Planning a fishing trip can be complicated and overwhelming. You might not know where to go for the best catch, whether or not you should hire a fishing charter, or even what type of fish you can find in the area. So we’ve put together this Fort Myers fishing guide to help you find the answer to each of those questions and more.
Fort Myers is one of Florida’s top fishing destinations, offering year-round access to some of the most productive salt and freshwater fisheries in the state. As a result, Fort Myers fishing is second to none, whether you want to cast your line from the shore, charter a boat out to the gulf or camp out on a freshwater lake.
Is There Good Fishing in Fort Myers?
Situated on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River and just a short boat ride away from the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Myers provides easy access to some of the best fishing spots in South Florida.
Due to the area’s many canals, estuaries, and lakes, and its proximity to the gulf, there are endless opportunities for fishermen no matter what you’re angling for. So whether you want to catch a trophy-sized tarpon, complete a backcountry slam or want to enjoy some casual freshwater fishing, Fort Myers offers nearly every fishing experience you could imagine. Of course, a backcountry slam is catching a snook, seatrout and redfish all in the same day.
What Kind of Fish Can You Catch in Fort Myers?
The waters in and around Fort Myers are home to a wide variety of fish, meaning if you’re after a specific fish native to South Florida, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here. But as diverse as the ecosystem is, the city is known for a few species in particular. Three of the most common fish you’ll find in Fort Myers are snook, redfish, and tarpon.
Snook are among the most common species found when fishing the waters of Fort Myers. They are known for their feisty nature and signature black stripe along their side,
Snook typically grows between 16 and 50 inches in length and weighs between 12 and 29 pounds. While not the biggest fish by any means, snook are known for not going down without a fight, making them great fish for both the experienced angler and the eager new fisherman alike.
You can find snook in abundance throughout the Caloosahatchee River and thriving nearshore in the flats, mangroves, and backcountry waters around the city.
Redfish are found in and around Fort Myers year-round, but they thrive during the Fall months.
Also known as red drum, redfish typically grow between 30 and 61 inches in length and weigh between 10 and 45 pounds. Like snook, redfish are very common in many of the nearshore grass flats and mangroves just outside of Fort Myers, but they can easily be found throughout the river as well.
Redfish, known as both a good game fish and an excellent catch for dinner, are among the most popular fish found in the area.
The mighty tarpon, also known as the Silver King, is not only the most prized game fish in Fort Myers but one of the most sought-after saltwater fish worldwide.
Tarpon are most commonly found just off the shores of Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island as they make their annual migration to nearby Boca Grande, the “Tarpon Capital of the World.” However, if you don’t feel like straying too far out, they can be found along the river and in the flats and backcountry waters as well.
Full-grown tarpon can reach between four and eight feet in length and weigh between 100 and 280 pounds. They are a famous trophy for anglers around the country because of their silver scales and aerial jumps. Because of their size and athleticism (tarpon often fight and leap out of the water after being hooked), tarpon can be a difficult fish to catch, but they’re well worth it in the end.
More Fort Myers Fish
Some of the other popular fish found in the river and nearshore waters of Fort Myers include seatrout, grouper, snapper, cobia, tripletail, mackerel, and even sharks. The city is also home to countless freshwater lakes and ponds where largemouth and peacock bass run rampant.
Of course, the waters around Southwest Florida are teeming with hundreds of species of fish, so if you’re after a specific species, in particular, get in touch with a fishing charter and they should be able to point you in the right direction or even take you right to them.
What Fish are in Season in Fort Myers?
The waters around Fort Myers are productive for anglers year-round, but some fish are more common during certain seasons due to spawning periods and migration patterns.
Snook fishing in Fort Myers is good any month of the year, though the snook usually hit their peak from March to October. Other year-round fish include largemouth bass, most species of grouper and most species of snapper.
You can generally find redfish year-round as well, though they’re less common during the winter months. The same goes for tripletail and peacock bass.
Tarpon, sharks and mutton snapper are most commonly found in the spring and summer months, while trout are most common in the spring, and sunshine bass can be found easily any season but the summer.
Where Can I Fish in Fort Myers?
One of the best things about Fort Myers is the access you have to good fishing no matter where you are.
If you’d rather stay onshore, bridges, docks, piers, or even the banks of a canal are the perfect places to camp out for a full day of fishing. Charters will take you to the best fishing holes offshore, or, if you’d rather go it alone, you can rent a boat and explore the canals and backcountry waters for some inshore fishing yourself.
No matter where you go around Fort Myers, there’s not a bad place to cast your line.
Where Can I Shore Fish in Fort Myers?
Between the Caloosahatchee River, the canals that run through the city and the small lakes and ponds that dot the landscape, there are countless opportunities to fish in Fort Myers without ever stepping foot on a boat.
Community parks like Riverside and North Shore provide easy access to fishing on the bank of the river. If you want to fish in a bit deeper waters, finding a spot on the Tarpon Street Pier or the Midpoint Bridge will give you plenty of opportunities to catch species like trout, snook, or tarpon near the middle of the river. For freshwater fishing, Billy Creek and Lakes Park are great spots to sit on the shore catching bass.
Closer to the mouth of the river on Estero Island, the Fort Myers Beach Pier offers some of the best shore fishing in the area. Not only will you be greeted with a gorgeous view, but you’ll get access to more species of fish that hang out nearshore just off the coast, like mackerel, snapper and grouper.
Where Can I Fish Around Fort Myers?
If you’re comfortable leaving the city proper, there are tons of areas to choose from right around Fort Myers. While fishing spots on the river and in the canals are nothing to sneeze at, some of the most popular fishing holes in the area can be found in the waterways just outside of the city.
Just west of Fort Myers are popular vacation destinations like Sanibel, Captiva and Pine Islands. While each of these islands have great beaches for fishing, the waterways around them are where it’s really at.
Boca Grande Pass has one of the largest annual migrations of Tarpon each summer; Tarpon Bay is home to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which has great salt and freshwater fishing; and Pine Island Sound, which lies between the three islands, offers some of the best backcountry fishing in the area.
And just off the coast of these islands, venturing further into the gulf, you’ll start to have even better luck reeling in some of the Fort Myers area’s larger species, like goliath grouper and king mackerel.
To the south, you can fish the San Carlos and Estero Bays, where you’ll find places like Bunche Beach Preserve and Fisherman’s Key. And to the north, plan to spend some time in Charlotte Harbor and Gasparilla Sound.
If you book a fishing charter, there’s a good chance you’ll head out near these areas anyway, but even if you plan to go it alone, you don’t want to miss out on the fishing that these waterways offer.
Do I Need a Fishing Charter in Fort Myers?
Fishing charters can be a great option, especially for new fishermen or for those unfamiliar with the area. Whether you’re sports fishing, angling for dinner, or just want to come home with a great fish tale, you can find a charter that’ll help you find whatever it is you’re looking for.
What is a Fishing Charter?
Fishing charters are excursions run by experienced guides that take guests out to fishing hotspots or to fish for particular species. Charters can be tailored to fit the needs and skill level of any group, even teaching the basics and the how-to’s of fishing to new fishermen.
Charters are typically rented out at either a fixed rate or by the hour, based on the number of people involved. Depending on the charter, you can either rent them out privately or book a shared trip with other guests.
Do I Need a Fishing Charter in Fort Myers?
If you’re a new fisherman, are unfamiliar with the waters around Fort Myers, or simply want to target a specific fish, a charter is definitely recommended.
You can find a charter in Fort Myers for any type of fishing adventure, whether you want to stay close to the coast, where you can do some inshore or nearshore fishing, or you want to test the deeper waters that offshore or deep sea fishing provide. You can even find freshwater charters to patrol many of the area’s lakes and waterways.
If you’ve always wanted to hook a shark or have your heart set on reeling in a trophy-sized tarpon, a charter is definitely the way to go. Charter captains know exactly where to find certain species of fish and can even offer fishing tips on how to catch them. So if you’ve got a particular fish in mind, find a charter that can offer that specific fishing trip.
Additionally, if you don’t already have a fishing license, most charters will be able to provide you one upon booking your trip.
Where to Get a Fishing License in Fort Myers?
Fishing licenses can be obtained at a number of places, including marinas, bait and tackle shops, sporting goods stores, the tax collector’s office, some department stores, or online. Most fishing charters are able to provide you with a fishing license as well. Wherever you get yours, make sure the shop is considered a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) appointed agent.
Whether you’re a Florida resident or visiting from out of state, everyone, unless otherwise exempt, is required to hold a fishing license before casting their line. Fortunately, fishing licenses are relatively cheap and simple to obtain in Florida.
Residents can purchase annual saltwater fishing licenses for $17, while non-residents can purchase a 3-day ($17) or 7-day ($30) license. If you’re interested in a long-term option, FWC also offers 5-year licenses ($79) to residents and annual licenses to non-residents ($47).
Anglers looking to stay on the shore can get a saltwater shoreline-only license free of charge. You won’t be allowed to fish from any kind of seacraft, but you’re welcome to find a dock, pier, or anyplace along the shore to cast your line.
If you’re interested in freshwater fishing, you can purchase a freshwater license for the same prices outlined for the saltwater license. However, if you plan to do both, you’ll need a separate license for each unless you purchase a combination license.
Exemptions include children younger than 16 and residents aged 65 or older with proof of age and residency.
Book Your Fishing Trip
Now that you’ve got all of the information you need to plan your fishing trip, it’s time to start booking your activities. With Royal Shell’s Port Sanibel Marina, you can rent a boat from one of the newest and largest, fully Coast-Guard-equipped rental fleets in the Greater Fort Myers area, rent a kayak for some easy angling on the river and canals, or book a charter for your fishing trip. Give us a call at (239) 437-1660 and get started booking your Fort Myers fishing trip today.