When is the best time to go shelling?
It's kind of like that old saying about fishing "A day of fishing and not catching anything is better then a day of work". Finding seashells is kind of the same thing. As long you are out and enjoying the beach, it beats working. If you follow these guidelines though, unlike fishing, you should be able to avoid getting skunked and bring some great seashell treasures home.
Tides- It is best to go shelling and beachcombing around a low tide. With a low tide, more of the beach is exposed so you are able cover more territory. A low tide can also open up the possibility of being able to walk out to the sandbar. As the tide recedes it leaves washes of materials at different levels along the beach. Exploring and hunting within each of these wash lines will provide an amazing variety of seashells.
Low tide- Outer sandbar exposed
Moon Phase- This actually ties into the tides above. On a new or full moon the tides recede more then on the quarter moons. More of the beach will be exposed on a new or full moon due to this so if you coming strictly to go shelling on Sanibel, it could not hurt to check the moon phase before booking.
Weather- Good shelling is kind of a trade off for good weather. The nastier and windier the weather, the better the shelling. When the winds are high it helps to disrupt all the seashells out in the Gulf. They then have a tendency to wash up onto Sanibel beaches. If the weather is real nice and calm there is nothing to help bring the seashells onto the beach and they'll be content where they are, a few miles offshore. After a Tropical Storm or Hurricane passes through the area the shelling can be absolutely amazing on the beaches! It really comes down to which makes you happier-- Good weather or Good Shelling. As a rule of thumb the weather is a lot calmer in the summertime with few fronts passing through. That is why late September through May are usually the best months for shelling.