A Marco Island fishing experience will be unlike any trip you’ve booked before. This destination is the perfect combination of sport fishing, exploration, and breathtaking scenery.
If you’re looking for a chance to take it all in, you will find no shortage of Marco Island fishing charters which offer exactly that. From the white sandy beaches and the blue waters offshore to the alluring and mysterious Ten Thousand Islands, come aboard and you will discover much more than you expected.
Marco Island is known for some of the best sport fishing in the country. This year-round fishery extends from the beaches out to 100 miles offshore. With the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Ten Thousand Islands to the southeast, you can explore this area by fishing the backwaters, shelling, sightseeing, reef fishing, or deep sea fishing.
The best thing about fishing near Marco Island is the fact that you don’t even have to choose—book a couple of combo trips and try it all!
Marco Island backwater fishing
Many backwater fishing trips on Marco Island leave from Caxambas Park on the south side or the nearby Calusa Island Marina in Goodland. These gateways to the Ten Thousand Islands and Rookery Bay give you access to superb backwater fishing within minutes of leaving the dock.
Heading south-east, you will drift through a seemingly endless chain of mangrove islands interwoven with creeks, shallow bays, and oyster bars. These secluded waters are prime feeding grounds for Florida’s inshore game fish, including Tarpon, Redfish, Speckled Trout, Snook, Jack Crevalle, Ladyfish, Pompano, and Sheepshead.
Following this fisherman’s wonderland 11 miles to the south will bring you to the Everglades National Park, where you can continue to indulge in some of the state’s finest backwater fishing.
More than a fishing experience
As if stellar game fishing were not enough, the Marco Island backwaters are made even more spectacular by the mystical atmosphere of the Ten Thousand Islands. This maze-like ecosystem is mostly untouched, except for a few remnants left by early settlers such as water cisterns, building blocks, and a cemetery dating back to the early 20th century.
The only modern development you will see here are the Dome Houses of Cape Romano. Built in 1980 and abandoned in 1992, this other-worldly structure now rests 180 feet from shore. Just a 15 minute boat ride from Caxambas Park, this spot is a popular view featured on eco tours and Marco Island shelling trips.
Despite the lack of human residents, the Ten Thousand Islands are far from uninhabited. You will find a wide variety of wildlife peeking through the shallow water and foliage, including dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and birds such as egrets, eagles, and ospreys.
This wildlife population is the subject of many eco tours, and you will see captains in the area offering combo trips so that you can enjoy great fishing and wildlife viewing in one adventure.
Fishing the Gulf of Mexico
While backwater fishing owes its reputation to the Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island deep sea fishing
is defined by a series of artificial wrecks and reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.
With many artificial reefs just a few miles from shore, it’s possible to target both inshore and offshore species on the same trip. Charters of this sort will keep you in state waters, just nine miles from shore or less. This is a great chance to take advantage of Marco Island’s unique nearshore fishing ground, where you can target Tarpon, Redfish, and Snook from the backwaters along with other species such as Tripletail, Goliath Grouper, King Mackerel, Barracuda, Snapper, Grouper, and Sharks.
If you are looking for a classic deep sea fishing experience and feel ready to commit to a full day at sea, keep an eye out for a trip that will take you 20+ miles offshore. While fishing beyond state waters you can catch the likes of Cobia, Amberjack, Permit, and Barracuda, as well as large Snapper and Grouper.
Trips that take you farther into the Gulf tend to be more expensive in order to cover fuel costs. You can also expect to spend at least eight hours on the water so that you have time to reach the fishing grounds and a chance to cast lines without being rushed.
Prepare for your trip
Most Marco Island fishing charterslaunch from Caxambas Park on the south side, Rose Marina on the north side, and the Calusa Island Marina in Goodland to the east.
Backwater fishing charters
Backwater fishing charters on Marco Island are the perfect family outing. The Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades provide ample opportunity for the avid anglers in your group as well as the photographers and nature lovers. A short boat ride to and from the fishing grounds also makes these trips ideal when fishing with young children.
A half day charter ranges from $399-$475. Adding a couple more hours to your trip allows you to explore the backwaters even further without committing to a full day, and these ¾ day trips generally don’t cost more than $700. You can expect to pay $750-$950 for a full day trip.
Some Marco Island captains also offer party boat (shared) fishing charters. You can find backwater party boat trips for $65-$150 per person. These trips typically don’t last more than 4 hours.
Deep sea fishing charters
Marco Island deep sea fishing charters start at $400 for a half day trip and run the gamut to over $1,000 for a full day. If you are looking trips that stay within state waters, you can find ¾ day and full day options between $550-$800.
If you choose to go the party boat route, you’ll pay about $135-150 per person for a half day trip and about $180 per person for a full day trip.
For a full day deep sea charter, you are likely to pay $1,000 or more. These offshore trips are well worth the price tag if you’re committed to landing larger fish.
The waters surrounding Marco Island host a wide variety of opportunities, from inshore and offshore fishing to wildlife viewing and collecting exotic shells. Many captains in the area offer combo trips which allow you to dabble in these various aspects of the local fishery in a single day.
The most common combo trip option available on Marco Island combines backwater fishing with shelling or wildlife viewing. A Marco Island fishing and shelling tour costs about $450 for a half day trip, $700 for a ¾ day trip, and $950 for a full day trip.
You can find trips which combine shelling and offshore fishing, as well. These trip options usually cost $100 more than a backwater combo trip of the same length.
Some captains also offer combo trips which allow you to split your time between backwater fishing and offshore fishing--a unique opportunity you won’t find in many places. You can expect to pay around $575 for a half day trip of this sort, $800 for a ¾ day trip, and $1,050 for a full day trip.
Rules and regulations
You do not need to purchase a recreational fishing license when fishing aboard a licensed charter boat in Florida.
However, anglers 16 years old and above must have a Florida saltwater fishing license if they plan to fish from shore (this includes beaches, piers, and other waterfront structures). Visitors can purchase a 3-day ($17), 7-day ($30), or annual ($47) saltwater fishing license online
(prices subject to change).
You cannot harvest Tarpon or Goliath Grouper at any time in Florida.
While you can catch Snook during much of the year, fishing for this species is strictly catch-and-release most of the time. The Snook season usually opens for a couple of months in spring, but the exact dates change year to year. If you plan to catch and keep a Snook during this period, you must purchase a special permit ($10, price subject to change).
The seasons for Red Snapper and Gag Grouper also close for a certain period every year.
You can stay up to date on current fishing regulations online
via the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Or book a Marco Island fishing charter and ask your captain what’s in season ahead of time.
Marco Island Fishing Styles
Backwater light tackle and fly fishing
Anglers of any skill level will enjoy backwater fishing near Marco Island. Beginners can spend their time casting lines and perfecting their technique, while seasoned fishermen can focus on targeting the biggest fish on light tackle. Fly fishermen will have a blast targeting almost every species in these waters, from Redfish to the mighty Tarpon.
The secret to fishing on Marco Island is fresh bait, whether it’s Pilchards, Mullet, Threadfins, or live Shrimp. These tasty tidbits increase your chances of landing a trophy fish. Of course, plenty of anglers still have great success while fishing with lures, too.
Common techniques for backwater fishing include spinning, baitcasting, drift fishing, jigging, and popping. Depending on the target species, your captain will have insights into what technique works best and which bait the fish prefer, along with other Marco Island backwater fishing tips.
Fly fishermen recommend targeting Snook and Redfish in extremely shallow water along the grass flats of the Ten Thousand Islands. For best results, land your fly under the roots, just in front of your target fish. This technique proves most effective in low sunlight, either early in the morning or in the evening. You might also catch Ladyfish, Jack Crevalle, Speckled Trout, and even Tarpon using this method.
Popular choices for flies include imitations of Crabs, Shrimp, Mullet, and small Shiners.
Marco Island deep sea fishing
Whether you’re fishing the reefs just a few miles from shore or almost 100 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, you can expect that deep sea fishing off the coast of Marco Island will involve the most tried and true elements of this technique: trolling and bottom fishing.
Drift fishing, bottom fishing, and jigging near reefs will bring you a variety of species including Snapper, Grouper, Amberjack, and Sharks.
Trolling near the surface is the surest way to catch a fast and feisty beast like Barracuda, King Mackerel, or Cobia.
Marco Island shore fishing
If you’re looking for a chance to hone your fishing skills on the side, Marco Island presents plenty of opportunities to cast a few lines from shore. Piers, bridges, canals, and six miles of beach attract more and more anglers by the day. You can find a variety of sought-after fish swimming close to shore, including Snook, Sheepshead, and Mangrove Snapper.
Many different techniques can lead to successful shore fishing. The simplest method involves casting a bucktail jig, ideally with a small piece of Shrimp. Casting your line out as far from shore as possible and jigging off the bottom during a slow retrieval will help you land Pompano, Speckled Trout, Jack Crevalle, or Sheepshead.
For live bait fishing, try using Shiner or Shrimp. To produce a more natural look, you can place a popping cork several feet above the hook in addition to a small split shot about six inches from the hook. This will keep the bait suspended off the bottom.
In general, shore fishing in this part of Florida calls for a 6-7.5 foot rod and lures ranging from ⅛ to ½ of an ounce.
Fly fishermen recommend fishing the surf at first or last light, using small baitfish imitations.
Some of the most popular Marco Island fishing spots include Pelican Pier and Tigertail Beach at the north end of the Island, South Beach, and virtually any bridge with public access.
You will hear some anglers reminiscing about the S.S. Jolley Bridge, which used to be one of the island’s most popular shore fishing spots (also referred to as Judge Jolley Bridge, Jolly Bridge, Marco Island Bridge, and the Marco Bridge). The walkway beneath the bridge was removed in recent years and anglers can no longer cast lines directly below unless fishing from a boat. However, locals still recommend fishing from shore as close to Jolley bridge as possible for some unbeatable Snook action.