Sarasota Fishing Charters Hot Action

Sarasota Fishing Charters weekly Fishing Report

Anglers had success on my Sarasota fishing charters this week. Tides were favorable and the deep grass flats throughout the area were quite productive. The speckled trout bite was very good, with happy clients landing quite a few fish in the 15” to 22” range, along with plenty of short fish. In addition to trout, pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, flounder, jacks, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, and catfish were landed.

The Radio Tower, Middlegrounds, Country Club Shores, and Bishop’s Point held a lot of fish.  Several different techniques were employed by clients on fishing charters this week. Early in the week I had a fly angler catch trout and ladyfish using a white and chartreuse Clouser Minnow. He also did some spin fishing. His young son did well using a Gulp Shrimp on a jig head. I also ran a “family” charter with children. I caught bait and chummed the flats. We fished two spots all morning and absolutely wrecked the trout! On other trips I mixed it up, using jigs early then switching to live bait.

Summertime Fishing Charters

It is July and I have a dilemma. The water temperature is in the mid 80s and Sarasota Bay is full of bait fish. Artificial lures can be effective but live bait is tough to beat. Also, the idea of using the early morning “prime time” to catch bait is not appealing. So, what to do? Simple; take advantage of the first light bite by casting lures and mid-morning when things slow down a bit, fill the well with bait and use it to get the fish cranked back up!

This is a strategy that I use on my fishing charters all summer long. There is often so much bait on the flats, particularly those flats near the passes where I often fish, that the speckled trout and other species can be difficult to fool on a lure. The exceptions to this are the low light periods of dawn and dusk when gamefish are actively feeding. I also run a lot of family charters that include novice anglers and children. Live bait is the ticket to bent rods and smiling faces. In these instances, live shrimp can replace lures to take advantage of the early bite. At some point the pinfish will become a nuisance, requiring a change to baitfish.

Sarasota fishing charters

Artificial Lures

Plug, jigs, and spoons are three very effective and versatile lures. High tides first thing in the morning will find my clients casting Rapala X-Raps in the (08) size over bars and edges of grass flats. Olive and white are my two top colors. White mimics the “whitebait” that is often present. It works very well in clear water. Olive looks a lot like mullet as well as greenbacks and is a great all-round finish. Baitfish being present at these spots only increases the chance of success.

Snook will also attack Rapala plugs when cast around mangrove shorelines and oyster bars at first light. These baits dive several feet below the surface and are deadly when retrieved back in using sharp twitches with a pause in between. Topwater plugs will elicit explosive strikes on fishing charters! Topwater baits will generally catch less fish, although often times larger ones. The Rapala Skitterprop is my personal choice. This bait has a tapered nose and a propeller on the rear. It make a decent amount of commotion when twitched sharply. Gold is a productive color pattern. Some of the largest trout will be landed using plugs in shallow water at dawn.

Suspending plugs such as the MirrOlure are great for trout over the grass flats. The venerable 52 series has produced a lot of fish over the years. A recent addition is the MirroDine looks very much live a scaled sardine, which is a prime forage bait for inshore species. These baits work best in slightly deeper water. They will hang up in the grass if used on the very shallow flats.

The lead head jig/plastic tail combination is a proven bait all along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Bass Assassin jigs are very popular in our area. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors. My personal favorite on fishing charters is the 4” Sea Shad tail on a ¼ ounce jig head. This is a great bait to use when fishing over deeper grass flats for trout, pompano, and whatever else finds it attractive. Light colors such as gold, silver, and glow work well in clear water while rootbeer and olive are effective in darker water. Lighter jig heads can be used when fishing in shallow water.

Jigs are very versatile along with producing a lot of fish. The best technique is to cast it out ahead of a drifting boat in six feet to ten feet of water that has grass on the bottom. After allowing the bait to sink for several seconds, it is retrieved back using sharp upward twitches. Most bites occur on the fall. Flats that have bird activity or bait fish schooling on the surface are great spots to try. Pinfish can be a problem if the bait is worked too slowly. They will bite the shad tail off when present.

Sarasota fishing charters

Scented baits can make a huge difference, especially when conditions are tough. The best scented bait, by far, is the Gulp! Line of baits. I prefer the 3” Gulp! Shrimp on a ¼ ounce jig head. Color really does not matter that much, it is all about the scent. They really are like using live shrimp! New Penny, glow/chartreuse, and rootbeer/chartreuse are my top producing colors. A Gulp! Shrimp fished ender a noise popping cork is deadly on speckled trout.

Spoons have been around forever, and to this day are still productive lures. They are great for prospecting as they are easy to cast long distances, allowing anglers to cover a lot of water. Spoons basically come in two styles; either weedless with a single hook or with a treble hook. Gold and silver are the two most popular finishes. Weedless spoons are great for enticing redfish in very shallow water. The treble hook version is a good choice when fishing open water. Spanish mackerel are particularly vulnerable to a quickly retrieved silver spoon. Spoons work very well whenever fish are seen actively feeding on the surface.

Fly fishers are certainly not to be left out of the action! A fly looks exactly like the small bait that is prevalent on the flats. A #1 white or white and chartreuse Clouser Minnow is tough to beat. A 7wt or 8wt outfit works well. Floating lines work well in shallow water while an intermediate sink tip line would be the best choice in water over four feet deep.

Catching Bait

Weather and tide will play a part in my strategy for the morning. Strong tides and a little breeze will usually result in lures being productive later into the morning. Conversely, a still morning with very little water movement will mandate a switch to live bait earlier than normal. Fortunately, bait is usually pretty easy to acquire this time of year. I prefer a light, eight foot net. It is easier to throw and empty. But, many anglers use nets up to twelve feet in diameter.

Bird activity will give away the location of the baitfish. Shallow flats near passes are prime spots to find scaled sardines (pilchards) and threadfins. Sloping points are great spots. Bait fish will position themselves on the up-tide side. Edges of flats can be good as well. Incoming tides are usually the best time to catch bait. Bait will vary in size. All will work, but small bait can be problematic. It will hang up in the net and is a bit more difficult to cast. Small bait-stealers can also be a nuisance. The perfect sized bait for fishing the deep grass flats is around 2”.

Once located, a good toss or two with a cast net should result in a well full of frisky bait. The ideal situation is when baitfish are dimpling up on the surface. Easing into range quietly should allow the angler to get a good cast over the bait. If bait fish are not visible on the surface, they can be chummed into range using canned mackerel or cat food. The same types of spots will produce. Chumming will also result in small pinfish and grunts being captured along with the other bait fish.

Sarasota fishing charters

Chumming Them Up

Once the bait is obtained, fishing begins. The technique is pretty simple but as with any other method, subtle nuances can make a big difference. Basically, I anchor up-current of a grass flat in four to eight feet of water. Then, I toss out a handful of bait and if fish are around it won’t take long before they start “busting” the baits on the surface.

Baits are pinned to a 1/0 hook and cast out; a hookup should promptly ensue. A small split shot may be required to get the bait down in the water column. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, sharks, mangrove snapper, jack crevelle, flounder, and ladyfish are all commonly caught using this technique over the deep grass. This technique does require a decent cast net, a large live well, and a little patience. A quality cast net is a great investment. It will pay for itself in just a few trips. As with all other fishing equipment, better nets will cost a bit more money. However, the payoff can be non-stop action all morning long.

Sometimes clients choose to finish up a Sarasota fishing charters trying for a snook, redfish, or big jack. This does require that the bait be fairly large, in the 3” range. Smaller bait will not work nearly as well. Anchoring near a mangrove point and chumming will lure the fish into range. I have also landed some large mangrove snapper along with the snook and reds when using this technique. This is a great option as it produces even at mid-day.

In the summer, snook will school up thick in both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass. Structure in the passes such as rocks, docks, and bridges will hold fish. Mangrove shorelines with a bit of depth are prime spots as well. Less chum is requires as the baits are larger. The idea is to get the fish excited, not full. Being judicious with the use of chum is a good idea.

Tackle requirements for snook fishing charters are a bit different. Stouter tackle will be required around the structure. A 7 foot rod with 20 lb braided line is a good combination. 30” of 30 lb or 40 lb flourocarbon leader and a 2/0 short shank live bait hook or #4/0 circle hook completes the basic rig. Weight will be required when fishing deep water in the passes with current. A swivel between the braid and leader with the egg sinker on the braid works well. Anglers should use just enough weight to hold the bottom.

Large jack crevelle, redfish, and other species will be taken this way as well. In the late summer, some large mangrove snapper will please anglers on Sarasota fishing charters who seek a fish to invite home for dinner. The rocks at the north end of Siesta Key in twenty feet of water is a very good spot for snapper. The New Pass Bridge is a good spot for both snapper and snook. Occasionally, a large tarpon will be hooked under the bridge!

In closing, the fishing in the summer can be fantastic! Anglers just need to change tactics a bit. Versatility and the ability to adapt to conditions are the keys to success, along with understanding how the warm water affects the bait and game fish. Some of my most productive Sarasota fishing charters for both action and variety occur in the summer.  Most days we land around eight to ten different species and while I promote catch and release, most clients can take home a meal if desired.   Anglers who want to get in on this great action need to get up early, drink a lot of water, and enjoy some “Hot” summer fishing!













Weather an issue for Sarasota anglers

Sarasota Fishing Report

Mother Nature challenged Sarasota anglers who went fishing with me the last few weeks.  I did take a week off to go up north on a family visit (squeezed in an Indiana bass fishing trip) but the weather was sketchy before I left and when I came back.  I got back home just before Memorial Day to experience several days of wind and rain from Alberto.

However, fishing bounced back though the water was still a bit “dirty”, from the wind and rain, especially near the passes.  The best spots for Sarasota anglers were in the middle of Sarasota Bay, north of Lido Key and away from the passes.  Bishop’s Point and Buttonwood on the west side and Stephen’s Pt on the east side were the best spots for my clients.  Anglers casting jigs and live shrimp caught decent numbers of slot speckled trout and ladyfish, with a few Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, and sailcats mixed in.

Sarasota anglers


Dealing with adverse conditions is an aspect of fishing that every Sarasota angler experiences, Seldom are things perfect!  After tropical systems move through, finding “clean” water is very important.  The Gulf of Mexico is mostly sand on the bottom and strong winds will churn the water up, making it dirty and muddy.  Fish do NOT like this and will head for better water.  This means that these conditions can actually help anglers by concentrating the fish, making them easier to locate and catch.

I prefer to use artificial lures for this as they allow us to move around and cover as much water as possible.  Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits on a 1/4 ounce jig head work well as do Gulp Shrimp on Sarasota fishing charters.  Dark colors work best in the darker water.  My approach is to drift a flat and if action is found, concentrate on that area until the bite slows.  If not, I move on after a half hour or so.

Sarasota fishing good before storms.

Weather was a factor on Sarasota fishing charters over the last two weeks since my last report. One of my regular clients celebrated his birthday by going out on his annual fishing trip. We started off casting Rapala X-Raps into schools of glass minnows that were hanging out over shallow bars and mangrove shorelines. Snook, jack crevelle, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, and ladyfish were landed. The bite slowed as the sun came up, so we switched tactics and fished live shrimp under docks. Redfish, pompano, and snapper were added to the mix. We finished up on the deep grass flats, catching speckled trout and ladyfish on Bass Assassin jigs.

Sarasota fishing charters

Clients doing some Sarasota fishing also did well fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay near Lido Key and at the south end of Longboat Key. Jigs produced speckled trout, bluefish, mackerel, gag grouper, ladyfish, and gafftop sail catfish. I had a fly angler on one trip and he experienced some very good action on the flats. Clients are often surprised to hear that any fish that can be caught on a jig will also hit a fly. The fishing technique is similar as the line is cast out ahead of the drifting boat. Clouser Minnow patterns in chartreuse and white did well on a half dozen different species.

Lido Key fishing charters

I did run out to the Manatee River, 20 miles east of Sarasota, a couple of afternoons. On the first fishing trip, small snook and largemouth bass hit Rapala BX Minnow plugs. The second trip was a disaster as after a forty five minute cruise upriver, the sky unloaded on us. We sat under the Rye Rd bridge for a bit, then got soaked coming in as another rain shower got us. We have been experiencing some odd, tropical weather, bringing wind and some rain, forcing me to reschedule a couple of charters.