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View Full Version : Snorkeling in Sanibel, Captiva, and Fort Myers FL


Pico Perfect
03/06/2016, 09:03 PM
I'll be staying on the beach in Fort Myers FL for a long weekend coming up in April and I was wondering if there are any good snorkeling areas over seagrass beds etc. near Sanibel or Captiva? From what I understand Hippocampus zosterae are native there. I know to actually see some reefs you need to be farther south in the keys, but I'd like to see anything really, shallow weedy areas with fish maybe? I've read in some places the water may be murky around this time of year because of water being released from Lake Okeechobee and also I read about the massive blacktip reef shark migration near there. Any tips for snorkeling around that area would be much appreciated!

Ron Reefman
03/07/2016, 04:44 AM
We live nearby and visit Lovers Key State Park (Ft Myers Beach) and Bunch Beach (Ft Myers) and various beaches on Sanibel. We do beach walks and even after a rare cold front which create a strong onshore wind, we collect some Porcelain Crabs, pistol shrimp and tiny sea stars from sponges washed onto the beach. But when we want to snorkel, we go to the Keys. But you are only here for a long weekend so that's not really possible.

You are right about the water conditions here, it commonly low visibility (not terrible, but not like the Keys) and although there are some patch reefs and man-made reefs, they are in deeper water and well off shore. It's possible that is the winds are calm that snorkeling the grass flats off Bunch Beach could be worth doing. We go there with pool cleaning nets and drag the grass flats for grass shrimp which we take home and freeze as food for the fish in our aquariums. We also catch the dwarf seahorses you mentioned. But it's very VERY unlikely you would see them when snorkeling. They can even be hard to pick out when you are searching through the 'stuff' in the dip net for shrimp. BTW, we have also netted big Blue Crab, file fish, other juvenile fish and I once got a foot long porcupine puffer fish that took me 5 minutes to get out of my net!

The shark migration isn't anything I'd be concerned about. I can't remember the last shark bite here on the SW coast of Florida? Maybe 5 years ago a fisherman pulling in a grouper got his hand bit by a shark that was after the grouper. I don't think he even needed stitches. I've been up close to several sharks while snorkeling in the Keys, and likely a few more that I didn't even see, but I've only seen one up close here on the SW coast and that was a 2' long sharp nose shark up near the beach on Sanibel.

Hope that helps? If you have more questions, fire away.

icy1155
03/07/2016, 12:21 PM
Hmm, shore snorkeling around here might be a bit difficult this time of year. I have successfully done some beach snorkeling about 3/4 mi off shore with my kayak on the Sanibel artificial reef, but you don't want to have to swim that far. As far as seeing stuff from a shore trip, depending on the water quality there is a small reef/ledge off of Bunche beach that you might be able to see things at.

To find it, turn left from the parking area and walk down the beach to the left about 1/3 mile. From there, if you head out walking into the water (being careful you don't step on any horn conch, they hurt!) towards the far shore, the reef is in about 6-8 foot of water. This is all based off of my best recollection, I haven't tried that particular snorkel in 5 years or so. The one time we did it we saw some fish, sponges and tunicates. Not the Keys by any stretch of the imagination, but interesting if you get good visibility.

If you do try any snorkeling, make sure you have a dive flag with you. I would be far more worried about a boat than I would be about sharks.

sam.basye
03/07/2016, 03:10 PM
I did a bunch of research a few years ago and ended up going to Delnor-Wiggins Pass state park near Naples. Parking area #3 about 100ft off the beach about even with the bouy's.

There was some reef/rocky areas with a bunch of fish and some corals in about 10+ ft of water.

It costs a few dollars to get in, but it's was the best place I could find in the area for snorkeling.

Ron, are the pistol shrimp you find a goby pairing species?
I have an emerald green one I brought back from the beach listed above. It's about 2.5" long and named Snappy. Lol

Ron Reefman
03/08/2016, 02:06 AM
Ron, are the pistol shrimp you find a goby pairing species?
I have an emerald green one I brought back from the beach listed above. It's about 2.5" long and named Snappy. Lol

To be honest, I just don't know for sure, but I would guess they are not. I'm not sure I have the right kind of goby for them to pair up with. I just enjoy having some sound effects coming from the tank!

And thanks for the lead about Wiggins Pass. I lived about 3 blocks from the park when I first moved down here 16 years ago, but I wasn't doing any snorkeling then. And I know icy1155 and he knows more about the local area waters than I do. I can't wait for longer, warmer days and water temperatures to start going up.:thumbsup:

icy1155
03/08/2016, 01:27 PM
I had totally forgotten about Wiggans Pass. Decent structure out there and depending on the water quality sometimes you can see pretty good out there. Not sure what it will be like in April however.

icy1155
03/08/2016, 01:29 PM
I can't wait for longer, warmer days and water temperatures to start going up.:thumbsup:

The keys wasn't to bad last weekend Ron. Kel and I went down for a day trip to Sugarloaf Saturday and hit some nice patch reefs with our inflatable. I was wearing a 1.5 mil full suit and Kel had a 3/2 full suit and we were both good in the water for 4-5 hours.

Ron Reefman
03/08/2016, 02:05 PM
The keys wasn't to bad last weekend Ron. Kel and I went down for a day trip to Sugarloaf Saturday and hit some nice patch reefs with our inflatable. I was wearing a 1.5 mil full suit and Kel had a 3/2 full suit and we were both good in the water for 4-5 hours.

Nice! Elaine has vacation scheduled for early May. I have most weekends between now and then full of other things. Are you doing the Tour and BBQ at Charlie's on 3/19? I'm just doing the BBQ. I have a Miata Club picnic for lunch!

sam.basye
03/08/2016, 06:06 PM
If I remember correctly, the surf was littered with big green and yellow starfish with 9ish legs. Keep in mind this was a few years go.

While I was snorkeling around one of the bouy's about 100' out I saw a big (6' span, 10' long) stingray on the sand in about 10' of water, then glide away. It was pretty neat!

The pistol shrimp was found in about 3' of water under a rock.

The mosquitoes were really bad everywhere except in the water. We went in July.


My pistol shrimp is probably my favorite critter in my tank. I actually like hearing the pops and clicks, luckily, as I have a bedroom reef tank.
I have always been paranoid about buying some sort of shrimp goby and the shrimp killing it.

Pico Perfect
03/13/2016, 11:12 PM
You are right about the water conditions here, it commonly low visibility (not terrible, but not like the Keys) and although there are some patch reefs and man-made reefs, they are in deeper water and well off shore. It's possible that is the winds are calm that snorkeling the grass flats off Bunch Beach could be worth doing. We go there with pool cleaning nets and drag the grass flats for grass shrimp which we take home and freeze as food for the fish in our aquariums. We also catch the dwarf seahorses you mentioned. But it's very VERY unlikely you would see them when snorkeling.

Thank you for the info! From what I'm hearing from everyone I'm thinking that doing some shore snorkeling off of Bunch Beach is my best bet to see some interesting stuff.

As far as seeing stuff from a shore trip, depending on the water quality there is a small reef/ledge off of Bunche beach that you might be able to see things at.

To find it, turn left from the parking area and walk down the beach to the left about 1/3 mile. From there, if you head out walking into the water (being careful you don't step on any horn conch, they hurt!) towards the far shore, the reef is in about 6-8 foot of water.

Thanks so much, I'll give it a go!!!