As if the previous seven top spots to fish from shore were not enough to reel you in, here are five more with updates on new bass fishing regulations for 2016 in Florida and some tips for keeping your catch fresh until you–or a local chef–prepares it.
1. Punta Rassa Causeway Bridge
This bridge has great fishing spots coming and going. Park at the boat launch, and fish under the causeway bridge on your way in. To get there, head for Sanibel and take the Punta Rassa exit to the right just before the toll booth. On the south side is a popular place for kite boarding and camping too, making this a great fishing spot for the whole family. Park and fish from the wide shoulder on the south side of the road just after the toll booth as you leave. Look forward to ladyfish almost year-round and crappie, drum, sheepshead and grouper in winter.
2. Florida’s New Black Bass Fishing Regulation
It is a new era of changes in regulation of largemouth bass. Aiming to protect the sustainability of black bass fishing in all of Florida’s “Black Bass Fishing Capital of the World” backyards, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission adopted a plan for minimal restrictions to enhance the state’s trophy bass fisheries and allow diverse angling opportunities for the sportsmen. The new, simplified regulation targets harvesting of slower growing females and specific sizes of more abundant males.
There is a bag limit of five fish per day, and only one bass can exceed 16 inches. So, you can have five fish under 16 inches or four plus one. Tournament participants may weigh in more than one fish over 16 inches per person if they have a Tournament Exemption Permit. You can visit TrophyCatchFlorida.com for detailed information about rewards for releasing bass over eight pounds.
3. South End Bridge – Matanzas Pass Bridge
Also known locally as Sky Bridge or Fort Myers Beach Bridge, located opposite San Carlos Island is one of two short piers under the approach on Estero Island. Catch some spottail seabream and sheephead here where in the depths beneath the catwalk hovering above swim highly-populated schools of scaled sardines followed closely by some action-packed, reel-spinning grouper drama in the making. This shore spot could be well worth the trouble of finding parking or other means to get there.
Located one mile north of Matanzas Pass Preserve off Estero Boulevard, fishing from the bridge connecting the island with the Florida peninsula is prohibited, but you can fish from either end of it without toll. Bring your saltwater fishing license, and enjoy the scenery as you fish from shore in one of Lee County’s four wetland eco-systems.
4. Keeping Your Catch Fresh While You Fish
Old salts from the sea will tell you to keep fish flesh fresh as quickly as possible before cooking. Here are 5 more tips they would tell you:
1. Unless you plan on eating them within minutes of pulling them out of the water, the first choice is to either keep them alive until you get them home or get them into ice as quickly as possible. If you choose not to keep them alive, don’t let the fish die on their own. Killing them quickly is more humane and prevents some of the side effects of prolonged agony and thrashing about in a container. Stress from taking a long time to die increases the odor of the fish, and bruised flesh from thrashing about changes the flavor of the meat.
2. Fish can be kept alive on a stringer in the water if fishing from a boat or pier, but a bucket is a better option for surf fishing.
3. An alternative to a stringer is a wire mesh basket with a self-closing mechanism that hangs in the water by an attached rope. Be sure it is fully submerged and has ample room for the fish to swim freely. Live wells, or big buckets with built-in aerators work well as long as the fish can swim freely inside.
4. Small fish will go dormant almost immediately in ice. Completely immerse them using crushed or flaked ice, not cubes. Position them as though they were swimming in the water and space them out if you have an abundance. Larger fish will need to be dressed before putting them on ice. Drain the water and replenish the ice frequently while fishing to prevent growth of bacteria, and make sure to drain the water before heading home.
5. Should you haul in some shellfish during your shore expedition, keep these highly perishable delicacies alive until you cook them. Whichever method you choose, avoid placing them directly on ice or frozen freezer packs. Instead, cover unopened bags of ice in the bottom of a cooler with a heavy towel or lots of newspaper, and keep the lid closed. You also can layer 5 inches of seaweed splashed with saltwater above a thick layer of frozen freezer packs in a box, keeping a layer of seaweed with saltwater between each layer of shellfish.Be sure to call ahead and ask about availability and required guidelines if you plan on having a local restaurant cook your catch for you.
5. Who’s Cooking Your Catch of the Day?
Sample pic of Woody’s Waterside in St. James City
Speaking of cooking, if your mouth is watering already to taste the catch of your day, relax while recounting highlights with fishing buddies, and then eat the ones that didn’t get away prepared by local chefs at any of these wonderful dockside establishments:
- Pine Island – Woody’s Waterside in St. James City, 239-283-5555: They do not clean it but will cook your fillets for you. Prices include french fries and coleslaw. Pet friendly and 300 feet of boat dockage make this a great place to moor and dine.
- Naples – River Walk at Tin City, 239-263-2734, or The Boathouse, 239-643-2235, will cook your filleted catch.
- Cape Coral – Rumrunners at Cape Harbour Dining, 239-542-0200, prepares your filleted catch during lunch hours only.
- Marco Island – Snook Inn, 239-394-3313, will prepare your ready-to-cook catch, up to a 12 ounce fillet per person. with all the trimmings.
- Goodland on Marco Island – Stan’s Idle Hour Seafood Restaurant, 239-394-3041, also has live music and The Mullet Festival the weekend before the Super Bowl.
- Fort Myers – Lighthouse Restaurant, 239-489-0770; Pinchers at The Marina at Edison Ford, 239-245-7049.
- Fort Myers Beach – Parrot Key Caribbean Grille, 239-463-3257. Lucas says to bring your cleaned and filleted catch in a plastic bag, and show it to the server upon arrival. Priced per person, it comes with two sides.
- Fort Myers Beach – The Smokin’ Oyster Brewery, 239-463-3474, is not dockside, but Sandy says they will gladly cook your cleaned and filleted catch.
- Naples – Pinchers in Tin City, 239-434-6616, is a bit different. David Cruz, Manager, says customers can bring in their catch in any container, but keep it on ice until you arrive. Priced per pound, they will clean and prepare your catch either fried, blackened or grilled. Appetizers, sides, desserts, beverages and other selections are available at regular menu prices.
6. Tigertail Beach – Marco Island
Fish in the tidal pools at the north end of Marco Island’s wide, flat Tigertail Beach. Parking is a perk at this public access beach, so anyone can come fish here. Fly fish at sunrise and sunset for best luck. Cast deep away from shore, and adjust your retrieval speed depending on what you would like to reel in. Ladyfish and Spanish mackerel like fast action, for example. Lure sheepshead, pompano, jack creval and sea trout with slow motion and jigging off the bottom.
7. Lovers Key State Park
Fish for sheepshead and redfish in relative seclusion from park goers at the pier on the south end of this pristine wilderness island. Ride the park’s tram system for easy access to this mangrove-lined cove, fish from any number of spots on backwater trails winding through the park, or tap into some tarpon from the bridge.
Thinking about moving here? Florida residents itching to fish can get fee-free permits for shore fishing as long as they are not using a boat, so some surprise, before-school memory making with the family or weekend warriors trolling for swimming treasure are perfect ways to scratch that itch. See you at the shore!
Note: Restaurant sources interviewed 20170117.