The key thing about shelling is to know the Tide tables, since the best shells are found just before low tide.
Another great time is after a storm passes. Cold fronts tend to push water away from the beach and tropical storms churn up the water bringing shells ashore like augers, left handed whelks, and coquinas.
Need to identify the shells you find? Check out this site: Shell Museum.
One rule of thumb: If you see something still living in a shell, leave it on the beach.
Siesta Key beach has awesome sand, but isn’t the best place around for shelling. There are plenty of coquinas though. Head to the southern end of Siesta Key to Turtle beach for better shelling. If you kayak or walk south from Turtle beach you can get to the area known as Midnight Pass, which is a closed-in pass. Fewer visitors = more shells. You can find a variety of shells including crown, fighting, and horse conches, and banded tulips. Or, you can head north on Siesta to the public access on North Shell Road. The beach at North Shell Road faces Lido Key and Big Pass. The sandbars there produce sand dollars, augers, lightning whelk, spiny jewel box, and olives at low tide. Watch for the currents though.
Looking for fossilized shark teeth? Venice beach has some and if you head a bit further south from Venice beach, you will happen upon Caspersen Beach, which is ideal for shelling and finding sharks teeth including Megalodons. If you are really into it, you can pick up a shark tooth sifter, known as “Florida snow shovels” at the Osprey Walmart, or a local tackle store. Check out the Venice Fossil Guy.
On the only public beach, Whitney Beach, you can enjoy relative solitude by grabbing a patch of sand that feels miles from your nearest neighbor. Longboat has great shelling. Sand dollars, spiny jewel box, augers, olives and lightning whelk can be found as well as others. You’ll find shore birds a-plenty including pipers, egret, pelican, heron, petrels, gulls, and skimmers. Keep you’re eyes peeled, because It’s not unusual to spot pods of dolphin fishing in the surf and sea turtle nests protected by tape and stakes along the shore.
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