Sanibel Island, Florida Shelling Tips

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If shell hunting is your thing, Sanibel Island, Florida is the place to be. Rated one of the top three shelling destinations worldwide, Sanibel Island is a shell hunting paradise. Many come here to assume the "Sanibel stoop"–local slang for a shell hunter's stance. Enough has been written about shelling on Sanibel Island and nearby Captiva Island to occupy a small library, but here are some key tips every Sanibel sheller should be aware of.

Shelling On Sanibel Island

Many varieties of shells are regularly found on the shores of Sanibel Island.
••• sea shells image by Shirley Hirst from

Shelling is such a part of Sanibel life, the island is actually made of shells. Varieties of shells found on Sanibel include: Conch, junonia, lightning whelk, cockle, scallop, murex, olive and coquina. All that is needed is a bucket, a scoop, and respect for local shelling policies.

Sanibel Shelling Tips

The best shelling is after a storm.
••• Storm image by Buonfiglio from offers a wide range of shelling tips for the novice. The absolute best time to shell hunt is after a storm, which forces a number of shells to shore. The other key shelling time is at low tide, which leaves more shells exposed. The spring tides are the best, especially during full and new moons, when the tides are at their highest and lowest. Geography is key; the best shelling is on the Gulf side, from Lighthouse Island to North Captiva. The lighthouse area is known for smaller shells, and the Captiva end is where the large shells are found. Wearing shoes and walking in a zig-zag pattern are suggested to expose more shells and get the most area coverage.

Shelling Regulations

Authorities will fine those who take live shells.
••• police boat on patrol image by Larry Roberg from

A law that reigns supreme for shell hunters on Sanibel Island is: "No live-shells." Shells collected must have no inhabitants, whether dead or alive. The shell must be void of any resident. This is key for Sanibel's shelling future; disregarding this law will land you a hefty fine from regulation authorities. Sand dollars, star fish and sea urchins are also strictly regulated. The other consideration is shell limit; self-control is expected, and greedy shell hunters are not welcome.



About the Author

A native of New Haven, Conn., Floyd Drake III began writing in 1984. His work has appeared in the "New Haven Register," Medford's "Mail-Tribune" and the "Ashland Daily Tidings." Drake studied journalism at Southern Connecticut State University. After working as a reporter in Oregon, he is now based back home in New Haven.