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Southwest Florida’s Ten Top Fishing Spots

Matlacha Bridge connects Pine Island to the mainland and is affectionately known as the "Fishingest Bridge in the World"
Matlacha Bridge connects Pine Island to the mainland and is affectionately known as the "Fishingest Bridge in the World"
Jeff Briscoe

Boca Grande Pass – This inlet of the Gulf of Mexico is the unquestioned tarpon-fishing capital of the world. Typically between the spring-time months of April and June, the impressive “silver kings” travel through the narrow pass to spawn in large numbers. On a weekend afternoon, it is common to see hundreds of boats packing the waters above in hopes of a fight with these 100+ pound monsters. Surfcasters can toss a line near the adjacent Gasparilla Island Light, but beware the dangerous swirling currents of the pass.

Bokeelia – The under-populated seaside community rests on the northern tip of Pine Island and offers some of the best fishing in Southwest Florida. Bokeelia affords visitors access to piers, full-service marinas in Jug Creek, and even a seawall from which to fish. Located directly across from the open waters of the Gulf in Boca Grande Pass, Bokeelia further witnesses a convergence of Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor, and a multitude of fish inevitably follow.

Canals of Cape Coral – Sitting across from Fort Myers, this pre-planned community has become the largest city in Southwest Florida, since initial development in the 1960’s. Designed to enable home-builders to tempt retirees with an affordable piece of the Florida lifestyle, Cape Coral possesses over 400 miles of navigable waterways. Most of these canals capture fresh water, which supports natural drainage of the formerly swampy lands. Locals enjoy not only prime access to freshwater fishing, but many canals lead directly to the Caloosahatchee River.

El Jobean Pier – Located in Charlotte County, just off Highway 776 on the road connecting Englewood and Port Charlotte, this converted train bridge once carried freight and passengers to the shipping village of Boca Grande. After a changing economy dictated closure, the structure was wisely converted for use in fishing. Though the antiquated pier does show its age a bit, it offers a picturesque spot for anglers to try their luck in the fish-filled waters of the Myakka River.

Matlacha Bridge – Locals long dubbed this short span as the “Fishingest Bridge in the World,” as legend claims a specimen of every saltwater fish in Florida has been here captured. Connecting Pine Island to mainland Cape Coral, Lee County replaced the bridge in 2012, but its reputation for sterling fishing remains renowned. Wide sidewalks permit casting into the northern and southern sides of Matlacha Pass, as it wraps around Little Pine Island. A minimal clearance on the water of only nine feet allows anglers above to reel-in easily most catches.

Naples City Pier – Serving formerly as a freight and passenger dock, a pier has been located in this spot since 1888. Though it has been replaced over the years, the historic location sits in the heart of old town Naples. Jutting 1000-feet into the plush waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this is an ideal spot to photograph a colorful sunset, or cast a hopeful line for snapper, sheephead, pompano, and more. A beneficially-placed concession stand operates on the mid-point of the structure. As an added bonus, a fishing license is not required, as the City of Naples possesses a bulk license for the pier.

Peace River – Serving as the source for the fish-filled estuary of Charlotte Harbor, this lengthy waterway carries water over 100 miles from the Central Florida town of Bartow. While most of the river’s narrow flow contains nutrient-rich fresh waters, the scenic Peace greatly expands when it passes south of Arcadia and nears the waterfront community of Punta Gorda. Rarely exceeding a depth of more than 10-feet, boaters here consistently find thrills tracking down sport fish in the flats on light tackle.

Sanibel Island Light – One of only two lighthouses constructed between Tampa and Key West, this structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and continued to be maintained by the City of Sanibel. Completed in 1884, the lighthouse guided the way for early settlers into the port of Punta Rassa, near Fort Myers. Located on the southeastern tip of Sanibel Island, the surrounding beaches are rightfully famous for shelling. Yet, this is also an ideal spot for surfcasting, especially for what locals affectionately call “surf snook.”

Ten Thousand Islands – Following the ancient traditions of the Calusa Indians, modern anglers cherish this chain of uninhabited islands and oyster bars dotting the state’s southern Gulf coastline. Accessible only by knowledgeable boaters, it is easy to run around in the shallows, while searching for prime fishing ground in an area where the Everglades naturally drain. Located south of Cape Romano (and the neighboring resort town of Marco Island), these tiny mangrove-lined islands provide superior access to Southwest Florida’s signature game fish, including snook, redfish, cobia, and speckled sea trout.

Venice Fishing Pier – This 700-foot long pier is another perfect option for fishing into the blue-green waters of the Gulf or simply enjoying its pleasant views. Connected to Sharky’s-on-the-Pier Restaurant, many visitors come to savor waterfront dining, but this free pier is always popular with anglers. Located in Brohard Park, on the south end of the luxurious island of Venice, the pier is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., features an on-site bait shop, and allows fishing without a permit.

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