charter Fishing
Fishing from a boat will give you the most flexibility as you explore the Estero Bay estuary. You’ll get access to mangrove islands and various nooks and crannies that fish like to inhabit. In addition, boat fishing will allow you to cover more ground or get to fishing spots further offshore.
If you’re a beginner, your best bet to have a productive fishing trip is to go on a fishing charter. The local captains keep their fingers on the pulse as the fish move around and know which techniques work best. They’ll also provide you with the appropriate equipment for the type of trip you’d like to go on.
For more seasoned anglers, renting a boat is also a good option. Renting may cost you less than going on a charter, depending on how much you spend on fuel, bait, and equipment. However, if you’re going as a group, splitting the cost of a charter may well be the best option.
Sometimes, it’s best to relax and take things slow. With its calm waters, narrow channels, and countless hidden spots, Estero Bay is the perfect place to do so. Hopping on a kayak will give you an intimate, up-close view of the stunning natural scenery. It’s also a great way to sneak up on fish while barely making a sound.
Of course, before you decide to go kayak fishing in Bonita Springs, make sure to check the weather and wind conditions. This type of fishing is best suited for anglers who’ve had some experience with it before. That is, unless you don’t mind taking the occasional dip!
While going on a boat or hopping on a kayak may allow you to explore more fishing spots, there are other ways to have a productive day out. Bonita Springs features miles of shorelines, numerous docks, and several bridges that all work as excellent spots to cast your line from.
Fishing from shore is also the cheapest option, and a fantastic way to combine some angling with a fun day on the beach or a nature walk. Of course, you’ll need to bring your fishing equipment and, in most cases, an appropriate fishing license.
Where to Fish in Bonita Springs
When you’ve decided what you want to target and how you want to do it, it’s time to pick a spot to focus your attention on. Luckily, with the quality of fishing this part of Florida offers, there are numerous options. Check out our list of some of the best fishing spots in Bonita Springs:
- Lovers Key State Park: If you’re looking for a place for your own secret fishing affair, Lovers Key State Park is one of the best spots to start. It features miles of pristine shorelines, mangroves, and flats. Snook, Redfish, and Mangrove Snapper can all be found here.
- Imperial River: With its brackish waters, the Imperial River provides a home for a number of saltwater and freshwater species. It’s a popular spot for Snook fishing and will also allow you to hook into some Largemouth Bass.
- New Pass: Besides being a great place to fish for Snook, Redfish, and Jack Crevalle, New Pass is also a fantastic option for boaters who just want to kick back and relax. Take a break on one of the sandbars, or, if you’re bringing a pet, visit Dog Beach and make memories with your furry friend.
- Estero Bay: Try fishing the mouth of the Imperial River, right where it flows into Estero Bay. Here, you’ll get the chance to catch Spotted Seatrout, Snook, Redfish, and more.
- Big Hickory Pass: Set up on the causeway that overlooks Big Hickory Pass. Cast into the nearby mangroves or try fishing the bottom structure underneath the bridge. If nothing’s biting, head into Bay Park North and try fishing near the boat ramp there. You may end up catching some Snapper, Snook, or Catfish.
- Big Carlos Pass Bridge: For anglers looking to catch Jack Crevalle, Redfish, Sheepshead, or Spotted Seatrout, Big Carlos Pass Bridge can be a good option. Fish from the bridge or set up on the beach next to it. Occasionally, you may even hook into a Goliath Grouper.
Fishing Regulations in Bonita Springs
In Florida, saltwater licenses are not necessary if you’re fishing on a charter. However, freshwater anglers older than 16 need to have a freshwater permit. If you’re fishing solo, a combination license will let you target both freshwater and saltwater species. Take a look at our Florida fishing license guide for more details, common questions, and exemptions.
Another thing you should keep in mind is the recreational regulations for the species you’re looking to target. To ensure Florida’s native species are there to bring anglers joy for years to come, the FWC keeps a close eye on fish populations. To stay up to date, visit the FWC website before your trip.
Bonita Springs: The Full Wildlife Experience
With dolphins that like to hang around the bay and manatees that slowly make their way through the serene channels, Bonita Springs is a paradise for nature lovers. But far from just that, it’s also an excellent fishery, full of opportunities to reel in that prized catch. All you need to explore these captivating waters is a trusted local guide by your side, and you’ve got yourself the perfect fishing vacation!
Have you ever been fishing in Bonita Springs? What’s the fish you’ve had the most fun catching? Share your stories in the comments below!