Your Summer Fishing Guide: Top 6 Fish to Catch in Sanibel

Summer is the season for fishing. The sun hangs high in the sky. The warmth brings the water life underneath to a frenzy. Summer offers up some of the finest fishing out of the year right off Captiva and Sanibel Islands near our 2 bedroom rentals.

Some summer fish are sought after with passion and excitement, causing even the best fishermen to let loose and spend extra hours out on the waters in hopes of nabbing one on the end of their rod. Below we cover Sanibel and Captiva’s top 6 summer catch highlights, and what you need to do to knock them off your “hope to catch” bucket list during your Sanibel vacation.

Man holding tarpon he caught fishing in Sanibel, FL

Cobia

No summer session of Sanibel and Captiva fishing is complete without a few afternoons spent targeting Cobia. Cobia dwells out in the bay and can be caught either offshore or inshore, though we recommend heading quite a bit offshore to find bottom-dwelling cobia.

Cobia love to snag on squid. It is their favorite treat. But you can generally stick to live bait to attract the fish. While trolling is usually the best method for cobia, many of our locals have had success bottom fishing, though this method is usually more effective offshore.

Flounder

Flounder is a famous bottom-dweller. Bounce your bait off the bottom long enough and you will eventually land right on a lazy flounder hungry for a snack.

Out of all the fish listed here, flounder may be the most common. It is an extremely tasty and popular bottom fish, with that distinctive flat look and its two eyes on the same side. Flounder is best sought with shrimp and minnows, the latter best used when alive. You can even catch flounder in the small interior creeks of the islands.

Permit

The permit is exclusively a casting fish. You won’t have much luck nailing one on the end of your line by bottom trolling.

The permit also has a short mating span outside Captiva and Sanibel. You can usually only catch them at the peak of the summer. They are also picky eater, usually not susceptible to shrimp and crabs. If you want to narrow in on Permit, we suggest working with a boat charter, like Tarpon Bay Explorers.

Pompano

Pompano is one of the only fish listed here that are prolific when fishing inshore. Pompano tends to huddle close to the coast during the spring and summer seasons. They congregate towards the bottom of the water, so a bottom trolling strategy applies. You can use small and subtle jigs to get the job done. The fish is also vulnerable to shrimp and live small bait, like sand fleas. You can buy sand fleas in packs or catch them.

Our best strategy has been to focus on the far side of the wave breaks and sand bars. Unlike cobia, you have a good chance of catching pompano off a local dock or right along the beach.

Tarpon

Tarpon is considered a game fish to many in the gulf, and one of the top picks for entry-level competitive type fishing.

Tarpon can get big and they can get mean. But you can increase your chances of landing this guy with a few tips. Firstly, stick to cut bait or live bat. You will have a lot more luck complementing live bait on your line with chum to stir up the school. Tarpon can be sought with bottom techniques or straight casting.

Tarpon is considered a catch and releases only in Florida. Only with strict licenses and permissions can you keep tarpon. This is a game fish- pure and simple.

Blue crabs on the beach in Sanibel, FL

Blue Crab

If you want a change of pace, we suggest going after a blue crab. Blue crab can be caught with both nets and traps. Fishing for them takes a lot of patience due to their cleverness, but you can find blue crab hiding away in shacks, flats, and many other areas right along the shore. The blue crab is also common during the majority of the year. Use chicken and fish parts in a net to attract them in.

Sanibel and Captiva fishing requires all the stops, but it is worth every second. Find the perfect Sanibel Island vacation rental for your next fishing trip!