Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

There are so many reasons to visit Florida’s lower Gulf Coast — all those beaches, the calm, warm water, the sailing, power boating, kayaking, diving, SUPing…. But hey, my linebacker legs don’t do well on SUPs. No, all those things are well and good, but I come here for one reason: to fish.

Moment #5: Throwing it back old-school

Photo: Don Johnson 395

My friend Charlie introduced me to Boca Grande Pass, well-known as a tarpon hotspot (this is before I’d been fishing here for years). He was attracted to the area because of its connection to Old Florida — because sometimes the vibe of a place matters as much as the water. Boca Grande Pass isn’t just about Old Florida tarpon, though. Sea trout, reds, and snook are caught all along the beaches. But tarpon are the main draw, and they get under your skin. Be prepared for this day, because it’ll be a doozie.

When you’re back on dry land, it’s time to take in the history, fishing culture, and Old Florida romance at the Tarpon Lodge & Restaurant. Celebrate a successful day, or drown your sorrows. Set right on the water, the lodge opened in 1926, so you know you won’t be the first to do either.

Moment #6: Taking your fishing trip to another world…

Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

The 100-acre Cabbage Key is an island of intrigue. Dollar bills hang from the rafters, beams, and columns in the Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant — a tradition established by local fishermen. When catches brought good money, captains tacked up dollar bills to cover future bar tabs enjoyed during a slower season. Here, fishing history doesn’t run strong. It gallops.

There are no paved roads, cars, or Ubers on the island, which gives it a definite romantic feel. If you see a 5mph speed limit sign, it humorously refers to walking or biking speeds. Everyone arrives at this idyllic fishing village by private boat, water taxi, or seaplane. Fun fact: An accepted-but-unconfirmed rumor is that Jimmy Buffett wrote “Cheeseburger in Paradise” after a meal at the inn.

As for anglers, most catch snapper and ladyfish off the inn’s dock, while the more adventurous search for redfish, snook, speckled sea trout, and tarpon in the mangroves, flats, or channels. Climb to the top of the water tower for the island’s best view — while you’re there, look for silver flashes or tailing fish.

Moment #7: …and then heading back to the open beach

Water shuttles for Cabbage Key — you’ve got to get on and off the no-car refuge, after all — leave from the tip of Captiva Island at South Seas Island Resort. But this is much more than a shuttle dock — the resort is an entire complex of luxury, and its location means you’ve got a place to get out of the headwind to catch redfish, mangrove snappers, Spanish macks, and grouper. Try for them along the property’s 2.5-mile private beach, cast in Redfish Pass, or drop a live or cut bait off the dock. Fishing for speckled sea trout, redfish, snook, ladyfish, and tarpon is tough to beat.

If you need more tackle, no problem — just swing by the onsite Ships Store. Here you can get a morning coffee, a midday sandwich, and your gear. A fun option is to rent a boat to go fishing (priority #1) and then cruise to Cabbage Key for the day. If you’re not a DIY’er, hire a guide. They’re on the water every day and know the fish on a first-name basis.

This is an excerpt of “7 unforgettable moments you’ll have fishing The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, Florida.” To view the full article by Tom Keer,  visit