Surrounded by so much water, it’s no surprise Florida is a hot spot for fishing. Within driving distance of our home is Sanibel Island, where earlier this month we took our kids on their very first fishing trip.
In fact, we didn’t even get onto the island itself. Instead, we stopped at one of the beaches right off the Sanibel Causeway Bridge. Everyone had so much fun and now my kids ask to go back just about every day.
That said, there was quite a bit of prep and research that went into our first family fishing trip. Yes, there’s more to it than just showing up with a fishing pole. So, to help make your family fishing trip go as smoothly as ours did, I’m going to share some tips for fishing along the Sanibel Causeway Bridge.
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The first thing you need to know, is that you must have a fishing license to fish anywhere in Florida. And that applies to both residents and visitors. The only exception is for those under the age of 16 and residents over the age of 65, of whom do not require a license.
Why do I need a fishing license?
Unless you want to risk getting fined for fishing, you better have a license and you better have it available in the case an officer is patrolling the area. There was an officer patrolling the day we were fishing and while he didn’t pull over and question us, we were still prepared with our licenses.
Even if you don’t plan to take any fish home, but instead just want to fish for fun and throw any catches back in the water, you still require a fishing license.
For Florida residents, the good news is you can get a FREE shoreline fishing license, which is valid for fishing from land or a pier. You can get one at any local Tax Collector’s Office or find another agent here. We just went to the sporting goods section at Walmart and in a matter of 5 minutes had our free fishing licenses.
Visitors looking to fish have a few different options. A non-resident 3 day saltwater fishing license is $17. A 7 day license is $30. Or you can get a fishing license valid for 1 whole year for $47.
For more information about Florida fishing licenses, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Sanibel Island Weather
You may think that Florida weather is all sunshine and warmth, and most of the time that’s true. But don’t underestimate Florida’s sporadic rain storms, especially in the summer months.
When planning a family fishing trip anywhere in Florida, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast. Here’s the 10-day weather forecast for Sanibel, FL.
The morning we left for the Sanibel, it was already overcast and cloudy. And by the time we arrived at the beach, it was raining and lightning. However, the good thing about Florida rain showers is that they typically pass pretty quickly. After maybe a 30 minute wait in the car, the rain was gone, the sky was clear and we were ready to set up our fishing site.
Sanibel Causeway Tides
Along with knowing what the weather is supposed to look like, it’s also a good idea to know when the tides are going to roll in. Tides are important because they dictate the availability of fish in certain areas. I mean, the whole point of going fishing is to hopefully catch some fish, right?
Higher tides typically means more fish and for us this proved to be true. When we arrived at the beach the tide was low. We set up our fishing pole holders a several feet from the shoreline because we knew the tide would come in while we there, and boy did it. By the time we left, our fishing pole holders were in the water.
And during the time the tide came in, we caught a fish! It was the only catch of the day. Well, except for the crab we “caught,” which I’ll share about in a minute.
You can check for Sanibel’s high and low tide times here.
Sanibel Causeway Toll
Another kind of “know before you go” tip, is that there’s a $6 toll when entering onto the bridge, even if you don’t plan to cross the whole bridge over to Sanibel. There’s no toll when returning to the mainland, though.
The only options for paying the toll are “Toll-by-Plate” or using SunPass. There are no cash toll booths.
With “Toll-by-Plate” you will receive a $6 invoice in the mail, based on the address your vehicle’s plate is registered at.
SunPass is a prepaid toll program, which requires a SunPass transponder in your vehicle and connected to it, a prepaid SunPass account. You can purchase a SunPass transponder at various retailers in Florida or if planning in advance, can get one online.
Luckily, there are no fees involved with parking on any of the 3 beach outlets along the Sanibel Causeway Bridge. Parking is free and right on the water!
Any good fisherman has his own fishing supplies and rod. Since this was our first family fishing trip, not every member of the family had their own fishing rod yet. But we made sure to fix that before the big day came.
Kids Fishing Rods
Many people think kids fishing rods are a waste of money because they aren’t as strong as adult ones. But you know what? They’re kids and they want something they can handle themselves.
So, we got all 3 of our kids their own fishing rods – a Kid Casters PAW Patrol Fishing Rod for the 2 year old, a Kid Casters My Little Pony Fishing Rod for the 4 year old, and a Zebco Dock Demon Spinning Reel and Fishing Rod for the 8 year old (he’s left handed and this particular fishing rod works for that).
While they didn’t catch any fish with their poles (to be honest, they were more interested in playing in the water most of the time than actually fishing), they did “catch” a crab with one of the Kid Casters rods.
We were standing about 1-2 feet deep in the water when we noticed a crab walking along the bottom. Mostly trying to stay out of its way because I didn’t want my toes pinched, at one point we put some bait on one of the kids’ rods and the crab took to it. He didn’t hang on too long, but the kids still felt good because they “caught” something with one of their own fishing rods.
Speaking of bait, have you ever wondered what is the best bait to use? We bought raw, shell-on shrimp from our local grocery store and let it thaw out for bait use.
Family members, who have much more experience fishing than we do, suggested that cooked shrimp doesn’t stay on the line very well. So that’s why we went with the raw option. As for the shell-on variety, the shell helps keep the shrimp on the line.
If you’d prefer fresh shrimp, it’s available at various bait shops in the area, like Whitney’s Bait & Tackle Shop.
Or, sometimes you’ll get a bite on fake bait too. During our family fishing trip, we did occasionally try some rubber bait shaped like little fish. We were getting bites with it, although the fish we caught was done so with shrimp.
Other Useful Fishing Supplies
To make your family fishing trip even more seamless, there are some other fishing supplies you may want to bring along.
- Sinker weights so the bait on the fishing line goes down where the fish are feeding.
- Fishing bobbers so you can see where your line is sitting in the water.
- Fishing rod holders so you can throw your line, and sit back and relax until you see or hear the line making moves. We used extra beach umbrella anchors for our fishing rods.
- Filleting kit with cutting board and knife, which is useful for cutting up bait or if you are planning to keep what you catch, useful for descaling and filleting while on the beach.
- Fishing bucket or cooler with ice, for any fresh fish you’ll be taking home. You want to keep the fish from spoiling in the heat!
In addition to actual fishing gear, you’ll also want to bring along typical beach supplies. The beaches along the Sanibel Causeway do offer some shaded areas by way of trees, but to guarantee you have shade, bring along a beach umbrella or canopy tent.
One thing you may not realize until you get to the beach, but something that all locals know, is that Sanibel beaches tend to be full of shells. You won’t really find soft, feet sinking sand there. So, anytime we head to Sanibel, we’re sure to bring along beach or water shoes for the whole family. Trust me, your feet will thank you.
Plus, it’s fun to get in the water when fishing and you won’t have to worry about stepping on something if you’ve got shoes on. We did see a few small jellyfish while we were there, not to mention the crab that was walking around ready to pinch any toes it came in contact with.
Additional Beach Supplies
- Bring a cooler full of cold drinks, snacks and lunch, especially if planning to be there for a good portion of the day. If you decide to leave for lunch and come back, you may lose your spot along the beach.
- Insect repellent or insect repellent bracelets – The day after our family fishing trip, I counted no less than 15 bug bites on my body. Needless to say, the next week was not a very comfortable one. Learn from my mistakes.
- Beach chairs
- Beach towels
A little perk of fishing along the Sanibel Causeway Bridge, is the availability of a porta potty. It’s probably not your first choice if you have to use the restroom, but it’s better than no options when you’re spending the day on the beach with the whole family.
Rules & Regulations
You get all set up for fishing along the Sanibel Causeway Bridge, and lo and behold, someone catches a fish! But now what? Before you decide to keep it, you need to check the rules and regulations for what species and size of fish you can and can’t keep.
These rules and regulations can easily be found online here.
I’ve been talking about how we only caught one fish during our family fishing trip, but I haven’t told or shown you what we caught. It was a nice sized Snook.
The kids were all excited when daddy pulled in his catch, but after checking the rules and regulations, we unfortunately had to let it go back in the water. We were fishing in the Gulf Coast in early July, which as you can see, is closed season for Snook.
While we looked up the regulations, we showed the kids how to keep the fish alive by feeding water into its gills. And when we did come to the realization that our catch had to be released, we gently placed it back in the water and it swam on its way.
Regardless of not taking any catches home, it was a great first family fishing trip along the Sanibel Causeway Bridge! Fishing is a game of a patience, so the fact that one of us caught something is a win in our family book of memories. Hopefully, you get the opportunity to visit Sanibel and can make it great memory for your family too!
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