When is the Best Time to Go Shelling

Shells in Tide

I’m a sheller totally obsessed with exploring every inch of the beach to find new things to learn about. I started sharing my cool finds and beach combing adventure stories in 2009 when I started writing my blog iLoveShelling.com. I write about all the beautiful shells and even the weird not-so-pretty stuff (like sea pork or a sea hare) that washes up on the beaches of Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key and the outer islands.  It's a fun way to learn what’s on the bottom of the Gulf Of Mexico without even having to get in the water past your ankles.

On a daily basis I am asked the question ... “When Is the best time to go shelling?”.

If I only had a junonia shell for every time I’ve been asked that question, I’d have that junonia-torium I've always wished for. Oh my … a room filled with junonias, could you imagine? Ha! The junonia is a beautiful uncommon, white, oblong shell with brown spots that every sheller searches for in Southwest Florida. If you are lucky enough to find one, it's like getting a spectacsheller trophy with all the bragging rights to boot.

Hmmmmm, but then if I only looked for that one particular shell, I’d miss all the other beautiful shells and wildlife on our beaches. For me, beachcombing is more than just the hunt for shells ... it’s the best reason in the world get out on the beach to smellthe salt in the air, feel the sand between your toes, listen to mesmerizing sounds of the waves and soak in the best of Mother Nature. This is beach therapy.

Eh. But then…. there are days when I want to forget the relaxing part of shelling and get a little competitive. Yea, shelling can be a fun competition when the shelling world gets really excited after a storm. Our best shelling days happen when constant winds out of the west stir up the Gulf of Mexico then push shells and beach bling (aka everything else that washes up on the beach other than shells, like starfish and sand dollars) up on the shore with every tide.

After storms from the west, the shells come rolling in on the high tide to line up like a string of seashells in a necklace. All shellers are hands on the sand-deck to practice our bent over stance of the Sanibel Stoop to look for those rare treasures.

Shells like these two huge empty horse conchs don’t wash up every day even after storms from the west … but when they do... Shellzam!

It’s so hard to predict when Mother Nature will cue the west winds, so on calm days with east winds, it’s not unusual for the low tide to expose gorgeous flighting conchs and other common shells along the edge of the water.

We all have those days when we want to step back and refocus to clear the mind, so on those days I look for the miniature shells. Seriously, I can’t think about anything else when I’m looking for minis because it’s like an easter egg hunt! I’m so focused on all the tiny shapes, colors and patterns of the shells that everything else disappears. I saw thousands of live coquina shells one day at Sanibel Lighthouse Beach. Of course I never take live shells so I put them back in the sand where I found them so they can breed for future generations … but it’s fascinating to see the brilliant colors in masses like this, right?

Shelling is like the vehicle that gets you out on the beach to see sights like the live coquinas and other amazing live sea life like this millipede sea star ...

...and countless species of birds like this pair of ibis.

So when I get asked that question “When is the best time to go shelling,” I’m sure I always look confused because I never know where to begin to explain the different journeys each shelling day will bring depending on the weather. I feel like ANYTIME I have a free moment, that’s the best time to go shelling because I never know what the tide will bring until I get there. It’s always a fabshellous treasure hunt.  

Check out my video of all the fun finds from our last iLoveShelling cruise to Cayo Costa Island…

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