10 Animals You Can See in an Artificial Reef on Sanibel Island

The artificial reef is one of the last major bastions of varied, epic, and pristine marine life. The artificial reef is a world treasure and we need to respect it and care for it.

Hogfish in artificial coral reef

While seeing this gem of the Earth, you can find some amazing creatures. Some of them seem pulled right out of a fairy tale, yet here they are, bouncing and gliding and frolicking amongst the reef.

Below we cover our 10 favorite animals you can see in the reef of Sanibel Island.

hog fish


You are most likely to see a whole lot of fish gliding about in the local reefs. One of our favorites is very rare and very peculiar hogfish. The hogfish has this glorious pink glow that is certain to capture your attention and your imagination. The tips of the fins are lined in a dark black that appears like a cartoon outline as the fish glides on by. We also can’t help but mention that hogfish is some excellent eating!


The Redfish or Red Drum, also known as Channel Bass or just Reds, is a game fish that is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Northern Mexico. It is the only species in the genus Sciaenops. Redfish or Red Drum usually occurs along coastal waters.

Sea Turtle

Sea turtles are endangered, beautiful, and beloved. Hopefully, you are lucky enough to find one floating gracefully in the reef. These gentle giants will appear curiously if you are in the water, nice and quiet. You won’t hear them come up, but you certainly won’t forget the memory!


A snapper is usually a nice soft pink coloration. Snapper will hang in large schools and skip and scurry along through the reefs. Out of every creature mentioned so far, you are most likely to see snapper.


The grouper is a big and bulgy guy. There’s even a type of grouper known as the Goliath grouper, weighing hundreds of pounds and known to even swallow up the limbs of people. You aren’t likely to see a Goliath Grouper in the Gulf of Mexico reefs. You are, however, likely to see a big green and gray grouper floating by quietly. It is popular eating and a relatively common reef sight if you know where to look.


We won’t promise that you will see a seahorse anytime soon in the wild. But the Gulf of Mexico houses a few species of seahorses. The most common is the Dwarf Seahorse, typically found in the warmer southern waters of the gulf. This is your most likely find off the coast of Sanibel Island. If you head up north a number of miles, you run the chance of seeing a Lined Seahorse.


Triggerfish is a local Florida favorite. The fish itself has a glorious multi-colored glow, ranging from a bright yellow glow around the eyes and face to soft splashes of yellow, gray, and black along its bottom. It really makes for a dazzling discovery!

Sea Trout

The Spotted (or Speckled) Sea Trout is one of the more common fish among the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico. Fishermen (and women) love catching and eating this speckled beauty!


The common snook is a Florida celebrity during the open season. Anglers aim to catch these fish for a great eat, so long as it’s in the allowable range between 28 and 32 inches. Snook jump clear of the water and burst into long runs. The recreational harvest season for one of Florida’s premier fish, snook, is open March and April and again September thru November.

King Mackerel

We love King Mackerel for their amazing taste and their cool look. King Mackerel have earned the title with their big size and their huge mouths with little teeth lined up. King Mackerel is a pivotal fish for local fishing due to their popularity at local restaurants, fast-breeding cycle, and plentiful presence in the gulf.

You can see the artificial reef on a boat excursion. But you may want to make sure you have the opportunity to actually get under the water. Diving crews will start early and spend the whole afternoon exploring the local reefs.

Contact any of the leading dive and boat charter providers for information about seeing the reef for yourself from your Captiva Island beachfront home.