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Estero Bay

Lee County, Florida.

Estero Bay ends in Bonita Springs, Florida.

19350668.21 miles (31141891.41 sq kilometers)

About The Estero Bay

About Estero Bay, FL

Bordered on the west by a chain of barrier islands, Estero Bay is an estuary located on the west coast of Florida southeast of Fort Myers Beach. Islands surrounding it include Estero Island, Long Key, Lovers Key, Black Island, Big Hickory Island, and Little Hickory Island. It is not supplied with freshwater by any major river but rather by a number of small rivers and creeks including the Imperial River and Estero River. The bay, which is long and very shallow, is also an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico that covers about 15 square miles. 

When a rise in sea level flooded the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and the smaller rivers and creeks of the present area, the estuary complex began to form about 5,000 years ago. Estero Bay was formed into a lagoon-type estuary by the lack of significant freshwater input and a weak tidal exchange due to the restricted size of its inlets. In December 1966, the northern half of the bay was designated as Florida’s first aquatic preserve called the Estero Bay Preserve State Park. Its southern half down to the Lee County line was added during the 1983 session of the Florida Legislature. 

Tides play a significant role in the functionality of the plant, crustaceans, mammals, and fish in the area. The preserve is surrounded by state parks and other recreational sites offering access to the bay for boating, kayaking, fishing, and more despite heavy development. The estuary indirectly supports a variety of commercial and sport fisheries by providing a nursery area. 

Estero Bay Fishing Description

All About Fishing in Estero Bay, FL

Estero Bay is home to many fish species as the combination of a subtropical climate, the lagoon configuration, and vegetation make it one of the most productive estuarine complexes in the state. Common species found in the estuary include snook, red drum, sea trout, and mangrove snapper, in which three of the former are most likely to be sighted on seagrass beds. Sharks (bonnethead, blacktip, lemon, and bull), pompano, permit, flounder, ladyfish, redfish, Spanish mackerel, crevalle jack, grunt, sheepshead, goliath grouper, barracuda, and tarpon can also be found in the estuary’s tidal flats, nearshore reefs, mangrove islands, oyster beds, and bay channel. 

Anglers of all levels will find quality fishing action whether as a beginner looking for varied species or more advanced anglers looking to catch trophy fish. Great inshore fishing is available year round. A multitude of techniques such as live baitcasting, artificial lures, top water plugs, spinning, and fly fishing are used by those familiar with the area. Sight fishing is also done during the winter. 

Many local businesses offer boat rentals in Estero Bay as it has many boat ramp access points including Lovers Key State Park and Mullock Creek Marina. Flats skiff trips can sometimes be launched from the Koreshan State Park, where there are canoe and kayak rentals, or the Imperial River Park boat ramp. You can inquire about other departure locations and ask about descriptions and seasonal attributes. The Estero Bay Preserve State Park also offers other activities such as hiking, bicycling, boating, paddling, camping, and wildlife viewing. It is dog-friendly given that they are on leashes at a maximum of six feet. 

Estero Bay Seasonal & Other Description

Fishing Seasonality

Wiggins Pass north to Matanzas Pass’ beachside area is a great place to find tarpon as they migrate to spawn north to Boca Grande during March to May. During summer from June to September, the bay will turn a dark tannic color during the rainy season. Snook, redfish, and juvenile tarpon are the main species targeted during this time. To combat routine afternoon thunderstorms, it’s advisable to fish during the mornings or evenings into the sunset.

From October into December in the fall, bait school density is at the highest levels, resulting in baitfish to grow and mature on all the micronutrients so it’s common to see great activity inshore for snook, redfish, and trout as well as tarpon remnants from post migration. The slightly cooler air temperature prompts the movements in many species including prized tripletail that assemble along buoys off the beach as well as large schools of mackerels, both Spanish and king. The fishing season during winter is dependent on weather conditions as colder weather and water temperatures change the ecology of the bay and slow down the feeding and movements of many species. Snook are still viable to catch during winter on the warm-ups while redfish are still incredibly viable with a big change in diet that compliments the increase of crustaceans as the main food source. Sheepshead flock to the backcountry during this period while sea trout are still caught consistently.

Temperature and Optimal Seasons

Fishing Seasonality

Wiggins Pass north to Matanzas Pass’ beachside area is a great place to find tarpon as they migrate to spawn north to Boca Grande during March to May. During summer from June to September, the bay will turn a dark tannic color during the rainy season. Snook, redfish, and juvenile tarpon are the main species targeted during this time. To combat routine afternoon thunderstorms, it’s advisable to fish during the mornings or evenings into the sunset.

From October into December in the fall, bait school density is at the highest levels, resulting in baitfish to grow and mature on all the micronutrients so it’s common to see great activity inshore for snook, redfish, and trout as well as tarpon remnants from post migration. The slightly cooler air temperature prompts the movements in many species including prized tripletail that assemble along buoys off the beach as well as large schools of mackerels, both Spanish and king. The fishing season during winter is dependent on weather conditions as colder weather and water temperatures change the ecology of the bay and slow down the feeding and movements of many species. Snook are still viable to catch during winter on the warm-ups while redfish are still incredibly viable with a big change in diet that compliments the increase of crustaceans as the main food source. Sheepshead flock to the backcountry during this period while sea trout are still caught consistently.

Estero Bay Fish Species

All About Fishing in Estero Bay, FL

Estero Bay is home to many fish species as the combination of a subtropical climate, the lagoon configuration, and vegetation make it one of the most productive estuarine complexes in the state. Common species found in the estuary include snook, red drum, sea trout, and mangrove snapper, in which three of the former are most likely to be sighted on seagrass beds. Sharks (bonnethead, blacktip, lemon, and bull), pompano, permit, flounder, ladyfish, redfish, Spanish mackerel, crevalle jack, grunt, sheepshead, goliath grouper, barracuda, and tarpon can also be found in the estuary’s tidal flats, nearshore reefs, mangrove islands, oyster beds, and bay channel. 

Anglers of all levels will find quality fishing action whether as a beginner looking for varied species or more advanced anglers looking to catch trophy fish. Great inshore fishing is available year round. A multitude of techniques such as live baitcasting, artificial lures, top water plugs, spinning,