Best 11 Sarasota Fishing Reefs
This is a list of the best 11 Sarasota fishing reefs. These Sarasota fishing reefs are all located in Sarasota Bay and the inshore Gulf of Mexico.
Sarasota County has an extensive reef program. While many of these reefs are miles offshore, there are plenty of Sarasota fishing reefs available to anglers with small boats. This article will focus on those reefs in Sarasota Bay and within a couple miles of the beaches. These reefs provide excellent fishing action on a variety of species all year long.
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Sarasota Bay fishing reefs
There are eight artificial reefs in Sarasota Bay. Most of these Sarasota artificial reefs are in water around 10 feet deep. This optimizes the amount of species that will inhabit the reefs. All of these reefs will hold bottom fish such as mangrove snapper, sheepshead, and grouper. They will also attract pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel and bluefish at times.
Most anglers choose to anchor when fishing these Sarasota fishing reefs. For the most part, they are small areas. This makes anchoring a more practical approach. Live bait is most often used, but frozen shrimp or cut bait can be effective as well. These reefs can be drifted while artificial lures such as jigs are plugs are cast.
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The best approach when anchoring on Sarasota fishing reefs is to place the boat a little bit upwind and up tide of the reef structure. For one thing, this eliminates the risk of hanging the anchor up in the structure and losing it. It also results in the bait being drifted back naturally to the fish holding structure.
Reef fishing tackle and techniques
Tackle for fishing the reefs in Sarasota Bay is fairly straightforward. A 7 foot medium action spinning rod with 12 pound monofilament or 20 pound braided line works well. The terminal rig consists of a 24 inch piece of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader, a hook, and just enough weight to hold the bottom. A #1/0 live bait hook is a good choice.
Often times anglers can get away with just a split shot or two to get the bait down to the structure. Most of the Sarasota fishing reefs are in 8 to 10 feet of water. So, unless there is a strong current, a split shot or two will be plenty. When needed, a 1/4 ounce or 1/2 ounce egg sinker can be used. Again, the best approach is to use the least amount of weight required. This will reduce hangups and present the bait naturally.
Live shrimp is undoubtedly the number one bait on Sarasota fishing reefs. Shrimp are available all year long and every species feeds on them. These baits can be hooked through the horn, which allows them to move naturally. Threading them on the hook is a better approach when targeting bottom species such as sheepshead and snapper. Frozen shrimp can be used as well.
Live bait fish can be used successfully on Sarasota fishing reefs as well. They are particularly effective for catching grouper. A 2 inch pin fish or grunt will attract the larger grouper and snapper. Anglers will need to beef up the tackle when using this technique. Cut fish strips, chunks, and squid can be used to catch grouper and other bottom dwelling species.
Sarasota Bay fishing reefs
Jonnie Walker Reef 27.22.38 82.35.52
The Jonnie Walker Reef is located on the west side of Sarasota Bay just south of the Moorings. It consists of rocks, boulders, and reef balls and is located in 12 feet of water. The Jonnie Walker Reef is adjacent to some very good deep grass flat areas. It will hold most of the inshore game fish in Sarasota Bay at one time or another.
Sportfishing Anglers Club Reef 27.21.08 82.35.88
The Sportfishing Anglers Club Reef is located on the west side of Sarasota Bay just off of Country Club Shores. It consists primarily of reef balls. The Sportfishing Anglers Club Reef sits in 12 feet of water with a deeper dredge hold to the west and some nice grass flats just to the south. It is a good spot for bottom fish such as sheepshead, snapper, and grouper.
Hart’s Family Reef 27.22.07 82.34.48
The Hart Reef is located on the east side of Sarasota Bay, southwest of Stephen’s Pt. It consists of concrete, FPL insulators, and reef balls. The Hart Reef is considered by many to be the best of the Sarasota fishing reefs. It lies just south of an extensive grass flat and 10 feet of water and attracts just about every inshore species including tarpon.
O.D. Miller Reef 27.20.19 82.34.55
The O.D. Miller Reef sits and New Pass right along the seawall. It is accessible to anglers fishing from the City Island fishing piers. The Miller Reef consists of concrete rubble that sits in water between 10 feet deep and 20 feet deep. This is an excellent spot for mangrove snapper and sheepshead. It is best to fish this spot when title flow is not very strong. It is difficult to fish or when the current is running very hard.
Pop Jantzen Reef 27.19.71 82.33.85
The Pop Jantzen Reef sits at the south end of a large grass flat area and just north of the Ringling Causeway. It consists of concrete, FPL insulators, and reef balls. The Pop Jantzen Reef sits and 10 feet of water and there is a very deep channel just to the south of the reef. This is a very good spot to catch mangrove snapper. It is also a good spot to try on a hard south wind as Bird Key offer some protection.
Bully Powers Reef 27.18.87 82.34.29
The Bully Powers Reef sits in 12 feet of water just west of Otter Key and consists of concrete and FPL insulators. It is adjacent to a very shallow grass flat and is in a good protected spot on a north west wind. It holds the normal bottom fish along with the occasional redfish, flounder, and even snook.
Jim Evans Reef 27.19.73 82.35.52
The Jim Evans Reef lies and 10 feet of water on the south west corner of the Ringling Bridge. It is accessible to anglers fishing from shore at the park. The Jim Evans Reef consists of concrete and FPL insulators. It is a very good reef for anglers targeting sheepshead. Gag grouper and mangrove snapper will also be caught there. Anglers can also cast to the Ringling Bridge pilings from the park on the west side.
Rose Coker Reef 27.18.70 82.35.52
The Rose Coker Reef is the shallowest of the Sarasota fishing reefs, lying in 6 feet of water on the east side of Sarasota Bay just north of the Siesta Dr., Bridge. The Rose Coker Reef sits just east of a shallow grass flat. It will hold many of the inshore species including speckled trout, jacks, Spanish mackerel, along with the normal bottom species. It consists of concrete and FPL insulators.
Sarasota fishing reefs, inshore Gulf of Mexico
Three artificial reefs were constructed off of Lido Key just a couple miles from shore. These Sarasota fishing reefs offer outstanding fishing throughout much of the year. The bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is almost entirely sand and featureless for the most part. Therefore, any type of structure will attract fish. These artificial reefs are magnets for bait and the game fish. I work these reefs quite often on Sarasota fishing charters.
Bottom fishing will produce on these reefs all year long. Mangrove snapper, Key West grunts, gag grouper, red grouper, and in season sheepshead will all hold on these artificial reefs to feed. Most anglers anchor on the reefs when bottom fishing. However, anglers can drift fish if it is not breezy.
Live shrimp fished on the bottom will produce for anglers working these Sarasota fishing reefs. A 1/4 ounce or 1/2 ounce egg sinker is normally plenty to keep the bait on the bottom. Frozen shrimp can be used as well. Anglers seeking larger fish and grouper in particular will do well with a live pin fish or grunt fished on the bottom.
NOTE: Anglers bottom fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use circle hooks. Circle hooks reduce the mortality of fish being released as a are almost always hooked in the corner of the mouth. Current Florida fishing regulations can be found at the FWC website.
Sarasota fishing reefs hold bait
These three artificial reefs will attract hordes of bait fish in all but the coolest months. This in turn will attract a pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, sharks, and false albacore. Anglers heading deeper offshore will often stop at these inshore artificial reefs to load up on bait for the day.
Anglers targeting these pelagic species can do so in several ways. Often times, fish will be seen breaking on the surface as they forage on the bait. This provides anglers with an exciting fishing opportunity as they cast lures to these actively feeding fish. Jigs, spoons, and plugs cast into the fray will normally be instantly devoured.
Trolling is another method that is extremely productive on and around these Sarasota fishing reefs. Anglers using #1 and #2 planers with a trolling spoon or plug catch some very nice king mackerel in the spring and the fall. Slow trolling with a live blue runner can produce some trophy fish, up to 50 pounds! Diving plugs will produce king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore as well.
Anglers can also anchor on the reef and chum these fish up behind the boat. This can be very exciting if a school of fish is lured to the boat. Blocks of frozen chum are normally used. However, chumming with live bait fish is a deadly method that can and produce some incredible fishing action!
Gulf of Mexico inshore reefs
Donald Roehr Reef 27.18.21 82.35.54
The Donald Roehr Reef is the closest to shore. It lies and 22 feet of water and consists of the old Orange Ave., Bridge debris. The structure is distributed in a fairly small area. It is a very good reef for sheepshead and winter and spring. It will also hold schools of very nice sized flounder in the winter. Spanish mackerel will be thick at times in the spring, summer, and fall. It is best to anchor as this is a small area to fish.
Alan Fisher Reef 27.18.11 82.37.12
The Alan Fisher Reef is an excellent fishing spot. It sits and 30 feet of water to miles straight out of New Pass. It consists of the old New Pass bridge along with other concrete rubble. There are several distinct piles of structure. Sheepshead, snapper, and grouper fishing is excellent at times.
King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore will also hold over this reef. Anglers can sight fish, troll, drift, and anchor to catch them. It is easy to tell when the king fish bite is on as there will be quite a few boats in a small area.
Lynn Silvertooth Reef 27.17.16 82.35.99
The Lynn Silvertooth Reef is by far the most expansive reef of the Sarasota fishing reefs. Concrete rubble, reef balls, and bridge debris is spread over a large area and 30 feet of water. There are in reality many small artificial reefs on this site. Anglers who take the time to find the spots will catch fish all year long.
Bottom fishing is outstanding at the Silvertooth Reef. Sheepshead will school up heavily from January through April. They are caught mostly by anglers using live or frozen shrimp. Some very nice mangrove snapper, up to 4 pounds, are also taken there on a regular basis. Gag grouper inhabit this reef as well and are caught by anglers using live bait fish and cut bait such as frozen sardines.
This is the best of the Sarasota artificial reefs to troll for king mackerel. The reason for this is the large amount of area that the structure covers. Anglers can troll both lures or live baits to achieve success. Spanish mackerel and false albacore will be thick over the reef at times as well.
In conclusion, anglers seeking action, variety, and a tasty fish dinner will do well to target these top 11 Sarasota fishing reefs. Sarasota County has done a great job constructing these reefs for both local and visiting anglers. We will all do well to take advantage of this great fishing opportunity!
Capt Jim Klopfer
1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236