As with many barrier Islands, the two tips are the best places to fish. They’re also the best places to shell on Sanibel. The lower end is the most famous, but the northern tip, at Blind Pass and Turner Beach, is the best.
Update 2/21/2017: Blind Pass is being dredged now and the dredging is scheduled to last until the middle of April. Parts of the beach will be closed.
Update 5/22/2017: A friend just told me that they were still dredging Blind Pass on May 13th.
Blind Pass and Turner Beach
Blind Pass cuts between Sanibel Island and Captiva. Turner Beach is the beach on both sides of the pass. There’s a bridge spanning the pass which connects the two Islands and makes it possible to drive to Captiva Island. There’s parking on both sides and bathrooms and a shower on the Captiva side. Parking is $4.00 an hour. Leashed pets are allowed on the Sanibel side. Pets are not allowed on Captiva beaches. If Traffic is light, it’s less than a half hour drive from the beginning of the Sanibel Causeway to Blind Pass. It can take twice as long during season when traffic in Sanibel becomes stop and go.
Shelling on Turner Beach
Blind Pass and Turner beach have the best shelling on Sanibel and Captiva. Some will argue Lighthouse Beach at the opposite tip of Sanibel island is better. No doubt a lot of shells roll up there, but it’s heavily picked over. When coming from the mainland, it’s a shorter trip, so more visitors stop there. It’s also closer to the hotels and condos. The result is a crowded beach with lots of newbie shell hunters scouring the sand as well as experienced shellers. There are still plenty of common shells to be found, but beating the old pros to a prize shell is a challenge, as they often start early in the morning.
You’re more likely to find a rare shell at Blind Pass and Turner Beach. Before reaching the pass, shellers have to drive past a string of beautiful, hard to resist Sanibel beaches. By the time they pull into the Blind Pass parking areas, their numbers have thinned. The result is a better selection of shells than found at any other Sanibel beach.
There are several different areas to shell. There’s blind pass itself, with far more shells on the Sanibel side than the Captiva, which is mainly large rocks. More shells are found on the Gulf side of the bridge, and under it, than on the inland side. If you walk along the bank on the inland side, watch the tides. On a low tide it’s easy, but if you’re walking back on a high tide, you may have to fight through mangroves. On a low tide, it’s possible to wade out to a sandbar. Take care when doing so as the currents can be treacherous.
Both sides of Turner Beach are excellent places to find shells. You can wander for miles without encountering many people. It’s often difficult to get away from the crowds when walking the sand by Lighthouse Beach. Another spot to check out is on the Captiva side where the sand meets the jetty. Sometimes shells pile up in impressive mounds there.
Make sure you know the ten rules of shelling. Pick a time when the tide is low. Gas up the car, and make the trek to the best shelling on Sanibel or Captiva.
Fishing Blind Pass
It’s not uncommon for the fishing in Blind Pass to be of the “a hit on every cast” variety. This usually happens during the warm months, in the morning, with a strong current, and when schools of white bait are present. Start by catching some. If you’re targeting Spanish mackerel and lady fish, cast the bait out with little or no weight. Let the current carry it along. If you’d like to hook a redfish or snook, add more weight. A smaller round weight allows the the bait to roll along the bottom covering more ground. If you want the bait to stay in the same place, add more weight. Many of the hits will be from whiting and other less spectacular fish, but prized game fish show up as well.
Of course there are other ways to fish Blind Pass. Small fast moving lures rack up the mackerel when they come crashing through. Jigs and slower lures entice redfish and snook to bite. I’ve seen fly fishermen with bent rods, including one with a big tarpon attached. Shark fishermen often use a ladyfish as bait, a balloon as a float, and let the out flowing tide carry their monster catching rig into the gulf.
Redfish, snook, snapper, and when it’s cold, sheepshead tend to hang under the bridge or close to it. Spanish mackerel and lady fish are more common away from the bridge and on the Gulf side. Jacks, whiting, and sharks can show up anywhere.
There are other places to fish next to the pass. The jetty is an excellent spot to hook a sheepshead from when it’s cold. In warmer weather, snook, redfish and an occasional trout will roam the edges. Snook prowl Turner Beach on both sides of the pass. Read our article on Bowman’s beach to learn how to fool them. Also, the bridge spanning the pass was built with fishermen in mind.
Some fishermen can’t resist wading in so their cast reaches that perfect spot. They need to be cautious. The current can be vicious and the sand bottom unstable. A fall may result in a life threatening situation. There are no life guards. Waders also need to keep sting rays in mind. So be careful. Bring your fishing license and know the fishing regulations. The authorities do check here.
No one can talk about blind pass and Turner Beach without mentioning how beautiful they are. They don’t have the amenities that some beaches have, but none can surpass the views or the wealth of life that gathers in, above, and on the edges of the Pass’s rich flowing waters. Blind Pass and Turner Beach are the best places to shell or fish on Sanibel Island.