As the sun rises over the expansive mangrove forests and back country tidal flats of the Ten Thousand Islands, you might see the glistening silver back of a tarpon rolling near the edge of a drop-off or the tail of a redfish softly breaking the surface of the water as it searches for a crustacean meal. Once you wet a line in this pristine angling paradise for the first time, you’ll understand why people from across the country return to fish the backwaters of this area again and again.
By technical definition, the Ten Thousand Islands consist of hundreds of small keys and mangrove islands that start off the southern coast of Marco Island in Southwest Florida and wind down towards the mouth of Lostman’s River. Approximately 35,000 acres at the northern end of the island chain has been designated as National Wildlife Refuge in order to protect precious plant and animal habitats.
Aside from the year-round warm temperatures and scenery worthy of a Guy Harvey painting, here are a few reasons to plan a fishing trip to the Ten Thousand Islands:
- The healthy sea grass beds and mangrove bottoms in this area make ideal nursery grounds for over 200 species of marine fish.
- There are a variety of inshore species that can be targeted year-round. Species such as tarpon and snook are active during the warmer months. Spanish mackerel and cobia can be caught during the cooler winter months. Snapper, spotted sea trout, pompano, ladyfish and redfish can be targeted almost year-round.
- Tidal rivers flow in out of the Ten Thousand Islands backwaters and provide opportunities to fish oyster bars, potholes, channels, mangrove edges and feeder creeks.
- When the bite slows down, you might see several of the over 150 bird species that call the Ten Thousand Islands home. Keep an eye out for ospreys, roseate spoonbills, heron, white ibis, snowy egrets, peregrine falcons, wood storks, black skimmers and bald eagles.
- Best access to the Ten Thousand Islands fishery is by boat or kayak. The two main access points are found in Goodland and Port-of-the-Islands. If it’s your first visit, you may want to consider hiring a guide that knows where some of the best spots are and that can navigate through the shallow flats safely.
Be sure to check the Florida saltwater fishing regulations before planning your trip, and bring along your current fishing license.