Fishing in Bradenton Florida, a Complete Guide!

Fishing in Bradenton Florida, a Complete Guide!

This comprehensive guide will cover fishing in Bradenton Florida. Bradenton offers anglers a wide variety of fish species, locations, and techniques that are used.

Bradenton is a resort city on the west coast of Florida, just south of Tampa and St Petersburg. It is strategically located at the mouth of Tampa Bay. The inshore waters offer anglers a wide variety of species than anglers can catch. Snook, tarpon, redfish, spotted sea trout, bluefish, king and Spanish mackerel, pompano, flounder, sheepshead, grouper, snapper, jacks, sharks, and more can be caught. Anglers use light spinning tackle and artificial lures and live baits. A variety of techniques are productive.

fishing in Bradenton Florida

Bradenton Florida fishing tackle

Light spinning tackle is most often used by anglers fishing in Bradenton Florida. Spinning tackle is versatile and easy for novice anglers to use. Quite often, light lures and live baits are used. Spinning tackle is the best choice for casting these light baits. A 6 1/2 foot medium action rod and a 3000 series reel work best. 10 pound monofilament or braided line is a good choice.

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.

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.

Bradenton fishing charters

As a full time fishing guide for over twenty five years, I run fishing charters on a regular basis. Bradenton waters offer visiting anglers a wide variety of fishing options for clients on fishing charters. Anglers can contact me at to get information about booking a trip.

The majority of fish caught on Bradenton fishing charters is done so while fishing the grass flats. The shallow grass flats offer experienced anglers the opportunity to catch snook, redfish, and other species. The deeper flats are better choice for novice anglers and those seeking action and variety. Many square miles of lush grass flats abound in our area.

Family fishing charters in Bradenton Florida

A lot of fish and charters involve children and novice anglers. One great thing about Bradenton waters is that this is a great place for those anglers who experience success. Drifting the deep grass flats with live shrimp, bait fish, and jigs will produce many species. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, Pompano, bluefish, snapper, grouper, flounder, ladyfish, sharks, and more are commonly caught species.

fishing in Bradenton Florida

This is fairly easy fishing. Anglers fish as the boat drifts over the grass flat. These are large areas and drifting is a good way to locate the fish. Anglers can either drift a live bait or cast artificial lures, depending on conditions and angler skill level. This technique generally provides good action as well as a variety of species.

Bottom fishing in Bradenton Florida

Bottom fishing is another method that is very easy for novice anglers to quickly become proficient at. The boat is anchored up near some likely structure, including artificial reefs, docs, bridges, and other structure. A baited hook is either than lower to the bottom or cast towards the structure. Sheepshead, which are abundant in the late winter and early spring are a prime target when bottom fishing. Grouper, snapper, drum, flounder, sea bass, and other species are also regularly taken.

Light tackle bottom fishing tips

Drifting the passes is another easy and very productive technique. Anglers bouncing small but tale jigs on the bottom in both Longboat Pass and at the north and near being point will do well on Pompano, mackerel, and ladyfish. Once again, this is a very easy technique to learn in a short amount of time.

Fishing for snook and redfish on Bradenton fishing charters

More experienced anglers may choose to target more challenging species. Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida and Bradenton has a good population of them. Snook are caught in a wide variety of habitat including the shallow flats, bridges, mangrove shorelines, and oyster bars.

Redfish are the next most popular game fish for anglers going out on Bradenton fishing trips. Redfish are most often caught on the shallow grass flats along the southern edge of Tampa Bay. They are available all year long in school up in big numbers and late summer.

redfish and trout fishing

Anglers can choose to fish the shallow flats using either live bait or artificial lures. Casting artificial lures is exciting and fun. Anglers drift over the flat casting into potholes, along the edges of oyster bars, and along mangrove shorelines. Top water plugs, shallow diving plugs, soft plastic baits, and weedless spoons are the top lures.

Live bait produces on Bradenton fishing charters

Live bait certainly accounts for a lot of fish on the shallow flats especially in the summer time. Shrimp are used all year long in our an effective bait. However, in the summer we utilize a very specialized technique. Using a cast net, we catch hundreds and hundreds of small shiny bait fish called pilchards. We then use these pilchards to chum the game fish into range.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Once the bait well is fall, a likely spot with good current flow is chosen. The boat is then anchored up current from the spot. Several handfuls of live bait fish are tossed into the water with no hooks attached. Sometimes the bait fish are squeezed, crippling them, making them swim erratically in the water. This can drive snook and redfish crazy! Once the fish are feeding on the chum, hooked baits are cast out into the fray. This technique works on the deep grass flats as well for speckled trout Spanish mackerel and other species.

Bradenton fishing charters in the inshore Gulf of Mexico

In the spring and then again in the fall, action and the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be outstanding. When the Gulf is calm in the water is clear, hordes of bait fish will show up just off the Bradenton area beaches. This forage will in turn attract game fish. Spanish mackerel, false albacore, sharks, cobia, and other species will come in to feed on the abundant bait fish.

When fish are breaking on the surface, the action can be fast and furious. Just about any lore or bait cast into the melee will get instantly devoured. This is another situation where inexperienced anglers can catch a lot of fish. Fly fisherman will find this a very unique and exciting opportunity as well.

On days where there’s a little chop on the surface and the fish aren’t showing, there are several techniques that are productive. Trolling is a great way to locate fish. The boat is idled along with a couple artificial lures out the back. I look for bait schools or bird activity and had the boat in that direction. Trolling can produce a lot a fish in a short period of time when the bite is on. Once a school of fish is located, anglers can then cast lures and baits if they so desire.

Spinning and fly tackle is used on Bradenton fishing charters

Light spinning tackle is used on the vast majority of my fishing charters. Spinning tackle is versatile and easy to use. Most anglers with even a little bit of experience are familiar with this tackle. It is very similar to what anglers use up north for their freshwater fishing.

Inshore saltwater fishing

Fly fisherman are certainly welcome on Bradenton fishing trips. Any fish that can be caught on and artificial lure will also take a well presented fly. Speckled trout Spanish mackerel bluefish and ladyfish will hit on the deep grass flats. Redfish and snuck can be cite cast it in the shallow flats. Nothing beats surface action on Spanish mackerel and false albacore in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. 7wt to 9wt outfits work best.

Giant tarpon on Bradenton fishing charters

We experience some world-class fishing off the Bradenton beaches in the summer time as giant tarpon migrate through. Tarpon average 80 pounds and fish over 150 pounds are hooked each season. Tarpon fishing does require some patients, this is not a numbers game. Instead, anglers are hoping for the trophy of a lifetime!

There are several different methods that produce when targeting tarpon. One option, which is my personal favorite, is to cite cast to schools of tarpon milling about in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. This is as much fish hunting as anything else. Anglers need be patient and then stock the fish, hoping for an opportunity. When it all comes together, there is nothing like it!

Sarasota tarpon fishing

A very productive technique is anchoring and fishing with live and dead bait. This is easier and in reality more productive. The boat is anchored in 10 to 12 feet of water off of being point and several baits are put out both on the bottom and closer to the surface. Then, anglers just sit and wait for a bite.

Finally, we experience an interesting situation when the tide goes out, particularly in the afternoon. These strong outgoing tides are called Hill tides. They flush out crabs and other forage for the tarpon. Just like the chumming with white bait mentioned earlier, this natural chum slick gets the tarpon fired up and feeding. Anglers fortunate enough to experience a good Hill tide bite, will never forget it!

Bradenton shore fishing

Anglers Bradenton shore fishing have many options. While those with boats certainly have an advantage, there are a myriad of spots for shore bound anglers to experience success. Bridges, piers, beaches, and wade-able flats abound in this area.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

In order to not be repetitive, I am going to go over species and techniques at the beginning of the article. Most of these tips and tactics will produce at all of the spots listed. Obviously, most of the techniques will work at all of the spots at one time or another.

Florida resident anglers DO need a fishing license to fish from shore if they are between 16 and 65 years old, with a few exemptions. This license is free to Florida residents. Non-residents need to purchase a Florida fishing license to fish from shore.  Anglers on fishing charters do not need a license.

Fishing Bradenton bridges and piers

The three main bridges in Bradenton offer great fishing for a variety of species. There are two long bridges going over the inshore bay and another going over Longboat Pass. The Rod and Reel Pier and other docks and piers are strategically located for good fishing.

Bottom fish such as mangrove snapper and flounder are available year-round. Sheepshead are thick in late winter and spring. Live or fresh dead shrimp fished on the bottom work well.

Fishing in Bradenton Florida

Snook fishing area bridges produces for anglers, especially at night. Live bait such as shrimp or pinfish works well. Heavy tackle is required to land a big snook in structure. Lures such as jigs with a soft plastic trailer and plugs will catch fish as well.

Pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and other species are also attracted to area bridges. Shade, current, and bait will hold them there. Shiny fast moving lures such as Gotchas, spoons, jigs, and plugs are effective. Pompano anglers will bounce small jigs on the bottom.

Fishing off of Bradenton beaches

Bradenton beaches offer good fishing for most of the year. Winter anglers catch whiting, silver trout, flounder, and other species from the beach as long as the water is clean. Live or fresh shrimp is tough to beat. Cold fronts and wind will stir up the surf and shut down the fishing.

Fishing in Bradenton Florida

Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish and other species will migrate along the surf in spring and fall. The key to this fishing is the abundance of bait fish. Shiny lures that mimic the bait will produce. Silver spoons, plugs, and jigs work well. Live bait anglers will net some shiners and do well. Live shrimp always produces.

Sight casting for snook is great sport in the summer. Snook, some of them quite large, will cruise the shoreline in the summer. Anglers cast small white jigs, plugs, and flies at these fish.

Wading in Bradenton

Anglers who don’t mind getting their feet wet will have great success Bradenton shore fishing. Several spots offer access to some very productive flats, especially on the south side of Tampa Bay. In fact, wading can be an advantage as many of these areas are too shallow for most boats.

Fishing in Bradenton Florida

Artificial lures are convenient for wade fishing. While live bait is certainly effective, it can be a nuisance dragging a bucket around. Topwater plugs are great fun early and late in the day. Weedless spoons work well on the shallow flats. Jigs produce on the edges where the grass drops off into deeper water.

Live bait is quite effective. A live shrimp fished under a popping cork will catch a lot of speckled trout along with other species. Free lining a shrimp will also work well.

Here is a list of the best Bradenton shore fishing spots.

Longboat Pass

Longboat Pass is a fantastic fishing spot! The pass lies at the south end of Anna Maria Island. Anglers can fish from shore on the breakwater or sea wall, as well as docks on the back side near the boat ramp. The jetty offers access to both the pass and the Gulf of Mexico. Beach anglers will do well on Snook in the summer and other species year round.

Cortez Rd Bridge

The Cortez Rd Bridge offers some very good fishing. This bridge is very close to Longboat Pass and has great current flow. Evening outgoing tides can be the best times to fish.

Bridge Street Pier

There is a nice public fishing pier at the east end of Bridge Street. Speckled trout and other inshore species are available. Parking can be an issue in the evening druring the busy times.


The beach that runs the entire length of Anna Maria Island provides excellent fishing most of the year. Public access is plentiful. Several small piers and rock jetties attract fish. Anglers need to give swimmers plenty of room. The best fishing is early and late anyway, when swimmers are less present.

Neal Preserve and Manatee Ave Bridge

This is a great area for anglers Bradenton shore fishing. Wade fishing is very popular with plenty of room for many anglers. The Manatee Ave Bridge is very good for bottom fish along with other species.

Palma Sola Causeway Park

This is another great area for anglers that wade fish. There is a ton of parking with room for a lot of anglers. It does get very busy with jet skis and such on weekends.

Bean Point

Bean Point is in a terrific location right at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Currents rip past the point making it a natural ambush point. Snook fishing can be outstanding in the summer. Anglers should be VERY careful here! Do not wade! Currents are strong and very dangerous.

Rod and Reel Pier

The Rod and Reel Pier on the north end of Anna Maria Island is in a strategic spot, with excellent tidal flow. This pier has a long and storied past with some great fishing at times. Spanish mackerel run past and the bite can be non-stop. Snook, sheepshead, snapper, pompano and other species are available at certain times of year.

Robinson Preserve

This is a small area that can hold snook and redfish.

Desoto Point

Desoto Point at the north end of Bradenton on the mainland offers great access for anglers wade fishing. Lush grass flats abound, with snook, redfish, and speckled trout being the most targeted species.

Riverwalk and Green Bridge

The Green Bridge is technically in Palmetto, but it is right across the Bus 41 Bridge from Bradenton. It offers good fishing, especially in the cooler months. The Riverwalk has a nice sea wall that anglers can fish from as well.

Fishing Bradenton Beach

Visiting anglers enjoy fishing Bradenton Beach. Plenty of fish are caught from the beach itself. In addition to “surf” fishing, there are numerous piers and bridges that produce as well.

Anglers fishing off of Bradenton Beach and casting into the Gulf of Mexico catch a wide variety of species. Like most fishing, it is seasonal, but something is biting all year long. Snook, speckled trout, silver trout, pompano, whiting, sheepshead, sharks, redfish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, snapper, grouper, flounder, and more are landed.

Conditions will often dictate when fishing off of the Bradenton Beaches will be productive. Ideal conditions are an east wind. This results in calm seas and clear water. Add in a high tide, and conditions are ideal. Conversely, a strong west wind will churn up the surf, making it silty and muddy. This is the time to avoid the surf and seek some cleaner water in the backwaters. This is particularly true in the winter when fronts are severe.

Surf fishing Bradenton Beach

When the surf has settled down, fishing Bradenton beaches is good in the winter. Whiting school up and a mess can be caught in short order. They are not large, but fun on light tackle. And, they are quite tasty! Pompano, sheepshead, silver trout, flounder, and other species will also be taken.

Spanish mackerel will move along Bradenton beaches in the spring and again in the fall. The key is bait, when the bait shows up in the surf, so with the mackerel. They will often times feed actively on the surface. This is exciting fishing as just about anything that gets cast into the frenzy will fool a fish. Ladyfish, bluefish, jacks, and other species will be landed as well.

Snook fishing can be outstanding in the summer! This is truly world class sight fishing. Anglers walk the beach while scanning the surf line for fish. Once sighted, a presentation is made. Hopefully, a take will ensue. Small jigs, flies, and plugs work best for a subtle presentation. Snook will spook in the very shallow water.

Longboat pass on the south end of Anna Maria Island and Bean Point at the north end offer great snook fishing. Strong current flows through both of these spots, especially Bean Pt. Anglers need to be VERY cautious! It is best to stay out of the water, currents are quite strong.

Fishing Bradenton bridges and piers

There are three bridges in Bradenton that offer good fishing. They are the Longboat Pass Bridge, Cortez Rd Bridge, and Manatee Ave Bridge. All three are very close to the beach. They are a good option when the surf is stirred up. They are also very good at night, especially on an outgoing tide.

Piers are another great option when fishing Bradenton Beach. Piers are very convenient as anglers do not need a fishing license if there is a fee to get on. (Anglers DO need a license to fish off of bridges and the shore line) Another cool feature is the availability of bait and tackle. This is not the case when bridge fishing. The Bridge Street Pier and Rod and Reel Pier both lie along Anna Maria Island.

The Rod and Reel Pier is in a great location on the north end of the island. It juts out into lower Tampa Bay. It is usually loaded with bait fish. Spanish mackerel runs can be legendary! Snook, snapper, sheepshead and other species will be caught as well.

The Sunshine Skyway pier is not in Bradenton. It is a short drive away. When a new bridge was constructed, they turned the old bridge into a fishing pier. It is a long pier which anglers can drive their cars on. It offers very good fishing and is worth the short ride.

Tackle and rigging for beach fishing

Tackle requirements for fishing Bradenton Beach and surrounding piers and bridges are quite basic. A 7′ spinning rod with a 3000 series reel spooled up with 15 pound monofilament of 30 lb braided line will get it done. Anglers fishing the surf can go a bit lighter as there is less structure for the fish to get around.

The best rig for fishing live bait off of the Bradenton beaches, bridges, and piers is the “fish finder” rig. A sliding egg sinker is placed on the running line. A small black swivel is then tied on. This lets the line pass through the sinker. Fish can pick up the boat and move off without feeling any weight.

A 24” piece of 30 lb leader is tied onto the swivel. A #1 or #2 live bait hook finishes off the rig. The weight is determined by the strength of the tide and water depth. Anglers should use the minimum amount of weight that will hold the bottom. Surf anglers need only a ¼ ounce weight. Many people surf fishing use heavy weights and cast too far. Most of the fish are fairly close to shore.

Fishing with live baits

The most popular and versatile bait is shrimp. Live shrimp is available at most bait shops and is pretty easy to keep alive, especially in cooler weather. Fresh dead shrimp will catch plenty of fish. Whiting and sheepshead will take a piece of shrimp. Frozen shrimp are the third choice.

Cut bait can be productive off the beaches as well. However, sometimes it catches the less desirable species. Catfish, rays, and skates like dead bait fished on the bottom. Top cut bait is squid, but any legal fish can be cut up and used for bait. It will catch small sharks off the beaches.

Sand fleas ( AKA mole crabs) are a specialized surf bait. They are very effective for a variety of species, but are most often associated with pompano. Sand fleas are caught right in the surf line with special rakes that sift out the sand and keep the sand fleas.

Fishing with artificial lures

Artificial lures have their place, especially when fishing off the beach. Lures can be a bit more challenging off of piers and bridges. Jigs are very effective as they mimic crabs and other crustaceans. Small bucktail jigs work well, as does the jig and grub combo. Anglers can “tip the jig”. This is placing a very small piece of shrimp on the jig hook. Kind of the best of both worlds.

Plugs and spoons are also productive artificial lures for Bradenton surf casters. They work especially well when mackerel are schooling just off the beaches. Both with catch snook and other species as well. I like the Rapala X-Rap in the #8 size in Ghost. ½ ounce silver spoons are a great choice as well and they cast a mile.

Fly anglers are not to be left out of the action! A 7wt or 8wt outfit with a sinking or sink tip line and a 9 foot tapered leader work well. The leader should have a 25lb bite tippet. Small white flies work well when the water is clear, especially for snook. A #1 Clouser, Crystal Minnow, or D.T. Special will get it done.

Bradenton bridge and pier fishing

Anglers can achieve success when Bradenton bridge pier fishing. There are three large bridges in Bradenton. All three of them offer productive fishing for a variety of species. There are three nice fishing piers as well that are good fishing spots.

Fishing Bradenton bridges

Bridges and piers are basically artificial reefs. They provide shade, structure, and attract bait fish and other Forge. They are man-made fish magnets. The best bridges and piers are low to the water, have old pilings with lots of barnacles, and hopefully some grass bottoms.

The Longboat Pass Bridge connects the south end of Anna Maria Island to the north end of Longboat Key. It is a fairly low bridge, making it good for anglers to fish off of. It is shallow on the south end and fairly deep in the channel.

The Cortez Rd Bridge connects the mainland with Anna Maria Island, just a bit north of Longboat Pass. The channel runs on the east side of the bridge. Lush grass flats exist on the west side of the bridge. It is also fairly low to the water.

The Manatee Avenue Bridge is the longest of the area bridges. It connects the mainland to Anna Maria Island at the northern third of the island. There are flats on both ends and the channel runs pretty much in the center of the bridge. There is a small channel on the west side of the bridge.

Fishing Bradenton piers

The Bridge Street Pier lies at the east end of Bridge Street. It juts out into the inland bay. It expands over some nice grass flats and is good for trout, sheepshead, and snapper. Anglers can purchase bait and tackle there. Parking can be an issue in the evening, especially on weekends and in the busy season.

The Rod and Reel Pier lies at the north end of Anna Maria Island. It is strategically located and just out into Tampa Bay. This area gets very good current flow. Bait and tackle is available. Just about all species are caught here but the Spanish mackerel runs can be fantastic.

While in Palmetto and not Bradenton, the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier is such a great spot, I feel it necessary to include it. The pier is part of the old bridge that connected The south mainland with St. Petersburg. It is right at the mouth of Tampa Bay and is a fantastic fishing spot. Bait and tackle are available. It is quite long and anglers can fish right next to their vehicle, which is quite convenient.

Bradenton bridge and pier techniques

Fishing from both bridges and piers is similar, so I will address them together. Anglers fishing from the bridge or pier will catch most of their fish by working live bait close to the pilings. Live shrimp are the easiest bait to obtain and use. They catch every species all year long.

The rig is pretty basic. Anglers use a 7 foot spinning rod with 20lb braided line. Monofilament line can be used, but braid is better around the structure. A sliding egg sinker is slid on the line, then a small black swivel is tied on. A 24” piece of 30lb flourocarbon leader it tied on the swivel and then a live bait hook is tied onto the other end of the leader. Weight is determined bu the current. Anglers will do best using the lightest weight that will hold bottom.

Whenever possible, anglers will do best fishing the up-current side of the bridge. This allows the boat to float naturally back under the bridge with the current. Game fish will position themselves behind the pilings and out of the current flow. They will then dart out and attack prey as it flows past them.

Bradenton bridge species

Many different species will be encountered when fishing from bridges and peers. Snook, redfish, trout, Pompano, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, flounder, sheepshead, snapper, and grouper are just some of the species that will be encountered. Fish caught will be determined by bait availability water conditions and time of year.

There are times when casting out away from the bridge or peer can be productive. This is particularly true in the more shallow ends of peers and bridges are grass flats exist. Fishing a live shrimp under a popping cork can produce in these instances. Often times a long cast is more desirable. The same goes if breaking fish are seen out away from the bridge. Anglers may need to get the bait or lower out away from the bridge to them.

Artificial lures do have a place for anglers fishing from bridges and peers. Jigs work well as they are heavy enough to sink down to the bottom. One issue with using lures is the distance between the water in the actual bridge or peer structure. Too long a distance will make using lures difficult. Heavier jigs and spoons are the best choice in this situation.

Fishing Bradenton bridges by boat

As in most fishing situations, anglers with a boat have an advantage. It is usually best when anchoring, to do so on the up current side of the structure. The bait can then be allowed to flow back naturally with the current to the waiting fish. The same rig used for bridge and peer fishing works fine from a boat.

During times when current flow is light, free lining a shrimp can be deadly. This means just looking the shrimp on with no weight or just a small split shot. This is a very natural presentation. This is an extremely effective method for catching snook at night!  Some captains run specialized fishing charters for snook at night.

Anglers with boats can also do well casting artificial lures. Since the boat is level with the surface of the water, it is much easier to control the slack in the line and get the lore down into the desired strike zone. Small plugs work very well, especially when baitfish is present around the bridge. Jigs with a shrimp tail bounced along the bottom can be deadly.

When practical, which basically means during times when boat traffic is low, drifting the fender systems can be extremely productive. Large snuck, Jack Gravelle, grouper, and other species will be caught doing this. Anglers can free line a live bait, cast shallow diving plugs, or bounce a jig along the bottom as they drift.

Safety first when fishing bridges!

It is important to be careful when fishing around bridges either from a boat or off the bridge itself. When fishing off the bridge, it is easy to forget that there are cars and traffic. Anglers must the cautious when fishing off the bridge. Also, heat any signs that restrict fisherman, especially fishing near the opening span. Boaters need to be prudent as well, staying away from the portion of the bridge that raises and being careful around the pilings.

Fishing license requirements can be a bit tricky. Anglers fishing from a boat need a Florida saltwater fishing license. Florida residents do need a license to fish from bridges. However, this license is free. Non residents need a license to fish from bridges. Free piers and docks, including the Bridge Street Pier are the same as bridges. Anglers require a license. Anglers fishing on piers that charge an admission fee do NOT need a license, the pier buys one that covers it’s guests.

Bradenton surf fishing

Many visiting anglers and joy Bradenton surf fishing. There’s something very enjoyable and relaxing about standing at the edge of the sea and casting into it. When conditions are right, sir fishing can be very productive.

Surf fishing and Bradenton can be as simple or as complicated as an angler chooses it to be. Surf casters can bait a hook with some shrimp and just relax while the rod sits in a sand spike. Or, they can work hard, walk several miles, and make a lot of casts. Either way will produce fish.

Surf fishing off of the Bradenton beaches can be good in the winter. However, it all depends on the weather. Strong fronts will bring high winds. The beach will be rough and the water “dirty” from the churned-up sand. Fishing is not good under these conditions.

The wind will shift north east after the front moves through. The beach will calm down and clear up after a couple of days. That is the time to fish! Whiting are usually plentiful in the cooler months. They love shrimp and will hit a small piece fished on the bottom. Silver trout, sheepshead, pompano, and flounder will also be caught.

Tackle and rigging for surf fishing

The best outfit for Bradenton surf fishing is a 7′ spinning rod with 10lb monofilament or 20 braided line. Unlike surf fishing off the Atlantic beaches, long rods and long casts are not required. In fact, many novice surf fishermen cast too far out! Most of the fish are within twenty feet of shore, in the first trough.

The rig for surf fishing with shrimp, sand fleas, or cut bait is simple. It works great all year long, but especially so in the cooler months. A light sliding egg sinker is threaded on the main line. Then, a 24” piece of 20 lb shock leader is tied on the end of the line using a small black swivel. The swivel keeps the sinker from sliding down to the hook. A #4 live bait hook completes the rig. Anglers should use just enough weight to hold bottom. A ¼ ounce to ½ ounce sinker is perfect.

Another option for surf anglers is to use a ¼ ounce jig head with a small hook. This is very convenient as the weight and hook is all in one unit. The sliding weight is then omitted. This also allows the angler to switch to a grub on the jig if so desired.

Bradenton Surf fishing techniques

The technique is the same for both rigs. The hook is baited with either a small shrimp, a piece of shrimp, sand flea, or piece of cut bait. Shrimp are best in the winter. Cut bait works and stays on the hook, but can attract catfish and skates. Serious anglers catch sand fleas with a special rake. They are very good baits, but more difficult to obtain.

Once baited, the rig is cast out twenty or thirty feet. The bait may sit on the bottom or move a bit with the current. Either situation is fine. Anglers can hold the rod or place them in a sand spike. Sand spikes allow anglers to fish more than one rod at a time. However, when the bite is on, it is best to hold the rod.

Artificial lures are also productive for Bradenton surf anglers. They allow anglers to cover a lot of the beach as they walk along. Also, there is not the hassle of acquiring live bait and keeping it alive. Jigs, plugs, and spoons are the top lures. The best approach is to make several casts and then move several steps and repeat.

Artificial lures in the surf

Jigs work very well in the surf year round. A ¼ ounce jig head with a soft plastic grub body is very productive. Light colors work best when the water is clear. White, pearl, and chartreuse are good choices. Small buck tail jigs are quite effective as well. White is the best color for buck tail jigs.

One little trick is to “tip the jig”. This involves putting a small piece of shrimp on the tip of the jig. The shrimp piece needs to be small, about the size of a pea. Too large a piece will ruin the action of the jig. The lure is then cast out, allowed to sink, and retrieved back using a series of small hops.

Fishing with spoons and plugs in the surf

Silver spoons are another effective lure for surf fishermen. They cast a long way and are a great option when fish are schooling off the beach. !/2 ounce is the best all round size. Spoons work great on Spanish mackerel and ladyfish in the spring and fall. They can be reeled in fast and steady or erratically.

Plugs are another very good artificial lure in the surf. The lure needs to be relatively small to match the bait fish that are present. The # 8 Rapala X-Rap in Ghost (white) is a proven beach lure. Anglers can fan cast the area or cast it to breaking fish. It should be brought back in using a “twitch and pause” retrieve.

Fly anglers are certainly not to be left out of surf fishing. The best outfit for this is a 7wt or 8wt rod with an intermediate sink tip line. A 9′ tapered leader with a short 20lb to 30lb bite tippet finishes off the rig.

Beach snook fishing in Bradenton

Bradenton beaches offer anglers the opportunity for some world class sight fishing for snook. This is great sport! Anglers will catch some large snook using fairly light tackle. Plugs and small jigs work best. Fly anglers score using small, white bait fish patterns.

The technique is straight forward. Anglers walk along the beach and look for snook in the surf line. Once fish are sighted, the lure or fly is cast out a few feet ahead of the fish. Snook will be seen alone or in small schools. Any structure such as a pier, rocks, or sea wall are worth a cast or two. Bean Point on the north end of Anna Maria Island is a great spot, just be careful of the strong tides!

Live and cut bait fishing in Bradenton, Florida

Many anglers prefer to use live bait when fishing. The reasons are fairly obvious, fish like the real thing. The best Bradenton fishing baits are shrimp, pin fish, grunts, scaled sardines, threadfin herring, and sand fleas.

Best Bradenton fishing baits

Shrimp are by far the most popular live bait in Bradenton and really the entire state of Florida. They are the nightcrawler of saltwater, catching every species that swims. Shrimp are also available year-round. Most shrimp are purchased at bait shops, though some anglers to catch their own.

Shrimp are incredibly versatile. They are effective and just about every fishing situation. In most instances, the shrimp is hooked near the head through the horn, keeping the shrimp lively. This is the preferred method for fishing over the grass flats, either free lining shrimp or under a cork. Both methods work well when either waiting a grass flat or fishing from a boat.

Free lining shrimp is a very natural presentation. A shrimp with just a hook and it and no weight will swim naturally in the current. This is very attractive to game fish. Free lining shrimp works very well over grass flats that are 6 feet or deeper. And water shallower than 6 feet, the shrimp will tend to get down into the grass.

Shrimp can be free line either from a drifting boat or an anchored boat. When drifting a flat, having the shrimp drift out a good distance behind the boat is very effective. If it is breezy and the boat is moving quickly, a small split shot can be added.

Fishing techniques when using shrimp

Free lining live shrimp also works very well from an anchored boat. Generally the best approach is to anchor in deep water and cast the shrimp out towards the edge of a bar or flat. If current is present, casting up current and allowing the shrimp to flow naturally with the tide is very effective and productive.

Many of fish has been caught using a live shrimp under a popping cork. Most anglers have fished with a bobber and a warm at one time in their lives, this is very similar. The shrimp is hooked onto a number one live bait hook than a popping cork is added 3 feet above the hook. A popping cork has a concave face which when twitched sharply a minutes a loud pop. This imitates feeding fish and will call game fish to the shrimp.

Bottom fishing with shrimp is extremely productive. Anglers use a number 10 live bait hook and just enough weight to hold the bottom. Shrimp can be hooked through the horn as mentioned above, but for snapper and sheepshead threading the shrimp on can result in more hookups. Sheepshead especially are great at nibbling the bait off. Fresh dad and even frozen shrimp works fine in this application.

Snook and redfish love a nice lively shrimp! Anglers fishing lighted docks and bridges at night do very well using live shrimp. Shrimp are just as effective in the daytime fished around docs and other structure. They can also be used on the shallow flats in potholes and along the edges of oyster bars.

Fishing in Bradenton with pinfish and grunts

Pin fished are next in line on the list of best Bradenton fishing baits. Pin fish can be purchased at bait shops, but they are very easy to catch on the flats. They are so numerous in the summer time they are actually a nuisance. Anglers can either cast net over a shallow grass flat or use a small hook in a piece of shrimp. Either method should put a couple dozen pin fish in the well.

Larger live bait fish such as pin fish generally won’t produce as much as shrimp in terms of action. However, they will oftentimes catch larger fish. A 3 inch live pin fish fished under a cork is deadly on the deep grass flats. Pin fish will not only catch the largest trout specimens, they will also fool cobia sharks, and even tarpon.

Pin fish are also deadly on snook when fished around mangrove shorelines. Oyster bars that drop off into deeper water are prime spots as well. This is best on the high tide stages. Redfish, jack crevelle, and other species will also hit a live pin fish.

Grunts are a terrific live bait fish

Pin fish work well fished around deeper structure such as docks, bridges, and structure in the passes. Not only will snook take a live pin fish there are some large gag grouper that reside in the spots and will take a lively pin fish as well. Anglers will need to beef up their tackle for this type of fishing. Heavier tackle in the 20 pound range will be required to winch a larger fish away from the structure.

Grunts, also known as pig fish in some areas, are an outstanding live bait! A lively 2 1/2 inch grunt practically guarantees an angler a nice keeper trout. They are fish in exactly the same method as pin fish. Snook love them as well, as do most all other game fish.

Grunts are a little more difficult to catch and keep alive. They seem to be more plentiful in the Sarasota area in mid to late summer. The key is catching the right sized grunts. It is not difficult to catch four and 5 inch grunts, but those can be a bit large for trout on the flats. Some bait shops to sell grunts as well.

Fishing in Bradenton Florida with pilchards, whitebait and shiners

Scaled sardines are a tremendous bait for Bradenton anglers. Scaled sardines, also known as pilchards, white bait, and shiners, are caught using cast nets. This is a bit of a specialized to technique. It requires a cast net, the ability to throw it, in a large recirculating live well. But, the effort is well worth it.

Scaled sardines are caught both on the shallow grass flats and out on the beaches near the surf. The best grass flats are usually those just inside the passes. Some days, especially within incoming tide, the bait can be seen dimpled up on the surface. This makes them easy to locate and catch. On breezy days, cloudy days, or on an outgoing tide, the bait fish will be much more difficult to locate. The best bet under these conditions is to anchor up and chum the bait fish and close. A mixture of tuna cat food, canned mackerel, or even commercially available fish food will draw them in.

Live bait chumming with shiners

Often time captains on fishing charters will catch hundreds of scaled sardines. This is so that they can then chum on the flats or along mangrove shorelines. This is an incredibly effective technique! The boat is anchored in position, whether it is a flat or a nice shoreline, and then a few handfuls of live bait is thrown into the water. Some anglers squeeze them, crippling them so that they are even more attractive to the game fish. If the game fish are around, it won’t be long before there popping the freebies out behind the boat. Anglers then hook on a bait and cast it out behind the boat.

Threadfin herring are another small, shiny bait fish. While similar in appearance to the scaled sardine, they have a smaller mouth and a little black spot near the Gill. Some anglers refer to them as greenbacks. Threadfin herring will usually not respond to chum. Anglers will need to cast net them visually, either seeing them dimpling on the surface or swimming and schools in the water.

While very effective baits, they are not nearly as hardy as the scaled sardines. Their scales will come off quite easily in the cast net and in the bait well. Despite this, they are fantastic live baits. Larger specimens are deadly on snook. They are also very popular baits for nearshore golf anglers targeting king mackerel.

Fishing in Bradenton with sand fleas

Sand fleas, their true name being mole crabs, are a specialized bait prized by surf anglers. They are caught in the surf line using a special rake, jokingly turned a Florida snow shovel. Sand fleas are about the size of your thumbnail. They are a very good bait for Pompano, sheepshead, whiting, and other species.

Once caught, sand fleas are easy to keep alive in a bucket of sand with a little bit of water. They can also be frozen and used at a later date, though as in most bait fishing, fresh live baits are best. Surf anglers will use a small number two or number for hook and just enough weight to get out into the trough. Pompano in particular find them irresistible.

Sand fleas are also very good for sheepshead. Sheepshead are found near some type of structure. Docks, bridges, seawalls, and submerged rocks will all hold sheepshead. A sand flea fished on the bottom will seldom be refused if sheepshead are in the area.  Please check the Florida FWC website for all license requirements and fishing regulations.

Best 7 Lido Key Fishing Spots

Best 7 Lido Key Fishing Spots

This article will share the Best 7 Lido Key fishing spots. Lido Key offers anglers a wide variety of fishing opportunities!

Lido Key is a barrier island that lies just west of the resort town of Sarasota, Florida. St. Armand’s Circle is famous for its restaurants and shopping. The fantastic beaches of Lido Key attract many tourists as well. Lido Key is surrounded by waters that offer excellent fishing! Sarasota Bay lies to the east and the Gulf of Mexico lies to the west. Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass connect these bodies of water. Lido Key offers anglers excellent fishing all year long.

Best 7 Lido Key Fishing Spots

Capt. Jim Klopfer has been a full-time fishing guide in Sarasota since 1991. He fishes hundreds of days a year and is very familiar with all of the best fishing spots. He will share these in this article. These are the actual spots that he fishes daily on his Lido Key fishing charters.

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 can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

Ken Thompson Park

Ken Thompson Park is number one on the list of the best 7 Lido Key fishing spots. While not on Lido Key, it is very close. The park offers anglers several different fishing options in both location and technique. New Pass Bait and Tackle shop is on the left just as you pull in. There is also a very nice boat ramp for anglers who bring their own boat. The ramp is also a good place for charter boat captains to pick up their clients.

There are several public docks on the north side of Ken Thompson Park. These are very accessible with parking close by. There is a covered picnic table as well. These piers jut out into New Pass. The water is quite deep here, by Florida standards. Also, the current flow is strong when the tide is running. Anglers can fish the submerged structure with live or frozen shrimp for variety of species. Spanish mackerel will be caught out in the middle of the channel as well by anglers drifting shrimp or casting spoons.

Shallow grass flats expand out from the south and east side of Ken Thompson Park. There is excellent parking as well as a very nice restroom. A playground will give young children a break from the fishing. The best approach at this spot is to wade out into the shallow grass flats in search of speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. Soft plastic jigs and live shrimp under a popping cork are the best bets.

Overlook Park on Longboat Key

Overlook Park is a very nice park at the very southern tip of Longboat Key, just across the New Pass Bridge. There is excellent parking very close to the fishing area. It is third on the list of the best 7 Lido Key fishing spots. Anglers can cast out into New Pass and fish for Spanish mackerel and pompano. They can also reach the bridge pilings and fish for sheepshead and snapper. Anglers who prefer to wade will do well working their way east along the shallow grass flat towards the point. Live shrimp or bait fish produce at the spot.

North Lido Beach

North Lido Beach Park can be an excellent fishing spot! It is next on the list of the seven best Lido Key fishing spots. Anglers will have to walk a little bit to reach this spot from the public parking area. It is probably a 10 minute walk. This section of New Pass is shallow with a lot of sandbars. These are prime areas for the desirable pompano, as well as Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, and other species. Jigs, spoons, and live bait all work well. Anglers should keep a sharp eye out for bait fish as well as fish working on the surface.

CAUTION: Anglers need to be very careful when waiting here, the tides are quite swift!

Lido Key Public Beach

The public beach on Lido Key offers some great fishing opportunities and is number four on the list of seven best Lido Key fishing spots. Anglers must avoid the prime swimming times and give way to anyone swimming in the water. Therefore, the spot is best fish early and late in the day. In the cooler months, whiting, sheepshead, flounder and other species will take a shrimp fished on the bottom. Artificial lures such as plugs, jigs, and spoons will produce ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, and more.

South Lido Beach

South Lido Beach is a fantastic fishing hole! It gives anglers access to the beach on the Gulf of Mexico, Big Sarasota Pass, and some excellent grass flats as well. This is probably the best fishing spot on Lido Key for anglers without a boat. There is excellent parking, facilities, a snack bar, a playground, and picnic tables in the shade. South Lido Park is number five on the list of the best 7 Lido Key fishing spots.

Most anglers who fish South Lido Park go straight to the southwest point. This is an excellent fishing spot as the tide has cut a deep channel very close to shore. Fish such as pompano, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, jacks, snook, and more will migrate through these cuts. Both live bait and artificial lures will produce here. Anglers can also work their way north and fish the beach.

CAUTION: wading is prohibited at this spot, as occurrence are quite swift!

As anglers work their way east along the shoreline, the water gets quite deep close to shore. Anglers do well all along this stretch fishing live bait on the bottom as well as casting artificial lures. It is best to fish the spot at the turn of the tide when currents are not quite as swift.

At the far east end of this area, the pass gives way to shallow grass flats. These are outstanding spots to wade for speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. A soft plastic bait on a 1/4 ounce jig head works well as does live shrimp either free lined or fished under a float.

South Lido Nature Park and kayak launch

This park is located at is most often used by kayakers and is number six on the list of best 7 Lido Key fishing spots. There is an excellent launching area for anglers who have their own kayak. This is a large area of very shallow grass with some deeper holes to the north. Parking is good and there are facilities. Anglers can wade these flats, though the bottom tends to be a bit muckier then does the spots closer to the passes. Speckled trout, redfish, and snook will be found in the potholes and edges of the flats.

Ringling Bridge Causeway Park

The Ringling Bridge Causeway Park is last on the list of the seven best Lido Key fishing spots. It is an excellent spot and offers anglers several different options. There is plenty of parking close to the water as well as portable restrooms. Anglers can wade the flats on the north side of the park. A deep channel runs through this area just a short ways offshore. The best approach is to wade out near the edge and fish the drop off with jigs or live shrimp.

Anglers can also access both the Ringling bridge and the twin bridges from this part. Anglers are prohibited from fishing off of either bridge. However, they can fish underneath these bridges and cast towards the pilings. Live shrimp fished on the bottom will produce sheepshead, snapper, jacks, snook, mackerel, ladyfish, and other species. A bait shop, Hart’s Landing, is on the mainland side of the bridge.

In conclusion, this article on the seven best Lido Key fishing spots will help visiting anglers be more productive when in Sarasota!

Bradenton Florida Fishing Forecast

Bradenton Florida Fishing Forecast

My Bradenton Florida fishing forecast will give visiting anglers an idea of what they can expect when they come down to fish. While every year is different, most seasonal patterns hold up over time. This forecast is based on over 25 years experience as a full-time fishing guide running fishing charters. Hopefully, it will help you catch more fish!


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.

Bradenton Florida winter fishing forecast

Bradenton fishing forecast

Winter fishing in Bradenton is all about the weather, pure and simple. The severity of our winter has a huge impact on the fishing. Unseasonably warm winters will result in fish maintaining their fall patterns. Conversely, a severe winter will accentuate the winter patterns.

So, let’s look at an average Florida winter. As it cools off, snook will move up into the creeks and canals. Snook are very temperature sensitive and cannot tolerate water temperature in the mid 50s for very long. Jack crevelle and other species will move into the same areas.

There are several techniques anglers can use in these creeks and canals to catch snook, jack crevalle, and other species. Trolling shallow diving plugs is a great technique to locate fish. Casting the same plugs to docks and other fish holding structure will produce as well. A large, live shrimp is always a great bait. Sheepshead, snapper, drum, and flounder will also be taken using shrimp.

Look for clean water

The primary influence that anglers must take into account is the effect that strong front side. Strong fronts will have high winds which will churn up the Gulf of Mexico. This will result in dirty water, (that means silty and muddy) which fish do not like. Incoming tides will bring this water into the passes and out onto the flats.

When this occurs, anglers will need to look for clean water. This generally means flats and bays a bit away from the passes. After the front passes, wins will settle down in the Gulf will clear up. This will result in good fishing in the passes and on the productive flats near the passes.

The best technique to use when fishing the passes and grass flats is to drift. Anglers drift along with the tide and wind, casting lures or live baits out in search of fish. A 1/4 ounce jig and grub combo is an excellent lore in both the passes and on the flats. A live shrimp either free line and over the flats or hooked on a jig head in the passes is also very productive. Speckled trout, bluefish, Pompano, jacks, ladyfish, and Spanish mackerel are all available.

Sheepshead are a much targeted species in the winter and Bradenton. Bridges, docks, oyster bars, and Rocky shorelines will all hold these tasty saltwater panfish. A live, fresh dead, or frozen shrimp is a great all round bait. Some anglers do prefer sand fleas and fiddler crabs, though these are a bit more difficult to obtain. This is simple bottom fishing with a hook and just enough weight to hold the bottom. Mangrove snapper and other species will be taken as well.

Spring fishing forecast for Bradenton

Bradenton fishing forecast

Spring is a fantastic time to be fishing in Bradenton, Florida. Just about every species is available at this time of year. Cold fronts are less frequent and the water temperature is rising. Flats fishing is very good and snook are moving out of their winter hunts. By the end of spring, even tarpon will be showing up.

As the water temperature rises, snook move out of the creeks and canals and scatter out onto the flats. This is a great time to fish for them as they are in a mood to feed. Shallow flats on the east side of Sarasota Bay and at the North and of Bradenton and South Tampa Bay are terrific spots to fish. The spots have a nice mixture of deep grass which holds speckled trout, mackerel, bluefish, Pompano and other species.

Anglers can also choose to fish shallow water for snook and redfish. Shallow flats with potholes, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines with a little bit of depth will hold these fish. Low tides will concentrate the fish into potholes on the flats. These are small depressions that are slightly deeper than the surrounding grass. Oyster bars and mangrove shorelines produce well on the higher tide stages.

Both lures and live bait produce in Bradenton

Both live bait and artificial lures produce on the flats and springtime. Lures are a good choice for anglers, allowing them to cover a lot of water and eliminate unproductive spots. Top water plugs, weedless spoons, and light jig heads with a soft plastic bait are good choices in the shallow water. Jigs, silver spoons, and suspending plugs work well in the deeper water.

Live shrimp are a great all round bait on the flats as well. They can be fished under a float or free line doubt with no weight. Large schools of small bait fish, locally known as shiners, white bait, or greenbacks, show up in the spring. The sunshine Skyway bridge is usually loaded with bait. Anglers fill their well with live bait, then use it to chum the fish into range. This is an incredibly productive technique on both the shallow and deep flats.

The inshore Gulf of Mexico off of the Bradenton beaches comes alive this time of year. Schools of Spanish mackerel and false albacore migrate north following the forage bait fish. This is great fun is there is often surface action! These fish can be taken trolling fast-moving lures such as spoons jigs and plugs, on fly, and will certainly hit a live bait.

Summer Bradenton Florida fishing forecast

fishing in Bradenton Florida

Many Bradenton anglers associate summer with tarpon fishing. The silver king moves into the area and late spring and by summer they are here and large numbers. There are several ways to fish for tarpon. Anglers can sight cast for them off the beaches, anchor up and fish live and dead baits, and drift the channels on the outgoing tides. This is truly world-class fishing.

Snook move out of the flats and into the passes and out on the beaches and summer. They do this as part of their spawning ritual. Structure and Longboat pass including the bridge, along with the small jetties and peers on the beaches will hold snook all summer long. Anglers can also cite cast to snook while walking the surf line.

Live bait and heavy tackle is the way to go when fishing bridges and other heavy structure for summertime snook. These are large fish and heavy tackle is required to get them out of the structure. A large live shrimp or hand sized live pin fish are grunt are the top baits. Anglers walking the beach do well the small white Lures such as a quarter ounce buck tail jig, small plug, or on fly.

Fish the flats early in the morning

Flats fishing can still be good in the summer the tactics need to change. It is very hot and it is usually an early bite. Water temperatures on the flats can often reach 90° by mid day. Artificial lures can be used at first light, but the most consistent fishing will be had by anglers using live bait. White bait is thick and easy to obtain. Chumming the edges of deep flats will produce both action and variety.

Many anglers choose to fish at night during the summer. This is a great strategy as it is much cooler at night and many species of fish feed heavily in the dark hours. Snook in particular are notorious night feeders, lighted docks and area bridges are top spots. A live shrimp is a great bait choice and will catch mangrove snapper and other species as well.

Fall Bradenton Florida fishing forecast

Bradenton fishing forecast

Fall is probably my favorite time to fish and Bradenton, Florida. The weather is stable and very comfortable, and the bays and beaches uncrowded. The fishing pattern basically reverses itself from spring. Snook move back into the inland bays. Action on the deep flats as good as the water cools off. Spanish mackerel and false albacore move back through on their way south.

When conditions are right, I spend a lot of my time in the fall out on the beach. The surface action for Spanish mackerel and false albacore is generally more reliable in the fall as weather patterns are more stable. This action can often last from mid-October up through Christmas. Casting lures and flies into schools of breaking fish is very exciting!

Action on the deep flats will be very good for speckled trout and other species. Both lures and live baits will be productive. Shallow water fishing for snook in redfish should be very good as well. Redfish school up in late summer and early fall. These are large schools of fish in the 30 inch range. They can be caught in shallow water as they feed before moving out into the Gulf of Mexico. Snook will be caught in the same spots as well.

I hope anglers reading this found my Bradenton fishing forecast useful and helpful! Feel free to call or email me for reports or other information.

17 Best Bradenton Fishing Spots

17 Best Bradenton fishing spots

Here is a comprehensive list of my 17 Best Bradenton fishing spots! Bradenton lies in a strategically advantageous spot on the south end of Tampa Bay. It offers anglers a wide variety of fishing opportunities.

The best approach for fishing the deep flats is to drift while casting lures or live bait. Once a school is located, anglers can anchor up and work that spot thoroughly. Anglers fishing the shallow flats cast topwater plugs and weedless spoons and jigs. It is a bit more challenging keeping the bait out of the shallow grass. Waders do well here as to fishermen in shall draft boats and kayaks.

Reefs, bridges, piers, and other structure provide structure that attracts bottom fish. Sheepshead, grouper, snapper, flounder, drum, sea bass and other species will be found in these spots. Live shrimp fished on the bottom will catch them up.

Florida fishing license requirements can be a bit complicated. Out of state anglers need a license to fish, unless they are on a pier that has a license. Guests fishing the Rod and Reel Pier, Bridge Street Pier, and Sunshine Skyway Pier do not need a license. Florida residents need a license to fish from shore, but it is free. Check HERE for license requirements.

17 best Bradenton fishing spots

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.

#1 Bradenton fishing spot; NORTH SARASOTA BAY

the grass flats in north Sarasota Bay provide anglers with some prime shallow water inshore fishing. Lush grass flats north of Long Bar to Cortez on the east side of Sarasota Bay are very good for trout, snook, and redfish. Deeper flats closer to the Intracoastal Waterway are good for trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, and other species.

#2 Bradenton fishing spot; LONGBOAT PASS

Longboat Pass is a very good fishing spot in Bradenton. It connects the Gulf of Mexico with the north end of Sarasota Bay. Shore anglers can fish the pass from the bulkhead, docks, or the rock jetty. They can also fish from the bridge. Anglers with boats will do well drifting the pass for pompano and fishing the bridge pilings for snapper and sheepshead. Spanish mackerel will school up at the mouth of the pass, especially on an outgoing tide. There is a boat ramp as well.


Anglers can fish both the Bridge Street Pier and Cortez Rd Bridge for a variety of species. Snook, redfish, sheepshead, snapper, pompano, mackerel, ladyfish, flounder, grouper, ladyfish and other species will be attracted to the structure. The Cortez Rd Bridge is a terrific night snook spot on a falling tide. Nice grass flats surround the Bridge Street Pier.

#4 Bradenton fishing spot; PALMA SOLA BAY

Palma Sola Bay is another good Bradenton fishing spot. It is shallow with some deeper holes. Speckled trout will gang up here in the winter. The action can be fantastic when a school is located! Snook and redfish will also be found here. Shore bound anglers can access the area from the causeway on Manatee Ave. They can fish from shore or wade. Kayak anglers have a great launching area and Palma Sola Bay is protected from a north wind.

#5 Bradenton fishing spot; MANATEE AVE BRIDGE

The Manatee Ave Bridge crosses Anna Maria Sound and provides anglers a platform from which to fish. The same species that are caught at the Cortez Rd Bridge are found here as well. It is a bit longer with nice grass flats on both sides. It has excellent tidal flow, is relatively low to the water and is a very good fishing bridge.

#6 Bradenton fishing spot; BEACHES

The Anna Maria beaches offer great fishing for surf anglers. Whiting, silver trout, sheepshead, pompano, Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, flounder, and other species are landed there all year. Snook fishing can be terrific in the summer time. There are many access points for the public to fish the beaches.

#7 Bradenton fishing spot; INSHORE ARTIFICIAL REEFS

Several inshore reefs were constructed in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Bradenton beaches. There are fish magnets in the otherwise barren Gulf of Mexico floor. Bottom fish are caught along with pelagic species such as mackerel and false albacore.

3 Mile North Reef 27.29.99 82.47.00

1 Mile North Reef 27.29.41 82.44.99

Near Shore Reef 27.26.99 82.41.83

3 Mile South Reef 27.26.56 82.44.85

#8 Bradenton fishing spot; ANNA MARIA SOUND

Anna Maria Sound has some great grass flats, both shallow and deep, that offer good fishing for just about every inshore species. The Sound empties into Tampa Bay. The area gets very good current flow

#9 Bradenton fishing spot; BEAN POINT

Bean Point sits in an ideal location for fishing. Current flow is very strong as it sweeps around the point. Snook fishing is very good in the summer. Tarpon fishing is world class from May through July. Permit will be found there as well. Spanish mackerel and pompano are caught in Passage Key Pass.

#10 Bradenton fishing spot; ROD AND REEL PIER

The Rod and Reel Pier is the best fishing pier in Bradenton. It sits along the north end of Anna Maria Island and sticks out into Tampa Bay. Bait fish are attracted to the pier and this in turn attracts the game fish. Snook, sheepshead, snapper, drum, and mackerel are just a few of the available species. Anglers can get bait and tackle here as well.

#11 Bradenton fishing spot; THE BULKHEAD

The Bulkhead is a famous Bradenton fishing spot. Local charter boat captains fill their livewells with bait fish here. Sloping grass points create current breaks. The entire area has gorgeous grass flats. The Bulkhead Artificial Reef lies at 27.33.19 82.42.37


The Southeast Tampa artificial reef sits in a great spot just off the mouth of Anna Maria Sound. It attracts bottom fish such as sheepshead, snapper, flounder, grouper, and other species. Spanish mackerel and ladyfish will also be found on top of the structure.


Desoto National Memorial Park is one of the best sods to wade in Bradenton. Shallow flats extend out into the Manatee River right near the mouth. Snook, redfish, and speckled trout can be caught in the lush grass. Low, incoming tides are best. This is also a good spot for kayak anglers to launch their crafts and fish.


Emerson Point lies on the north side of the mouth of the Manatee River. A long sloping point with shallow water and nice grass result is a good spot for wading anglers as well as thos in shallow draft flats boats. Redfish, snook, trout, snapper, and mackerel are usually present. The shallow flats gradually drop off into slightly deeper water. These are very good trout flats.


The Manatee River has some very good fishing. In the warmer months, fish will be found near the mouth of the river at Emerson Point and the Bulkhead. As it cools off, fish will move up into the river. Anglers can fish from the Green Bridge Pier. In winter, snook and jack crevalle will move all the way up the river into the brackish portions. There are nice boat ramps at Green Bridge Pier and Warner’s Bayou.


Terra Ceia is a great fishing spot! It has a nice combination of shallow flats, mangrove shorelines, and some deeper flats. A nice shallow bar at the mouth offers good sight fishing. Edges of the bar are good for speckled trout and other species. Snook will push up into the upper end in winter. This really is a cool little bay with some very good fishing!

#17 SUNSHINE SKYWAY PIER (not pictured)

While not in Bradenton, the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier is a short drive away and can be a fantastic fishing spot for anglers without a boat. Cars are allowed to drive on it, making it convenient. There is no need to carry a bunch of gear a long way. Bait and tackle are available. Just about every Tampa Bay fish species will be caught here at one time of year, depending on conditions.

In conclusion, this list of the 17 best Bradenton fishing spots will help anglers find, and catch, more fish!

Top Sarasota Resorts

Top Sarasota Resorts and Restaurants

This post will list the top Sarasota resorts and restaurants. Lido Key is a barrier island on the west coast of Florida. It lies just offshore of Sarasota, and an hour south of Tampa Bay. Lido Key is a famous tourist destination. It offers something for everyone and is very family oriented. The beaches are world class. Big Pass and New Pass separate Lido Key from Siesta Key to the south and Longboat Key to the north.

Lido Key is in a perfect location! If offers visitors access to the Gulf beaches and Sarasota Bay while being just minutes from downtown Sarasota. After enjoying a day at the beach, guests can savor a meal at one of the many restaurants on St.Armand’s Circle. Window shopping on an after dinner stroll is a popular activity. Downtown Sarasota offers food, entertainment, live theater, museums, and more and is a very short drive away. Mote Marine is a few miles to the north and is a great place to spend a day with the family.

Siesta Key lies on the southern end of Sarasota and is world famous for it’s white sand beaches. It also has terrific shopping and restaurants. It is a very family friendly destination that offers all of the Florida beach activities.

Top Sarasota Resorts

Tropical Breeze Resort

The Tropical Breeze Resort is a private, boutique resort located in the heart of Siesta Key with plenty of parking for guests and great things to do on the resort grounds. Over the past few years, the resort has received major renovations to provide quality stays for each guest and increase the amenities our resort could provide.

Now, guests can explore the lush garden landscaping, relax by the pool in rocking chairs or grill in the shade of the palm trees. And the best part? The resort is for families! We provide games and frequently have events on resort grounds for both kids and their parents. We make it easy to relax and have fun, and partner with several local companies that provide adventure tours such as kayak excursions or charter fishing for easy vacation planning when you arrive on Siesta Key.

Do you need more space than a typical hotel or resort room? Check out private vacation homes with Siesta Key Luxury Rental Properties and Lido Key Vacations. Most of these homes come with private heated pools and spas, and other amazing amenities like pool slides, roof top decks, water access, Gulf views and more!


Sandcastle Resort at Lido Key


Kick up your feet in the comfortable rooms and suites at Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach. In addition to our well-appointed standard accommodations, we offer junior, deluxe, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites with additional amenities to accommodate groups for longer stays.

Whether you choose a standard room for your rewarding beach getaway or reserve a two-bedroom suite with 2.5 bathrooms and a private patio, indulge in a refreshing stay with modern conveniences. Sink into plush bedding when it comes time to retire after an exciting day. Stay well-connected to our high-speed Wi-Fi so you can upload photos of your Florida adventures with ease. And, no matter where your room is located, enjoy views of the courtyard, pool, hotel property or Gulf of Mexico.


During the evening, relax with a cocktail in our lounge and enjoy a masterfully prepared meal in the Candlelight Dining Room. Our diverse menu and daily specials will please guests with even the most discriminating of appetites. Because it is difficult to leave the beautiful beach and pool area for refreshments, our Pool Bar is open from 11:30 a.m. until dusk daily and serves cocktails and a light menu. Enjoy breakfast in bed or a lazy day lunch right from your room. Our in room dining menu is full of delicious bites for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Coquina on the Beach

Your ideal choice for Sarasota Hotels, the Coquina on the Beach Resort Sarasota provides lodging on Lido Key near St. Armands circle and directly on beautiful Lido Beach.

We are a pet friendly hotel conveniently located near area attractions such as the Mote Marine Aquarium, John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Asolo Theatre, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and Ed Smith stadium as well as area businesses like Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

If a taste of the tropics is what you crave, Coquina on the Beach is sure to satisfy your every desire.

Nestled amidst swaying palm trees and white sand beaches, this resort, located directly on Lido Beach, features all the amenities for a relaxing tropical vacation get-a-way.

Wake to an invigorating swim in the beachside pool. Tantalize your senses white shopping or dining at the world famous St. Armand’s Circle. Take a carefree stroll on the beach or relax under a beach cabana. And for those in the mood for romance, the Coquina is a great place to capture a memorable sunset.