Sarasota Fishing Report

Sarasota Fishing Report, weekly updates from Capt Jim

I will be posting my current Sarasota fishing report on this page. It will be updated every week or two as conditions and species change. It will include the baits or lures along with the species and locations. Fishing conditions change daily and seasonally, anglers can use this report to be more successful.

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

November 21

Weather was once again an issue this week, it was breezy with Small Craft Advisories Tues, Wednesday, and Thursday. When it wasn’t blowing, fishing was good! The best bite for my clients continued to be drifting the deep grass flats and casting jigs. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, speckled trout, ladyfish and other species provided steady action. Stephen’s Point and the MIddlegrounds were the top spots. On Sunday there was a lot of bird activity with jacks and bluefish underneath, big fun chasing them around.

Sarasota Florida fishing report

Nov 14

Fishing was very good this week, despite some challenging weather. Strong winds started off the week, then a hurricane mid week!  Things settled back down by Saturday, where the bite was fast. Fast action on the deep grass flats continued, with anglers casting jigs catching cobia, spotted sea trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, sea bass, grouper, and more. The flats on the east side were best, mostly due to the wind. Creeks and backwater areas also produced snook and jacks on jigs and plugs. The bite should resume out on the beach once the Gulf settles down.

Sarasota fishing report

Nov 7

Weather was an issue for anglers fishing in Sarasota of late. I was on vacation in North Carolina, and came home to stiff breezes around 25 mph out of the northeast. It did ease up a bit towards the end of this week. As has been the case, action on the deep grass flats was very geed. Anglers casting jigs and spoons caught trout, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, grouper, small cobia, and more. Flats on the east side of the bay offered some protection from the wind. The Middlegrounds was probably the best spot this week. There has been some action on mackerel and false albacore just off the beaches, but it has been hit or miss. The weather does not look good at all for the first part of next week.

Florida bluefish

Oct 24

Wind was an issue for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week. It blew steadily out of the north east at 15, with gusts to 30. It did subside a bit later in the week. Anglers casting jigs and free lining live bait fish did well on a variety of species. Catch of the week goes to Alissa Romas, with a nice cobia. Speckled trout were plentiful, with bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, sharks, snapper, grouper, sea bass, and other species mixed in. The wind pretty much limited us to flats on the east side of Sarasota Bay, with the Ringling flats being the top spot and Radio Tower being second. I heard reports of decent action in the inshore Gulf on mackerel, false albacore, and sharks, bit it was fairly choppy. I fished the braden River and Manatee River early in the week when the wind was really howling. The bite was fair, with anglers catching a few bass and snook on jigs and soft plastic baits, but it is just not cool enough yet. I am off to the North Carolina mountains for a week!

Sarasota fishing report

Oct 17

Action was very good on the deep grass flats this week. Just about every flat north of the Ringling Causeway produced fish, including Radio Tower, Middlegrounds, Stephen’s Pt., Bishop’s Pt, and Buttonwood. Anglers casting Bass Assassin baits and Gulp! Shrimp did well. I had fly anglers two days who caught a dozen or so fish each fish on Clouser patterns. Speckled trout were plentiful, with fish to 4 pounds being caught. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, sharks, ladyfish, grouper, snapper, sea bass and more took jigs and flies as well. I only fished with live bait one day, with anglers catching the same species.

sarasota fishing report

Oct 10

Fishing was very good once again this week as water temps dipped into the upper 70’s. Action on the deep grass flat was fast forr clients casting jigs, spoons, and live bait. On Thursday, George caught 14 different species including speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, grouper, snapper, sharks, ladyfish, sea bass, and more. Gulp Shrimp on a jig head and small silver spoons worked well early. A switch to live bait in the last hour kept the bite going. There was some action in the inshore Gulf of Mexico for mackerel and false albacore, but it slowed later in the week. The next decent front should get it cranked up again.

Spanish mackerel

October 3

Fishing picked up this week, especially just prior to the mid week front.  Speckled trout were plentiful on the deep grass flats, with mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and other species mixed in.  Gulp Shrimp on jig heads caught most of the fish.  Flats near New Pass were best.  Live bait fish produced snapper and grouper around structure near big Pass. Spanish mackerel and false albacore are just starting to show up off the area beaches.

Sarasota anglers

Sept 26

Fishing was steady this week, with clients catching a pretty even mix of speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, sea bass, snapper, and small grouper. For whatever reason the artificial lure bite slowed a bit, perhaps there is just too much bait.  Jigs and spoons caught fish, but the “enthusiasm” was down from the last two weeks. However, the solution was simple; net up some bait and chum them pretty heavily. The flats near the passes were better as the water was clearer and there was more bait present. Bird Key, Radio Tower, and Middlegrounds were the top spots.

fishing report Sarasota

9/19

Action was very good on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay this week. Tropical weather had the Gulf churned up, so the areas in the middle of the bait were best. Stephen’s Pt and Buttonwood were the top spots. Anglers did well casting Bass Assassin and Gulp Shrimp baits on a 1/4 ounce chartreuse jig head. Kastmaster spoons produced quite a few fish as well. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, grouper, snapper, sea bass, sharks, and other species kept the rods bent. Small fry bait was thick on the east side from the ramp up to Ringling, small Rapalas produced trout and ladyfish.

Sarasota fishing report

9/12

Fishing was very good once again this week.  The bite on the deep grass flats continued to be steady. Speckled trout were caught in good numbers with some fish over 20″. Bluefish and Spanish mackerel were caught as well as the water temperature slowly dropped. Ladyfish, snapper, grouper, jacks, sea bass, and other species also kept the rods bent. Most of the fish were caught on Gulp Shrimp on a jig head. On Thursday I put two of my long time regular guys together, John Englander and Steve Owen. Just for fun, Steve kept count and landed 73, and John was right there, so they landed around 125 fish. Most were caught on the flats just north of New Pass. John wanted a few snapper for the table, so we finished up doing a little chumming with bait.

Sarasota fishing report

9/5

The weather was more stable this week, though still quite warm, and the fishing was very steady. Decent sized bluefish were found on the deep grass flats, along with speckled trout, mackerel, ladyfish, sea bass, grouper, snapper, and other species. Jig heads with Bass Assassin baits and Gulp Shrimp produced through the morning, so I did not have to catch bait. Bird Key flats, Middlegrounds, Bishop’s Pt, and Buttonwood were all productive spots.

Sarasota fishing report

8/29

Fishing was decent this week, though weather was an issue. It was windy early in the week, with some Small Craft Advisories. The wind eased up later in the week. Clients casting jigs caught speckled trout, bluefish, ladyfish, grouper, sea bass, snapper, and other species. The water near the passes was dirty from the big storm swell. The flats in the middle of the bay, Bishop’s Pt., Buttonwood, and Stephen’s Pt., were best. Bait was scattered out in the dirty water, so we stuck with the jigs.

fishing for bluefish

8/22

Weather was an issue for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week. Storms forced me to postpone a couple of trips. On days we did get out, mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper provided the best action. Not only are they around structure, but anglers caught plenty on the open flats as well. Most were caught on live bait. For whatever reason, the jig bite slowed a bit, though a couple nice trout were caught. Live bait definitely produced better action this week. Big Pass and the flats near New Pass were the best spots.

fishing report sarasota

8/15

The action on the deep grass flats continued to provide anglers with good action. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, sharks, snapper, gag and red grouper, sea bass and other species. Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp produced early in the morning. The wind eased up after an hour or so most mornings, which makes jig fishing less effective. A nice little breeze really makes a huge difference when drifting the deep grass flats. So, we ended up switching to live bait a bit earlier. Mangrove snapper showed up in the chum in good numbers, along with the other species. Spots near the passes were the most productive.

best Sarasota fishing charter

8/8

Action was good on the deep grass flats again this week.  With no rain, the water temperature has eased up to the upper 80s.  The best bite was in fairly deep water, 8′ or so.  All of the fish this week were caught on jigs, mostly a red gold shiner 4″ Bass assassin Sea Shad, but a few Gulp Shrimp as well.  Speckled trout, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, red and gag grouper, mangrove snapper, sharks, sea bass, catfish, and more were caught.  Middlegrounds and Radio Tower were the top spots.

I did a little bream fishing, hoping to find them on beds with the full moon.  The bite was fair, maybe the water is just too warm.  A few were caught at Benderson Lake and Evers reservoir on black Beetlespins and tiny twister tail jigs.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing report Aug 1

As has been the case all summer, the fishing remains very good on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. The water close to the passes has been the cleanest, with a fair amount of bait. Casting jigs at first light then switching to live bait mid morning continued to take advantage of the morning fishing window. Speckled trout fishing was very good, with both numbers and quality. Bluefish, ladyfish, sharks, grouper, sea bass and more were also caught. Mangrove snapper are seemingly everywhere, on the flats and in the passes, providing anglers seeking a meal some fine fillets along with a good fight.

Sarasota fishing report

7/25

Fishing was good once again this week for anglers fishing with Capt Jim on Sarasota fishing charters. The deep grass flats in the north bay were best early in the week. Anglers casting jigs and Clouser Minnow flies caught some nice trout along with bluefish, mackerel, ladyfish, sea bass, jacks, sharks, grouper, snapper, and more. Later in the week, the was got a little stirred up with rain and wind, and the flats closer to the passes were better. Live bait produced some good mangrove snapper along with spotted sea trout later in the mornings when the jig bite slowed.

Sarasota fishing report

7/18

Once again, the action on the deep grass flats continued to please anglers casting jigs and free lining live baits while chumming. The early jig bite improved later in the week as the wind finally turned out of the east. That resulted in more pleasant conditions and better fishing. Speckled trout were plentiful, with bluefish, jacks, grouper, ladyfish, and sharks mixed in. Mangrove sapper numbers and size improved this week, which is good for clients looking for a few fish tacos!

fishing report for Sarasota

7/11

It sounds like a broken record, but the fishing on the deep grass flats continues to be very good. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, sharks, ladyfish, grouper, snapper, sea bass and more kept the rods bent and Capt Jim busy!  The pattern of casting jigs at first light then catching bait when that bite slowed continued to be the best bet.  Chumming with live bait produced fast action later in the morning.  The flats near the passes, Marina Jack, Bird Key, Radio Tower, and Middlegrounds were best.

Sarasota fishing report

July 4 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was excellent once again this week, despite the heat and water temperatures near 90. The best action was on the grass flats in 6′ to 8′ of water. Speckled trout were plentiful, with some nice fish over 20″ hitting jigs and live bait. The pattern of jigging early then switching to live bait worked well, though the jig bite has been slowing a bit earlier.  Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, sharks, grouper, snapper, sea bass, ladyfish, flounder, and catfish were also caught.  The flats closer to the passes were better this week, perhaps the water was a tad cleaner.  There certainly was a ton of bait as well!

Sarasota fishing report

6/27

Fishing was good once again this week for clients on Sarasota fishing charters. I took a two-pronged approach to my trips this week. We got out on the water at first light, at around 6:30 AM and headed for the deep flats. Anglers casting jigs produced a ton of speckled trout and ladyfish. There were quite a few decent sized trout mixed in. Bluefish, mackerel, jacks, grouper, snapper, sharks, and catfish also kept the rods bent. This bite lasted for an hour or two, depending on the breeze and cloud cover. It did slow down a bit later in the week as water temperatures eased up to 88° and there was no wind and weak tides.
Once the jig bite eased up, I ran into the passes to catch bait and do some live bait chumming. This produced the same species as well along with nonstop action most mornings. I just like to take advantage of that first light bite casting lures instead of spend it searching for bait. Also, structure in both passes produced a ton of mangrove snapper along with some black sea bass and small grouper.
Sarasota fishing report

6/17

I was on vacation in the North Carolina mountains for a week. Upon returning, I found the fishing to be as good as it was when I left. The best bite has been for action and variety on the deep grass flats. Speckled trout were numerous and up to 23″. Anglers casting jigs caught them, along with bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, grouper, sea bass, snapper, sailcats, and more. I get a lot of families this time of year and this type of fishing is easy for even novice anglers to quickly learn. Drifting the flats in 6′ to 10′ of water is both productive and fun!

Sarasota fishing report

5/30

Fishing was very good this week for clients on Sarasota fishing charters.  I finished up the week with a family trip, catching around 100 fish!  Speckled trout, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, sharks, sea bass and more kept the rods bent.   Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp caught all the fish. On other charters, spin and fly anglers had similar results.  The Middlegrounds, Stephen’s Pt., Bishop’s Pt., and Buttonwood were all productive.  Big Pass produced a bunch of snapper and sea bass for clients bottom fishing with shrimp.  Nearby flats held a bunch of silver trout.  One client caught a sennett casting a Gulp Jerk Shad.

Sarasota fishing report

5/23

It sounds like a broken record, but the best bite in Sarasota continues to be drifting the deep grass flats. We have had some breezy days, so the wind dictated where we fished. On east wind, the Ringling flats produced and with a west wind Bishop’s Pt and Buttonwood were better. Clients casting Bass Assassin jigs, Gulp Shrimp, and chartreuse Clouser pattern flies caught some decent speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, and ladyfish. Speaking to other guide buddies, there are a few tarpon out on the beach, but it has been pretty tough.

Sarasota fishing report

 

May 9

Once again, the best bite for clients on Sarasota fishing charters has been on the deep grass flats. Just about every flat in 5′ to 8′ has fish on it. I basically let the wind decide where we fished. Bass Assassin jigs and GULP! Shrimp caught them. Speckled trout to 22″, bluefish to 3 pounds, Spanish mackerel to 2 pounds, ladyfish, sea bass, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper, sailcats, and more were landed. Small snook, jacks, and some decent trout hit Rapala X-Raps near bars and mangrove shorelines. I went out to Evers Reservoir (Jiggs Landing) on a day off to chase some bluegill. I was disappointed to see that they had sprayed, killing all the weeds. The lake had really healthy weeds all along the shoreline. I really don’t understand it. Not surprisingly, fishing was slow, caught a few on Beetlespins.

Sarasota fishing report

May 2 Sarasota fishing report

Once again, weather made things a bit challenging this week as we have been experiencing some breezy days of late. Still, I was able to get out several times and clients experienced good action. Once again, the best bite was on the deeper grass flats on the incoming tide. Anglers casting Gulp Shrimp and Clouser Minnow flies caught speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, grouper, sea bass, whiting, ladyfish, and other species. Bird Key, Radio Tower, Middlegrounds, and Stephen’s Pt were all productive. We also caught a few fish in Big Pass, mostly ladyfish.

Sarasota fishing report

April 25

Weather was once again an issue this week. Tuesday and Wednesday were nice and I was able to get trips in both days. On Tuesday I had my “regulars”, Bill, Doc, and John. We started off near Stephen’s Pt and found fish feeding on the surface.  Action was good for 3 hours as the boys caught a bunch of fish. Speckled trout were plentiful with some nice ones mixed in. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and sharks kept them busy. 5″ white Gulp Jerk Shad was the hot bait. We finished up fishing docks, landing small reds and decent snapper, losing a big red that broke us off on the dock.

On Wednesday I took out fly angler Steve Schulmerich. The bite was a little slower, but still steady. There was no wind, which is not great for the flats. Still, Steve caught a bunch of bluefish, ladyfish, a mackerel, and a nice trout. He was casting chartreuse/white Clouser Minnow patterns on a 7 wt.

April 18

Weather was definitely an issue for anglers this week. On days that we got out, the fishing was very good!  Just about every grass flat in 5′ of water and deeper held fish. The flats north of New Pass were best. The key was to let the wind determine where to fish and then find clean water. Anglers casting Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp caught big bluefish, speckled trout to 22″, Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, small sharks, sea bass, whiting, catfish, and other species. Docks around Big Pass produced black drum and mangrove snapper for anglers fishing live shrimp.

Sarasota fishing report

April 11

I got out three times this week, doing something different on each trip. On Sunday we went out on the beach in search of a king mackerel. It was cool, cloudy, and drizzling, not ideal conditions and the bite was slow. We caught a few mackerel and jacks. I had an excellent fly fishing charter on Tuesday! My angler caught several nice trout early at Bishop’s Pt., then finished up with a flurry of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish on the east side. On Thursday we went to the Myakka and it was pretty slow, though the gar did provide a little excitement.

mackerel on fly

Fishing report for Sarasota, April 4

Like most guides in Florida, most of my clients had to cancel their vacations. However, I did get out a couple of times this week with local “regulars”. Bill, Doc, and John fished with me on Monday. WE decided to do something different and fish the bars and mangrove shorelines between Stickney Pt and Blackburn Pt. The bite was steady with the fellas catching most of the fish on #8 Rapala X-Raps. Doc had the hot hand, catching a half dozen snook, some nice speckled trout, and a redfish to complete the “slam”. He also caught 3 keeper mangrove snapper, with one really nice 15″ fish. Bill lost a big red that ran under a dock. Jacks and ladyfish were also caught. Later in the week I fished the Manatee River.  It was after the front and the bite was pretty slow. We caught a few small snook and snapper on plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

March 28

As with most Florida fishing guides, I was booked solid but had cancellations due to the health emergency.  I still got out three times this week. Early on, I had a fly/spin trip.  There was no wind and we headed out in the Gulf just off the Siesta Key beaches. Rapala X-Raps produced Spanish mackerel for the spin angler while the fly anglers scored using Clouser patterns.  After a bit we went back inside and caught ladyfish and trout on Gulp baits, the bite was slow for the fly guys.  Another inshore trip produced speckled and silver trout, ladyfish, and other species on jigs.  Bottom fishing produced a ton of action on snapper, grouper, sea bass, and sheepshead.  It looks like the run of sheepshead is winding down.  I ran a trip to the Myakka River as well.  It was a bit slow as the water temperature was in the upper 70’s.  However, we landed a nice snook on a white #10 Rapala.

Sarasota fishing report

March 21

Fishing was very good this week for anglers going out on Sarasota fishing charters with Capt Jim Klopfer. The best bite was on the deep grass flats. Clients casting Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits and Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head landed a variety of species.  Speckled trout and ladyfish were plentiful with Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, grouper, jacks, sea bass, small sharks, and catfish also being landed. Middlegrounds, Radio Tower, Bishop’s Pt and Stephen’s Pt were the top spots. Sheepshead are still around docks and structure in the passes.  Bottom fishing with shrimp produced some nice sheepies along with tripletail, sea bass, grouper, and snapper. Rapala X-Raps worked along a mangrove shoreline produced a few small snook one morning.

Sarasota fishing report

March 14

Fishing was very good this week! Anglers on Sarasota fishing charters experienced good action and variety on a multitude of species. Big Pass was hot for several days. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and a lot of ladyfish hit Bass Assassin and Silly Willy jigs on the bar and in the channel. Sheepshead took shrimp fished on the bottom. The wind eased up, allowing us to fish the deep grass flats. Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head produced speckled trout, pompano, jacks, mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish. I finished up the week with a fly trip, where anglers caught trout anfd ladyfish inside, and Spanish mackerel out on the Fisher reef casting Clouser Minnow flies.

Sarasota fishing report

March 7

Wind was a factor that clients on Sarasota fishing charters had to deal with this week. Strong breezes out of the south limited area that we were able to fish. Big Pass was fairly protected and provided good action. Bottom fishing with shrimp produced sheepshead, snapper, grouper, sea bass, and pompano. Drifting with jigs fooled pompano and ladyfish. I had two river trips, which is another option for experienced anglers to deal with the wind. Rapala plugs, Gulp Jerk Shad, and chartreuse/white Clouser Minnow flies produced snook to 32″, big jacks, snapper, bass, and gar.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota Fishing Report, 2/29

Weather was certainly an issue for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week. Early in the week, action was very good both on the deep grass flats and in the passes. The cooler weather seemed to help the sheepshead bite fire up. Decent numbers of these feisty bottom dwellers were caught by anglers fishing shrimp on the bottom. A few pompano were landed as well. Speckled trout were numerous on the deeper grass flats at the Middlegrounds, Stephen’s Pt and Bishop’s Pt, hitting Bass Assassin and Gulp baits on a jig head. A severe front moved through Wednesday, bringing strong winds. I finished up the week with a fly angler in the Manatee River, who caught a few small snook.

Sarasota fishing report

February 22

The best action for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week was on the deep grass flats. Speckled trout were numerous, hitting jigs and live shrimp. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, pompano, ladyfish, small sharks, big sailcats, and other species were also landed. The flats from New Pass north were best as the water cleared up the further from the passes we got. Sheepshead fishing in the passes was hit or miss.  We had a couple good days and a slow day as well.  There are a LOT of smaller snapper, sea bass, and pinfish which makes getting a shrimp to the sheepshead difficult.  Perhaps the cooler weather will help as the water temperature was a bit too high for mid February.  Anglers drifting with jigs in Big Pass caught a few pompano, mackerel, and ladyfish as well.

Sarasota fishing report

February 15

Fishing was good over the last couple weeks for clients on Sarasota fishing charters.  Sarasota Bay is a bit warmer than normal, resulting in good action on the deep grass flats.  Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and more hit jigs cast while drifting the flats.  Anglers free lining shrimp around oyster bars found juvenile permit, snook, redfish, sheepshead, flounder, and snapper.  Sheepshead seem to be moving into the passes as anglers bottom fishing with shrimp caught some decent sheepies mixed in with a ton of small snapper and sea bass.  A fly angler scored his first couple jack crevalle up in a residential canal one breezy morning.  The warm water has not been good for river fishing, which has been a bit slow.  Persistent anglers caught snook and gar on Rapala plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing report for February 1

We have settled into our normal winter fishing patterns. Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught a variety of species using multiple techniques. One key to success is to keep moving in search of fish, locations will change daily. Action on the deep grass flats was steady, with a very good bite on Friday afternoon as the front approached. Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, trout, and ladyfish hit jigs, Rapala plugs, and live shrimp. Clients fly fishing scored using chartreuse/white Clouser patterns. Docks and oyster bars held redfish, sheepshead, snapper, grouper, black drum, and sea bass for anglers fishing with shrimp. Rapala X-Raps and jerk baits produced snook, jacks, and reds in creeks and canals. The pompano bite in the passes has slowed considerably.

Sarasota fishing report

January 25

Winter arrived in Sarasota this week!  Prior to the severe front, Mike Tyler landed a very nice snook in the Myakka River on a Rapala Jointed BX Minnow plug. Clients did well on Sunday morning on the flats and in the passes.  Monday was tough and Tuesday and Wednesday were blow-outs as the wind blew hard from the north and temperatures were in the 30’s in the morning.  After the front, clients fishing docks and bars with shrimp caught redfish, sheepshead, and jacks.  Jigs produced bluefish, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, ladyfish, pompano, and jacks on deeper flats.  Pompano and small permit hit jigs in the passes.  Small snapper and sea bass were thick on bottom structure in the passes as well, with a few sheepshead mixed in.

Sarasota fishing report

January 18

Pompano continued to please anglers on Sarasota fishing charters this week, both in the passes and on the flats.  Banana jigs, small pompano jigs, and Gulp Shrimp on a jig head caught them.  There are a ton of small bottom fish in the passes such as snapper, sea bass, and grouper that took the jigs as well.  A few Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish were also caught.  In other words, a good way to keep the rods bent!  Early in the week, action on the deep grass flats was good, with a lot of speckled trout to 20″ being caught.  It is nice to see them rebounding!  Pompano, mackerel, blues, and ladies were also landed.  That bite slowed a bit later in the week, for whatever reason.

Sarasota fishing report

Trips to the Myakka River produced a few snook, largemouth bass, and several gar.  The water is really a bit too warm for ideal fishing, I think that is the reason clients caught so many gar.  Rapala plugs both cast and trolled caught the fish.

Sarasota fishing report

Jan 10

I spent all of my time fishing rivers, creeks, and canals this week. Two trips to the Manatee River produced small to medium sized snook for fly anglers casting chartreuse over white Clouser Minnow patterns. Later in the week I fished in Sarasota Bay, and it was quite breezy! We sought refuge in protected creeks, bayous, and residential canals. #8 Rapala X-Raps produced decent numbers of jacks with a few snook mixed in.

fishing report for Sarasota Florida

Good fishing in Sarasota to start 2020!

Fishing was good this first week of 2020! Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught a variety of species using different techniques. The best bite in Sarasota Bay has been pompano in the passes and out on the flats. Small jigs produced the best, and color really did not seem to matter. Pompano in the passes were found near structure while those on the flats were located fairly shallow, in 3′ to 4′ on the bars. Action on the deep flats slowed a bit, with anglers catching trout, bluefish, pompano, ladyfish and more. Wind and dirty water hampered the bite.

Snook and jack crevalle were caught in Robert’s Bay along with residential canals by anglers casting and trolling #8 Rapala X-Raps. We found a school of very large jacks in a foot of water and landed a couple. Trips to the Myakka River produced snook and largemouth bass on larger #10 X-Raps.

Sarasota fishing report

 

Sarasota fishing report

In the winter time I do three types of fishing; bottom fishing, River snook fishing, and on nice days drifting the deep grass flats. I use live shrimp to bottom fish for sheepshead, snapper, drum, and other species around docs and other structure. Local area rivers produce snook and bass for anglers casting plugs. When conditions are favorable on the open flats, we use jigs and live shrimp to catch a variety of species.

As it warms up fish move out of the deeper waters where they spend the winter. The flats and passes become alive with snook, redfish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and other species. The passes and deep flats produce the most action while some anglers seek the challenge of catching snook in redfish in the back country.

When conditions are right, the fishing in the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be fantastic! East winds will result in clear water and plenty of baitfish. This will in turn attract Spanish mackerel, false albacore, sharks, cobia, and other species. Often times, the fish will be seen feeding aggressively on the surface. This is great fun as just about anything tossed into the feeding frenzy will draw strike.

Sarasota fishing charters

For many anglers, the heat of summer means one thing; tarpon! The silver Kings invade our area in early May and stay until late July. This is very challenging fishing, and not for everyone. However the reward is the fish of a lifetime! Tarpon to 150 pounds are landed off of the area beaches every summer.

While I still do a little tarpon fishing, most of my summer trips are run in Sarasota Bay. With all the anglers out on the beach chasing tarpon, fishing pressure in the Bay is lighter. My normal approach is to cast lures or shrimp at first light then use my cast net to catch bait and chum mid morning. Either way, with the heat of summer, we are will off the water early.

You’ll see me mention “deep grass flats”often in my Sarasota fishing report. This is where the majority of fish on my fishing charters are landed. These areas are large with a mixture of grass and sand bottom. Shrimp, crabs, and bait fish all hide in the grass. That obviously makes it an attractive place for game fish to feed.

Speckled trout in particular are associated with these deeper grass flats. But anglers will also catch Spanish mackerel, Pompano, bluefish, jacks, a lot of ladyfish, snapper, grouper, cobia, sharks, catfish and more while fishing the deep grass at one time of year or another.

Sarasota fishing

We primarily drift fish while working the deep grass flats. Anglers cast out lures, flies, or live bait as we drift across a productive areas in search of fish. Bass Assassin jigs, Rapala plugs, and spoons are effective artificial lures. The top live bait is a shrimp. These are fished either free line or under a noisy cork. In the summer time, live bait fish such as scaled sardines are used.

Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass produce a lot a fish for clients on Sarasota fishing charters. Anglers reading my Sarasota fishing report will see Big Pass in particular mentioned quite often. Sheepshead school up there thick and late winter and early spring. Mangrove snapper and snook are found in the rocks in the summer time. Ladyfish are often times thick right in the middle of the pass itself. Bluefish and mackerel can also be encountered as well.

Anglers drifting the passes cast jigs out and bounced them along the bottom. This is very effective and produces Pompano, bluefish, mackerel, and loads of ladyfish. Free lining a live shrimp with a split shot or fishing a live shrimp on a jig head can also be very productive. However, when the fish are biting jigs are more efficient as there is no need to stop and rebate the hook.

Sarasota Bay fishing report

There is a ton of structure in Big Pass as well. This is particularly true of the whole area along the north side of Siesta Key. The water is deep, there is good current flow, and abundant structure. This is a recipe for an excellent fishing spot, and it is! Bottom fishing with live shrimp and bait fish is very productive. Anglers do need to time this during periods of lesser current flow. It is difficult to anchor in fish when the tide is screaming.

Spinning tackle is used on the vast majority of my fishing charters. The reason is quite simple; it is effective and easy to use. Many freshwater anglers are experienced with close to faced reels. However, it usually only takes a few minutes before there casting like a pro with the spinning outfits. 10 pound spinning outfits are light enough that anglers enjoy the fight of even a smaller fish while still giving them a chance of the hook something larger.

Anglers seeking a bit more of a challenge will opt to targets snook, redfish, and jacks in the back country areas. This type of fishing is more of a “quality over quantity approach”. I use the trolling motor to ease the boat along a likely looking shoreline, while anglers cast lures towards the shoreline. I do use live bait occasionally as well.

River fishing charters

Visitors to my site will often see ”River snook fishing”in my Sarasota fishing report. This is a unique angling opportunity that I offer to clients. I am not aware of any other guide to do so. I use my 14 foot Alumacraft jon boat for this fishing. Shallow water and primitive ramps require this. However, this also results in less boat traffic and a quiet, serene angling adventure.

The Manatee River, Myakka River, and Braden River, are all within a 45 minute drive from the Sarasota beaches. Each has a distinct feel and personality. The Myakka River has some stunning scenery and big snook. The Manatee River is pretty as well but a bit more developed. It offers the most variety. The Braden River is the most developed but offers fantastic fishing for jack crevelle in the cooler months. Snook and redfish are available as well.

One unique aspect of fishing the rivers is the chance to catch freshwater species as well. The Manatee River and Myakka River are both brackish below the dams. This results in saltwater fish such as snuck, redfish, jacks, and juvenile tarpon being found in the same water as largemouth bass, sunshine bass, catfish, gar, and bream. These freshwater species will take the same lures meant for the saltwater fish.

In the spring and again in the fall we experience runs of pelagic species. This means that they spend most of their time in the middle of the water column and do not relate as much to bottom structure. Spanish mackerel and false albacore are prime examples. King mackerel show up here offer beaches as well. This fishing is dependent on conditions, the water needs to be clear and calm. When it is, fishing can be outstanding!

Inshore Gulf of Mexico

This type of fishing is very exciting in that it is visual. Often times we don’t even fish until we actually see the mackerel and false albacore busting baits on the surface. We will also look for big schools of bait fish which can be seen dimpling on the surface. Artificial lures work very well when the fish are breaking. We will also catch some of the live bait fish and cast them back into the school of bait.

On days when the fish cannot be seen working on the surface, trolling can be an effective technique. Trolling spoons and plugs is a great way to locate Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and even big King fish. It is also a great way to put a lot of fish in the boat quickly and is an easy technique for anglers with limited experience.

The “inshore artificial reefs”will be mentioned regularly in my Sarasota fishing report. I am referring to three man-made groups of structure that were placed between one and to miles off of Lido Key. The Gulf floor is for the most part flat and featureless. Therefore, any structure will attract fish and hold them there. Those three reefs provide excellent fishing for bottom fish such as sheepshead, snapper, and grouper along with pelagic species such as mackerel, King fish, cobia, and false albacore.

Fly fishing

Fly fisherman are certainly not to be left out of the action! False albacore in Spanish mackerel will most certainly hit a well presented fly out in the Gulf of Mexico. This is terrific sport for anglers wielding a fly rod. Any inshore species that can be caught on a jig will also take a fly. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, and more will hit a Clouser Minnow on the deep flats. Snook and jacks prefer whiteCrystal Minnow patterns in the back bays.

An 8wt outfit is a good all-around choice for fly fishing in Sarasota. It might be a tad light if the false albacore are running large. Otherwise, it is a good choice for the water and species that Sarasota offers. An intermediate sink tip line and then 9 foot tapered leader with a 24 inch piece of 30 pound bite tippet finishes off the outfit.

Readers will see a lot a families including children and my Sarasota fishing report. I really enjoy taking families out, it has become a big part of my Sarasota fishing charters. Many of these anglers have limited experience. One great thing about fishing here is that there are many species that do not require a great deal of skill or patience to catch. This is a good thing!

Also, while I don’t mind if clients keep a couple fish for dinner, I strongly encourage catch and release. Sarasota gets a lot a visitors and thus a lot of fishing pressure. It is important that the focus of the fishing trip beyond catching fish and enjoying quality time with families. I will certainly filet and bag up your catch at the end of the trip.  Current Florida fishing regulations and license requirements can be found HERE.

Inshore Saltwater Fishing in Florida, a Complete Guide

Inshore Saltwater Fishing in Florida, a complete Guide

Inshore Saltwater Fishing in Florida, a Complete Guide is a comprehensive article that will cover all aspects of Florida saltwater fishing. Tackle, species, techniques, seasons, and locations will all be covered. Florida is known as the saltwater fishing capital of the world, and for good reason. With over 1300 miles of coastline, Florida offers anglers endless inshore fishing opportunities.

Anglers saltwater fishing in Florida on the inshore waters have many options. The shallow flats and bays, passes and inlets, and near shore Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico waters offer anglers the chance to catch many different species and diverse environments.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Florida is flat, there is no denying it. The geography of the land extends underwater. This results in very large but shallow open waters. The shallow, clear water is the perfect environment for grass to grow. Florida anglers term these areas of submerged vegetation “grass flats”. They are the life blood for anglers inshore fishing in Florida in the shallow waters.

Fishing passes and inlets in Florida

Passes and inlets connect the inshore waters with the open Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. These are virtual “fish highways” that game fish and bait fish use to migrate back and forth from the base to open water. Many different species can be caught in the passes and inlets year-round. Most passes and inlets also have some type of structure such as rocks, rip-rap, docks, and bridges.

Sarasota fishing calendar

The inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean within a mile or two of the beaches can offer fantastic action at certain times of the year. Pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, false albacore, cobia, tarpon, sharks, jacks, and more will migrate along the beaches close to shore within the reach of anglers and small boats.

Tackle for inshore Fishing in Florida

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

One great thing about fishing the inshore waters of Florida is at the same basic set up will be fine for the vast majority of species targeted. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium action spinning rod paired with a 3000 series reel spooled up with 20 pound braided line or 10 pound to 12 pound monofilament line will do well in most applications. This combination is light enough to cast lures and live baits while stout enough to handle a large fish.

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Fishing lIdo Key Products

Anglers choosing a second outfit will do well to step it up a notch or two and go with a 7 1/2 foot heavy action spinning rod with a 5000 series reel, 40 pound braid or 20 pound monofilament line. A third and final choice would be a light conventional outfit that would be great for light inshore trolling, bottom fishing, and free lining large live bait fish for larger species such as tarpon, snook, sharks, and cobia.

fishing for snook

Once the outfit is purchased and spooled up with line, it is time to rig it. Most Florida fish species have either teeth or raspy gill covers. This requires the use of a leader. For most fishing, a fluorocarbon “shock leader” is used. This is a 24 inch to 30 inch piece of heavier fluorocarbon leader. Leader strength will depend on water clarity and the fish being targeted, with 30 pound test being a great all round choice. Toothy species such as sharks and king mackerel will require a steel leader.

Fishing the Florida flats

As previously mentioned, most inshore waters in Florida are fairly shallow. The term “flat” is a broad one. It basically is an area that is fairly large area of similar depth. Grass flats range from ankle-deep to 10 feet deep, depending on the area. Certain species will be caught either in the shallow grass or the deeper grass, and several species will be found in both environments.

Anglers seeking action and variety will do well to target fish on the deep grass flats. This refers to submerged grass beds in water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Many different species will be found over these grass beds, feeding on bait fish and crustaceans. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jacks, cobia, snapper, grouper, flounder, sea bass, and more will be found on the deep grass flats.

Drifting the deep grass flats

As these can be fairly large areas, drifting is an excellent way for anglers to locate fish and the technique is fairly simple. The boat is idled upwind and up current of the flat that is desired to be fished. The engine is then cut off in the boat is allowed to drift with the wind and tide. Anglers cast artificial lures and live bait in search of fish.

fishing for bluefish

Once fish are found, anglers have a choice of whether to continue drifting or to anchor. Both approaches can be effective. Anglers who choose to anchor should have the anchor out with 20 feet of line tied off to a cleat in the stern. Once the fish are located, the anchor can be quietly lowered into the water. Anglers who choose to drift simply continue fishing until the bite slows, then motor back around and re-drift the area.

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

Both live bait and artificial lures work very well when drifting the deep grass flats. Live shrimp are undoubtedly the number one live bait. Live shrimp are available year-round at every bait shop in Florida. They also catch every species. Live bait fish such as pin fish, grunts, croakers, mullet, sardines, and herring can also be used.

Fishing with live bait on the flats

Live shrimp can be either free line or fished under a float. A live shrimp under a popping cork has accounted for many many trout over the years. A popping cork is a noisy float that when twitched sharply simulates the sound of a feeding fish. These are deadly on speckled trout! This rig is particularly effective and water 6 feet deep or shallower. Anglers fishing live shrimp in deeper water will often do well to free line them. This means to simply hook the shrimp and let it swim naturally with no weight.

Sarasota fishing excursions

Anglers fishing with live bait fish on the deep grass flats normally fish them under a float. Free lined bait fish such as pin fish will often dig down into the grass without the float. One deadly technique on the deep grass flats is live bait chumming. Anglers fill the live well with sardines or herring and then anchor up and use these live bait fish as chum to draw in the game fish. This technique is labor-intensive, but incredibly effective.

Fishing with artificial lures on the flats

Artificial lures are very productive, often times out fishing live bait. Lures have several advantages over bait. Anglers casting lures can cover more water then can those using live bait. Lures can also excite or aggravate fish into biting when they’re not particularly hungry.

The top artificial lure for anglers saltwater fishing in Florida is the jig and grub combo. A jig is a hook with a piece of lead molded into it near the eye. This gives the lure both casting weight and action. One quarter ounce is a very good all-around size for fishing the deep grass flats in Florida.

A grub body of some type is then attached to the jig. These bodies come in countless shapes, sizes, and colors. However, they all basically work the same, imitating either a bait fish or a crustacean. 3 inch to 4 inch grub bodies and either a shrimp tail or a shad tail are the most popular. Light colors such as white, glow, and silver work best in clear water. Darker colors such as olive, root beer, and gold work well in stained water.

Fishing with plugs

fishing on Siesta Key

Plugs are another excellent artificial lure that are effective when fishing the deep grass flats. Plugs are plastic lures that imitate bait fish. Top water plugs float on the surface and entice fish to come up from the bottom and attack them. However, most fish on the deep grass flats are caught by subsurface plugs. The either have lips on them which causes them to dive to a desired depth or are suspending plugs which slowly sink through the water column.

Spoons are another effective artificial lure. They are basically a curved piece of metal, usually shiny, that imitate wounded bait fish. Spoons are heavy and cast a long way and have a great natural action as they wobble through the water. Silver and gold are the two most popular finishes. It is important to use a swivel when using a spoon, otherwise line twist will result.

Fishing the shallow flats

When the term “flats fishing comes up, many anglers envision sight fishing for bonefish, permit, redfish, or other species in the shallow clear Florida water. It is a bit ironic, but often times the larger fish are actually found in shallower water. Along with the above-mentioned species, snook, barracuda, sharks, cobia, jacks, and other species can be found in water less than 2 feet deep.

fishing for snook

Fishing these very shallow waters requires a different approach. Anglers must be quiet and stealthy in order to succeed. Special shallow draft boats are often used to sneak up on the fish. Wading is another great way to catch fish on the shallow flats.

Artificial lures are often used for anglers saltwater fishing in Florida on the shallow flats. Top water lures can be very effective as they ride up over the bottom and do not get snagged. Light buck tail and soft plastic tail jigs can be used to either sight cast or blind cast as well. Weedless spoons are a very effective artificial lure, particularly for redfish.

Live bait can certainly be effective on the shallow flats as well. Anglers targeting bonefish and permit in the Keys use live shrimp and live crabs with success. These species on the shallow flats can be very spooky and difficult to catch. A live bait will increase the angler’s chances. Live shrimp and bait fish can also be used to fish potholes (small areas of slightly deeper water) in the flats.

Saltwater Fishing in Florida; bottom fishing

Bottom fishing is one of the oldest, simplest and to this day most effective fishing techniques. As the name implies, it is simply using a live or dead piece of bait fished on the bottom to entice a bite. While it is relatively uncomplicated, there are techniques and rigs that will help anglers be more successful.

The most common rig used when bottom fishing is the sliding sinker rig. Some anglers refer to this as a “Carolina rig”. It consists of an egg shaped sinker with a hole in the middle. The running line slides through the whole and then a swivel is attached. The swivel stops the sinker and allows for a leader to be attached. A 24 inch to 30 inch piece of fluorocarbon leader followed by a live bait hook finishes the rig.

Another variation of this is the “knocker rig”. With this rig the egg sinker is allowed to slide right down to the eye of the hook. This has a couple of advantages. When the sinker is on the bottom, the angler knows the bait is on the bottom as well. Also, the sinker banging against the eye of the hook will help dislodge it in case a hook get snagged. This is how the rig got its name.

Bottom fishing rigs and techniques

Another popular rig for bottom fishing is the dropper rig or “chicken rig”. This is best used when fishing vertically. The sinker sits at the bottom with a couple of hooks suspended just above the bottom, tied at intervals. This is a great rig when targeting bottom fish in open water but can be effective in all bottom fishing applications.

bottom fishing rigs

When bottom fishing, the goal is to use the least amount of weight possible to hold bottom. As conditions such as current flow and depth change, successful anglers will change the sinker weight along with them.

Hook size should be matched to the size of the bait being used and not the size of the fish being targeted. A #1 or #1/0 short shank live bait hook will do well in most applications. Anglers using larger live baits or cut baits will need to increase the hook size. Anglers fishing the inshore reefs in the Gulf of Mexico are required by law to use circle hooks. Many anglers you circle hooks all the time, it is just a matter of personal choice.

Fishing Florida passes and inlets

Passes and inlets are terrific spots to fish. Many different game fish species use them to migrate between the inshore waters in the open Gulf of Mexico or ocean. Most passes and inlets have abundant structure such as rock jetties, docks, fishing piers, bridges, and underwater ledges. They can also be a great option for anglers without a boat.

fishing for snook

On the West Coast of Florida, these channels are called passes. On the East Coast of Florida they are called inlets. While they are virtually the same thing, they are a little bit different and will be covered separately. Tides are generally stronger on the Atlantic Ocean side of Florida.

Passes

Passes on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida are often sandy and can be quite shallow. Anglers drifting the center of the passes or along the shoals and bars catch pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, sharks, and even tarpon. Vertically jigging as the boat drifts along is a very effective technique in water over 10 feet deep. Free lining a live shrimp is also effective when the current is not too strong.

Often times, fish will be seen feeding on the surface in the passes. This is great fun and very exciting is almost any lure or bait that is well presented will get taken. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish are most often seen working the surface in the passes.

Lido Key fishing charters

Most passes also have some type of structure, whether it be a jetty, seawall or some other barrier. These are prime spots to bottom fish for sheepshead, snapper, grouper, and other bottom fish. Live or frozen shrimp are the most popular bait, but live bait fish can be used as well. Snook will school up heavily in the deeper passes all along the west coast of Florida from Tampa Bay South.

Inlets

While inlets on the East Coast are similar to passes, there are a couple differences. The primary difference is the size of the inlets and the current flow. Inlets on the East Coast of Florida are generally wider, deeper, and faster, with heavier boat traffic. This makes fishing in the pass itself fairly difficult at times. Anglers must be constantly aware and put safety first.

That said, fishing the East Coast passes can be fantastic! Huge snook school up in the inlets in the summer time with many of the fish being over 20 pounds. Anglers fish with live bait fish such as grunts and mullet using fairly heavy tackle. When the current is running, it takes a lot of weight just to get the bait to the bottom. A 20 pound snook will put up a heck of a fight when aided by a for not current.

Just about every other inshore species can be caught around inlets as well. Schools of redfish will migrate through at times. Speckled trout will be found around the rocks. Flounder, snapper, grouper, sheepshead, and other bottom species will be found around the structure.

Fishing Florida bridges and docks

Bridges and docks hold a lot a fish for anglers inshore fishing in Florida. Docks provide shade, cover from the current, and forage. Docks and bridges can be productive in any depth of water. While artificial lures can be used, most anglers fishing docks and bridges use live or natural bait.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

The best approach when targeting these structures is to present the bait to the up current side of the structure. Anglers in boats anchor up current a cast or so away. Then, they cast the bait towards the pilings. Anglers fishing from bridges and piers take the same approach and fish the up current side of the structure.

Night fishing for snook around the bridges is very popular in the southern half of the state. Lighted docks and bridges attract shrimp and bait fish which in turn attracts the snook and other game fish. They can often times be seen stacked up in the lights. Anglers free line a live shrimp and cast lures and flies in the shadow lines to catch them.

Florida inshore species

Tarpon

Tarpon are arguably the top inshore game fish in the world. They can be caught in shallow water from small boats. They grow VERY large, over 200 pounds. Tarpon are caught all along both coast of Florida from early spring through the fall.

Sarasota fishing excursion

Tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys is legendary. Fish are thick in the spring and are caught around bridges and on the flats. Anglers sight fish to rolling and moving schools of fish along the beaches throughout the state. Inlets and the mouths of large bays such as Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor will concentrate tarpon.

Tarpon are caught using live baits such as crabs, mullet, shrimp, and bait fish. Cut bait fished on the bottom works well, too. Larger versions of artificial lures that catch most Florida game fish will produce tarpon as well.

Snook

Snook are a terrific inshore game fish! They hit lures, live baits and fly, pull hard, and usually leap out of the water when hooked. Snook are found in the southern half of the state. They are very similar to largemouth bass; they are ambush predators with large mouths that inhale their prey. Snook are usually found near some type of structure. In fact, most of the most popular snook lures were originally designed to catch bass.

Sarasota fishing excursion

Snook have a distinct seasonal migration. In cooler months snook migrate up into creeks, rivers, as canals to escape the harsh conditions on the flats. As it warms up, they move out into the back waters and bays to feed. By summer, many of the fish are in the passes, inlets, and out on the beaches to spawn. By late summer, the pattern begins to reverse itself.

Redfish

Redfish are an extremely popular game fish for anglers inshore fishing in Florida. They are widely distributed and available to just about every saltwater angler in Florida and beyond.

Many anglers target reds on the shallow grass flats. They can be seem tailing and waking as they feed in water that is a foot deep. Stealth and patience are required to get close enough to cast to them. Artificial lures such as jigs, soft plastics, weedless spoons, and topwater plugs are used to fool them. Live bait, especially shrimp, can be used as well.

Sarasota fishing charters

Reds can also be caught around structure. Docks in particular hold a lot of redfish. A large live shrimp tossed under a dock is a great way to catch them. Inlets on the east coast are top spots to catch large bull redfish. Jetties, piers, and bridges are also good spots.

Redfish can be scattered out in the spring. As late summer approaches, they school up in large numbers as they prepare to spawn. Once they school up, reds move out of the passes and inlets and into open water. Anglers finding one of these schools of mature reds in open water will have a remarkable experience.

Bonefish

Top 25 Florida game fish

Bonefish are found in the southernmost part of Florida. They are incredible game fish! Bones are among the fastest of all inshore species. They are targeted on the shallow flats in the Keys. They feed on shrimp and other crustaceans. Anglers fly fish for them as well as casting small jigs and live bait. This is challenging, but rewarding, fishing.

Permit

top game fish in Florida

Permit are often targeted on the flats near Key West. They are famous for being very difficult to catch. Live crabs are the best bait. Permit are considered to be the toughest fish to catch on fly on the flats. Unlike bonefish, permit have a much wider range. They are caught in the open water along both coasts. They will school up over wrecks and artificial reefs.

Speckled trout

Speckled trout are an extremely popular inshore game fish. While not the strongest battlers in the world, they are aggressive, hit hard, are beautiful, and are great eating. Speckled trout are widely distributed and fond in all of the coastal waters of Florida. The Indian River on the east coast is famous for trophy speckled trout.

Gator trout Sarasota

Small and medium sized trout are found in schools. Anglers drifting grass flats in 4′ to 10′ of water catch them casting jigs with a soft plastic tail, plugs, spoons, and live bait. A live shrimp under a noisy float has probably accounted for more speckled trout than all other baits combined.

Larger trout, known as “gator trout” are more solitary. They are also often times found in shallow water. They are more difficult to catch in this skinny water. Larger live baits such as mullet and grunts are top baits. Top water plugs and larger swim baits will fool them as well.

Spanish mackerel

Spanish mackerel are a terrific and often times under rated game fish. They are fast, aggressive, beautiful, and very good on the dinner plate when eaten fresh. Mackerel school up and are found in good numbers in the bays, passes and inlets, and out on the beaches.

Sarasota chumming techniques

Spanish mackerel can often be seen feeding on the surface as they terrorize helpless bait fish. This is an anglers dream as they will hit just about any bait or lure that gets near them. Spring and fall are normally the best times to find them, as they prefer water temperature from the upper 60’s to mid 70’s.

Spoons, jigs, and plugs are all productive lures for Spanish mackerel. Trolling is a very productive technique for locating them when they are not seen on the surface. Live bait such as shrimp and sardines are also effective. Mackerel will respond to chum and can be lured to an anchored boat.

Pompano

fishing Sarasota Florida

Pompano are a small, but feisty little fish. They resemble permit and mostly feed on the bottom on crustaceans. Shrimp, fiddler crabs, and sand fleas are top baits. Pompano are a favorite of surf fishermen. They are also found in bays and especially passes and inlets.

Pompano will certainly hit a jig as well. Small, compact lures bounced off the bottom produce pompano as their mouths are fairly small. Drifting with the current in passes and inlets while vertically working a jig is a proven technique.

Sheepshead

inshore fishing for sheepshead

Sheepshead are a hard-fighting bottom fish. They are a member of the porgy family. Sheepshead have very distinct “human” looking teeth. They feed on barnacles, crabs, shrimp, and other crustaceans. Sheepies are almost always found near structure such as bridges, docks, oyster bars, and rip-rap. They are seldom caught using artificial lures. Sheepshead are very good to eat!

Black drum

Florida saltwater fishing in winter

Black drum are related to redfish but look more like sheepshead. They are a bottom feeding, structure oriented fish that feeds on crustaceans. Crabs and shrimp are the top baits. Black drum grow very large. They can be found in water that is quite shallow as well as deeper structure. Smaller fish are good to eat but larger drum can be wormy.

Mangrove snapper

Sarasota fishing calendar

Mangrove snapper are a fish species that is available both inshore and offshore in Florida. They are found throughout the state near structure. Docks, bridges, rocks, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines will hold them. Most snapper are caught by anglers bottom fishing with live bait.

Mangrove snapper are often caught on the flats as well. They will school up on grass patches and on the edges of flats. Live shrimp, small bait fish, and cut bait will fool them. They are also aggressive at times and will take lures such as jigs and small plugs.

Grouper

Sarasota fishing charter

Grouper are another species that many anglers consider an “offshore” species. They are found in the same structure as other bottom fish such as snapper and sheepshead. Some anglers target them but many grouper are hooked by accident. The larger fish will tear up the lighter tackle used for smaller fish.

Cobia

Sarasota fishing reefs

Cobia spend most of their lives offshore, but will wander into the inshore bays and can be caught just off the beach as well. They grow very large, over 100 pounds. Cobia can often be seen cruising just under the surface and can be sight fished. They will hit live shrimp, pin fish, and other bait fish as well as jigs and other artificial lures.

Flounder

best Sarasota fishing charter

Flounder are a very popular and plentiful species in the northern part of Florida. They are less numerous further south, the water may be a bit warm. Flounder put up a nice tussle but more importantly, they are fantastic eating! They lie on the bottom and ambush prey as it washes by in the current. Most Florida flounder caught are southern Gulf flounder.

Live bait works very well for flounder. Mud minnows and shrimp are the top baits. They will also take jigs bounced along the bottom. They will lie in likely ambush spots, near structure where possible. The tidal rivers are great flounder habitat.

False albacore

best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

False albacore migrate along the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. They rarely come into the inshore bays. These fish are related to tuna fish and are very fast and powerful. The are sight cast to when breaking on the surface. False albacore move fast and can be surprisingly fussy at times. They are a terrific sport fish on spin or fly!

jack crevalle

Sarasota fishing report

Jack crevalle are another hard-fighting game fish targeted by anglers inshore fishing in Florida. Jacks are found all over the world in warmer climates. They school up and can very very aggressive at times. Jack crevalle grow large and will put up a tremendous battle on light tackle. They hit lutes and flies with reckless abandon. They certainly are caught using live bait as well. Jacks are great fun when they are schooled up and feeding on the surface. no food value, but a terrific game fish!

Ladyfish

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Ladyfish are looked down upon by many local anglers. However, from a game fish standpoint, they are a fun fish. Ladies are aggressive, school up in large numbers, and usually jump often when hooked. Jigs are a great lure to use, they often times out fish live bait. Shrimp and bait fish will catch them as well. Ladyfish are found in the bays and passes as well as out on the beaches. They are not good to eat, but are used often as cut bait for redfish and other species.

Florida fishing by region

Florida offers anglers some great fishing all year long. However, the species and seasons are different throughout the state. Some species are only available in the southern part of the state, Others have different seasons that are productive. The regions will be broken down into sections.

Northeast Florida

Jacksonville is the center of fishing in northeast Florida. The inshore waters consist of coastal rivers with big tide differences. Redfish, speckled trout, and flounder are the top inshore species. These tidal rivers are rich with forage such as shrimp, crabs, and minnows. Oyster bars are prime spots.

Huge redfish school up at the mouth of rivers in the Jacksonville area. Fish to over 40 pounds are caught regularly. Anglers bottom fish with fresh cut bait and heavy tackle to catch these bull redfish.

Sheepshead and black drum are also popular fish targeted by northeast Florida anglers. These fish hit live shrimp and crabs and are rarely caught on lures. Structure such as bridges, docks, inlets, jetties, oyster bars, and ledges hold these fish. Reefs in the Atlantic Ocean hold these fish as well.

Spanish mackerel, bluefish, redfish, tarpon, false albacore, and jack crevalle are available of of the Jacksonville beaches. They move through in the string and early summer, then back south in the fall. The mullet run in September and October can be insane.

East Central Florida

Titusville and the Canaveral National Seashore are the center of this region. The inshore waters are dominated by Banana River, Mosquito Lagoon, and Indian River. These are really bays, very shallow and full of grass and oyster bars. Speckled trout and redfish are the top species. This area is known for having the largest speckled trout in Florida.

Reds and trout are spooky in the very shallow water. Anglers need to be quiet and stealthy in order to be successful. Live shrimp and mullet are the top live baits. Cut crabs fished on the bottom catch some very large redfish. Edges of bars and potholes in the grass flats are prime spots. Schools of redfish can be found tailing and waking on the flats.

Snook become available in decent numbers in this area. They can be caught in the back waters on the flats in the spring and fall. In winter, snook migrate up the rivers and residential canals to keep warm. In summer, snook school up heavily in all of the inlets. They are out of season, but this is the best time to catch, and release, a trophy snook. Anglers also sight cast to them on the beaches.

Action off of the east central beaches can be fantastic! Tarpon, snook, jacks, redfish, mackerel, false albacore, sharks, and more are caught close to shore off of the area beaches. Bait is the key, anglers finding the bait will likely find some action with larger game fish. Pompano and flounder are also caught off the beaches.

South Florida and the Keys

Inshore fishing in south Florida and the Keys focuses around the “big three”, tarpon, bonefish, and permit. Anglers from all over the world come here to try their hand at the premier saltwater gamefish. Anglers in shall draft skiffs quietly pole around in search of fish. This is a challenging and demanding style of fishing. However, the reward is great!

Sight fishing with fly rods was basically “invented” in the Keys by legendary anglers years ago. It remains very popular today and many consider it the ultimate angling challenge. Professional guides are plentiful in the Keys.

Other species are available as well. Snook are caught in the back waters as well as the numerous canals and in the inlets. Pompano and whiting are targeted in the surf. Snapper and grouper please anglers on bars and around structure. Mackerel and false albacore are caught just off the beaches.

Southwest Florida

The area from Boca Grande and Charlotte Harbor south to the Ten Thousand Islands offers some fantastic inshore fishing. The Ten Thousand Islands is a huge area where the Everglades dumps into the Gulf of Mexico. This area gives anglers the true remote “back country” experience.

Snook, redfish, and tarpon are the top game fish in this area. They are caught in the backwater bays and cuts all season long. Oyster bars and mangrove shorelines abound, offering perfect cover for these species. Anglers cast lures, flies, and live bait in pursuit of these fish. Modern navigation technology has made it much easier for anglers to explore this area.

More Southwest Florida species

Other species are available as well. Speckled trout, pompano, bluefish, jack crevalle, flounder, Spanish mackerel, jacks, sharks, sheepshead, grouper, snapper, drum, and even more species are caught regularly. Mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, flats, passes, bays, and reefs all hold fish.

Boca Grande is famous for giant tarpon. The run begins in April and goes into July. Anglers flock to Gasparilla Pass where tarpon congregate in huge numbers. Boats drift through the pass very close to each other and vertically fish with jigs and live bait. Anglers seeking a little elbow room can go out on the beach and sight cast to rolling fish.

West Central Florida

The west coast of Florida from Venice north to the Panhandle is a diverse area, with Tampa Bay being the most prominent estuary. It offers anglers incredible diversity and a number of species that can be caught. There are barrier islands from Tampa Bay south. North of that, the islands are gone and in the inshore Gulf of Mexico is very shallow with massive grass flats and oyster bars.

Snook,speckled trout, redfish, and tarpon are the top game fish in this area. However, mackerel, bluefish, pompano, snapper, grouper, sheepshead, flounder, drum, flounder, sea bass, whiting, cobia, sharks, false albacore, and other species are found in good numbers. Anglers visiting Sarasota can take out a Sarasota fishing charter while in the area.

Anglers cast lures such as jigs and plugs as they drift the flats and cover shore lines. Live shrimp fished under a popping cork catch a ton of fish. Chumming with live bait fish is very productive in the warmer months. Snook school up heavily in the passes and out on the beaches. Tarpon are caught off of the beaches and at the mouth of Tampa Bay in the summer.

Panhandle

The Panhandle is similar to other parts of Florida. It has back water shallow bays, barrier islands, and the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Trout, reds, sheepshead, and flounder are very popular inshore species. Shallow flats and oyster bars hold fish.

Surf fishing for pompano and other species is popular and effective. There are numerous fishing piers out in the Gulf of Mexico as well. Action on the beaches can be very good for a variety of species. Destin is known as the “Worlds luckiest fishing village” and does offer excellent inshore fishing, though it is perhaps better known for offshore fishing. Florida fishing regulations change often, view current regulations on the FWC website.

Fishing Jacksonville Florida, action and variety!

This article will share some great Jacksonville Florida fishing tips . Jacksonville is in the north east corner of Florida, near the Georgia state line. It offers anglers excellent fishing for a variety of species. The St. Mary’s River and Amelia River in Fernandina Beach are a short drive away and offer excellent fishing as well.

Jacksonville Florida fishing tips

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While Jacksonville is in Florida, it is far north enough to have four seasons. It does get cold there. Jacksonville also has a more extreme tidal range that most parts of Florida. Three feet is a “big” tide in many parts of Florida. Jacksonville will see seven feet tides on the full moon.

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

Anglers fishing Jacksonville Florida have three distinct environments in which to fish. They can work the tidal creeks and rivers. The downtown area of the St. Johns River and inlet offer good fishing, especially for trophy redfish. Offshore anglers target bottom fish such as grouper and snapper along with king mackerel and other pelagic species.

Fishing Ladies local pro Laura Thompson

We are fortunate to have a local expert as our Jacksonville correspondent. Laura Thompson has been fishing this area for years with her husband Shawn.

Jacksonville Florida fishing tips

“I started fishing as a child. I grew up in a rural area and had to keep myself entertained. Fortunately, we had a pond and a creek. My passion for fishing started at an early age. My husband grew up saltwater fishing. Once we bought a boat he showed me a whole new world. I have been addicted ever since!”

Fishing Jacksonville Florida tidal creeks

fishing in Jacksonville

Laura really enjoys fishing the Jacksonville area tidal creeks and rivers. This can be challenging as the tide has so much affect on fish movements. A seven foot tide changes drastically affect fish locations and feeding patterns. Understanding how tides affect fish movements is the key to success

A 7′ medium action spinning outfit works well for this “back country” style of fishing. It is light enough to cast a shrimp or light lure, but has enough muscle to turn a nice fish. A selection of jig heads, soft plastic baits, shallow diving plugs, weedless spoons, and of course hooks, split shot, and corks will fill out the tackle requirements. Here is a Penn Conflict 3000 bombo. It is a nice all-round spinning outfit for inshore fishing. Click on the link to purchase or shop.

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Let’s go through the tide cycle. Low tide will find fish in the holes and channels. As the tide rises, fish move out of the deep water and move up on the bars and flats. As the water reaches flood tide, fish will be scattered everywhere. When the tide turns, fish will reverse the process and work their way back to the deeper water. They do not want to get “stranded” on the flat with no water.

Jacksonville black drum

Redfish, sheepshead, flounder, black drum, jack crevalle, and speckled trout are the primary species that anglers will encounter when fishing Jacksonville Florida on the flats. Laura likes the lower tide stages, especially the falling tide.

Importance of tides

“Low water will concentrate the fish. On the high tide, there is just too much water to fish. Game fish will position themselves at the mouths of feeder creeks and oyster bar points that drop off into deeper water. These are natural ambush spots for predators.”

Florida fishing tips

Anglers can be successful fishing both live and artificial baits. One approach that works well is to employ both techniques. Fish can be scattered over a large area. Power fishing with search baits such as a gold weedless spoon or a shallow diving plug will allow anglers to cover a lot of water quickly. Once fish are found, slowing down and working the area thoroughly with a jig or live bait will maximize the spot.

Shrimp is king in Florida, and Jacksonville is no exception. Shrimp are available all year long and catch everything that swims. They are a great all-round bait. They can be fished under a cork or free lined with a split shot or two. Laura also has success using quarter cut blue crabs, mullet, fiddler crabs, and mud minnows. Fiddler crabs are a popular sheepshead bait. Anglers targeting flounder do well using mud minnows.

Fishing for flounder

Fishing downtown Jacksonville and inlets

The star of the St. Johns River in downtown for anglers fishing Jacksonville Florida is without a doubt bull redfish. Bull reds are giant redfish that usually school up in the river. These fish are VERY large, much bigger than the average five pound fish found in most of Florida. They are found in Fernandina Beach to the north as well.

Jacksonville Florida fishing tips

The primary technique when targeting these giant redfish is to anchor on the edges of the river channel and bottom fish with live and cut bait. Anglers need to heed boat traffic, especially in Jacksonville. Commercial and recreational boat traffic can be heavy. Bends in the channel are top spots.

Anglers need to beef up the tackle for this type of fishing. These are big fish in heavy current. Laura uses medium conventional tackle spooled with 65 pound test braided line. Here is a good, versatile Penn combo for large reds and other saltwater species, a Squall 30 click on the link to purchase or shop.

The rig consists of a 3 ounce to 12 ounce ounce sinker, depending on current, on a weight slide. A 24” 60 lb leader and a 7/0 circle hook completes the rig. Best baits are whole blue crabs, live pogies, and large cut mullet. Laura recommends the bottom of the outgoing tide, just before it turns. It is much easier to fish when the current flow eases up.

fishing for redfish in Jacksonville

Fishing downtown Jacksonville for other species

Anglers fishing the “downtown” section on the St. Johns River can experience some excellent action. While the scenery is a bit “industrial”, that does not deter from the fishing. Flounder, trout, reds, drum, jacks, sharks, and other species with take a jig and grub or live shrimp fished near docks, seawalls, bridges, and other structure.

Once again, tides are very important. The best fishing is before and after the turn of the tide. It can be difficult fishing in the middle of the tide when it is running hard. Holes are excellent ares on the low tides. Docks, seawalls, and shorelines are best on the higher tide stages.

Anglers do not need a boat to enjoy the excellent fishing the Jacksonville offers. There are many parks along the river that give access to shore bound anglers. Also, surf fishing is productive along the entire coast line around Jacksonville. This is a great resource that shows the many parks in the area that offer anglers without a boat fishing access. View these spots HERE.

Fishing Jacksonville Florida inlets

The jetties at the mouth of the St. Johns River and St Mary’s River are terrific fishing spots! They basically long artificial reefs. Abundant structure will attract redfish, black drum, speckled trout, jack crevelle, flounder, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and more. Drifting with a live shrimp on a jig head is a good technique. Angler are discouraged from anchoring in the Jacksonville inlet.

fishing Jacksonville inlets

“Breaking” fish are often found just outside the jetty on a calm morning. Mackerel, jacks, blues, and other species can be seen feeding on the surface. In the fall, the East Coast of Florida experiences the infamous “mullet run”. Action can be incredible for these species as well as tarpon, sharks, cobia, and more.

Tarpon show up sometime in June and stay for several months. This is big game fishing and heavy spinning tackle is generally used. Anglers cast live crabs and mullet to rolling fish. Tarpon are also caught in the inlet and up the river as well.

Jacksonville Florida fishing tips

Fishing Jacksonville Florida waters in the inshore Atlantic

Anglers fishing the inshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean experience some excellent coastal fishing as well. Pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, false albacore, king mackerel, jack crevalle, and sharks can be caught by anglers fishing within a couple miles of the beach. Spring and fall are generally the best times to fish.

One great aspect to this style of fishing is that much of it is visual. Fish are often times seen feeding ferociously on the surface. Anglers position the boat within casting range and toss jigs, plugs, and spoons into the mix. A strike is all but guaranteed! On days when fish are not “showing”, trolling spons and plugs is a great way to locate them.

Florida Spanish mackerel fishing

One really cool thing happens in early fall, the mullet run! Hordes of finger mullet migrate south along the Jacksonville beaches. Hungry game fish are right on their heels. Just about every species is liable to be encountered when working the schools of mullet. They are easy to see as large dark spots in the water. Anglers work to edges of the schools as game fish seek to pick off the strays.

Offshore fishing in Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville offers offshore anglers several opportunities as well. The fishing is similar to most of the Atlantic coast. Bottom fishing and trolling are the two techniques most often employed when fishing off the Jacksonville coast. The Gulf Stream is quite a way offshore, 50-70 miles or so. That is a long run, but boats that can make it catch tuna, dolphin, and wahoo. Anglers fishing

offshore fishing in Jacksonville

Bottom fishing is pretty basic. Anglers drop a live or cut bait down to the bottom on a natural ledge, artificial reef, or wreck. Shrimp, squid, sardines, and just about any live bait fish will all produce. Laura’s top offshore bottom fishing bait is squid. Anchoring, drifting, or “motor fishing” are all used to keep the boat in prime position. It all depends on the depth of the water and current sea conditions.

Grouper, snapper, triggerfish, cobia, amberjack, and other species will be caught by anglers bottom fishing. The best depth for targeting these fish are 40 Feet to 100 feet. Red snapper do tent to be caught out in deeper water that mangrove snapper and grouper.

snapper fishing in Jacksonville

Fish can be caught all year, but the best time to fish offshore in this area is fall when it starts to cool off. Grouper and snapper are closer to shore. They are found on ledges in depths between 50 feet and 75 feet deep. This is about 15 miles from shore.

Jacksonville bottom fishing spots

Here is a list of local bottom fishing spots,

Sahlman’s Gulley

GPS 30-40.07’N/ 81-09.34’W

Ponte Vedra Ground

GPS 30-12.11’N/ 81-04.52’W

Nine Mile

GPS 30-23.32’N/ 81-10.11’W

Montgomery Reef

GPS 30-26.47’N/ 81-13.12’W

Haddock’s Hideaway

GPS 30-34.03’N/ 81-08.26’W

FA

GPS 30-38.13’N/ 81-13.22’W

FC

GPS 30-36.35’N/ 81-10.35’W

Tournament Reef

GPS 30-27.47’N/ 80-55.46’W

Tanzler’s Waters

GPS 30-29.37’N/ 80-57.30’W

Amberjack Hole

GPS 30-32.49’N/ 81-03.10’W

Desco Boat

GPS 29-53.16’N/ 81-00.31’W

Blackmar’s Reef

GPS 30-21.55’N/ 80-50.05’W

Harm’s Ledge

GPS 30-22.20’N/ 80-53.52’W

Main Flagler

GPS 29-31.65’N/ 80-57.00’W

Drydock

GPS 30-07.05’N/ 80-33.25’W

Anglers trolling lures such as spoons, plugs, and skirted baits catch fish as well. King mackerel are the most targeted species. However, false albacore, tuna, dolphin, wahoo, and even billfish can be encountered, depending on the depth being fished.

Jacksonville Florida fishing

One good strategy anglers use is to employ both techniques on an offshore trip. They troll while on their way to the ledge or reef. Then, once at the destination, they can switch gears and do some bottom fishing. This is also a great way to locate new fishing spots.

In conclusion, this article, Inshore Saltwater Fishing in Florida will help anglers catch more fish while visiting the Sunshine State!