Captiva Island, Florida: Top-Notch Winter Inshore Action

By Tom Schlichter

Capt. Nick Fischer nodded at a boat dock ahead. “There should be a good one under there,” he said. “We had a couple there this morning but saw a real solid fish just before we left.

It didn’t take long to confirm a nice snook was home. I hooked it and, after wrestling it from between the pilings, it turned toward open water. As I felt the battle shift in my favor, the line parted, likely from earlier contact with the pilings.

That can happen when you’re fishing up tight like this,” said our skipper, “but some days you have to dig in to get the big ones. Other times we’ll find them in more open water around oyster bars or in the surf.

Captiva Island, on Florida’s southwest coast, is prime territory for snook, redfish, sea trout, tarpon and a variety of other inshore species.

Our waters produce so well because we have a ton of bait, structure and opportunity here,” said Fischer, proprietor of Tarpon Fischer Charters ( “Pine Island Sound, on the backside of the island, for example, has several passes that allow water and bait to flow in and out. The Peace, Myakka and Caloosahatchee rivers also empty into here. I run a lot of my charters out of South Seas Island Resorts ( at the north end of Captiva, and from there you can be fishing in the sound or the open Gulf in a matter of minutes.”

Snook and redfish top 40 inches, tarpon range from chickens to 200 pounds and sea trout are abundant. Those species are resident, noted Fischer, but come December and January, offshore action also kicks in with snapper, sheepshead, grouper, kingfish and cobia, among others
. For anglers, these waters call for medium-light spinning tackle. Rig a size 3/0 J-hook or a light jighead on a 2 1/2-foot leader of 30-pound mono to freeline live baits around structure, mangroves or the surf edge. Add a 1/2-ounce split-shot two feet above the hook to get down in deeper water or stronger currents, or add a float two feet above this rig to fish the flats. If you prefer to throw lures, toss a 4-inch paddletail, Rapala Skitter Walk or Zara Spook. Fischer favors a 7 1/2-foot, 8- to 17-pound class Bull Bay rod and Shimano 4000 spinning reels for his inshore fishing. Keep in mind this area occasionally suffers from red tide blooms. “It can be here one week and gone the next.” Fischer said. “If it occurs during your visit, simply head for the cleanest water you can find.”

Launching is available at South Seas Resorts (if you are staying there) or from the Sanibel Island Public Boat Ramp ($5/hr. parking fee: 239-472-6397; 888 Sextant Dr., Sanibel.) Nearby, the ‘Tween Waters Inn is another good spot to spend the night. More info at

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