Just back from 5 unforgettable days in Florida, based in the Fort Myers Beach area, close to the stunning Sanibel Island and the Ding Darling wildlife reserve. A group of us were out there for a Tarpon tournament, but it could have quite easily been a family holiday instead, visiting local attractions, sampling the incredible seafood and craft beers, or spending time on one of the many idyllic beaches searching for seashells. I guess what I'm trying to say is, there are lots of great things to do and any visitor would have a packed schedule.
As anglers, I'm sure you'll be all too familiar with the situation. You have to fit your fishing around other commitments. Plus in a foreign land, it's not always that easy to generate results from the off. This part of the world is an angling mecca. But in angling, there's no guarantees.
However, the team that had organised the trip had cleverly chosen to put us up in the marvellous Pink Shell Beach Resort on Fort Myers Beach. The resort has something for everyone. Prime location on the stunning sandy beach with availability of everything needed for an idyllic day, including usage of kayaks, paddleboards and self-drive boats. The well equipped rooms were beautiful, with stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico. I even spotted dolphins from my balcony. Eating in any of the resort's restaurants was always a delight. But as an angler, one feature stood out. The resort's private marina.
In Florida, you do need a license to fish in saltwater. Although it's an easy process once you find an outlet to acquire one (we went to K-mart), the private nature of the marina means it is already licensed for hotel guests. I thought that was a nice touch for the travelling angler. You could even get an hour's fishing in while the family unpacked the suitcases!
I would forgive you for thinking that this easy-access fishing spot was fished-out, but happily you'd be wrong. The marina area was stuffed with baitfish, hiding among the pilings of the pontoons. In turn, bigger fish reside close by. On one occasion we spotted a tight shoal of a dozen or so Snook, up to around 8lb. Utterly flabbergasted!
My confidence in catching during the heat of the day was far off its peak. I remember thinking to myself that, "only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun", however almost instantaneously I was rewarded with my first Snook - although I went on to lose it, such was the ferocity of the fight. It certainly shook off my jet-lag and reminded me that I wasn't at home. I had a lovely little session crawling small creature baits alongside the jetty pylons. Made for some heart stopping moments on the 7g travel rod. The key was dark coloured lures as the clarity dropped on the ebb tide. I was using the dark red HTO Bug-ga and quickly depleted my holiday rations. It was the best sport I've had in a while, landing five or six spirited fish and losing almost as many more.
Such was the ease of the LRF approach and the availability of such a great fishing spot, I managed to sneak in a quick session before we were picked up to return to the airport on our last day. I'm glad I did as my final Snook was preceded by my first ever Butterfly Ray. If that wasn't good enough already, I caught it on a creature bait in plain sight, in the now clear, flooding tide.
Regardless of which of the many attractions may draw you to the Fort Myers area, be sure to bring a travel rod and a handful of lures - it may end up becoming a highlight itself.
For more information on the area, please visit The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel website.