Sanibel is the place to be if you want to catch big Snook, it’s as simple as that. Sanibel Snook Fishing peaks for over half the year, and even in the depths of winter you can find trophy-sized fish lurking in the shallows. The current Florida state record of 44 pounds 3 ounces was caught in these shallow murky waters and with mile after mile of mangroves, grass flats, back bays, and river mouths, who’s to say what monsters could be waiting for some lucky angler to get their attention.
When should I visit?
Sanibel has a permanent population of many species and Snook certainly ranks high on the list. Their numbers may drop off in the winter months, but there are still plenty around. The advantage of fishing this time of year is that the water is much clearer, thanks to lower rainfall and reduced runoff from Lake Okeechobee as a result. Combine this with the long winter low tides and you could be in for hours of perfect sight fishing.
If what you are looking for are big Snook in big numbers, you may have to sacrifice water clarity for sheer quantity and head to Sanibel in the spring or summer. The season usually kicks off in March, and by mid-April you can practically walk on water there are so many fish around. April is also the time for the Edison Big Snook Tournament, which draws shallow-water lovers from across the country to enjoy the very best this species has to offer. Remember that Snook are catch & release-only December 1 through the end of February and May 1 through the end August.
Where should I fish?
There are so many great fishing spots around Sanibel Island you could fish every day for a year and still discover something new. There are local favorites for each species, though, and Snook is no exception. The ultimate all-rounder has to be Bowman’s Beach, voted one of the most beautiful in the world by US Travel News and the perfect habitat for record-breaking fish. The water is littered with the stumps and roots of fallen trees, which can be as daunting as they are exciting. Fishing from a boat offers better access and fewer snags than shore fishing, and gives you a great view while you fish.
There is one spot which it is practically illegal to avoid while fishing Sanibel Island – Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This is quite simply paradise for any inshore angler. 5,200 acres of grassy flats, oyster bars, bayous, and sand banks. If you can’t find Snook here, you may want to consider taking up golf instead. Sanibel charter captains spend more time here than they do at home, and each guide will show you a new side to this eight-square-mile Snook magnet.
How much will it cost?
Sanibel inshore charters cost a pretty dependable $100 an hour. Guides around here don’t try any fancy tactics to get you to stay out longer. They know that the service they deliver is worth every penny. On half day trips, you will have time to fish any of the surrounding sites for your fair share of hookups. On a full day trip, you will be able to sample a few of the different habitats which make Sanibel so special, immersing yourself in the area’s stunning natural beauty and maybe even breaking Sanibel’s own Snook record.
What tackle will I be using?
Fly fishing rules these waters, with some guides specializing exclusively in this style of fishing. White Clousers, Deceivers and Crystal Schminnows are the local favorites for Snook, with the obligatory heavy-duty, 30-pound-plus tippets if you’re planning to fish the stumps. Slightly clunky casts are a price well worth paying for losing fewer flies. Spinning gear can also be very effective when stalking the shallows, using colorful red and white or green and white poppers for hours of topwater action. If live bait is more your style, Shrimp and Pinfish are the go-to bait in these parts and most charters come with this included in the trip.