Stuff You Will Need

Shell pile at the North Jetty - Nokomis, Florida - January 2001
Any sport or hobby is more enjoyable when you have the right gear. What determines the right gear is really what works for you. Shelling is very serendipitous.  Depending on the tides, the moon phase, & the winds; a beach that had huge shell piles one day can be a big bust the next. 


 Blind Pass at Sanibel is proof of this. After seeing pictures of the huge shell piles showing up day after day I finally drove down to go shelling. Due to the winds there was hardly anything. It had all been covered up with sand. I'll see someone find a junonia on West Gulf Dr on Sanibel so I'll go there and someone finds one on East Gulf Dr. 


 The key is to relax & have fun with it. Every beach as something to offer even if it's just a spectacular sunrise or a cool sand sculpture on the beach. So back to gear.  These are some of the things I keep handy in my truck for whenever I go shelling.


Shell Shovel aka Sand Flea Rake - Personally I like the metal kind because it will dig through the shell piles. The metal shell shovel is best for sharks teeth hunting which is what I do the most of.  The Shell Sifter is lighter and better for just scooping shells from the surf line. The metal shell shovel can be found in almost any Walmart or coastal hardware store in SWFL. They run about $17.00.   The Susick Shell Sifter can be ordered online. They currently have free shipping and they include a shell bag.


The good ole Sand Flea Shovel


The Susick Shell Sifter
DIY shelling apparatus


Containers - You'll need some type of bucket to carry  your shells. I usually have a couple of different sizes. A mesh shell bag can be tied to your shorts and allows the water to drain from your shells. The one I use is actually a lingerie wash bag from the laundry aisle for .99 cents.  Zip loc bags are handy to store smaller finds in but be careful not to leave these behind.   Zip locs and sealife don't co-exist well. Zip locs are especially good for sharks teeth. Old prescription pill bottles work well to hold miniature shells like wentletraps and coquinas so they don't get crushed before you get them home. Any container that you have laying around the house will work.




Garden tools - Don't find yourself facing a huge shell pile with only your bare hands to dig with. A hand-held rake is a great tool to dig through the flotsam on the surf line also. 
It can also double a back scratcher -This one belongs to my shell sistah Rhonda of Shellbelle's Tiki Hut
Flashlight - Don't let a little pitch darkness run you off the beach. Just because the sun has set  doesn't mean the shelling is over. Is that low tide happening at 10pm? That's awesome. Who else will be out there but a crazy lady with the 230 lumens LED flashlight...that would be me.  The night life on the beach is spectacular. Everybody comes out to play - ghost crabs, horse conchs, & sea birds. If you've never gone shelling at night or at dawn give it a try. You won't be sorry. Don't forget to stash some extra batteries too.
I like my Bayco nightstick it fits in my pocket
Tide Charts & Moon Phases - The best shelling is about 2 hours before low tide.  The tide is lowest when the moon is new or full. Learn to check the newspaper for the tides in your area.  The moon phases are usually on the same page. The are great online sites for tides and moon phases. For smart phone users there are app's galore.
red = low low tides *  black = low * blue = high
Winds - For those of us on who live on SWFL we look for the NW winds. Shellers don't get upset at a little storm blowing through especially if it's blowing NW.  We know that's a shell storm and the next low tide will be a shell bonanza. One of the best shelling days I had last summer was during Tropical Depression #5 on Sanibel.  I know...there's help for me somewhere.