Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel is one of the best beaches in the world. In 2013, U.S. News & World Report rated it as the 8th best. It’s a beautiful beach with no buildings in sight. In Summer it’s a great place to fish for snook and tarpon.
How to catch snook
The best time to learn how to catch snook is the summer. Summer snook fishing from Southwest Florida beaches is incredible. Since there’s no structure like pilings or mangroves for the fish to get tangled in, you can use lighter line, making catching even a small one a blast. It’s like sight fishing for big bone fish that jump. And better yet, you don’t need a boat, a guide, or to spend a lot of money. Even the bait is free. If fly fishing is your thing, the wide sandy beaches make an ideal casting platform.
The action starts in May and lasts until the middle of October. The water temperature needs to reach 75 degrees, as the water gets hotter, so does the fishing. When it hits 80, the fishing gets crazy. The snook cruise along parallel to the beach. Often so close to shore that the water barely covers them. This is their breeding season. They lay eggs that float, so they’re hunting oily fish to eat such as scaled sardines and Threadfin Herring. There are plenty around.
The most productive way to catch beach snook starts with a cast net. Use one to catch the scaled sardines or other bait fish that often school close to shore. They are the best bait for snook there is. Free lining them will out produce everything else. If you don’t want to carry a bait bucket and cast net, flies and lures also work.
When the water is clear enough, and the sun high enough, sight fishing is the most effective method, and the most fun. But remember if you can see them, they can see you. Stay as far from them as possible. They’ll cruise parallel to the shore, generally all going in the same direction. If conditions are such that you can’t see them, go ahead and blind cast. Once you hook one, keep your offering the same distance from shore. Retrieving a lure parallel to the beach keeps it where the fish are longer.
If there are no snook off the beach and you’re willing to walk, try Blind Pass. It’ll be to your right when you’re facing the ocean. The situation there is much different, deep water, bridge pilings, and often strong currents. Make sure you have a fishing license and snook stamp if required. Snook are heavily regulated and officials do check here. The odds are long that you’ll catch one you’re allowed to keep, but that’s alright. There are plenty of other fish to eat. Handle the snook gently, release them healthy, and allow them to get out there and make more little battlers.
Fishing for Tarpon
A live or dead scaled sardine, pinfish or half a mullet or lady fish, cast farther out, may get you a tarpon. Use circle hooks, a weight, and a long leader of at least 80 pound test. Large lures and flies also work, but not as well. Look for rolling tarpon or schools of bait fish in deeper water. Cast there. If you don’t see anything, cast as far out as you can. The water is deeper off of Bowman’s than most beaches, resulting in tarpon coming closer to shore.
Tarpon fishing here starts in April and ends by the end of July. The weather gets hot in June and July and lightning gets dangerous in the afternoons. Fortunately, the tarpon bite best in the morning and strikes are rare after noon. Landing a tarpon from a beach is a thrill few fishermen ever experience. But it happens every year at Bowman’s Beach.
The Beach and Park
In 2013 U.S. News and World Report rated Bowman’s Beach as the tenth best beach in the world. Here you get two beaches for the price of one. Visitors can stay close to the parking lot and all the excellent amenities, or if they’re willing to walk, move off to a stretch of secluded sand they’ll have all to themselves. In 2011, ShermansTravel.com rated Bowman’s as the best secluded beach in the U.S.. These spots feel like remote barrier islands such as Cayo Costa which can only be reached by boat. By taking a little hike visitors can save the cost of a ferry and use the money instead to pay for more parking time.
It’s easier to find a parking spot here than at Lighthouse beach since only about half as many cars make the longer trip. There are some spots for RV’s and trailers. Parking is $4.00 an hour.
It’s a scenic quarter mile walk to the white sand beach from the parking lot. You’ll pass a playground, bathrooms, a fitness trail and picnic areas with tables and barbecues, as well as cross a bridge over clam bayou. The 50 acre park is a great place for bird watching. It’s also a fantastic shelling beach and fall is a great time to find some of these natural treasures. There’s lots to do year round at Bowman’s beach, but summer is when the fishing heats up.