Captiva Fishing: The Complete Guide for 2024

Feb 19, 2024 | 10 minute read
Reading Time: 10 minutes

So you know that Florida’s Gulf Coast is the place to be for a fishing adventure. But what if we told you that there was a place that offered it all without the crowds? That’s what Captiva fishing is all about. 

An aerial view of Captiva, FL, with a beach and the causeway in the foreground and the Gulf of Mexico on the left of the image on a sunny day

Get away from it all on this peaceful barrier island that lacks nothing when it comes to beauty. As for the fishing, it’s a who’s who of inshore, nearshore, and offshore species. Don’t believe us? Read on to discover all about the fish that call these waters home, how you can catch them, some top spots, and much more. By the time you’re done reading, we’re sure that you’ll be grabbing for your rod and heading to Captiva. Let’s dive in.

Best Fish to Catch in Captiva

We weren’t lying when we said it’s a who’s who of Gulf fish species here. Inshore, there are favorites like Redfish, Trout, Snook, and Tarpon. Nearshore, you can find Snappers, Groupers, Mackerel, and Cobia. And if you head offshore, these creatures just get bigger and they’re also joined by Mahi Mahi and more. But let’s shine a light on the stars of the show…

Redfish

Two young anglers, one male, one female, holding a Redfish each on a Captiva fishing charter on a sunny day
Photo taken by Thrill Of It All – Captiva

All along the Gulf Coast, Redfish is a favorite of all inshore anglers. From the Mexican border all the way to the Keys, these beasts are ever-present and offer excitement for beginners and pros alike. And Captiva is no different. The mangrove-lined shores are a haven for these voracious feeders, so you can get your fish on whenever you come. 

And we mean whenever. These fish are not picky eaters at all and can be found year-round. Local anglers prefer a shrimp setup to attract their attention, but we encourage you to mix it up – you’re sure to get a bite! Try sight casting, especially when these fish are tailing, for the ultimate Gulf inshore experience. You won’t be disappointed.

Spotted Seatrout

A young child in an American flag life vest holds a Speckled Trout up in front of his face, while a girl fishes off the side of the boat behind him on a sunny day
Photo taken by Olde Salty Island Charters

It’s pretty much a rule of thumb on the Gulf Coast that where there are Redfish, there are Spotted Seatrout, too. Often called Speckled Trout, these fish are a delight to target. Smaller specimens are great for beginners and children, while bigger “Gator Trout” are highly sought-after among more experienced fishers. 

To get your hands on those bigger creatures, you’ll want to visit during peak season which hits around early spring. But, just like Redfish, these fish are available year-round so there’s always fun to be had. You can also land Specks with a similar set-up to that you’ll use for Reds, so try sight casting with an array of baits and lures and you’ll likely end up successful!

Snook

A man in a light blue shirt and wearing a neck bluff crouches on an inshore fishing boat while holding a Snook, caught near Captiva, FL, with the water and mangroves behind him
Photo taken by Capt Charlies Fishing Charters

While the first two fish on our list are beloved all across the Gulf Coast, Snook are a little harder to find. That’s why anglers flock from all over to Captiva when the season hits in spring, summer, and fall. These tough-fighting beasts are popular across the warm waters of the Western Atlantic, but they can be elusive.

We mentioned they like the warm water and that’s an understatement. In 2010, a cold snap saw them almost wiped out in Florida, so conservation efforts have focused on getting their numbers up in recent years. That means you’ll only get to keep one Snook when fishing in Captiva. But the chase is most of the fun, despite these creatures’ flaky texture. Bring small bait fish or shrimp to entice the bite, and make sure to let it drift with the current – Snook are lazy eaters but they make up for that with an intense battle when hooked. 

Tarpon

An angler in a baseball cap, crouching ona a boat and holding a large Tarpon caught while fishing in Southwest Florida, with another boat behind him
Photo taken by Reel Fishing SWFL Charters

Only one fish matches Snook for power in Florida’s inshore realm, and that’s the “Silver King.” Tarpon are true fishing royalty in this part of the world – and for good reason. Their acrobatic leaps out of the water are the stuff of legends, and they’re enough to keep even the most experienced of anglers on the hunt when the season hits.

Speaking of the season, it’s a short one when it comes to Tarpon fishing in Captiva. These prehistoric beasts show up in spring and stay for up to three months before heading out again in summer. You’ll also have to release every single one you catch, but that’s okay as it’s all about the game here. Come at dawn or dusk for the best shot at landing one, with live bait or flies being effective lures. Just beware that these fish spook easily, so you’ll want to creep up quietly along the flats.

Snappers

An angler in a baseball cap and sunglasses holding a small Snapper while standing on a fishing charter with the water behind him
Photo taken by Gulf of Mexico Reef Fishing

Everyone knows that the most anticipated time of the year in Florida’s Gulf waters is the Red Snapper season. This short window in June and July sees anglers from all over the world book up charters on the Sunshine State’s west coast, with the prospect of landing a big, strong, dazzling, and delicious specimen.

But there are plenty more Snappers in Captiva’s waters that don’t require coming during peak season. Mangrove Snappers are aplenty in the shallow waters of the Pine Island Sound, as are Mutton and Yellowtail Snappers. Further out, along the nearshore reefs, Lane and Vermillion Snapper await too, and each one of these creatures provides plenty of delicious meat for you to enjoy.

And More!

Two smiling anglers wearing baseball caps and sunglasses, holding a large Shark on a fishing charter in the inshore waters of Southwest Florida on a sunny day
Photo taken by Thrill Of It All

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fish species you can catch in Captiva. We’d probably need an encyclopedia to get through them all in detail, so here’s a rundown of some other popular species you can catch.

Inshore, Black Drum, Ladyfish, and Permit rub shoulders with some of the beasts mentioned above. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to head out into the Gulf, you’ll likely come across Amberjack, Cobia, Tripletail, and Kingfish. As we’ve already said, these creatures get bigger the further out you go, and they’re joined by Groupers, Sharks, and even Mahi Mahi. Whatever you want, the chances are that a Captiva fishing trip can offer it!

How to Go Fishing in Captiva

With such a multitude of fish species comes a wide range of methods you can use to land ’em. Fishing in Captiva can be anything you want it to be, so we’ll run through some of the ways you can cast a line here. Read on and find out what suits your skill level and desires the most…

On-Foot Fishing

A view along the seafront on Sanibel Island of a group of several anglers casting into the surf, some while wading, on a sunny day

Ask anyone who’s never been fishing before what they think fishing is and there’s a good chance they’ll answer something similar to on-foot fishing. This back-to-basics approach involves heading to the shore and setting up camp for the day – or at least a couple of hours. Fortunately, Captiva has no shortage of productive spots for doing just that – but we’ll get to that in a bit!

Bring your own gear or rent some from any local bait and tackle shop, and set out in search of productive fishing. With year-round good weather, fishing from shore is possible whenever you visit and the list of species is also always pretty long. From Redfish and Trout throughout the year to Tarpon and Snook when their seasons hit, there’s no shortage of exciting action. Head Gulf-side and Mackerel, Cobia, and Sharks are also possible.

Fly Fishing

An angler standing in water almost upto his knee and casting a fly fishing line into the water, with some green foliage behind him on a sunny day
Photo taken by True Florida Expeditions

Avid fly anglers will love the shallow waters around Captiva. The clear backcountry waters of the sound are ideal for attacking with a fly, and the list of species we’ve already introduced you to proves that. With grassy flats and oyster bars, along with the mangrove shorelines, there’s no end to productive fishing grounds to target. 

Start the year off by going after Redfish and Trout, before switching your attention to Tarpon in spring – if you’ve got the strength, that is! If you’re feeling lucky in summer, it’s all about the Snook action, with fall offering Cobia in the Gulf. Head out with a specialist fly fishing charter aboard a purpose-built vessel or cast your fly from the shore. Whatever you choose, though, you’ll want to be prepared for a serious battle. 

Kayak Fishing

An experienced kayak angler casting into the water, with a couple of rods in the water behind the kayak, trolling, as they pedal the shallow waters of Southwest Florida
Photo taken by Reel Fins Florida Kayak Fishing Charters

Florida knows its angling potential and that’s why some innovative guides have started running kayak fishing trips. In fact, there are few better places to launch a kayak from than Captiva. The calm waters of the Pine Island Sound are ideal for exploring on such a vessel and adding fishing to the mix is the perfect combination of sport, hunting, and fun. 

The fact that the waters are calm doesn’t mean that you’re in for an easy ride. Maneuvering a kayak and casting a line – not to mention reeling in the fish – can be tricky work. But, once you get the hang of it, the sky’s the limit. All Captiva’s favorite inshore fish are available in the shallows and you’ll have the extra benefit of creeping up on them without the use of a motor that could scare the fish. Not only that, but you’ll also get to explore some nooks and crannies that larger boats can’t reach. 

Charter Fishing

A male and female angler sit back to back while holding a fishing rod each on a Captiva fishing charter, with the water in the distance
Photo taken by Spangler Adventures – Captiva

We’ve saved the best ’til last, however. When it comes to fishing in Captiva, there’s no better way to go about it than on a fishing charter. Whether exploring the backcountry, nearshore reefs, or offshore, the knowledge of a local guide is invaluable – and you’ll also get to use their boat and equipment. Yep, that’s right, almost all charters come equipped with all the fishing gear you need for a productive day, so there’s no need to lug your stuff around or spend money on hiring some gear.

True, fishing charters are a little on the expensive side, but Captiva has something for everyone. From small boats catering to a couple of anglers to plush offshore sportfishing vessels, via cheaper party boats, you can find something to suit your budget and group size. Needless to say, if you want to go offshore, you’ll need a boat, but most inshore charters also come fitted with a trolling motor to help you creep up on the fish as you would with a kayak. Win-win!

Captiva Fishing Spots

An aerial view of the lighthouse near Sanibel Island Fishing Pier, with the waters of the Gulf of Mexico on the right of the image and in the distance behind the lighthouse and some greenery

So you know what you’ll be targeting and how to go about it, but where exactly to go? If you’re heading out with a charter or guide, they’ll have their own honey holes for you to explore, but here are our tips on the best fishing spots in Captiva:

  • Sanibel Causeway. To get onto Captiva Island, you’ll need to drive over a causeway, which offers great fishing in its own right. Park up on the causeway or explore the bridges where Groupers are a common sight.
  • Blind Pass Beach. Offering access to the Gulf and the bay, Blind Pass Beach is an all-around fishery. Take advantage of the current that brings good numbers of fish here, with Snook and Redfish fishing particularly excelling.
  • Turner Beach. Towards Captiva from Blind Pass, this beach is ideal for surf fishing thanks to its productive jetty. This spit of rocks offers all the area’s favorite fish.
  • Redfish Pass. While you’ll need a boat to get to this productive spot, it’s well worth it – as the name already suggests! As well as Redfish, it’s a popular Snook destination in spring and summer.
  • Sanibel Island Fishing Pier. When a purpose-built structure is built for fishing, it’s always going to make the list of the best fishing spots. Redfish, Snook, Snappers, Sheepshead, and much more are available here, and the views of the lighthouse just add to the magic!
  • Boca Grande Pass. Okay, so it’s not technically in Captiva, but hop on a charter and head up to the Boca Grande Pass when Tarpon season hits for some of the best action in the world. This productive inlet is overflowing with Silver Kings throughout spring. 

Captiva Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of Florida and text that says "Captiva Fishing Regulations: What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background

We’ve run through a couple of regulations concerning the fish species you can catch, but there’s more. Most species are subject to specific size and bag limits, which you can check out on the MyFWC website.

Other than that, you’ll also need a license if fishing on your own. Have a look at our complete guide to getting a Florida fishing license to help you get one for the duration of your trip. The good news is that, if you’re fishing with a charter or from a licensed pier, you won’t need a permit. They’ll come covered with the cost of your trip. 

Captiva Fishing FAQs

Fishing in Captiva: Just Like Fishing in Paradise

An aerial view of Captiva Island, taken on a sunny day, with the Gulf of Mexico in the distance on the left of the image and the bay on the right

So there you have it. Fishing in Captiva is everything you could want from a Florida fishing adventure and more! This corner of the Sunshine State is still under-discovered, meaning plenty of glorious beaches and pristine waters for you to explore. We’re not exaggerating when we say that casting a line here is like fishing in paradise. Check it out and let us know if we’re wrong!

Have you ever been fishing in Captiva? How was your experience? Have any tips to share with your fellow anglers? Get in touch in the comments section below!

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Growing up next to a river, Rhys was always on the water. From Carp fishing in his native Wales to trying his hand at offshore fishing when traveling abroad, Rhys has vastly expanded his horizons when it comes to casting a line and continues to test new waters whenever he has the opportunity.

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