Finding it hard to choose between a deep sea excursion and an inshore adventure? Or maybe you want to mix up your angling action with some wildlife spotting or shelling? Head on down to Southwest Florida, where a Marco Island fishing trip will allow for all of this and more.
Marco Island got its name from the Spanish explorers who arrived here in the mid-1500s. They decided to christen it La Isla de San Marcos, after the Gospel writer St. Mark. We’re not surprised that they went for something biblical. The island’s stunning sandy beaches, blue skies, and seemingly-endless waters mean that it really feels like heaven on earth.
Add to that the fishing opportunities on offer, and it makes for a true angler’s paradise. With the prolific Ten Thousand Islands just a stone’s throw away, as well as plenty of shallow water bays and passes, you could spend a lifetime backwater fishing here and still find new places to explore. Then there’s the Gulf of Mexico. If the main aim of your angling game is hooking some big fish, then you’ve come to the right place!
Before you embark on your trip, take a look at our top tips and tricks when it comes to fishing this real-life slice of paradise…
What can I catch around Marco Island?
There’s a plethora of famous inshore fish that inhabit Marco Island’s inshore waters, whether you’re exploring the Ten Thousand Islands, Rookery Bay, or the shallow waters along the coast. One species that stands head and shoulders above the rest, however, has to be the Redfish.
Beloved around the world for its hard-fighting properties, Redfish is a firm favorite of Marco Island anglers. Why? Pay these waters a visit, and you’ll soon find out – they’re just bustling with Redfish. Not only can you cast a line for them in the Ten Thousand Islands, but nearby Rookery Bay is a prime Redfish-chasing spot, too.
Then there’s the flexibility that a Redfish adventure offers. Thanks to the fight they put up on the end of a line, you might think that this species is only reserved for the most hardened of anglers. Not so around Marco Island! As you’ll be exploring calm waters, anglers of all ages and skill levels can test their skills at sighting and hooking these fish. There’s nothing quite like spotting the golden-red scales of your target before it bites!
Local anglers implement a variety of fishing techniques when it comes to hooking Reds, too. Newbies and families with little ones can test out their casting skills. More experienced anglers can go for seriously light tackle, or even fish on the fly. The secret to luring big Reds is fresh, live bait – they especially love Mullet and Shrimp.
Would a visit to the Sunshine State be complete without a Tarpon battle? We think not! Marco Island is the perfect place to test your fighting skills against the “Silver King.” This species is most prominent in – yep, you guessed it – the Ten Thousand Islands. It also lives in the shallow waters that surround Marco Island itself.
The best time to target this monster fish is between March and June when it passes through Marco Island’s waters on its way to spawn. Species reach up to a whopping 300 pounds, with the Florida state record weighing in at 243 pounds. Because of this, local anglers recommend bringing along some heavier braided tackle. You don’t want your Tarpon to break the line once it’s hooked!
Similarly to Redfish, you can lure Tarpon to the end of your line with fresh live bait. Mullets are a tried-and-true favorite for this fish, too. Although technically any angler can come face-to-gills with the Silver King, having some experience under your belt before battling this fish will definitely aid you when it comes to reeling ’em in. Locals often compare fighting a Tarpon to roping a bucking bronco, after all!
Something that’s important to remember is that the Tarpon is a strictly catch-and-release species in the Marco Island area. Bring along a camera to snap an epic shot of your catch. Then, make sure you release it safely into the waters. That way, generation after generation of angler will be able to experience what it’s like to bow to the Silver King!
If you’re looking to face off against some notorious underwater species, then Marco Island is the place to visit. It might seem surprising, but underneath this area’s calm backwaters lie some seriously ferocious Shark species! Luckily, we only mean “ferocious” when it comes to the fighting spirit these fish have to offer.
Firstly, there’s the Lemon Shark. The best way to target this tough-but-timid species is by chumming, or using live bait such as Mackerel when you spot one. Its distinctive yellow color means it’ll definitely stand out in shallow waters! This fish prefers to lurk around mangroves, but you’ll also have the chance to encounter it if you’re exploring the Gulf, too.
Other common Shark species around Marco Island are Hammerhead, Bull, and Blacktip. Although you might expect to encounter these beasts in deep waters, you’ll mainly find them in waters up to 3′ deep. Again, chumming is the most popular way to hook them, but they can easily be lured in by a well-placed Mackerel, too!
Although their reputation might suggest otherwise, Sharks are a great target for anglers of all ages and skill levels. Marco Island fishing guides even run Shark-specific trips for families and newer anglers. What could be better than introducing your little ones to fishing than by helping them hook one of these brag-worthy beasts?
Snapper and Grouper
It’s fair to say that this area’s Gulf fishing opportunities are often slightly overlooked. While a deep sea adventure here might not involve the big game fish species you usually hear about in Florida, it’ll definitely help you fill the freezer! If you’re looking to explore the Gulf, the most common fish you’ll come across are Snapper and Grouper. Even better, you’ll be able to target them around Marco Island’s Gulf-side artificial wrecks and reefs.
When you think of “Florida” and “Snapper,” perhaps the first species that comes to mind is the Red Snapper. There are different regulations when it comes to fishing for Red Snapper in state waters (up to 9 miles out) and federal waters. Generally, the bigger fish live in federal waters. However, the restrictions are much tighter, and the pool of captains who are federally-licensed is much smaller!
There’s a whole host of Snapper and Grouper species you can target, even when Red Snapper isn’t available. Mangrove, Lane, Vermilion, Mutton, and Yellowtail Snapper all lurk around the reefs. They’re accompanied by Gag, Red, Black, and Goliath Grouper. These species aren’t just food fish, though. They put up an impressive battle of their own, often diving to the bottom of the seafloor and darting in and out of the reefs and wrecks.
Grouper and Snapper are the perfect target for anglers of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to seasoned fishermen. The only thing to factor in is the journey. Whereas you can start fishing in the backwaters minutes from departure, Marco Island’s deep sea fishing opportunities require a slightly longer journey. As long as your sea legs are strong enough to handle it, the fishing is well worth the travel time!
…And the Rest!
The list of species available around Marco Island could really fill a book. The backwaters are also home to Snook, Spotted Seatrout, Jack Crevalle, Pompano, and Sheepshead. Heading to the Gulf? Its nearshore waters are brimming with Tripletail, Barracuda, and King Mackerel. Journey out to federal waters, you’ll come across huge Snapper and Grouper, as well as Cobia and Amberjack.
How can I fish around Marco Island?
On a Boat
The most popular way to cast a line around Marco Island has to be from a charter vessel, alongside an experienced local captain. Fishing in this area takes place either in winding mangrove waters or the Gulf, and stepping aboard a boat makes these waters infinitely easier to explore.
If you’re exploring shallow waters, such as the Ten Thousand Islands or the passes around Marco Island, chances are you’ll be casting off of a flats boat. These vessels are perfectly built to cruise these flat inshore waters and are usually decked out with a poling platform. Your Marco Island fishing guide will often choose to “pole” you across these waters. This lessens your chances of spooking your target catch.
Heading out on a Gulf adventure instead? You’ll spend more time traveling to the hotspots, so you’ll likely be speeding off on a vessel built for sportfishing. These boats are usually decked out with top-quality fishing gear, such as outriggers and downriggers. They’ll come in handy when you’re plumbing the depths of the wrecks and reefs!
On foot fishing here generally means casting a line in the shallow waters of the Gulf. Your target species can include anything from Snook, to Snapper varieties, to Sharks, and beyond. It’s common for anglers to set up their rods and reels on the beach, under bridges, or around jetties.
Another bonus about fishing on foot around Marco Island is that this area is pretty small and easily walkable, with majority of on foot hotspots located close to each other. If you know where you’re going and what’s biting, it’s an unbeatable way of discovering what the Gulf’s inshore waters have to offer.
From a Kayak
What could be more dreamy than slowly drifting through the winding waterways of the Ten Thousand Islands, rod in hand, waiting for the catch of a lifetime to bite? If you want the chance to get up close and personal with these waters, at your own speed, kayak fishing is the way to do it!
Kayak fishing around the Ten Thousand Islands offers the chance to hook a “grab bag” of inshore favorites, too. There’s Snook, Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Tarpon, Shark species, and plenty more on offer.
One thing to be aware of, though, is that although kayak fishing may look easy, in reality it’s anything but. Navigating a kayak around skinny, shallow waters can be tricky enough – now add a fishing rod into the mix! If you’re confident about your ability to control a vessel and your fishing gear at the same time, though, it’s an experience you won’t forget.
Where can I fish around Marco Island?
The short answer: so many places! We’ve outlined our favorites below, so take a look to discover the perfect departure point for your Marco Island fishing adventure:
- Calusa Island Marina: Located on the eastern side of Marco Island, there’s a reason why locals call this marina the “Gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands”! Charters depart from here and will have you casting your line in the Ten Thousand Islands in no time.
- Caxambas Park and Marina: Now we’re heading all the way over to the southwest side of Marco Island! This park and marina is home to a whole host of charter vessels, docked and waiting to take you out to explore the Gulf of Mexico.
- South Beach: This is the least-populated beach on Marco Island, and is home to Caxambas Pass. Here, you’ll find rock jetties which are the perfect place to cast a line from if you’re fishing on foot.
- Jolley Bridge: Although this bridge’s fishing pier was removed, you can still fish from the sand underneath it, and can also launch your kayak from it! It provides access to the many bays and passes around Marco Island.
Anything else I need to know?
The legalities of fishing here, of course! As we mentioned above, certain species you’ll encounter when fishing around Marco Island are subject to strict regulations. If you’re fishing with a guide, they’ll be able to inform you more about this. Going solo? Make sure you check out the FWC beforehand.
Similarly, you’ll need to make sure you have a valid Florida fishing license on hand, too. Again, if you’re fishing around Marco Island with a guide, this will be provided for you. If you’re fishing alone, you can easily purchase one from the FWC website.
Marco Island: A Slice of Paradise
We didn’t want to be too heavy-handed with the paradise metaphors, so we decided to leave the best one until last. As well as being named after a saint, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to heaven on earth, Marco Island is also located along Florida’s “Paradise Coast.” There really is no better place to indulge in the angling adventure you’ve always dreamed of. What are you waiting for? Grab your rods and reels and get ready to step into paradise!
Have you ever been fishing around Marco Island? Any top spots we missed out on? Let us know in the comments below – we love hearing from you!