Best Sarasota Fishing Guide for 2020

Best Sarasota fishing guide in 2020

Where can visitors find the best Sarasota fishing guide in 2020? Capt. Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He is very well-rounded and can accommodate anglers of all skill levels and ages. Novice clients are welcome as is the seasoned angler seeking more of a challenge. Capt. Jim runs his Sarasota fishing charters out of a 22” Stott Craft bay boat. It is roomy and stable. Capt. Jim is a great choice for anyone looking for a Sarasota fishing guide.

Sarasota fishing guide

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.

Anglers have several options when going out on a Sarasota fishing trip. The inshore waters of Sarasota Bay offer plenty of action and variety. On most fishing charters, six or so different species are landed. However, it is not uncommon to land double digits on a four hour fishing charter.

Sarasota fishing charter options

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico close to shore provide very good action as well. In the spring and fall Spanish mackerel, false albacore, king mackerel, sharks, and other species migrate along the Sarasota beaches. Several artificial reefs a couple miles offshore offer good fishing for bottom fish such as sheepshead, grouper, and snapper.

Natural ledges and artificial reefs provide good fishing for anglers heading offshore. The area from about 8 miles out to 30 miles out has plenty of good bottom spots to hold grouper, snapper, amberjack and other species. King mackerel, false albacore, cobia and other pelagic species will be taken as well.

jack crevalle fishing

An inshore bay trip is the best Sarasota fishing charter for most clients. This is especially true for novice anglers or families with children. Most trips are four hours long, though trips can certainly be longer. But, four hours is plenty of time to catch a bunch of fish. Mornings are usually the most productive, however in the colder months the afternoons can be better as the water warms up. A big part of the job as a Sarasota fishing guide is to tailor the charter to the anglers experience level and expectations. Experienced anglers may opt for a river snook fishing trip.

Sarasota fishing guide

Sarasota inshore bay fishing trip

Anglers fishing the inshore waters can drift the grass flats for a variety of species. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, Pompano, bluefish, jacks, snapper, grouper, sharks, ladyfish, catfish, flounder, and other species are often taken on the deep grass flats. These are basically areas of submerged grass and weed beds. This vegetation attracts the shrimp and bait fish, which in turns attracts the game fish.

Artificial lures are used quite often when drifting the grass flats. The number one lure by far is a jig and grub. This is a hook with a little bit of weight in the front and a plastic body. It mimics a shrimp or bait fish. They cast a long way and are easy to learn to use. Jigs often out fish live bait.

Sarasota fishing charters

Live bait is used quite often on inshore bay trips when drifting the deep grass flats. The number one bait in all of Florida, Sarasota is no exception, is a live shrimp. Shrimp are available all year long at local bait shops. Everything that swims will eat a nice lively shrimp. They are the “nightcrawler of saltwater”!

Small bait fish are used on the deep grass flats as well. This is especially true in the summer time. Bait fish are usually thick on the shallow flats near the passes in the summer. Capt. Jim will catch a bunch of them in his cast net. He will then use the live bait as both chum to attract fish to the boat and as bait to catch the fish. This is an extremely effective technique in the summer and produces a lot of fish.

Sarasota fishing guide

Sarasota has two passes that connect the Gulf of Mexico with Sarasota Bay. They are called Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass. Passes are basically inlets. Both offer excellent fishing most of the year. The passes can provide excellent action for clients.

Pompano, ladyfish, bluefish, jacks, and Spanish mackerel are caught drifting the passes. As the tide moves the boat along, anglers cast out lures or drift with live bait to catch the species. Ladyfish in particular will oftentimes school up thick in the passes. They are great fun on light tackle and are a good species for novice anglers to practice on.

Structure in the passes provide excellent habitat for bottom fish. Sheepshead spawn there from January through March and are usually available and good numbers. This is another situation that is great for novice anglers. A live or frozen shrimp is hooked on and simply drop to the bottom, casting is not required. Grouper, snapper, drum, and other species will be taken as well all year long.

Sarasota fishing calendar
Sheepshead

Snook fishing in Sarasota

More experienced anglers may seek the challenge of trying to catch snook, redfish, and jack crevelle. These fish are larger and more difficult to catch. Shallow flats, mangrove shorelines, docks, bridges, oyster bars, and creeks are all spots that are targeted when pursuing these species.

Once again, both artificial lures and live bait can be employed to achieve success. Lures are a great choice when fish are scattered about. They allow anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. Often times these flats and mangrove shorelines are fairly large areas. Lures are more practical while searching for fish in the spots. Top water plugs, shallow diving plugs, weedless spoons, and jigs with soft plastic trailers are the top baits.

A large live shrimp is a great bait to catch a snook or redfish under a dock. These big shrimp are not always available. However, when they are, they are terrific baits. They also work well in the cooler months fished around oyster bars, creeks, mangrove shorelines, and any other structure.

Live bait fish are used in the warmer months much the same as on the deep grass flats. Once a well full of bait is acquired, the boat is anchored in a likely spot. Live bait fish are then tossed out to attract the snook and other game fish. Once they are behind the boat and excited, they are usually pretty easy to catch. This is a great technique to use to give a novice angler the chance to catch a nice fish.

Sarasota fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

The inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico off of Lido Key and Siesta Key can provide great action at times. When the seas are calm in the water is clear, pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, false albacore, king mackerel, cobia and more will migrate through the area. They are generally right on the heels of the huge schools of bait fish.

Sarasota fishing videos

One of the most exciting aspects of this type of fishing is that much of it is visual. Fish will often be seen foraging on the surface as a devour the helpless bait fish. Just about any lure, bait, or fly that remotely resembles the bait fish will draw strike. Spanish mackerel are usually fairly easy to catch in this situation, while false mackerel can be a bit fussier. This is great fun and a popular choice for anglers seeking a Sarasota fishing guide when conditions are favorable.

There are three inshore artificial reefs just off of Lido Key. They consist of old bridges, construction material, and other debris. Most of the bottom in the Gulf of Mexico is barren. Therefore, any structure will attract and hold fish. Both bottom fish and surface feeding pelagic species will be attracted to these reefs.

Sarasota inshore artificial reefs

Sheepshead are plentiful on the inshore artificial reefs in February, March, and April. They provide great action for clients on a Sarasota fishing excursion. Sheepshead pull hard, grow to 5 pounds, and are very good eating. They feed primarily on crustaceans. Therefore, live shrimp are a terrific bait for these members of the porgy family.

Mangrove snapper are found on these reefs all year long. Snapper school up in big numbers and can be quite aggressive. The trick with the snapper is to find the larger specimens. Hordes of 8 inch snapper will devour every bait that’s drop-down. Moving around a bit can help to find the schools of larger fish. Also, a larger bait or a live bait fish may help. Gag grouper, flounder, grunts, and other bottom fish will be caught as well on a Sarasota fishing excursion.

Sarasota fishing reefs

These reefs will also attract pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, and false albacore. On days when the albacore and mackerel are not seen working on the surface, the artificial reefs can be a great backup plan. The structure on the reefs attract plenty of bait fish, which in turn will attract the game fish. Often times, the bait can be seen dimpling on the surface right over the reef.

Anglers can also choose to target tarpon. Giant tarpon show up in early May and stay until late July.  They average 75 pounds and grow to over 200 pounds! Many consider this to be the ultimate fishing challenge. Tarpon are sight fished just off of the Sarasota beaches. Once the fish are found, the boat is eased into casting range. Live crabs and bait fish are cast towards the fish in hopes of a take. When a tarpon eats, it is bedlam!

Sarasota fishing guide

Sarasota offshore fishing

Many anglers enjoy going offshore fishing off of Sarasota. In most instances, the goal is to put some meat in the cooler. Grouper are a highly sought after bottom species in the Gulf of Mexico. They are structure oriented and will be found over natural ledges as well as artificial reefs and wrecks. Grouper pull hard and once they feel the hook it will dive down into the cover. The trick for anglers is to get their head turned and get them coming up towards the boat.

Live and cut bait is used when bottom fishing for grouper and other species. Along with the grouper, snapper, triggerfish, grunts, and other species will be taken. Amberjack will be caught on the deeper wrecks as well. Red grouper are found over the Swiss cheese bottom about 15 to 20 miles offshore. Anglers can find Florida saltwater fishing regulations on the FWC site.

Light tackle trolling in Saltwater

The primary species for anglers trolling offshore is king mackerel. Kings are taken year-round, but particularly in the spring and fall. Ledges and wrecks from about 7 miles offshore to 30 miles offshore are the prime area. Anglers troll spoons and plugs as well as live bait to catch the king fish. Anglers venturing further offshore may encounter a wahoo, tuna, or dolphin. Occasionally, sailfish and other bill fish are hooked.

Sarasota river fishing charters

Experienced anglers visiting Sarasota and seeking a unique experience may opt for a river fishing charter. In the cooler months, snook and jacks migrate up into area rivers. They do this to escape the cooler temperatures on the shallow flats. The darker river water is often times significantly warmer than the exposed waters on the flats. This provides a sanctuary for the temperature sensitive game fish.

This type of Sarasota fishing charter is not about numbers. This trip is about the chance to catch a trophy snook. Artificial lures are most often used as they allow anglers to fish a lot of shoreline cover in a relatively short amount of time. Shallow diving plugs are generally used. They will elicit a reflex strike from the predatory snook.

fishing for snook

The overall experience of a river fishing charter is a bit different. Capt. Jim uses a 14 foot Alumacraft jon boat for this type of fishing. Launching ramps can be primitive and the water is often times shallow in the winter. This requires a boat that can be manhandled off the trailer and will float over a shallow sandbar. Jon boats our perfect for this type of fishing as they meet these requirements and are quite stable.

The scenery in solitude are elements that attract anglers to this Sarasota fishing excursion. It is a very relaxing fishing trip. It won’t produce in terms of numbers or action like an inshore bay fishing charter will. However, persistent and patient anglers will have the opportunity to land the snook of a lifetime!

Sarasota fishing excursions, fly fishing

Fly fisherman are not to be left out either. Many of the species caught in Sarasota will take a well presented fly. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, snook, redfish, false albacore, jack crevalle, ladyfish, and more can be taken in Sarasota throughout the year.

Sarasota fishing guide

The best all round outfit for fly anglers to use when fishing Sarasota is an 8wt or 9wt rod, matching reel, an intermediate sink tip line. A 9 foot tapered leader with a 30 pound bite tippet works well. Just about any bait fish or a crustacean imitation will catch fish. Top producing flies are the Clouser Minnow, D.T. Special, and Crystal Minnow. White is a great color as are combinations of white and chartreuse, and white and olive.

Fishing Charters in Sarasota during the summer

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

trolling for mackerel

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

Artificial Lures

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

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

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

Jigs are productive on Sarasota summer fishing charters

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

best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

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

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

More effective lures

fishing on Siesta Key

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

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

Catching Bait on Sarasota summertime fishing charters

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

chumming with live bait

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

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

Sarasota fishing, Chumming Them Up

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

Sarasota fishing

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

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

Summer snook fishing

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

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

Lido Key fishing charters

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

Snook fishing on Sarasota beaches

Anglers that choose to fish on their own can catch plenty as snook right off of the beaches. Snook move out to Sarasota and Siesta Key beaches to spawn in the summer. When conditions are right, which means clear smooth water, snook can be seen right in the surf line. The idea is to see the fish, then determine which way it is moving. A lure, bait or fly is and cast out ahead of the fish. Hopefully a bite ensues.

This really is world-class sight fishing. It offers anglers the chance to see the fish, stalk it, cast to it, and catch it! One of the great things about this type of fishing is that light tackle can be used.  There is very little structure out on the beach for fish to break off on.

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

Sarasota Family Fishing Charters

Sarasota family fishing charters are a lot of fun! These types of trips probably make up about half of my charters annually. Some might think that taking out kids and inexperienced anglers is difficult. In a lot of ways, it is actually easier. Their goals and expectations are different than those of the seasoned angler.

Sarasota is not a fishing destination. There are places like the Florida Keys, Venice Louisiana, in the Bahamas where people go strictly to fish. Visitors come to Siesta Key, Lido Key, and Sarasota to enjoy the beautiful beaches and soak up some sunshine. So, they come here and fish, they don’t come here to fish.  Our fishing is pretty easy and very family-friendly.  Anglers of all skill and experience levels can enjoy success on Sarasota family fishing charters.

Fortunately, we are blessed with a unique fishery here. One thing that we have to offer that not all fisheries do is diversity. On an average Sarasota fishing charter my clients land 6 to 8 species. On my best trip, my anglers caught 19 different species of fish and six hours! That was a cool and memorable trip.

Many of the species that we have our perfect for Sarasota family fishing charters. We have bottom fish such as sheepshead and snapper. These species can be caught without even having the ability to cast. If an angler can drop the weight to the bottom, he or she can catch a fish. Current Florida regulations can be found on the FWC website.

Sarasota fishing charters, action and variety!

Many other species are caught out in open water. You do have to cast to these fish, but precision as it required. It can be a simple as floating a shrimp out behind the boat and waiting for a bite. These would include speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Pompano, and ladyfish.

Ladyfish in particular are species I target with novice anglers on Sarasota family fishing charters. They hit hard, usually jump high up out of the water, and are very aggressive. They usually run around in very large schools. I have had many trips where every angler had a fish on at once.

Light spinning tackle is used on these Sarasota family fishing charters. It is versatile, can hold up of a big fish gets hooked, and is easy to use. I get many freshwater anglers who have only used closed face spinning reels. These are also known as “push-button” reels. These will not hold up and saltwater.

However, I can take even a young child and with 10 or 15 minutes of instruction have them casting well enough to catch a fish. Sometimes I do this using artificial lures. Inexperienced anglers are often surprised to learn that artificial lures can actually be easier to use and more productive than live baits. I do use live bait often on Sarasota family fishing charters.

Charter fishing Sarasota; techniques

When using artificial lures with novice anglers or children, I use the lead head jig and grub combo. This is a single hook artificial lure that has a lead weight at the front and a plastic tail on the back. The tail is made to either mimic a bait fish or a shrimp or other crustacean. The primary advantage of the lure is the weight. It is much heavier than a live shrimp and it is easier to teach a novice to cast with the heavier jig.

Jigs also allow anglers to cover a lot of water more quickly. Fish can be scattered out all over the place. Casting a jig while drifting over grass flats and 5 feet to 8 feet of water produces a lot a fish on my Sarasota family fishing charters. Jigs are specially popular with little boys. They are less apt to want to sit still and always want to be doing something. With Sarasota jig fishing, they are constantly casting and reeling.

Trolling is a productive fishing technique

Trolling is another great method for anglers with little experience. Basically, it involves me driving the boat around while dragging a lure out behind the boat. My clients sit in the bow holding the rods with the tips extended out to the side. This way I can keep an eye on everything.

This is very easy fishing and there is little doubt when a fish grabs the lure. This fishing technique works very well on Spanish mackerel along with ladyfish, bluefish, jack crevalle, and other species. When a Spanish mackerel show up thick in the inshore Gulf of Mexico, trolling is deadly effective. Clients can put a ton of fish in the boat in relatively short order.

Sarasota family fishing charters, live bait tactics

As stated earlier, I do use live bait a lot on Sarasota family fishing charters. By far the number one live bait is a live shrimp. They are found the naturally in our waters and good numbers. They are available at every bait shop in town. Shrimp are like the ‘nightcrawlers of saltwater”, everything eats them!

Drifting the passes and deep grass flats produces more fish for my clients than all other methods. The reason for that is simple, fish congregate in these areas. We are blessed with many acres of submerge grass beds in Sarasota Bay. These grass flats that occur in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep are the most productive in terms of quantity of fish.

Shrimp and bait fish live in the grass. That is what attracts the game fish. Speckled trout and ladyfish are plentiful on the deep grass flats year-round. At certain times of the year, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, sharks, jacks, mangrove snapper, grouper, flounder, catfish, and other species are encountered.

The fishing technique is fairly straightforward. As the boat drifts across the flat, anglers either cast out in front of the drifting boat or free line a bait behind the boat. If the drift does not produce much action, I will try new spot. If the fishing is good, I will idle the boat around quietly and re-drift the same area.

Siesta Key fishing charters

The passes provide excellent action for clients on Sarasota family fishing charters as well. Passes are basically inlets. They are channels that connect the Gulf of Mexico to Sarasota Bay. Big Sarasota Pass lies between Siesta Key and Lido Key. New Pass lies between Lido Key and Longboat Key. Both can offer fantastic fishing.

There are two techniques that I employee when fishing the passes. I either drift with the current or anchor up and fish structure. Both can be very productive depending on conditions and seasons. The passes also offer an advantage in that they provide protection from the wind. I often choose to fish the passes on breezy days.

Anglers drifting the passes do so with either jigs or live shrimp. The jig is simply drop down and bounced off the bottom as the boat drifts along. Clients catch a lot of ladyfish doing this. If the current is not too strong, we can also free line a live shrimp out behind the boat. The drift of the shrimp creates a natural presentation. This can be deadly when Spanish mackerel are in the vicinity.

Bottom fishing in the passes can be extremely productive. This is particularly true of Big Pass. The entire north end of Siesta Key is covered with structure of some sort. There is rocky bottom along with Rocky shorelines, seawalls, and docks. This structure attracts crustaceans and bait fish which in turn attracts the bottom fish.

Bottom fishing on Sarasota family fishing charters

Bottom fishing is great on Sarasota family fishing charters with kids and novice anglers. Once I get the boat situated, it is an easy method to employ. The rods are rigged up with a hook in a small weight. The hooks are then baited with fresh or frozen shrimp and drop to the bottom. If there are fish around, it won’t take long to start catching them.

The last several years we have experienced a fantastic run of sheepshead in the passes. The run starts in late January and runs until about the end of March. Sheepshead move into the past to spawn. They show up there in huge numbers. Sheepshead are kind of like a saltwater bluegill. They are basically a larger saltwater panfish. They are very good to eat, though quite difficult to clean.

Anglers bottom fishing the north end of Siesta Key will also catch gag grouper, mangrove snapper, Key West grunts, flounder, pompano, and black drum. The drum and grouper in particular can be quite large and will test an angler skill with light tackle.

There is a specialized live bait technique that I use in the summer time. It is called live bait chumming. Chumming refers to putting something in the water to attract fish. In most cases it is fish that have been ground up and frozen. In this case, I actually use live bait fish to attract the game fish to the back of the boat.

Chumming with live bait

I use my cast net to procure several hundred live bait fish. These are mostly scaled sardines and threadfin herring. Schools of these baitfish are usually plentiful on the shallow grass flats close to the passes. In the summer time, the water temperature can get into the upper 80s. A large recirculating live well with a good pump is required to keep the bait fish alive in that warm water.

Once the bait is obtained, the fishing begins. I choose a deep grass flat where the tide will carry the chum out to where I think the fish are. As the boat settles on the anchor, I start tossing out live bait fish behind the boat, about a dozen at a time. Usually, I will give the bait a little squeeze to injure it. This will cause the bait fish to swim erratically on the surface. This drives fish crazy!

It won’t be long before the game fish will home in on this helpless prey. They will be seen popping on the surface as they feed on the bait. Then, it is simply a matter of putting a bait fish on the hook and casting it out behind the boat.

When the fish get going, it is a fish on every cast. You can imagine how busy gets with for anglers catching fish on every cast! It is chaos, but it is a lot of fun as well. This is great for little kids as the action is fast and furious. The only downside to this is the heat of summer. We are out on the water at first light and usually done by 10 o’clock in the morning. But there are plenty of days when three to for anglers catch over 100 fish employing this technique.

Inshore Gulf of Mexico

The inshore Gulf of Mexico can be a great option for Sarasota family fishing charters when conditions are right. Several days of east wind will have the Gulf waters nice and smooth and the water clear. In the spring and the fall Spanish mackerel and ladyfish will gorge themselves on baitfish on the surface.

This feeding frenzy can be seen from quite a distance away. The water will be turned to a frothing white and birds will be seen wheeling and diving. The best thing about this is that just about any bait that gets anywhere near the fish will be instantly inhaled. Trolling can be deadly and is very easy to do. However, I like to take advantage of this situation to teach children to cast and give them confidence using artificial lures.

Fishing the artificial reefs

There are three artificial reefs that Sarasota County has placed to miles off of Lido Key. The floor of the Gulf of Mexico is flat and relatively featureless. Therefore, any structure or rocky outcropping becomes a fish magnet. These artificial reefs are very productive all year long, but particularly and spring and fall. Mackerel and bonito are caught on top while grouper, snapper, and sheepshead are caught by anglers bottom fishing.

In closing, don’t let the lack of experience of either you, your guests, or especially her children keep you from enjoying fun day out on the water. Hiring a Sarasota fishing guide is an excellent opportunity to enjoy a great day of fishing!

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarasota Offshore Fishing

Sarasota Offshore Fishing Tips

The waters offshore in the Gulf of Mexico offer anglers a wide variety of angling opportunities. Both bottom fishing and trolling produce a wide variety of species. This article on Sarasota offshore fishing will help anglers catch more fish! Many thanks to Marissa for the great pictures and tips!

Sarasota offshore fishing

The Gulf of Mexico on the west coast of Florida near Sarasota slowly and gradually deepens as anglers head west. At ten miles, the water is 60 feet deep, at 30 miles it is 100 feet deep. The bottom is relatively flat, sandy, and featureless. This means that any ledge, coral, hard bottom, wreck, or reef is very likely to be an oasis in the otherwise barren landscape. Just about every species caught in the Gulf of Mexico will relate to some type of structure. Mangrove, red, lane, and yellowtail snapper are caught at these locations. Red, gag, scamp, and black grouper along with huge goliath grouper are found there as well. Triggerfish, porgy, grunts, amberjack, flounder, sea bass, and other species will be caught on these structures.

Pelagic species such as king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, tuna, and even wahoo will be found over structure, particularly larger reefs. The reefs will attract bait fish, which in turn brings in the game fish. Ledges and other hard bottom will also hold kings and other species. Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program. Anglers can find the GPS numbers HERE.

Near shore fishing in Sarasota

Anglers can experience some outstanding fishing quite close to shore in Sarasota when conditions are right. East winds will have the Gulf water smooth and clear. This will attract bait fish, which in turn brings in the game fish. King and Spanish mackerel, false albacore, bluefish, cobia, sharks, and even tarpon are found in the inshore waters off of the Sarasota beaches.

False albacore fishing

The techniques used in shallow water are basically the same as those used by anglers fishing many miles offshore. The tackle is similar, though generally a bit lighter as the fish are smaller. Several artificial reefs are located withing two miles in thirty feet of water. These are fish magnets! Ledges are small, rare, and difficult to locate in the shallow water. However, anglers who do find some good bottom close to shore will experience some excellent bottom fishing!

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Offshore fishing in Sarasota; trolling

Trolling is a great way to locate productive bottom fishing spots, particularly on a calm day. Experienced anglers like to start trolling 5 to 10 miles before reaching the bottom spot that she is heading to. Then, with the lines put out, anglers keep their eyes on the bottom machine. Any bottom irregularity is saved on the GPS. These spots can the be explored later that day or on another trip.

Sarasota offshore fishing

The trolling spread consists of planers, plugs, and flat lines. On a large vessel, six lines can easily be put out. A planer is a device that digs down into the water, taking the lure down into the water column while allowing the boat to be driven fairly fast. Planers have a sliding ring where the planer “trips” when a fish hits. This allows the angler to fight the fish without the resistance of the planer.

trolling with planers

Spoons are very productive offshore fishing lures

Spoons are most often used behind planers. They work well when trolled at higher speeds. Plugs can be used, however if they are too large, they will trip the planer. Trolling at 5-7 knots is effective for most Gulf of Mexico species. Several sizes and colors should be used until a productive pattern emerges.

Planers come in sizes, the smaller the number, the smaller the planer. A #1 planer dives 5-7 feet and is used with a 20′ piece of 30 lb flourocarbon leader and a small spoon. A #2 planer dives 12-15 feet and is used with 20′ of 50 ln leader and a medium spoon. A #3 planer will get down to 30 feet. It is used with 20′ of 80 lb leader and a large spoon. Conventional tackle is used as the planer puts a strain on the rod as it is trolled. A #3 planer requires a stout outfit!

Trolling with plugs

Plugs are also very effective when trolled. Plugs come in many different sizes and colors. The lip on the front of the plug determines the depth that it will dive down to. Most manufacturers have a chart that gives anglers an idea of how deep the plug will run. Rapala and Bomber both make excellent lures for offshore trolling.

Trolling in shallow water with plugs is a very effective technique for anglers targeting gag grouper in the cooler months.

Trolling with skirted lures

Skirted lures are also effective lures for offshore trolling. These are often combined with a ballyhoo or other natural bait. The skirt adds action and color while the bait adds scent and texture. These lures are often fished right on the surface or just below it by our ladies offshore fishing.

Trolling for dolphin

 

The general rule when putting out a trolling spread is that the shallower running baits are put out the farthest behind the boat and are put out first. Marissa likes to put out a skirted ballyhoo on a flat line, way back and right down the middle. Then, she will put out a shallow diving plug, not quite as far back. The 3 planer outfits are then deployed, the #1, first, followed by the #2 and #3, each a little closer to the boat. Finally, a diving plug is put out 20 feet behind the stern, right in the prop wash.

Once the lines are put out, it is time to sit back and enjoy the day. Again, keeping an eye on the bottom machine will help locate other spots, along with bait and fish. Many anglers like to put a fairly small spoon on the #1 planer outfit. This will often result in blue runners and small mackerel being caught, which are excellent baits.

Offshore fishing in Sarasota; bottom fishing

Bottom fishing is extremely popular in the Gulf of Mexico. The primary reasons for this are simple; grouper and snapper! These much-desired bottom species are plentiful on the ledges and reefs offshore of Sarasota. Many other species are landed as well, including amberjack, triggerfish, grunts, porgies, sheepshead, flounder, and more.

Sarasota fishing charters

Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program. This is a boon to anglers. While they are productive, the most successful anglers find their own “private” fishing spots. An isolated ledge or piece of hard bottom that nobody else fishes is an angling gold mine! Once an angler finds a handful of these spots in various depths, there will be very few fish-less days.

It does take time to find these hidden gems. Many of these ledges or “breaks”, as they are termed locally, are small. A two foot rocky ledge in an otherwise barren, sandy area will hold a lot of fish. Trolling on a calm day is an excellent way to locate these spots. Also, there are usually multiple ledges that protrude from the bottom in an area. So, once a piece of bottom is found, that area should be explored to see if other ledges can be located.

Sarasota offshore fishing tips; anchoring

Anchoring properly is crucial to success when bottom fishing offshore. The deeper the water, the more difficult it is. Anglers must take the wind and current into account, then position the boat just up-wind and up-tide of the structure. Many anglers toss out a buoy of some sort to make the spot, providing a visual reference. Experience is the best teacher when it comes to anchoring. Dragging the anchor through a spot and ruining it is a terrible feeling!

Offshore bottom fishing in Sarasota

The best approach is to mark the spot with a buoy. Then, anglers idle around back to the buoy, going straight into the wind. After traveling a short distance (which is determined by the wind and depth), the anchor is lowered and the boat eased back to the spot. Ideally, the boat will rest a short distance up-wind and up-tide of the spot.

Pro tip: once the boat comes to rest, take note of the compass heading. Unless the wind or current changes, this heading should work on the next spot or two if moving is necessary.

Sarasota bottom fishing

Smaller bay boats are now using GPS trolling motors to hold their position, especially on calm days. These powerful electric motors have revolutionized bottom fishing. The motor will hold the boat precisely over a spot. The angler can easily move 10-15 feet and fish another piece of the same structure. Obviously, it needs to be relatively calm to use a bow mounted trolling motor.

Bottom fishing techniques

Once properly positioned, it is time to fish. The first order of business is to put out some chum. Most anglers tie a bag of frozen chum, to the stern. As it thaws, the chum will disperse into the water. This will often times bring fish, especially snapper, up off the bottom. A handful or two of fresh chopped bait will slowly sink down and stimulate the fish.

Sarasota fishing charter

Most anglers opt for basic bottom rigs. A sliding egg sinker is placed on the running line. A swivel it tied on the end of the line. A leader is tied on the other end of the swivel, followed by the hook. Leader lengths vary by preference and depth. A three foot leader is fine in shallow water while a ten foot leader might be better in over a hundred feet. Anglers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use circle hooks. Florida fishing regulations can be found at the FWC site.

Another very simple rig is the “knocker rig”. The angler slides the sinker on the running line, followed by the hook. Not only is this simple and re-rigging very fast, it is very effective as well. The bait will rest right on the bottom, near the sinker. The line will freely move through the sinker without feeling any resistance. Finally, snags are easy to free up as the sinker knocks against the hook. Thus the name, “knocker rig”.

best Sarasota fishing charter

Offshore fishing tackle for Sarasota anglers

Conventional tackle and spinning tackle can be used offshore. Spinning tackle in the 20 lb class works well for snapper, which can be line shy at times. A 7′ to 8′ spinning rod, matching reel, and 20 lb monofilament or braided line is a good outfit. Anglers using braid will need a long flourocarbon leader. The lightest sinker that will reach the bottom is used. A slowly sinking bait will produce on the snapper.

Mangrove snapper will often “rise up” into the surface chum. This is fantastic! The fish can be caught using fairly light tackle as they are so far from the protection of the structure. A hook baited with a piece of bait floated back naturally will get the job done.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

Serious grouper diggers use heavy conventional tackle. This is required to winch and angry grouper up and out of it’s hole. The same is true if amberjack are present. These hard-pulling fish are not called “reef donkeys” for no reason, their nick name is well-earned.

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Sarasota offshore fishing baits

Every offshore anglers has a favorite bait. Marissa has found that as an all-round multi species bait that catches everything, it is hard to beat frozen Spanish sardines. They are available at every tackle shop. Sardines, and other frozen bait, need to be thawed out. It is best to use salt water to thaw out bait. Using fresh water will make the bait mushy. Anglers should thaw out a little at a time, keeping it firm.

Other frozen baits such as squid and mullet work well, too. Any fresh caught legal fish can be cut up and used as bait. Fresh cut bait works very well for grouper and red snapper, along with just about every other species.

Live baits are effective offshore

Live baits are a little more trouble, as in most instances they must be caught, but many anglers find them worth the effort. Pinfish are a terrific bait for grouper, snapper, and amberjack when bottom fishing offshore. Many anglers feel that a large, live shrimp is the best bait for mangrove snapper.

The technique for fishing both live and cut bait is the same. Anglers drop the bait to the bottom, then reel up the slack. They stand ready, with the rot tip down near the surface. When a fish bites, the angler waits until until a steady pull is felt. Then, he or she reefs fast and hard, pulling the fish up away from the structure.

Once the angler gains a few feet, a steady lifting of the rod tip, then reeling down to pick up the slack, will usually result in a landed fish. Setting the hook does NOT work with circle hooks anywhere, especially in deep water.

In conclusion, this article on Sarasota offshore fishing tips should help anglers achieve success out in the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Fishing Charters in Sarasota

Fishing Charters in Sarasota with Capt Jim Klopfer

Many visiting anglers are interested in going fishing while in Sarasota.  There are many fishing charters in Sarasota to choose from.  Capt Jim Klopfer has been taking clients out fishing in Sarasota since 1991.

Sarasota offers anglers a wide variety of fishing opportunities to visitors.  Capt Jim Klopfer is very versatile and will cater the fishing charter to the experience and expectations of his clients.  Anglers with very little experience can achieve success, much of the fishing is not overly challenging.  There are a number of productive techniques that will produce fish.  Live bait is perhaps the easiest to use and a good choice for children.  Artificial lures are easy to use and are very productive.

Sarasota fishing calendar

View current Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing charter options

There are multiple angling techniques that are productive on fishing charters in Sarasota.  Drifting the deep grass flats produces great action.  Both passes hold a lot of fish.  Bottom fishing is an easy and productive technique.  Experienced anglers may choose to target snook and redfish in the back water areas.  Fishing for mackerel and false albacore can be fantastic in the inshore Gulf of Mexico.

Fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay

Anglers seeking action and variety will do well fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay.  Deep grass flats are patches of submerged vegetation in water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep.  This attracts forage such as shrimp, crabs, and bait fish.  This is what the game fish feed on.  Speckled trout, pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, snapper, grouper, ladyfish, catfish, sharks, cobia, and flounder are the primary species caught fishing the deep flats.

Drifting is usually the best approach when targeting fish on the deep flats.  These are large areas.  Drifting with the wind and tide allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish.  Once a productive area in located, the boat can be anchored.  Both live bait and artificial lures are productive.  Flats near the passes are usually very reliable.

Jigs are the top artificial lure for fishing the deep grass flats.  They cast well and are easy to use.  Anglers cast them out ahead of the drifting boat and work it back it.  Live shrimp are either free lined out behind the boat or fished under a float.  Chumming with live bait fish is a deadly technique that is used in the summer time.

inshore saltwater fishing

Fishing the Sarasota passes

Passes are channels that connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico.  They are basically “inlets”, just termed differently.  The two passes in Sarasota are Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass.  Both can provide excellent fishing throughout the year.

Sarasota family fishing charters

The two techniques used in the passes are drifting with jigs or bait and bottom fishing.  Anglers drifting with the current bounce jigs off the bottom or free line live shrimp.  Both produce pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and loads of hard fighting ladyfish.  This is very easy fishing as casting is really not required.  The current does all of the work!

Bottom fishing is another easy and productive technique.  A hook is baited with a shrimp and lowered to the bottom.  There is a lot of structure in the passes, particularly in Big Pass on the north side of Siesta Key.  Deep water, structure, and current flow make this a great fishing spot!  Sheepshead are prime targets in winter.  Mangrove snapper, grouper, drum, jacks, snook, and more are taken all year long.

Snook fishing in Sarasota

Snook are the top game fish in Florida.  They are quite similar to largemouth bass in habits.  Snook have large mouths, are found near structure, and ambush their prey.  In fact, most of the top snook lures are just converted bass baits.  Anglers targeting snook along mangrove shorelines, under docks, around seawalls, and along oyster bars catch jacks, redfish, and other species as well.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

Artificial lures are often used on fishing charters in Sarasota when snook are the target.  Lures allow anglers to cover quite a bit of shoreline cover.  They also will elicit strikes from fish that are not actively feeding.  This type of fishing does require some decent casting skills.  Therefore, this is best for more experienced anglers.

Live bait certainly produces a lot of snook as well.  In the cooler months, a large, live shrimp is a terrific bait.  In the warmer months, live bait chumming is used successfully.  Capt Jim will use his cast net and load the well up with live baits.  These are then used to attract and excite the fish.  Handfuls of bait are tossed out behind the boat.  If snook and other game fish are around, it won’t be long until they start popping on the free baits.  This is a great way for an inexperienced angler to catch a big fish1

Fishing off of the Sarasota beaches

The inshore Gulf of Mexico can provide fantastic action when conditions are right.  East winds will result in the water close to shore being calm and clear.  Bait fish will be plentiful.  Spanish mackerel, false albacore, king mackerel, sharks, cobia, and other species will move in to feed on the bait.  This can be very exciting fishing as much of the activity takes place on the surface.

Anglers cruise the beaches searching for signs of fish.  Birds are a great indication of feeding game fish.  Spanish mackerel will stay up on the surface for quite a while.  This makes it easy to get the boat into a good casting position.  False albacore are a bit fussier.  They will often pop up, feed ferociously, then be gone in a few seconds.

Sarasota fishing videos

Small artificial lures work very well for this type of fishing.  The fish are feeding on small bait fish, so lures that imitate them work best.  Also, sometimes a bit of casting distance is required.  For these reasons, lures work better than live bait in most instances.  Small plugs, silver spoons, and 3″ soft plastic baits on a jig head are the top lures.

Fishing charters in Sarasota, trolling for success

There will be days when the fish are not showing on the surface.  Trolling is an excellent technique under these circumstances.  This allows anglers to cover a lot of water while presenting several lures at different depths.  Again, this is a very easy way for kids and inexperienced anglers to catch some really nice fish.

There are three artificial reefs just off of Lido Key.  These hold fish during much of the year.  The reefs are prime spots to troll for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore.  Bait fish are attracted to the structure in large numbers.  They can be seen hovering on the surface over the submerged structure.  These are great spots to troll for kings, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore.

Species caught on Sarasota fishing charters

One of the great aspects of taking a fishing charter in Sarasota is the wide variety of fish species that are available.  Some fish such as snook, redfish, speckled trout, ladyfish, jack crevalle, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, and bluefish are caught all year long.  Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, pompano, cobia, and sharks are most often encountered in the spring and fall.  Black drum and sheepshead are winter fish.  Tarpon are caught in the summer.  Anglers can find current regulations on the FWC site.

Snook

Siesta Key snook fishing

Snook are the top inshore game fish in Florida.  They are large, fight hard, leap high out of the water, and are caught on both lures and live bait.  Snook have a distinct seasonal migration pattern.  In winter, snook are found in creeks, rivers, and canals.  As it warms up, they move into Sarasota Bay and Robert’s Bay.  Snook are found out on the beaches and in the passes in the summertime.

Snook are structure oriented.  They are almost always found near some type of cover.  Docks, bridges, oyster bars, mangrove shorelines, and seawalls all hold snook.  If bait is present, so much the better!  Anglers catch snook using artificial lures and live bait.  Lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water.  Live bait works best when fish are located.

Speckled trout

Gator trout Sarasota

Speckled trout are an extremely popular for anglers taking out fishing charters in Sarasota.  They are a beautiful fish, aggressive, plentiful year round, and are fantastic eating.  Speckled trout school up and once located, a bunch can be caught in short order.  Most of the trout caught in Sarasota are found on the submerged grass beds in Sarasota Bay.

A live shrimp is a great bait for catching speckled trout.  Shrimp can be fished under a popping cork or free lined out behind the boat.  Live pilchards work very well in the warmer months.  Artificial lures catch plenty of speckled trout as well.  The top lure in Sarasota is the jig and grub.  This is a versatile lure that can imitate bait fish and crustaceans.  They work very well on trout and other species.

Redfish

Florida fishing charters

Redfish are another very popular inshore species.  In Sarasota, most reds are caught under docks and on shallow grass flats.  Redfish school up in large numbers in late summer.  Anglers sight fish for them as they can easily be seen “waking” across a flat.  Docks and other structure hold reds all year long.

Redfish feed primarily on crustaceans.  They are built to root on the bottom for crabs and shrimp.  They will take like bait fish as well.  A large, live shrimp is tough to beat when targeting redfish.  They work very well when fishing docks.  Lures such as jigs and weedless spoons imitate the forage and are productive as well.

Spanish mackerel

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Spanish mackerel are a terrific game fish!  Anglers who take out fishing charters in Sarasota target them often.  Mackerel are very fast, aggressive, beautiful, and taste great when prepared fresh.  Spanish mackerel are often found in large schools.  This is particularly true in the Gulf of Mexico.  Spanish mackerel feed mostly on small bait fish.  Live shrimp will certainly produce, too.

Shiny, fast moving lures are effective when targeting Spanish mackerel.  Mackerel are very fast and will track down a fast moving lure that has an erratic action.  Plugs and silver spoons are top artificial lures.  They can be cast or trolled effectively.  Anglers fishing with live scaled sardines and shrimp will catch plenty of mackerel as well.

Pompano

Florida pompano fishing

Pompano are a prized inshore game fish in Sarasota, Florida.  While they put up a great fight, the reason for their popularity is that they are fantastic eating!  Pompano have a delicious flavor and interesting texture.  They are most often found in the surf, in the passes, and on the flats close to the passes.  Pompano cruise around in small schools, feeding on the bottom.

One look at the mouth of a pompano indicated it’s feeding behavior.  Pompano feed on crustaceans on the bottom.  Crabs, sand fleas, and shrimp are the primary forage.  Small jigs bounced on the bottom are the top artificial lure.  Dedicated surf anglers catch sand fleas (mole crabs) and use them for bait.  Live shrimp worked well for pompano as well.

Bluefish

Florida bluefish

Bluefish are well-know to anglers from the northeastern states.  The bluefish we catch in Sarasota are smaller, averaging around three pounds.  Bluefish are aggressive and most often are found in schools.  They are a very aggressive species.  Blues can be found in the bays, passes, and inshore Gulf of Mexico.

Jigs are good lures for catching bluefish.  They work well on the deeper grass flats where bluefish are often found.  They move move erratically and attract the attention of the blues.  Spoons and plugs are effective as well.  Bluefish can often be seen feeding on the surface.  Live bait fish and shrimp will catch them as well.

Jack crevalle

Sarasota fishing report

Jack crevalle are another terrific inshore game fish found in Sarasota.  They grow fairly large, being caught to 15 pounds in this area.  Jacks school up and are often seen feeding aggressively on the surface.  They are found all over the place in the warmer months.  They are easier to locate in the cooler months as they move up into creeks and canals.  Jack crevalle are not considered good to eat.

While jacks are caught on live bait, artificial lures are so much fun to use.  Jacks are very aggressive and strike lures with ferocity.  Plugs and jigs are the top artificial lures.  They need to have stout hooks as jacks are incredibly strong.

Sheepshead

Sarasota fishing calendar

Sheepshead move into the Sarasota area in December and stay around until April.  They are a staple for anglers taking out fishing charters in Sarasota in the cooler months.  They school up heavily in the passes and out on the inshore artificial reefs.  Sheepshead feed on crustaceans and are rarely taken on artificial lures.  Most sheepshead are caught by anglers bottom fishing near structure with live or frozen shrimp.  They fight hard, are fun to catch, and are excellent table fare.

Mangrove snapper

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

Mangrove snapper are found near structure similar to the spots where sheepshead are caught.  They are caught all year long.  Also, mangrove snapper are caught on the deep grass flats in the summer time.  Most mangrove snapper are caught by anglers using live bait.  However, they will hit small plugs and jigs as well.  Snapper put up a good fight and are fantastic on a dinner plate.

Gag grouper

Sarasota bottom fishing

Gag grouper are mostly caught in the offshore waters.  However, juvenile grouper and the occasional larger fish are caught in the inshore waters.  Grouper are almost always found near structure.  However, they are caught on the open grass flats for a month or so in summer when they are migrating through.  Most grouper are caught by accident by anglers bottom fishing for other species.

Tarpon

Sarasota fishing calendar

Tarpon are the largest fish that anglers can target in Sarasota.  The move through from May to August on their annual spawning run.  Tarpon are caught just off of the area beaches in the Gulf of Mexico.  Live crabs and bait fish are cast in front of the cruising fish.  This is truly big game fishing and is best for more experienced anglers.  There is a lot of waiting and stalking, so patience is required.

False albacore

Sarasota fishing calendar

False albacore, known locally as “bonita”, are a terrific game fish that are found in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  They rarely come into the bays.  False albacore are usually sight fished as they often feed on the surface.  The key is to position the boat in front of the feeding fish.  They can be fussy at times and challenging to catch.  However, that is part of the fun!  Small lures and flies that mimic the bait fish work best.

King mackerel

fishing report for Sarasota

King mackerel are often found offshore but do move in close to shore when conditions are right.  Trolling is the most effective way to catch them as it allows anglers to cover a lot of water.  The inshore reefs off of Lido Key are always a good place to start.  Easter and Thanksgiving are usually the prime times to catch king mackerel off of the Sarasota beaches.

Black drum

fishing charters in Sarasota

Black drum are often found in the same locations and time of year as are sheepshead.  Generally, cooler months are best.  Drum rarely hit artificial lures, most are caught by anglers using live or frozen shrimp.  Black drum are good eating.  They can grow quite large as well, to over 30 pounds.

Flounder

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Flounder are another species that clients on fishing charters in Sarasota catch when fishing for other species.  They are not abundant, but are more of an occasional catch.  They are caught by anglers bouncing jigs on the bottom and by anglers fishing with live bait.  Surf fishing can be productive for flounder, too.

Cobia

fishing charters in Sarasota

Cobia are a large fish that are most often found in the Gulf of Mexico.  However, some fish do wander into Sarasota Bay.  Anglers fortunate enough to hook one will have their hands full on a light spinning rod!  Cobia are curious and will hit just about any lure or live bait.

Meeting spot for a Sarasota fishing charter

There are several spots that Capt Jim meets his clients at.  The meeting spot will depend on client location, current weather conditions, and fish activity.  Most anglers going out on fishing charters in Sarasota will meet at the public boat ramp at Centennial Park in downtown Sarasota.

Another convenient meet spot on Sarasota fishing charters is the North Bridge Park on Siesta Key.  This spot is often used on breezy days and by Siesta Key visitors.

The last meeting spot used by Capt Jim is the boat ramp on Ken Thompson Island.  This is convenient for anglers staying on Longboat Key or north in Bradenton.

Live bait produces on Sarasota fishing charters

While artificial lures catch plenty of fish during Spring Break, live bait is the most reliable producer on my Siesta Key fishing charters, especially with anglers with limited experience.  Live shrimp are purchased and “whitebait” is cast-netted up on the flats.  “Whitebait” is a Florida term for small white or silver bait fish, mostly pilchards and threadfin herring, that migrate into the area in the spring.  A well full of either live shrimp or frisky pilchards practically guarantees success.

Marcel Hamburger lives in Houston, TX and has fished with me for several years now.  He usually brings his two children Morgan and Grant.  Morgan never gets out-fished.  Never.  She has perfected the art of drifting a live bait across the flats.  She casts her bait out and lets it drift behind the boat with the rod tip held low.  When a fish takes the bait, she does not jerk, which is a common mistake.  Instead, she just reels up the slack while slowly raising the rod tip.  Most of the time, the result is a fish in the boat.

Anchoring up on the edge of a grass flat that drops off into deeper water and fishing with live bait can be deadly.  One trip from several years ago comes to mind and it is a story that I have told many times on the boat.  John Brennan from Brookfield, WI visits Siesta Key regularly for Spring Break, and he usually treats his daughters Laura, Cari, and Theresa to a Sarasota fishing charter.  I filled the well with twelve dozen shrimp and loaded up the Brennan clan.

After anchoring up on the edge of a flat near Bird Key, we experienced non-stop action free lining live shrimp.  I believe the final tally was 119 fish landed, not counting the ones that jumped off.  Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, and ladyfish, kept rods bent the entire time.  It was so hectic, poor John barely got the chance to fish!

Fishing Big Sarasota Pass

Big Sarasota Pass lies to the north of Siesta Key.  It is a fish highway that connects Sarasota Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.  March is a prime month for fishing the pass.  The same methods that produce on the flats will also work in the deeper water of the pass.  Jigs bounced on the bottom and free lined live bait will catch pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and loads of ladyfish.

Last March the Manby family, friends of the Brennan’s who also reside in Brookfield, WI had a great morning catching large mackerel in Big Pass.  Maria and Jeff along with their three girls Ashleigh, Julia, and Abigail were my guests that morning.  The tide was low and had just turned to come in and we were free lining live shrimp.   The bite was a little slow, just a couple of ladyfish, when Julia’s rod bent double and the drag started screaming.

I knew right away that it was a big mackerel.  Julia fought the fish like an expert and it was landed and tossed on ice, destined for dinner at Clayton’s that evening.  Several minutes later the same thing was repeated.  Then again.  What the heck?  Four baits in the water, same hook, same rig, but she catches all the fish?

“I jiggle it”, she stated.  And the now-famous “Julia Jiggle” was born.  Any time I am on a charter and the bites are slow in coming, I instruct my clients to “jiggle it”.  Action is sure to soon follow.

There is much more to fishing than just catching fish.  The time a family spends together is priceless.  I humbly feel privileged to be a part of it.  Friendships have been forged and to see the kids grow up each year is exciting.  Experience your own Spring Break, Sarasota style!

Summer Sarasota fishing charters

All three rods were bent deep as I tried to keep the bedlam under control.  Sweat was dripping from my forehead and it was only nine o’clock in the morning.  The heat was one reason, the other was that I was scrambling to keep my client’s hooks emptied of a fish and then re-baited.  It was non-stop action as nearly every pilchard that hit the water was devoured within seconds.  Welcome to summertime fishing Sarasota!

Many anglers are surprised when I tell them that fishing Sarasota in the heat of summer is outstanding.  Some of my best days, especially when it comes to quantity, come in July and August.  The reason for this is the abundance of live bait fish that flood into the bays at first light.  Pilchards and threadfin herring are thick on the shallow grass flats near the Venice Inlet.  A few tosses of the cast net will usually result in a well full of bait.  After that, success is practically guaranteed.  A few handfuls of live chum will bring speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, jacks, and sharks right up to the boat.  Bait fish are easiest to catch at first light, especially on a high tide.  Grass flats near both passes are good spots to load up the well.

While fishing Sarasota can be spectacular in the heat of summer, it does require a few tactical changes.  The prime low-light periods of dawn and dusk will be very productive, as will fishing at night.  Getting up early is a requirement, not an option.  Get out there early, catch bait or take advantage of the early morning low light conditions to cast artificial lures.  On most days the bite winds down by late morning.  By then it is usually just too hot to fish, anyway.

Night fishing in Sarasota

Fishing Sarasota at night is another productive option in July.  Evenings are pleasant, just monitor the weather; thunderstorms are an issue this time of year.  Snook in particular will be caught around the lighted docks and bridges throughout the area.  Speckled trout, redfish, snapper, ladyfish, and even tarpon will also be caught at night.  Plugs, jigs, flies, and live bait will produce around lighted structure.

Successful anglers will quietly approach a likely spot and either anchor or use a trolling motor to work the spot.  Shore bound anglers will score at the area bridges, too.  The prime spot is a cast away on the up-current side just on the fringe of the lighted area.  Outgoing tides are preferred, but as long as the water is moving the fish will bite.

Bass Assassin Sea Shad jigs are productive lures, as are small plugs such as the (08) size Rapala X-Rap.  Live shrimp free lined in the current can also be deadly.  Medium sized shrimp work best on a 1/0 short shank hook for clients fishing Sarasota.  Large hand-picked shrimp don’t look natural and are usually not as effective.    Spinning tackle with a 2’ piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is best for tossing lures and live bait.  Glass minnows are a primary forage around lights and small white flies are effective imitations.  A 7 or 8 weight rod with an intermediate sink tip line and 8 foot piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader works well.

Beach snook fishing in Sarasota

Siesta Key snook fishing

Another productive July technique when fishing Sarasota is beach fishing for snook.  This is a great opportunity for anglers without a boat to experience the thrill and challenge of sight fishing.  Anglers will hit the beach around 8:00 a.m., by then there is enough sunlight to spot the fish.  Walking north will put the sun behind, making it easier to see the snook.  Quite often, they will be right in the surf line, inches from the edge.

Live bait will work but it cumbersome to carry around.  Artificial lures are more convenient and catch plenty of fish.  Small light colored lures are best.  A delicate presentation is required so as not to spook the fish in the shallow water.  A 1/8 ounce white bucktail jig works great, as do small plugs and soft plastic baits.

This is a terrific situation to catch a snook on a fly rod.  White bait fish patterns are productive.  The fly lands very softly in the water and will not spook the snook.  Since the fish are in open water for the most part, the chance of them breaking off is greatly diminished.  A seven or eight weight outfit with a floating line and eight feet of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is the standard rig.

The large schools of tarpon will have broken up but there will still be plenty of fish out there.  Although they don’t “show” as well, they eat better!  Point of Rocks, Grassy Point, and the Venice Pier are good spots to try.  Again, get out there at first light and either cast to rolling fish or drift a pinfish out behind the boat under a float.  Fish until mid-morning, then call it a day.

There are plenty of ways to fish Sarasota and catch fish in July and still beat the summertime heat!

Fall Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Contrary to popular belief, autumn does arrive in Florida, although the changes can be fairly subtle.  While still fairly warm, evening temperatures are a tad lower and the days are a little shorter.  Fish are very much in tune with these changes and it affects their behavior.  In Sarasota where I fish, on the west coast, the arrival of Spanish mackerel and false albacore just off the beaches in the inshore Gulf of Mexico officially signals the fall fishing season.  This is great sport and it does not require a large boat or fancy gear to take advantage of this bonanza.

The reason for this fantastic fall fishing on Siesta Key is simple; bait, and LOTS of it!  As the water and land temperatures drop, the weather pattern changes.  The sea breezes will be gone and high pressure systems will bring northeast winds both during the day and in the evening.  The result will be clear, calm water along the beaches, attracting huge schools of baitfish which in turn attracts the gamefish.  Saltwater fishing can be pretty basic, “Find the groceries; find the fish”.  Other species will also be encountered when fishing “Out on the beach”.  Jack crevelle, bluefish, ladyfish, king mackerel, cobia, sharks, and even tarpon will follow the forage to take advantage of the abundance of forage.

As a full-time fishing guide, I rely on live bait a majority of the time to provide action for my clients who book a Siesta Key fishing charter.  In this application, artificial lures are not only extremely productive but are a lot of fun to fish!  Quite often schools of “breaking” fish will be seen terrorizing the helpless baitfish on the surface.  Opportunistic gulls and terns will be picking at the scraps as well.  This is a sight that will stir any angler’s soul and is the perfect situation to use an artificial lure.  The strikes will be immediate and savage!  Of course, a frisky live baitfish or shrimp will very seldom go unmolested when fall fishing Siesta Key.

Artificial lures catch fish!

My “go to” lure for fishing the inshore Gulf is #8 Rapala X-Rap slashbait.  It perfectly mimics the small pilchards, glass minnows, and threadfin herring that the gamefish are feeding on.  Olive is my favorite color with white being a close second.  The lure is simply cast out into the bait and retrieved back with sharp twitches and a pause in between.  X-Raps can also be trolled along when there is not any surface activity; they are a great “locator” bait.  The venerable jig and grub combo also works well, with the 4” Bass Assassin Sea Shad being my personal favorite.

Silver spoons will also produce plenty of fish for anglers fall fishing Siesta Key.  The same tackle that is used for speckled trout and redfish will work fine in this application.  My preferred rig is a 10 lb spinning outfit with monofilament line, the last 5’ doubled with a Spider Hitch, then 30” of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is added using a double Uni-knot, then the lure or hook completes the rig.

Fly anglers can certainly take advantage of this situation as well.  An 8wt outfit with a weight forward floating line is a good choice.  The leader should be 8’ of 30 lb fluorocarbon and any small white fly will produce well, with D.T. Special and Clouser Minnow patterns being the most popular.  Fly anglers do well fall fishing Siesta Key!

Once rigged up and ready, it is time to go fishing!  Often times the fish will be schooled up just outside the passes, particularly on an outgoing tide.  Any bird or surface activity should be investigated.  Sometimes just a couple of terns diving will clue an angler into the location of a school.  If nothing is happening at the pass, simply cruise down the beach on plane but at as slow a speed as possible in order to completely scan the area.

Spanish mackerel and false albacore off of Siesta Key

Once a school of actively feeding fish is located, determine whether they are mackerel or albacore.  Spanish will generally stay up in the same spot for a longer period of time.  False albacore can be much more difficult to get on, they move fast and change directions constantly.  But, there is no greater sport than catching a big albie on light tackle or fly!

Sarasota fishing charters

In either case, patience will pay off!  Charging into the school on plane will usually shut down the bite.  Instead, cut the motor up-wind of the fish and drift down on them until in casting range or use the electric trolling motor if so equipped.  Trolling the edges will also work well but avoid driving through the middle of the school.  Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program with 3 nice reefs within 2 miles of shore just off Lido Key.  These are a great back-up plan (as is any reef or hard bottom area) in the event that surface activity is absent as they almost always hold bait and fish.

Later in the morning as the sun comes up, particularly if the water is clear, anglers will do well to look for bait balls.  These appear as large dark spots in the water.  NEVER pass up a nice, big ball of bait as there will usually be predator fish on the edges.  Anglers seeking larger game will score consistently on sharks by putting out a chunk of mackerel under a cork on a larger rig with a steel leader.  Free-lining a large live threadfin herring at the edges will also produce some larger fish.  Do not be surprised if a cobia, king mackerel, or even a tarpon are hooked as well fall fishing Siesta Key.

Shore bound anglers can get in on the action as well.  While false albacore seldom venture in close enough to be caught from land, Spanish mackerel, jacks, bluefish, ladyfish, and more will often cruise within casting range while feasting upon the abundance of forage.  The same lures, baits, flies, and techniques that produce for anglers in boats will also allow surf casters to achieve success.

Winter Sarasota fishing charters

The key to angling success is the ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions.  February tactics are unique.  Severe fronts move through on a weekly basis, drastically changing the water temperature and clarity.  Wind will prevent anglers from fishing the open waters in north Sarasota Bay.  Extreme low winter tides will chase fish off the flats.  So, let’s go through a typical winter weather cycle that would be experienced on a fishing charter in the winter.

A severe front has just moved through.  The water temperature has dropped several degrees and there is a blue-bird sky with bright sun and a northeast wind.  The northeast wind will fight the tide, making it even lower than normal.  And it can be downright chilly.  Flats near the passes will be flooded with dirty water from the churned up Gulf of Mexico.  Finding clean, protected water will be a priority when employing February tactics.

The area south of Siesta Drive down to Blackburn Pt. usually stats clearer and offers protection from the north wind.  Oyster bars, canals, and docks will be good places to soak a shrimp for sheepshead, drum, and other species.  On low tide the trout, pompano, and ladyfish will concentrate in deeper water.  This can be the Intracoastal channel or any deep water.  As the tide floods the flats and the day warms up the fish will move out of the holes and onto the nearby flats.  Casting jigs and live shrimp while drifting the flats is the preferred technique.

After a couple of days the wind will shift to the southeast and it will be warm and sunny.  The water in the passes will be clearer and fishing will be good throughout the area.  Both passes will hold pompanp, bluefish, and ladyfish.  Jigs, spoons, and live shrimp will all produce.  Taking advantage of these favorable conditions is an aspect of February tactics.

Surf fishing off of Sarasota beaches

This is the best time to surf fish for whiting, silver trout, pompano, flounder, and more.  The water will be clean and calm with an east wind.  A live shrimp or piece of frozen shrimp fished on the bottom works best.

Any Structure in or near the passes should be thick with sheepshead.  Bottom fishing with live or frozen shrimp will produce the best.  Anchoring a cast away up-current and allowing the bait to drift back to the structure in a natural manner is the best presentation.  A #1 live bait hook on a 2’ piece of 30 lb leader and a bit of weight is the best rig.  Use just enough weight to barely hold the bottom.

Grass flats in four to seven feet of water will be good for speckled trout, silver trout, pompano, bluefish, sea bass, flounder, and ladyfish.  Again, drifting and casting jigs and live shrimp works best.  The flats near the passes are always a goiod place to start but any flat can produce.  The key is to keep moving until fish are located; don’t spend too much time in an unproductive spot.  Gold, rootbeer/gold, olive, and glow are popular colors.  Scented baits such as Gulp! Can make the difference on a tough day.

Hot bite before a weather change

After a couple of days of nice weather, another front will approach.  As this occurs the wind will turn south, then southwest and start to blow fifteen to twenty knots.  Often times the fish will bite like crazy as they sense the weather change coming.  The south wind will flood the bays with water, tides will be higher than normal.  This is a good time to target snook and redfish in shallow water.  Casting gold spoons or jigs will fool them.

Trout will be actively feeding on the deep flats.  The wind will require anglers to find a little protection.  The west side of Sarasota Bay north of New Pass has excellent flats and is protected on a south wind.  Structure in Big Pass on the north end of Siesta is also protected and is a great spot for sheepshead.

Snook move up into the creeks and canals in winter and the high afternoon tides are a good time to target them.  Plugs and jigs cast are to structure and worked back in an erratic manner.  Big jack crevelle will also seek refuge in these areas in the cooler months.As the front moves through the wind will turn northwest and blow hard.  This pretty much shuts down fishing for a day or two.  The wind will shift northeast and the whole process will repeat itself.

Be aware of the effects of local weather patterns and you can be very successful fishing in February.

There are many fine resorts for anglers to stay at when visiting Siesta Key. Fisherman’s Cove on the South end of Siesta Key is the top spot for tourists who place a priority on fishing. Further south in Englewood, Pearl Beach Inn is a great spot for visiting anglers to stay.

In conclusion, this post on fishing charters in Sarasota will help anglers decide if this trip is right for them!

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

Sarasota Fishing Articles

Sarasota Fishing Articles written by Capt Jim Klopfer

This post will list my Sarasota fishing articles. Fishing Lido Key has over 45 posts and articles written to help anglers catch more fish in Sarasota and in Florida. Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota since 1991. The articles are all 2000 words or more and full of great fishing pictures and techniques. Click on the title to link to the full article.

View current Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing articles

Fishing Charters in Sarasota

This post covers the techniques, seasons, and species that anglers will encounter on fishing charters in Sarasota.

Inshore Saltwater Fishing

This is a VERY long, comprehensive post on fishing the inshore saltwater from Texas to Maine. It covers the tackle, species, techniques, and locations that will help anglers be successful.

Sarasota snook fishing

Siesta Key snook fishing

Fishing for Snook, a Complete Guide

Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Sarasota. They are a terrific game fish that grows large and will hit lures and live baits. These articles outlines the seasonal movements of snook along with the techniques, baits, and lures used to catch these apex predators.

Sarasota jig fishing

Jigs are a simple yet extremely effective fishing lure. The lead head jig with a grub body is the most popular lure in Florida. They catch a wide variety of species and are deadly on speckled trout and other fish found on the deep grass flats. This post thoroughly covers the different types of jigs and techniques used to be successful.

Sarasota trolling techniques

Trolling is a very effective technique, especially for Spanish and king mackerel. While it is simply moving along at a slow speed while dragging lures behind, there is much more to it than that. Learn how to do it in this article.

Top 8 Sarasota fish species

This article focuses on the top 8 inshore species available to Sarasota anglers. Snook, speckled trout, redfish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, jack crevalle, bluefish, and mangrove snapper are the top species. Learn the lures and baits along with seasons and techniques used when targeting these species.

35 best Sarasota fishing spots

This article is a list of Capt Jim’s top fishing spots in Sarasota. It includes maps with details on species, baits, and seasons. These are the spots that he fishes on a daily basis.

Best Sarasota fishing charter

This post outlines all of the available options to clients who are thinking about going out on a Sarasota fishing charter. It includes the species available along with the best seasons and techniques used to target them.

Sarasota river fishing

There are several rivers that are a short drive from Sarasota. The Myakka River, Manatee River, and Braden River all offer anglers the chance for trophy snook and jack crevalle, along with other species. Cooler months are the time to fish Sarasota area rivers.

Fly fishing Sarasota rivers

This article shares tips, techniques, and seasons for anglers to be successful fly fishing for snook, jacks, bass, and other species in Sarasota area rivers. Most of this action takes place in the cooler months.

Best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

Artificial lures catch a lot of fish. Lures can actually catch more fish and live bait under certain conditions. They can aggravate and excite fish into biting when they are not hungry. This article outlines the best six lures to use in Sarasota for a variety of species.

Sarasota freshwater fishing

Most anglers visiting Sarasota think of saltwater fishing, and for good reason. However several small lakes and rivers in this area offer good freshwater fishing as well. Crappie, bream, bass, catfish, and other species are plentiful. This article outlines the bodies of water that are productive and the techniques used to catch freshwater fish in Sarasota.

Longboat Key fishing charters

Longboat Key is a barrier island on the north end of Sarasota. It is a bit quieter than Siesta Key and Lido Key. The nearby flats and inshore Gulf of Mexico provide excellent fishing for guests visiting Longboat Key. This post will outline the options for anglers contemplating a fishing charter.

Sarasota speckled trout fishing

Speckled trout are an extremely popular inshore game fish in Sarasota and the Southeast United States. They are plentiful, pretty, aggressive, easy to catch, and taste great. Speckled trout can be caught using a variety of techniques and this article outlines the methods used along with the locations to catch speckled trout.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Spanish mackerel are a terrific and underrated game fish. They are usually plentiful off the Sarasota beaches in the spring and again in the fall. They can often time be seen feeding ferociously on the surface. This article goes into detail on the baits, lures, techniques, seasons, and locations used to catch Spanish mackerel.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

Mangrove snapper are a much desired fish species for anglers fishing in Sarasota. They are feisty fish that school up in large numbers. While they can be taking using artificial lures, most are caught on live bait. Snapper are usually found around structure. They are one of the finest eating fish caught anywhere.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Sheepshead are a member of the Porgy family. They show up in Sarasota waters around Christmas and stay until Easter. They are staple for charter boat captains in the winter as they are plentiful in fairly reliable. Sheepshead are a structure oriented bottom fish that feed mostly on crustaceans. They are great eating but difficult to clean. This article shares the tips and techniques required to catch sheepshead.

Florida pompano fishing

Pompano are an extremely desirable species in Sarasota and throughout all of Florida. While small, they put up a terrific fight for their size. They are caught in the bays, passes and inlets, and off the beaches. Many pompano are caught using live bait, but just as many are caught by anglers using jigs. Pompano are fantastic eating! Learn the tips and techniques used to catch them here.

Sarasota crappie fishing

Many northern anglers are very familiar with this popular freshwater panfish. Florida has excellent populations of crappie. Several local Sarasota lakes offer visiting anglers the opportunity to catch crappie. Late fall and winter are the best times. Read this article to learn the baits, techniques, seasons, and locations that will help anglers catch more crappie.

Florida bluefish

Anglers from the Northeast part of the United States are very familiar with bluefish. While the bluefish we have in Sarasota and other parts of Florida don’t get as large, they are great fun especially on the light tackle that we use. Most bluefish are caught by anglers casting jigs and other artificial lures. This post will run through the lures, baits, and techniques used to catch bluefish.

Sarasota fishing report

This post is updated every week or two by Capt. Jim. It gives honest information on the current conditions along with a recent fishing report. The Sarasota fishing report includes species caught, locations that help fish, and lures and baits that were productive.

Sarasota fishing forecast

Sarasota fishing calendar

The Sarasota fishing forecast and Sarasota fishing calendar are posts that will help visiting anglers plan their trip to Sarasota. While every year is different, seasonal patterns have emerged. Capt. Jim has been guiding since 1991 and shares his experiences over those years in these posts to help anglers get an idea of what species are available at certain times of the year.

Sarasota false albacore fishing

False albacore, also known as Bonito, are tremendous game fish! They do not come into the bays but are caught in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico off of the Sarasota beaches. Spring and fall are the best times to find them. Much of this is sight fishing as the fish feed voraciously on the surface. This article will run through the lures and techniques used to catch false albacore.

Jack crevelle fishing

Jack crevalle are a very hard fighting game fish. They are very wide with deeply Fort tales and they use these attributes to pull incredibly hard. Jacks school up and are usually very aggressive once found. They are often times seen feeding on the surface. The largest jacks of the year are found in the cooler months in creeks, rivers, and residential canals. This article covers all aspects of fishing for jack crevalle in Sarasota.

Sarasota bass fishing

Sarasota is not known for its freshwater fishing, or its bass fishing. However local area rivers, lakes, and ponds offer visiting anglers the opportunity to catch bass all year long. Sarasota does not have a trophy bass fishery, it is more about action and numbers. This article goes through the options anglers targeting largemouth bass in Sarasota have.

River snook fishing

Snook migrate up into area rivers in the winter. They do this to escape the harsh conditions on the shallow grass flats. Snook cannot tolerate water temperature below 60° for very long. Anglers casting artificial lures to shoreline cover catch some trophy fish. This type of fishing is best suited for more experienced anglers. This article covers the lures, locations, season, and techniques to catch river snook.

Sarasota chumming techniques

Chumming is the act of putting food into the water to attract fish. It is an age-old technique that is still effective to this day. Like other forms of fishing, there are nuances and techniques that will produce more fish. This article goes in-depth into these techniques.

Sarasota redfish

Redfish are an extremely popular game fish all along the coastline of the Southeast United States. Most redfish are caught on the shallow flats and around oyster bars, docks, and other structure. They will hit a variety of artificial lures and live baits. This article covers catching redfish in Sarasota and other locations.

Best 11 Sarasota fishing reefs

Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program. This article covers the best 11 fishing reefs in the inshore waters of Sarasota. Included are GPS numbers for the locations as well as seasons, species available, and techniques used to catch a variety of game fish on the Sarasota artificial reefs.

Sarasota bottom fishing

Bottom fishing is as simple as it gets. Hooks are baited with shrimp or other live or frozen bait and then drop to the bottom on or around structure. However, there are tips and techniques which will help anglers be more successful. This article covers the rigs, tackle, baits, and tactics use to be successful when bottom fishing in Sarasota.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

This comprehensive post will answer any questions a visiting angler who is contemplating a fishing charter while in Sarasota, Florida. It covers the seasons, techniques, fishing options, and much more.

Sarasota fishing videos

This post simply lists the videos that Capt. Jim has made for his YouTube channel. The short videos are informative and cover a wide range of angling opportunities in Sarasota.

Fishing Siesta Key

This very long and comprehensive post covers all of the inshore and nearshore angling opportunities for those visiting Siesta Key who might be thinking about doing some fishing. There’s a ton of great information on fish species, locations, seasons, baits and lures, and techniques used that will help anglers be successful.

Fly fishing for jack crevelle

Jacks are terrific game fish, and are a great challenge for anglers casting a fly. A large Jack will put up a great fight on fly tackle. This article covers the tackle, flies, techniques, and locations used to catch jacks on fly.

In conclusion, this list of Sarasota fishing articles has a ton of great information that will help anglers catch more fish!

Fly Fishing for Jack Crevelle

Fly Fishing for jack crevelle

The subject of this article will be fly fishing for jack crevelle. Jacks are found throughout the world and put up a terrific fight on fly tackle.

Why do anglers go fly fishing for jack crevalle? Jack crevalle are the bulldogs of the inshore saltwater. They use their broad sides and deeply forked tail to pull incredibly hard when hooked. Jacks often times school up in large numbers. This fosters a sense of competition, resulting in them being very aggressive. Jacks also forage on the surface. Casting flies into breaking jacks is great sport!

fly fishing for jack crevelle

View current Sarasota fishing report

I am a fishing guide in Sarasota Florida. I run around 200 fishing charters a year. Very seldom do I specifically jacks. More often than not, they are incidental catches or targets of opportunity. Jack are often encountered in the same spots as snook. While not the target species, jacks are a most welcome interloper.

Such was the case on a recent charter with Greg Cudnik from southern New Jersey. Greg is a good fly angler who owns Fisherman’s Headquarters in Ship Bottom, New Jersey. He also does some charter fishing for striped bass, bluefish, and fluke. Greg specializes in light tackle fishing and fly fishing for the species.

Fly fishing for jack crevelle

It was a foggy Sunday morning during Christmas week. That means that the traffic was going to be heavy as it was a beautiful day that hit 80°. We spent the first half hour hitting a likely shoreline in a creek with an outgoing tide, but with no luck. I was headed to another spot when all of a sudden a small bunch of fish started working on the surface.

Greg’s cousin Mike grabbed the spinning outfit with the Bass Assassin Sea Shad jig and grub combo while Greg scrambled for the seven weight fly outfit that was rigged and ready. Mike got is bait in the water first and was instantly hooked up to a fish. By the time Greg got his line stripped out and was ready to go the fish had moved past us.

fly fishing for jack crevelle

Mike fought the fish well, letting the scrappy 3 pound Jack in several minutes. We held it up for a quick photo, then released it unharmed. Now that we were all set up, I tried to find the fish again. However, after idling in the direction that they were swimming and looking around for several minutes, we did not find them and moved on.

After a short “no wake zone”, I jumped the boat up on plane and had not gone for more than half a mile when we saw several more bunches of fish. A couple were in the deeper channel, in 10 foot of water while others were on the shallow flats in a couple feet of water. Since we were fly fishing, we decided to target the shallow fish.

Jack crevelle fishing techniques

After several attempts to get the boat in position, a school of jacks popped up 15 feet away from the boat and downwind. Greg was on the bow with the wind over his casting shoulder and the school of forging fish and easy cast away. He lay the fly out perfectly stripped it several times and a large jack crevelle charge the fly, half of its back sticking out of the water. It was an epic take!

fly fishing for jack crevelle

Mike was on the stern and had also hooked up, this time using a shallow diving Rapala since we were in only a couple feet of water. Fortunately, the fish went in different directions and it was easy to fight the two fish to the boat. Mike released another 3 pound fish while Greg landed a nicer Jack of around 7 pounds. The action continued for another couple hours with the fellas landing a half dozen fish each.

Eventually, the Sunday morning boat traffic put the fish down. However, this is a perfect example of “opportunity fishing”. The plan was to target snook along mangrove shorelines as neither Mike or Greg had ever caught one. The big jacks were a most welcome distraction and an excellent example of why it is important to be rigged and ready and also being flexible on your fishing strategy.

fly fishing for jack crevelle

While jack crevelle are available year-round, the most consistent fishing for them here in Sarasota and in most of Florida is in the cooler months. Our fish average 3 to 5 pounds while fish on the East Coast can be significantly larger. It is not uncommon to run into jacks that are pushing 20 pounds in the inshore waters.

Fly fishing for jack crevalle, tackle

Anglers targeting jack crevalle on fly need to adjust their tackle to the fish that are generally found in the area. Greg enjoyed the action using a seven weight outfit. That was borderline for a couple of the larger fish. Anglers fishing on the East Coast of Florida and in other tropical destinations where jacks grow large may have to bump the tackle up as high as a 10wt outfit.

Here is an excellent Reddington entry level saltwater outfit with line for around $300. Anglers can choose the weight desired.

I prefer to use an intermediate sink tip line for the vast majority of the fly fishing we do in Sarasota. Seldom do we actually target fish on flats in water between one and 2 feet deep. Therefore, an intermediate sink tip line is more versatile. Anglers can begin stripping as soon as it lands and still keep the fly up high in the water column. But, they can also allow it to sink and work the 4 to 8 foot depths where speckled trout, mackerel, and other species are found.

fly fishing for jack crevelle

Many fly anglers over complicate the leader, in my opinion. I prefer to keep the leader simple. That morning when Greg was catching those jacks, the leader consisted of 4 feet of 40 pound fluorocarbon with another 3 feet of 30 pound fluorocarbon. That, combined with a weighted fly, in this case a Clouser Minnow, resulted in the fly turning over easily.

Fly selection is pretty easy when it comes to targeting jacks. Any small bait fish pattern that remotely resembles the forage that are being devoured should elicit a take. In this case, Greg was tossing a green over white Clouser with fairly heavy eyes. Clouser Minnows are by far the most popular fly in this area. A large arbor reel with a smooth drag finishes off the rig.

Jack crevalle fishing strategies

One of the most important requirements when working schools of breaking jacks, or any other kind of breaking fish, is patience. It can get very exciting and sometimes intense as schools of fish erupt on the surface. Jack crevelle tend to move fairly quickly. I have experienced four hour charters where I have followed the same school of fish for several miles in that time span.

Other boats working the fish can complicate the situation as well. Successful anglers will resist the urge to go charging into the fish. It is much better to try to determine the direction and speed the fish are heading and then intercept them. One good, quality opportunity is much better than 10 shots that are less than ideal.

As mentioned above, the ideal situation is to have the fish blowup a nice easy cast away downwind. When this occurs, the best approach is to cast the fly right to the edge of the school. While the fish are very aggressive, it is possible to spook them by “lining” the fish. This means having the fly line land right on top of them. Also, by plucking a fish off the edge of the school it allows two anglers to work to same school. Finally, doing this will reduce the chance of the leader being caught on the backs of one of the other fish that are in the school.

fly fishing for jack crevelle

Once the fly lands, a fast, aggressive stripped will usually draw a strike. If the fish are working on the surface, the angler does not need to let the fly sink very far. With the rod tip low, near the surface of the water, the line is stripped sharply with a pause in between. When the take occurs, the line is pulled tight with the stripping hand and then the rod tip slowly raised. This is called a “strip set” and is used with most streamer fishing in both fresh and saltwater.

Fly casting to jack crevalle

Just because the fish are not feeding on the surface, do not assume that they have gone. Greg hooked a couple of his fish by casting into the area where the jacks had been recently seen. In this case, it is best to let the fly sink for several seconds before beginning the retrieve.

Once a Jack is hooked, if it is of any decent size, the angler will soon be “on the reel”. This means that all the loose fly line will be gone from his or her feet and the fish can be fought using the rod and reel. As the fight nears the end, it is important not to “high stick” the fish. This means raising the fly up high putting it in a severe arch. Many a fly rod has been broken by a large fish close to the boat, particularly in deep water.

The best technique is short pumps of the rod while taking up the slack with the reel. Anglers should try to keep the fly rod below the horizon. This not only gives the angler more power, but it will drastically reduce the chance of breaking your favorite fly rod!

Jack crevelle in rivers and creeks

There is one situation where I do target jacks and that is in creeks, rivers, and canals in the winter. Jacks are a subtropical species and do not tolerate water temperature much below 60° for very long. Severe cold fronts will drop the water on the shallow flats as much is 10° in a couple days. However, the water and residential canals, creeks, and rivers is often significantly warmer. This will result in jacks as well as snook migrating into these areas, particularly if were having a cool winter.

One advantage to this type of fishing as that the fish become concentrated. These are relatively small areas, all things considered, especially if the tide is low. Winter is the dry season as well here in Florida. That means that most rivers will be fairly low. Jacks and other game fish will be concentrated in the holes and deeper sections of the rivers and creeks.

While jacks will occasionally forage on the surface in these areas, the vast majority are caught by anglers blind casting. For whatever reason, jacks in these backwater creeks and rivers just tend to not feed on the surface as much. However they do feed and remain aggressive. Also, once a productive area is located, multiple fish can usually be caught.

Sarasota rivers produce jack crevalle

The Braden River in particular is a terrific spot to target jack crevalle from December through March. It is a small river and is a tributary of the Manatee River, which can also be very productive. The Braden River is quite close to Tampa Bay. Jacks that spend their summer on the open flats of Tampa Bay move into both rivers in the winter to seek the warmer water and available forage. As an added bonus, snook, redfish, juvenile tarpon, and other species are available as well.

In conclusion, anglers who enjoy the long rod should give fly fishing for jack crevelle a try. Just as Greg did, I bet you will gain a newfound respect for these awesome game fish!

Sarasota Fishing Videos

Sarasota Fishing Videos

This page will list my Sarasota fishing videos. Sarasota offers visiting anglers many different species to catch in several different techniques with which to catch them. These videos will give you an idea of what our fishing is all about.

Sarasota is a resort city on the West Coast of Florida. It lies about an hour south of Tampa. It is famous for its world class beaches, shopping, and restaurants. However, Sarasota also offers visitors some excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers can target speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Pompano, and other species on the deep grass flats. Snook and redfish are caught by more experienced anglers along mangrove shorelines. The inshore Gulf of Mexico can have fantastic action on pelagic species and the spring and the fall. Giant tarpon provide the ultimate angling challenge!

Sarasota fishing videos

View Sarasota fishing report

My list of Sarasota fishing videos will give perspective clients an idea of what they can expect on their visit. There are so many different species to catch here, and multiple ways to catch them. Sarasota fishing charters are tailored to the skill level and expectation of the clients. Please enjoy these Sarasota fishing videos!

How to Catch Sheepshead

Sheepshead invade the Sarasota area in the cooler months. Late winter and early spring arethe prime times to target these hard fighting and great eating bottom fish.

Sarasota Trolling Techniques

Trolling is a very effective technique for a variety of game fish. King and Spanish mackerel are particularly prone to hit a lure that is being trolled quickly.

Lido Beach Spanish Mackerel Fishing

Spanish mackerel are a terrific and underrated game fish! They fight hard, are beautiful, and taste great. Mackerel often times are found schooled up and feeding on the surface in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sarasota Fishing Charters, Jig Fishing

Jigs are extremely effective artificial lures. They catch a variety of species in Sarasota Bay and beyond.

Sarasota Fishing Charter Action 2019

Some great action from fishing trips in 2019

Jack Crevalle Fishing

This video shows some awesome action on one of the hardest fighting saltwater fish; jack crevalle. Jacks are aggressive and are found throughout the bays, rivers, creeks, passes, and out on the beaches. They are nomads, roaming around in search of their next meal.

Sarasota family fishing charters

Sarasota family fishing charters is a video that shows that anglers do not need a lot of experience to catch fish. Young anglers are most welcome on Sarasota fishing charters! Capt. Jim enjoys taking children and other novice anglers out for a day of fun. Live bait is often used on these charters as it increases the chances of success.

When taking children and inexperienced anglers out on a Sarasota fishing charter, Capt. Jim generally targets the deep grass flats. Many different species are caught over submerge grass beds in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, ladyfish, bluefish, and more are taken in the spots. Anglers fishing docks catch bottom fish such as snapper along with snook, redfish, and other species.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing shows how incredible the action in the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be when conditions are right. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, cobia, and sharks migrate up and down the coast in the spring and the fall. They are following the huge schools of bait fish that they feed on.

This is very exciting fishing is so much of it is visual. Quite often, large schools of macro and false albacore are seen feeding ferociously on the surface. They have herded up the glass minnows and other bait fish and have them trapped against the surface of the water. Just about any lure, bait, or fly that remotely resembles the forage they are feeding on will get devoured. Sharks will hover around the edge of the feeding fish, picking up the scraps.

Siesta Key snook fishing

Siesta Key snook fishing is a video that shows how fast the action can be when snook are schooled up in one spot. Chumming with live bait is a deadly technique that Capt. Jim uses in the warmer months. Live bait fish are caught and used both as chum and as bait to catch the fish. Handfuls of live, unhooked fish attract the snook and get them in a feeding frenzy.

This technique is extremely effective. It also allows anglers who are not very experienced to have the chance to catch a really nice fish. Since the game fish are excited, they lose a bit of their caution. Along with the snook, redfish, jacks, large trout, and other species will be caught while targeting snook.

Best Sarasota fishing charter

Best Sarasota fishing charter is a video that shows visiting anglers some great action out in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Spanish mackerel were thick just off the beaches that day. These two boys had a great time catch and those along with some small sharks. This type of action is not uncommon in the fall, especially the few weeks coming up on Thanksgiving.

River snook fishing

River snook fishing is a video that shows Capt. Jim catching a nice snook in the Myakka River. In the cooler months, these apex predator game fish move up into area creeks, rivers, and residential canals. They do this to escape the extreme weather changes that can happen on the shallow flats. Water can drop as much is 10° in a couple days on the exposed open flats. The water temperature and rivers and canals is significantly warmer.

This Sarasota fishing charter has a freshwater feel to it. Anglers drift with the current down the river and a 14 foot Alumacraft Jon boat. They cast artificial lures towards likely looking shoreline cover and structure. Most often, shallow diving plugs are used, but soft plastic baits catch plenty of fish as well. This is a trip best suited to more experienced anglers as it is more about a couple quality fish versus numbers of fish.

Siesta Key fishing charters

Siesta Key fishing charters is a video that shows some great action on snook and jack crevelle by anglers using live bait in the fall. These fish are most active in the spring and again in the fall. The east side of Siesta Key in both Roberts Bay and little Sarasota Bay has some great fish holding structure. Oyster bars, docks, creeks, and flats will all produce great catches at one time of the year or another.

Sarasota speckled trout fishing

Sarasota speckled trout fishing shows a couple of anglers as a cast lures and live bait while drifting the deep grass flats. This is a technique that produces a lot of fish for Capt. Jim on Sarasota fishing charters throughout the year. It is also easy for anglers to learn to do quickly.

Most speckled trout in Sarasota are caught over the deep grass flats. These are large areas of submerged grass or vegetation and water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Bait fish and crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs find refuge in the grass. This in turn attracts speckled trout and other game fish.

Sarasota summer fishing charters

Sarasota summer fishing charters is a short little video that shows what happens when you come across schools of “breaking” fish. These are fish that have rounded up a bunch of bait fish and push them to the surface. They are helpless as a are trapped against the top of the water. Ladyfish, jacks, mackerel, bluefish, and other species will be seen doing this throughout the year, but especially in the late summer when bait is plentiful.

Sarasota freshwater fishing

Sarasota freshwater fishing is a video that shows visitors that there are freshwater fishing opportunities in this area. Saltwater fishing gets the vast majority of the coverage and attention in Sarasota. Therefore, the freshwater fishing gets overlooked. Several small lakes along with rivers offer anglers the chance to catch bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, and other species.

The top lakes in the Sarasota area for freshwater fishing are upper Myakka Lake, Lake Manatee, Benderson Lake, and Lake Evers. Each Lake is a bit different and has its good and bad points. Some have horsepower and access limitations. Rivers flowing in and out of the lakes also offer good fishing for freshwater species as well as title species in the river downstream from the dam.

Sarasota false albacore fishing

Sarasota false albacore fishing shows my buddy Tommy Hyser as we work a school of false albacore on the surface. This is a time. Just before Christmas. We are fishing over the submerged artificial reefs that are a couple miles off of Lido Key. These are great spots to find false albacore and other pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel and king mackerel. False albacore can be found anywhere on the beach foraging on the surface.

Sarasota chumming techniques

Sarasota chumming techniques is a video that goes into detail on the tactic of live bait chumming. This is an extremely effective technique when bait fish are plentiful and easy to catch. Using a cast net, Capt. Jim loads up the live well with frisky live baits that are around 2 inches long. He then anchors on a good spot and begins to throw handfuls of the bait fish out behind the boat.

If snook and other game fish are around, it won’t take them long to start feeding on the bait fish. Once the fish are excited and into a feeding mood, hooked baits are tossed back to mixed in with the chum. This is a great opportunity for anglers without a lot of experience to catch a nice snook, redfish, jack, or other species.

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Sarasota tarpon fishing gives anglers a look at what it is like to hook and land a giant tarpon. The video is only a few minutes long, it does not show the hours of patience that it often takes to hook and land one of these behemoths. For the most part, this is a site fishing situation. Anglers sit on the beach a couple hundred yards of shore and look for schools of fish to cast to. This is definitely a Sarasota fishing charter best suited for experienced anglers.

Sarasota snook fishing

Sarasota snook fishing shows a couple of experienced anglers casting artificial lures at first light. Rapala plugs and soft plastic baits on a jig head are cast around docs and the mouse of creeks. Snook were feeding on the outgoing tide, which is the preferred time to fish. This type of fishing is great fun and something that experienced bass anglers would certainly enjoy.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Sarasota sheepshead fishing shows anglers what it is like to target and catch these tasty saltwater pan fish. Sheepshead are members of the Porgy family. They feed around structure and mostly on crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs. Very seldom are they caught by anglers using artificial lures. A fresh shrimp fished around pilings such as in this video, along with bridges, rocks, seawalls, and other structure will produce sheepshead from December through April.

Sarasota snook and jack fishing with Erin

Sarasota snook and jack with Erin is a video showing how a relatively inexperienced angler with rudimentary skills can have a good day of fishing. The key to this is the live bait that we use as both bait and chum. It evens the playing field quite a bit, and gives anglers a great chance to have success.

Plug fishing Sarasota

Plug fishing Sarasota is a video about Capt. Jim and a buddy taking a day off of work to cast plugs on the Myakka River. This is a very relaxing and enjoyable fishing trip. Shallow diving plugs cast towards submerged trees and other structure will produce snook, largemouth bass, jacks, and other species. This type of Sarasota fishing charter is best for anglers with a fair amount of experience.

Sarasota crappie fishing

Sarasota crappie fishing is another video highlighting the excellent freshwater fishing opportunities available to anglers in Sarasota. Crappie have become a very popular fish throughout the United States. The same techniques that produce fish all over work well in Sarasota, too. Trolling with brightly colored jigs and fishing with live minnows produces best.

Sarasota jack crevelle

Sarasota jack crevelle shows how easy and exciting it is to catch a nice Jack on a fly rod and area rivers. Just like to snook, jacks migrate up into these rivers in the cooler months. They can often be seen foraging on the surface as in this video. Jacks are very aggressive and in a mood to feed in this situation. They will hit just about any lore or fly with reckless abandon. This is great fun is so much of the action is visual.

Mixed bag on the Myakka

Mixed bag on the Myakka is a video showing how many different species can be caught by anglers simply fishing a worm on the bottom. This is a technique that is been used for centuries and is still effective to this day. It is an easy and relaxing way to fish and produces both action and variety on the Myakka River and everywhere.

Sarasota river fishing

Sarasota River fishing gives perspective clients an idea of what to expect on a River snook fishing charter. Anglers cast plugs and other lures towards the shoreline is a meander down the stream in a small boat. This is a very relaxing Sarasota fishing charter with great scenery in the chance to catch a really large fish.

Sarasota bass fishing

Sarasota bass fishing is a video that shows Capt. Jim and Capt. Jack taking a day off work to catch a few bass on Upper Myakka Lake. The to cast artificial lures such as spinner baits, plugs, and soft plastics to catch a few chunky bass on light tackle.

Longboat Key fishing charters

Longboat Key fishing charters is a video to show visitors to Longboat Key the angling options that are available to them. This video focuses on family fishing with children and less experienced clients. Capt. Jim will tailor the trip around the clients skill level and expectations to give them the best chance of success. Live bait is generally the most productive method.

In closing, I hope this post showing Sarasota fishing videos gets you excited to go on a Sarasota fishing charter!

Sarasota Fishing Calendar

Sarasota Fishing Calendar

In this article I am going to provide a Sarasota fishing calendar. This is basically a Sarasota fishing forecast. It is based on my more than 30 years experience fishing in Sarasota.

Anglers will find a terrific Sarasota fishing calendar and forecast here. While every year is different, throughout the years Sarasota seasonal fishing patterns hold up. Warm winters, stormy summers, when, red tide, and other factors affect fishing. However, in my 27 years of running Sarasota fishing charters, I see that the patterns replicate themselves. I will share those patterns in a month by month report.

View Sarasota fishing report HERE

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.

Sarasota fishing in January

Fishing in January is all about the weather. There will be days when it’s 80° and sunny. There will be days when it’s cold, blustery, and windy. In order to be successful in January, anglers need to adapt to the prevailing conditions. Fronts will move through regularly, resulting in dirty water in the passes and on the nearby flats.

fishing articles

If it has been a cold month, some species will have moved back into the deeper water of creeks and residential canals. Snook and jacks in particular will seek the warmer water in the upper ends of canals and creeks. Anglers casting lures such as plugs that cover a lot of water are effective. Trolling is also a good way to locate fish, especially jacks.

Bottom fish such as sheepshead, snapper, drum, and other species will be found around docks and other structure. Deeper water and some of the canals as well as in the passes will hold these fish. Big Sarasota Pass has a ton of structure on the north end of Siesta Key and also has deep water. This will hold bottom species all month long. Strong cold fronts will bring wind which will dirty up the water in the passes. When this occurs, it is best to fish the protected areas where the water will be cleaner.

Fishing the deep flats will be cyclical in January. Several days after a front moves through, the water on the flats will clear up and warm up. This should result in decent action for speckled trout, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species. Anglers casting lead head jig’s and live shrimp will do well. If the water temperature is low, below 60°, speckled trout will be found in deeper water. Channels and holes near the flats will attract them.

Sarasota fishing in February

February is usually a tale of two months. The early part of the month is winter, but by the end of the month we are seeing hints of spring. The sheepshead run is in full swing and fish are loaded up in the passes and out on the nearshore artificial reefs. I target them a lot for clients who want a couple fish to eat. The flats and passes can be productive as well. Snook and jack crevalle will begin to migrate out of the creeks and canals as it warms up.

Sarasota fishing calendar

The rocks in Big Pass hold a lot of sheepshead in February. This is pretty easy fishing. It is basic bottom fishing, where we drop a hook baited with a shrimp down to the bottom and wait for a bite. The great part about it is that anglers was very little experience can catch some nice fish. It is best to fish the pass during times of low or moderate current flow. It is difficult to anchor and control the baits when the tide is flowing hard. Docks throughout the entire area will hold sheepshead in February.

Phillippi Creek in the residential canals will still be productive for jacks and snook. Rapala plugs and soft plastic baits work well. As it begins to warm up, the fish will migrate and will be found closer to the mouths of the creeks and canals.

Action on the deep grass flats will start to be more reliable by the end of February. As fronts become less common and less severe, water clarity will stabilize and the temperature will rise. Submerge grass beds in 6 feet of water to 10 feet of water will hold many species. Speckled trout, Pompano, bluefish, jacks, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and more will be taken on lures and live bait.

Sarasota fishing in March

March can be a great month to be fishing in Sarasota! It is springtime, and as is true in most fishing, fishing can be very good. Rising water temperatures will have fish moving out of their winter hunts and scattering out onto the flats and in the passes. Migratory fish such as Spanish mackerel and false albacore will show up as well. The occasional front will still move through, and anglers will experience some windy days. But, the really cold morning should be gone.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Action and the passes should be very good in March. Sheepshead should still be plentiful, though winding down by the end of the month. Anglers drifting the passes with jigs will catch ladyfish, Pompano, bluefish, jacks, and more. Often times, surface action will be seen as ladyfish and Spanish mackerel forage on the surface.

Fishing on the grass flats should be very good as well. The deep flats will have speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, Pompano, bluefish, ladyfish and other species. Lead head jig’s and live shrimp are the top baits. As in the passes, surface activity will be seen occasionally. This is a good opportunity to cast a shallow diving plug or a 1/2 ounce silver spoon.

Snook and jacks will be on the shallow flats in Roberts Bay and in Sarasota Bay. Oyster bars and mangrove shorelines that have a little depth will hold these game fish. Anglers casting artificial lures can cover the water much more quickly and effectively. Search baits such as plugs and weedless spoons are a great choice.

The inshore Gulf of Mexico off of the Sarasota beaches can provide anglers with fantastic action when conditions are right in March. Spanish mackerel, false albacore, king mackerel, sharks, and cobia migrate up the coast. They are right behind the huge schools of bait fish such as sardines and herring. When the seas are flat and the water is clear these fish will often feed on the surface. It is very exciting casting into schools of breaking fish.

Sarasota fishing in April

April is a fantastic month to be fishing in Sarasota, Florida! Fish have solidly moved into their spring migration patterns. Severe cold fronts are a thing of the past. There will be fronts move through, perhaps bringing some wind and rain. However, with water temperature in the 70s the bite will be on. Just about every species is available this month.

Sarasota fishing calendar

The Sarasota flats are alive with life in April. The deep flats provide excellent action on speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, pompano, and more. Anglers drifting and casting lures or live bait do well. Many fish species are in spawning mode this time of year. For the most part, they are aggressive and in a mood to feed.

Anglers fishing the shallow flats and backwater areas will do well on snook, redfish, jacks, and larger gator trout. These fish will be found in potholes (depressions in the grass flat) as well as along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars. Top water plugs are great fun on the high tide stages. Shallow diving plugs, spoons, and jigs are good artificial lures. Large live shrimp fished under docks will produce all these species and more.

The passes will be full of fish in April as well. Though the sheepshead will have thinned out as a completed there spawning run. Mangrove snapper and other bottom fish will be available in the structure. However, most of the fish in the passes will be caught by anglers drifting through the pass itself. Pompano, mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and more will be caught by anglers drifting jigs and live bait.

Action out on the beach will be good early, then tapering off by the end of the month. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and false albacore will feed heavily on the beach and out on the artificial reefs. If it has been a warm spring, some tarpon may be showing up by the end of the month.

Sarasota fishing in May

May means one thing to many Sarasota anglers; tarpon! Giant tarpon show up in May off of the Sarasota beaches and stay until late July. Many consider tarpon fish in the ultimate angling challenge. This is a game that requires patience is anglers sit a couple hundred yards offshore in search of fish. Once seen, anglers cast live crabs and bait fish to them in hopes of a bite. It is not easy, but when it all comes together, it is the thrill of a lifetime!

Sarasota fishing calendar

Inshore fishing techniques change a bit in May. As the water warms up, schools of bait fish show up on the flats. We transition from casting lures and live shrimp to catching this bait in our cast nets. The bait is then used to chum fish to the boat as well is to catch them. Lures can still be productive, especially early and late in the day. Pin fish become abundant on the flats. That can make using live shrimp a bit frustrating.

Snook will be moving in May as well. They will school up in both passes as well as out on the beaches. They do this is part of there spawning ritual. By late May, the rocks in Big Sarasota Pass will be a reliable spot to catch snook. There should also be plenty of fish out on the beach as well.

Sarasota fishing in June

June is a bit of a transition month. It is summer time and it is hot! Anglers fishing the inshore waters get out there early and are done by noon at the latest. Water temperatures will often approach 90°. This is especially true before the afternoon rains calm and cool the water off a bit.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Chumming with live bait is the number one inshore technique in June and really all summer long. Bait fish are usually abundant on the beaches and on the shallow grass flats just inside the passes. If the water gets too warm, bait can be difficult to catch. Once the well is loaded, the boat is anchored up and handfuls of bait fish are tossed out in the water behind the boat. If game fish are around, it isn’t long before they are popping the baits. Then it is just a matter of hooking baits on and casting them out.

Tarpon fishing is in full swing in June. The periods before the full moon and the new moon are the prime times. Boat traffic is heavy as many anglers are targeting these apex game fish. One nice thing about fishing in June is that with so many anglers out on the beach chasing tarpon, pressure on the inshore species is light.

Sarasota fishing in July

It is hot in July in Florida! However, many clients are surprised to hear that the fish and can be fantastic. The key once again is the abundance of live bait. This is an early bite. Anglers need to be out there first light and done by 10:30 or 11:00. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, sharks, jacks, ladyfish, bluefish, and other species are attracted to the chum. Snook are still thick in the passes and out on the beaches.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Tarpon are still out on the beaches as well, but the numbers are really thinning out. These late-season fish do not show as often. However, they can be a lot easier to catch. Spawning is pretty much done and many anglers have given up the chase. Floating a pin fish or crab under a float out behind the boat will catch them. Once again, this is generally an early bite due to the heat.

Sarasota fishing in August

Sarasota fishing in August is much like it was in July. Action on the deep grass flats should be very good as afternoon rains will have the water temperature down a bit. Bait fish are still plentiful and easy to catch. Chumming with live bait on the flats is a most effective and productive technique. Anglers casting lures at first light will catch fish as well.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Sharks show up on the grass flats in late July and August as well. These are the perfect size for catching, between 15 pounds and 40 pounds. The technique is fairly simple; a cut up ladyfish is put under a float and cast out behind the boat. It is then just a matter waiting for a shark to come along. I often do this at the end of a Sarasota fishing charter after we have already experience good action and are looking for a big fish to end the day.

Snook will begin moving back in from the passes and off the beaches, though plenty of fish will remain out there. Anglers do well sight fishing for snook in the morning. Tarpon numbers have really thinned out with some of the fish moving into Tampa Bay and North Sarasota Bay.

August is one of the best months to target redfish on the shallow flats in Sarasota. Redfish school up in big numbers this time of year. They can easily be seen moving over the shallow flats. A school of reds looks like a small wave going through the water. These fish can be very finicky in the shallow water. Anglers need to be quiet and make long casts in order to catch them. The flats in North Sarasota Bay are particularly productive.

Sarasota fishing in September

September is the most “tropical”month in Sarasota, Florida. It is the time of the year that the hurricanes are most active. That really affects the fishing and can make it unpredictable. When no storms are threatening, fishing can be very good. Also, it is the slowest month of the year in terms of tourist activity That means that the beaches and bays are relatively uncluttered.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Water temperature in Sarasota Bay should be in the upper 70s by mid September. Bait fish are still plentiful and chumming continues to be very productive. However, anglers casting artificial lures begin to have more success as the water cools off. Breaking fish will often times be seen feeding on the helpless bait fish.

Snook will be moving back into the bays in September. There will still be fished out on the beach and in the passes, but the backwater areas will start to produce decent numbers of fish. The same lures and baits that worked in the spring catch snook and other fish in September. Plugs and soft plastic baits are the top artificial lures. Live pilchards are tough to beat for bait. Schooling reds will still be found on the flats at Long Bar and Buttonwood Harbor.

Sarasota fishing calendar in October

October might be my favorite month to fish in Sarasota Florida! It is cooling off in the weather is usually very pleasant. For the most part, the tropical season is over. Also, between the kids been in school and outdoorsmen turning to hunting, fishing pressure is light.

Sarasota fishing calendar

When I can get the bait, I targets snook quite often in October. They are found along mangrove shorelines, under docks, along seawalls, and around oyster bars in Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay. Chumming with larger live pilchards is extremely effective. Clients also catch them early in the morning casting shallow diving plugs. Redfish and jacks will be mixed in with the snook as well.

Anglers drifting the deep grass flats and passes should do well in October. Spanish mackerel respond to the cooling water and are often quite active. Speckled trout, Pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species school up in both passes and out on the grass flats. There can literally be fish at just about every spot this time of year.

The surface action and the inshore Gulf of Mexico should get cranked up by the end of October. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, cobia, and sharks are migrating back south along the Florida coast. This is very similar to the spring fishing. However, because weather patterns are bit more stable, the fall bite is generally a bit more reliable. Spanish mackerel and false albacore in particular will be gorging themselves on the way south for winter.

Sarasota fishing calendar in November

The first real cold fronts of the year will normally arrive around mid-November. Shorter days along with these fronts will have the water temperature dropping. Whatever bait fish that remained on the flats are usually gone by the end of the month. Fish will begin moving around in the bay and preparations for winter.

Sarasota fishing calendar

The bite on the deep grass flats can be excellent in November in Sarasota Bay! I’ve normally switched over to fishing primarily with jigs this time of year. Many of the fish are in the 8 foot to 10 foot range. A 1/4 ounce jig is an effective bait for getting down to the fish. Less experienced anglers do well free lining a live shrimp behind the boat. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and Pompano are the most commonly caught species.

Snook and jacks will begin easing their way back to the creeks and canals. The entrances to these areas are often a good spot to target game fish. Jacks will be schooled up and often seen foraging on the surface. This is great fun as they will eat just about anything cast in front of them.

The passes will continue to be productive as long as the water is clean. Pompano are often caught particularly on the outgoing tide with an east wind. Rocks, bridges, docks, seawalls, and other structure will hold mangrove snapper and other bottom fish. A live shrimp fished on the bottom is the best bet.

Sarasota fishing calendar in December

December will find fish moving back to their winter patterns. Cold snaps will have the water in the mid-60s. Snook and jacks will be moving back up into the residential canals in creeks. When the water is clear, action on the deep flats will be good, especially for ladyfish and bluefish. These species do not mind the cooler water as much.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Sheepshead will begin to show up in December as well. They are normally caught around oyster bars and under docks all along Siesta Key. They show up in these locations before moving out into the passes. Black drum and other bottom species will be caught as well. Speckled trout will be found on the grass flats when it is warm. However, a big drop in water temperature will have them in the channels and holes. Current Florida fishing regulations are found on the FWC site.

In conclusion, I hope to Sarasota fishing calendar helps both visiting and local anglers experience success!

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

Fishing Sarasota Bay, Pro Tips

Fishing Sarasota Bay, tips and techniques

Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay have the opportunity to catch over 20 saltwater fish species. Multiple techniques are effective. Sarasota Bay can fished all season long.

This article on the Fishing Lido Key site will get anglers started fishing in Sarasota Bay. Sarasota Bay is on the West Coast of Florida. It runs northwest to southeast and sits south of Tampa Bay and North of Charlotte Harbor. Sarasota Bay is roughly 10 miles long and 3 miles wide and is fairly shallow. It has many acres of submerge grass beds which hold fish. Other excellent habitat includes mangrove shorelines, creeks, and passes. Sarasota Bay can offer excellent fishing all year long!

fishing Sarasota Bay

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.

View current Sarasota fishing report

This fishery actually extends another 10 miles or so south. Roberts Bay and Little Sarasota Bay are narrower. The character of these bays is a bit different as well. Grass flats are less plentiful while oyster bars are the primary habitat. Docks in both the bays and in residential canals and creeks offer fish sanctuary as well.

Sarasota Bay is home to many inshore saltwater species. Snook, redfish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jack crevalle, ladyfish, cobia, sharks, tarpon, red and gag grouper, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, Key West grunts, flounder, black drum, whiting, catfish, and black sea bass are some of the more popular species.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Tackle used for anglers fishing Sarasota Bay is pretty basic. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium action spinning rod with a 3000 series reel spooled up with 20 pound braid or 10 pound monofilament line is the best all round rig. Anglers then attach a 24 inch piece of 30 pound fluorocarbon as a shock leader. The lure or hook is then attached to the end of the leader.

Sarasota Bay fishing seasons

Winter

While every year is different, seasonal patterns hold up over time. A cold winter will find fish in the deeper holes as well as in creeks and residential canals. Fish on the grass flats tend to be a bit deeper, in a to 10 feet of water. Several days of warm weather may have them up on the shallower flats.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Residential canals and creeks will hold a lot of fish in cold weather. They also offer anglers some refuge from the wind. Docks in these areas will attract and hold fish. They offer shade, structure, and forage. Anglers fishing live and frozen shrimp under docks will catch sheepshead, black drum, snapper, snook, redfish, and jack crevalle.

Anglers targeting snook in jacks will do well in the upper end of canals as well as several creeks in the area. Phillippi Creek, Hudson Bayou, Whitaker Bayou,Bowlees Creek, in the grand Canal on Siesta Key are but a few of these types of areas. The best approach is to cast a search bait such as a shallow diving plug. Trolling the same plugs can help locate fish.

Spring

As it warms up in the spring, fish will move out of these deeper sanctuary waters and scatter out over the flats. They will be active, aggressive, and in the mood to feed. All of the deeper grass flats in 4 feet of water to 10 feet of water should hold speckled trout, ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, and more.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Snook, redfish, jacks, and large speckled trout will be found on the shallow grass flats, around oyster bars, and along mangrove shorelines. Artificial lures are usually the bait of choice as they allow anglers to cover a lot of water in search of these game fish. Live bait can certainly be used as well.


Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are very productive spots in spring. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay passes will find the sheepshead schooled up heavily on structure. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper will be mixed in with them. They show up in late February and usually stay until April. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish will be caught in the passes themselves.

Summer

Summer offers anglers fishing Sarasota Bay outstanding action! Many visiting anglers are surprised to learn this, as many times fishing slows down in the heat of summer. The key to the summer action in Sarasota is the abundance of live bait. Small forage fish such as scaled sardines and threadfin herring are plentiful on the grass flats near the passes.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Anglers fishing in summer do need to get up early. The best bite is first light and it gets hot awfully fast. The deeper grass flats provide great action on a variety of species during the summer. Anglers can use live bait or artificial lures. Night fishing is another way to catch fish while escaping the heat of the Florida sun.

Snook will migrate into the passes and out along the beaches and summer. Anglers can sight fish snook on all of the Sarasota beaches. Structure in both passes will hold plenty of fish as well. Live bait is usually the best approach for fishing for snook in the passes. Tarpon provide anglers a world class fishing experience!

Fall

Fall is a great time for anglers to be fishing Sarasota Bay. The kids are back in school and the tourist traffic in Sarasota is low. The weather is usually quite reliable in the fall as well. Spanish mackerel will be migrating back south. Fishing the flats will pick up as water temperatures drop.

inshore saltwater fishing

Snook, redfish, and jacks will be found in the same places as they were in the spring time. Shallow flats, mangrove shorelines, docks, and oyster bars are good places to target these fish, particularly in Roberts Bay and Little Sarasota Bay. As fall comes to a close and it gets cold, fish will move back to their winter haunts and the pattern will repeat itself.

Sarasota Bay fishing techniques

Deep grass flats

Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay who seek action and variety will do well to target the deep grass flats. By “deep grass flats”we are reference submerge grass beds that grow in water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep. These grass beds hold bait fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans that the game fish feed on. When the water is clear, these areas are easy to see.

The best approach when fishing the deep grass flats is to drift. These can be large areas without any specific structure. Therefore, fish will roam about on the flats in search of food, anglers drifting cover more water and have a better chance of locating feeding fish. Speckled trout are the primary species targeted on the deep grass flats. However, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and other species are encountered regularly as well.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Both artificial lures and live bait are very productive when drifting the deep grass flats. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay who prefer live bait will do quite well using live shrimp. Shrimp are available at bait shops all season long. A live shrimp under a popping cork has produced a lot of speckled trout over the years. The technique uses a noisy cork or float to attract the fish. Once the noise draw them in, they eat the live shrimp dangling there. On the deeper grass flats, free lining the shrimp often works better.

Live bait

Live bait fish are used on the deep grass flats as well, particularly in the warmer months. A live 3 inch pin fish or grunt floated out behind the boat under a cork will catch some of the larger trout as well as perhaps a stray cobia. Live bait chumming is incredibly effective in the summer. The bait well is loaded up with live baits than they are used to attract game fish behind the boat.

The number one artificial lure for anglers fishing Sarasota Bay is without a doubt the jig and grub combo. It is a simple, cost-effective, and effective lure. It consists of a lead head jig. This is a hook with a piece of lead near the eye. The weight provides both casting distance and action to the lure. One quarter ounce is the best all round size. White, red, and chartreuse are the most popular colors.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Some type of plastic body is then put on the jig hook. These grub bodies come in endless colors, sizes, and styles. They all imitate either a crustacean or a bait fish. Shad tail baits are very popular as a have their own built in action. Paddle tail and shrimp tail baits work as well. 3 inch to 4 inch baits are best for anglers fishing Sarasota Bay.

Jigs in Sarasota Bay

The jig and grub can be worked in a couple different ways. The best approach is usually a “jig and fall” retrieve. The lure is cast out, and allowed to sink several feet in the water column. It is then brought back in by twitching the rod tip sharply then adding some slack. This results in the jig jerking up quickly than falling helplessly back down. This action triggers a lot of strikes. Jigs can also be cast out and reel steadily back to the boat.

Plugs and spoons are also effective lures on the deep grass flats. These lures work very well when “breaking fish” are seen. These are schools of fish that are feeding on helpless bait fish on the surface. They can be seen splashing about as they feed. Bird activity is often a great indication of breaking fish. A fast, erratic retrieve usually works best.

Siesta Key fishing charters

Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay on the deep grass flats can also troll. This technique works well on days when there is little wind to provide a drift for the boat. It is also a good technique for novice anglers and children with perhaps less than ideal patience. Plugs work very well for this. The lure is simply cast out a ways behind the boat and then the boat is idled along until a fish bites.

Shallow flats

Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay in search of snook, redfish, jacks, and gator trout will do well to target the shallow areas. It perplexes some anglers to learn that the largest fish are often caught in the shallowest of water. For the most part, these fish are loners. While the smaller fish are not comfortable in the shallow water the larger fish are.

Tactics are different for anglers targeting fish in shallow water. These fish can be spooky and a quiet, a stealthy approach is required. Anglers that lighten up their tackle will be more successful. Long, accurate casts are often times required. Most anglers choose to use artificial baits in shallow water. Lures are easier to keep out of the grass and are more effective when searching for fish.

Jigs, spoons, and plugs are all effective baits on the shallow flats. Light jig heads in the 1/16 ounce to 1/8 ounce range are best. Anglers can use buck tail jigs as well as a jig head with a soft plastic body. Longer trailer such as a six-inch jerk worm tend to work well. Jigs remain relatively weedless as a rod with the hook up.

Sarasota snook fishing

Weedless spoons are a staple of shallow water anglers all over the country. These lures cast a long way, run shallow, and are fairly weedless. They are particularly effective for redfish. Spoons are great search baits. Gold is the preferred color in 1/2 ounce is the most popular size.

Passes

Passes connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. Pass is just another word for an inlet that they use on this coast. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay can experience excellent action in the passes. Ladyfish are often times thick right in the pass itself. This is great fun for children and novice anglers as the action can be virtually nonstop. Pompano, mackerel, bluefish and other species can be taken in the middle of the passes.

Vertical jigging while drifting the passes works very well. It is also quite simple to do. The angler simply drops the jig down to the bottom, engages the reel, then gives the jig little 1 foot hops as the boat drifts along. Most of the fish in the passes will be feeding on crustaceans on the bottom. This jigging action mimics a fleeing crab or shrimp and is very productive. A jig head with a live shrimp can be used as well.

inshore fishing for sheepshead

Structure in both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass hold fish all year long. In the winter and early spring, sheepshead will school up thick in the passes. A live or frozen shrimp fished on the bottom will catch them, as well as other species such as grouper and snapper. In the summer, snook will school up in the same rocks.

Docks and bridges in Sarasota Bay

Docks and bridges are basically inshore artificial reefs. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay target them for a variety of species all year long. Most anglers use live or frozen bait when fishing docks and bridges. However, artificial lures can be used as well.

The most productive approach when fishing a dock or a bridge is to anchor up current from the structure about a cast or so away. The bait is then cast out towards the pilings and allowed to sit. Live shrimp, frozen shrimp, cut squid, cut bait, and live bait fish can all be used. Sheepshead, snapper, drum, grouper, flounder, snook, redfish, and other species will be taken.

guide to saltwater fishing

Anglers using artificial lures to fish docks have success using both plugs and jigs. Plugs allow anglers to cover a lot of water fairly quickly. A lure that dives down 3 to 4 feet is perfect. 3 inch to 4 inch baits in olive and white match the local forage. Shad tail baits on a 1/4 ounce jig head will produce as well, though they cannot be worked quite as fast.

Fly Fishing Sarasota Bay

Anglers fly fishing Sarasota Bay have several different options.  They can fish the deep grass flats for both action and variety.  Targeting snook and redfish is more challenging.  This will appeal to more experienced fly fishers.

Sarasota offers visiting anglers some exciting fly fishing opportunities.  Clients fly fishing Sarasota Bay catch speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, pompano, and ladyfish on the deep grass flats.  Oyster bars, flats, and mangrove shorelines hold snook, jacks, and redfish.  Anglers fishing the creeks in winter catch some nice snook and jack crevelle.  Spanish mackerel and false albacore are available spring and fall in the inshore Gulf of Mexico.

Action and variety fly fishing Sarasota Bay

We were fly fishing Sarasota Bay and Candice was distracted by several bottlenose dolphin that were playing a hundred feet off to the right.

“You need to start stripping or your line is going to hang up in the grass”, I instructed her.

She gave me a sheepish grin and began to retrieve the fly back in. On the fifth strip the line got tight and shot off to the side. The fish did not leap as of the water as the several previous ladyfish had, making me wonder if perhaps she had hooked a different species. My hunch was confirmed as several moments later a two pound pompano came to the net; an unexpected but most welcome surprise! Ironically, the dolphins were responsible for the catch, their distraction enabled the fly to sink all the way down to the bottom where they typically feed.

fly fishing Sarasota Bay

Candice is an East Sarasota country girl who loves horses, mudding, shooting guns, but most of all fishing. Although fairly experienced with spin fishing, she was intrigued by the idea of fly fishing Sarasota Bay, yet had no idea where to start. After an hour of casting practice and another hour of fishing, she hooked and landed a half-dozen ladyfish and that nice pompano! This article is aimed towards other anglers that are interested in trying fly fishing but are overwhelmed by the prospect.

Sarasota Bay fly fishing tackle

The primary difference between spin fishing and fly fishing is that in spin fishing the lure or bait provides the weight and the line is the connection between the hook and the reel. In the fly fishing the line is cast as the fly weighs next to nothing. Keeping that in mind, the tackle is similar but with some significant differences.

Matching fly tackle is very easy as rods, reels and lines are designated by “weight”. That number appears on rods and lines as the abbreviation “Wt”. It is always best to match the line, rod, and reel with the same weight line. For most inshore saltwater applications, an 8 weight (8wt) outfit is ideal. Fly rods also come in different actions, a “mid-flex” is the most forgiving and is the best choice for a novice angler.  Most of my equipment is Orvis fly tackle.

fly fishing Sarasota Bay

Best fly fishing reels for Sarasota Bay

The reel in fly fishing is not used all that much; it basically just stores the line, unless a larger fish is hooked and the fish starts taking drag. The fly line is manipulated by hand for the most part. The best choice would be a large arbor saltwater reel with a good drag system. Fly reels are “single action”, which means that there is no gear multiplication as with a spinning reel. Also, the reel will spin backwards when a fish runs, so keep your knuckles clear!

Fly lines are an extremely important part of the system and a quality line is well worth the cost. Lines come in weights as rods and reels do, but there are also a variety of types of lines. Basically, they are either floating, intermediate sink tip, or full sinking. Intermediate sink tip lines are the most versatile for fishing the relatively shallow depths on inshore Florida waters. One mistake that visiting freshwater fly anglers make is trying to use full floating lines. They are easier to cast but will not allow the fly to sink down far enough into the water column. Two hundred yards of 20 lb test “backing” is spooled up behind the fly line.

Fly fishing leaders and flies for Sarasota Bay

Fly selection can also be overwhelming and confusing to a beginning fly angler. Much like spin fishing, there are a myriad of choices in color, size, and style. Most flies mimic either a baitfish or crustacean. One of the most popular and effective fly patterns is the Clouser Deep Minnow. It consists of a hook, small weighted lead eyes, and some bucktail or synthetic dressing. Sound familiar? It should, it is basically a bucktail jig, a lure that has proven itself over time. It is a good idea to have unweighted flies as well, and Lefty’s Deceiver is a great choice. White is a good color to start with but using a fly that matches the colors that are locally productive should produce.

fly fishing Sarasota Bay

A leader is used between the end of the fly line and the fly. In freshwater fishing the leader is very important, tapering down which allows the small fly to “turn over” and land softly. Tapered leaders really are not required in saltwater fly fishing. Most saltwater flies have a little weight and will extend the leader out. In most cases, a 6 piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon will be sufficient.

In summary, heading to a local fly shop and purchasing an 8wt rod in a mid-flax action, matching reel spooled with 200 yards of backing, intermediate sink-tip line, a spool of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader, and a small selection of Clouser Minnows and Deceivers (the shop can help with locally productive patterns) will prepare a novice fly angler with the equipment needed to get started.

Sarasota Bay fly fishing techniques

Once the proper equipment is acquired it is time to go fishing. Well, not quite! Before heading out to the water some casting practice will be required. It is best to become a bit comfortable and proficient in casting and managing the line BEFORE heading out to fish. There are many good resources out there but one of the best options is to take a class given by a local shop, guide, or outfitter.

Now that the tackle is in hand and the angler has the ability to cast forty feet, it is time to go fishing! As previously mentioned, the fly is manipulated by hand rather than with the rod and reel. The fly is cast out, allowed to sink to the desired depth and then retrieved back using short “strips” with the rod tip low and pointed at the fly. When a fish takes the fly, the line is pulled taut with the stripping hand and once tension is felt, the rod tip is raised up high.

This is called a “strip set”. Resisting the urge to set the hook or jerk the tip up will result in more hooked fish. Smaller fish can be brought in using smooth strips, coiling the line below the reel. With larger fish, use the stripping hand to feed line back out while manually applying some tension. Once all of the slack line is taken up, the fish is “on the reel” and can be fought using the rod and reel. If no bite occurs, the line is picked up and cast out again.

fly fishing Sarasota Bay

Best approach for novice anglers fly fishing Sarasota Bay

The best approach when starting off is to target species that will provide action and variety, it is better to “practice” on the less challenging species. This will give the novice angler both experience and confidence. The good news is that local knowledge that is already possessed will produce for fly anglers.

Any fish that will hit an artificial lure can be taken on fly. Here in Sarasota that means drifting the deeper grass flats in search of speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species. As with spin fishing, casting in front of a drifting boat can be very productive. It will take some time to learn to manage the line while casting, fishing, and catching, especially when it is a bit breezy. Anglers will also be successful wading and fishing from shore.

Thinking about giving fly fishing Sarasota Bay a try? If so, give it a chance, but be prepared to be “hooked” for life!

More on Sarasota fly fishing tackle

The intention of this chapter is to simplify the tackle and techniques used in fly fishing to encourage anglers to give the “long rod” a chance. Fly fishing can be confusing and overwhelming, but it does not have to be. In spin fishing the lure or bait provides the weight for casting and the line just follows behind. With fly fishing, the line provides the weight, fishing flies weigh practically nothing and would be difficult to cast any distance by themselves. This is the fundamental difference. Of course, this means that the tackle is different, too.

Rods:

Fly rods are designated by “weight”. The smaller the number the lighter the rod. This delineation is located on the rod near the handle and written as such: “7wt” for example. Fly rods also come in different lengths and actions. The best choice for a novice fly angler fishing the inshore salt waters would be a 9 foot 8wt outfit.

Lines:

Fly lines also come in “weights” and need to be matched to the rod. Lines come in different varieties; floating, sink tip, and full sinking. The best all-round line is an intermediate sink tip line. This will get the fly down on the deeper grass flats but can still be worked quickly, keeping the fly near the surface. One mistake many freshwater anglers make is using a floating fly line for all applications. Floating lines are easier to pick up and cast, but the fly will not get deep enough when fishing in deeper water.

Fly lines also are not straight, they taper with the forward section being heavier. These are designated “weight forward” or “saltwater taper” and greatly assist the fly angler when casting heavy or bulky flies. Fly lines are generally around 100 feet long. 200 yards of “backing” is spooled under the fly line. This adds diameter and is crucial when fishing for larger fish that make long runs. Fly lines usually have a loop at the casting end to facilitate leader connections.

Reels:

A quality saltwater fly reel will have a smooth drag and corrosion resistant parts. They are “single action” which means that there is no multiplication when reeling; one turn of the crank equates to one revolution on the spool. Also, the handle is fixed which means when a fish makes a run against the drag the handle will spin backwards. Keep the knuckles out of the way!

Leaders:

Fly line is thick and easily seen, therefore a leader is used between the end of the fly line and the fly. Leaders are “tapered” meaning the butt section (the end of the leader that attaches to the fly line) is thicker than the fly end. This helps the leader extend out, also known as “turning over” and is helpful when using unweighted flies. A “bite tippet” is required in most saltwater applications. This is a 20” piece of florocarbon, usually 20lb to 30lb test. Leaders can be purchased or made individually in sections. Most commercially made leaders have a loop at the butt end, which makes it very easy to attach to the fly line.

Flies:

Flies come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and sizes. Most flies are tied to imitate either baitfish or crustaceans, which is the primary forage of gamefish. As with all fishing, fly patterns should resemble the available prey. The Clouser Deep Minnow is a very popular and effective fly pattern that will mimic shrimp, crabs, and baitfish. It is a simple fly with weighted dumbbell eyes and some dressing of natural or synthetic hair. Weighted flies sink and dance seductively when stripped in.

Another versatile weighted fly is the Crystal Minnow. Tied Primarily to entice snook, these patterns will produce in a variety of angling situations. The D.T. Special is a terrific unweighted fly. It works great casting to breaking fish as well as in the surf. The venerable Lefty’s Deceiver is a great unweighted fly as well and has been producing fish for both freshwater and saltwater anglers for decades.

This may sound like heresy, but the fly pattern is often over-emphasized by anglers. Fly selection does matter, but it is not nearly as important as location and especially presentation. Along those same lines, anglers that tie their own flies often use too much material and “over tie” the flies. “Less is more” can be a good approach.

Complete Outfit:

A 9 foot 8wt medium action fly rod, matching reel with backing, an intermediate sink tip line, several saltwater leaders, and a couple dozen flies ( a mix of #1 Clousers, #1 D.T Specials, and #4 Crystal Minnows in white, chartreuse, and pink ) along with a fly box will provide a novice saltwater with the basic outfit to get out and catch some fish. Local fly shops are the best resource as they will usually spend the extra time with customers and even let them cast a rod or two before the purchase. As in all fishing, purchasing the best equipment that one can afford will make for a more enjoyable experience.

In conclusion, I hope this article on fishing Sarasota Bay helps anglers experience success. Please contact me if you are interested in a Sarasota fishing charter! Anglers can find Florida fishing regulations on the FWC site.

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

Sarasota bottom fishing

Sarasota bottom fishing

Sarasota bottom fishing is a very simple, yet effective, angling technique. Many fish live and feed on or near the bottom. Bottom structure holds bait and gamefish.

Sarasota bottom fishing

What is Sarasota bottom fishing? Bottom fishing is an easy and effective technique that any anglers can use successfully. It places natural bait on the bottom in hopes of attracting a fish. Live, fresh dead, and frozen bait can be used. Baits vary by location, depending on the forage available locally. Bottom fishing is effective in just about every fishing location for a wide variety of species.

View current fishing report

While bottom fishing is basically dropping a bait to the bottom using a lead weight, there are nuances that will make a difference in success. Leader strength and length, hook sizes, weights, and rigs are all factors that the successful bottom fishing angler will take into account.

Sarasota bottom fishing rigs

There are several rigs that anglers use when Sarasota bottom fishing. Sliding sinker rigs and spreader rigs are two of the most popular rigs for bottom fishing. Both have multiple variations and both are effective. Sliding sinker rigs allow fish to pick up a bait off the bottom and move off without feeling and resistance. Spreader rigs suspend multiple baits at various depths just off the bottom.

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.


 
A sliding sinker rig consists of a leader and a sinker with a hole in it. Egg sinkers work well in this application. Egg sinkers come in many different sizes. They also roll on the bottom and do not hang up easily. Surf anglers use a device called a “fish finder”. This is a small plastic tube with a clip on it. The line passes through the tube and a clip is used to attach the weight. Pyramid sinkers are most often used by surf casters.

fishing Siesta Key

With either rig, most anglers use the same approach. The running line is passed through the sinker or fish finder. A swivel is then attached to the end of the line. The swivel stops the sinker from sliding down. The leader is then tied on to the other end of the swivel. Leader lengths vary, but most anglers use 2′ to 3′ of leader. A hook finishes off the rig.

One variation of this is called the “knocker rig”. It is just like the sliding sinker rig above, except the sinker is placed on the leader, between the swivel and the hook. This results in the sinker sitting right on the eye of the hook. The knocker rig has two advantages. It keeps the bait right on the bottom where the fish feed. Also, if the hook hangs up, the sinker will often “knock” it free, thus the name. I use this rig a lot when targeting sheepshead and snapper on Sarasota fishing charters. It is very effective.

Spreader rigs separate the hooks both horizontally and vertically. Wire arms are often used. Snelled hooks are attached to the arms. The hooks then go off to the side and away from the main line. When the fish are biting, double headers are common. This rig works well fished vertically from a boat, bridge, or pier. Surf casters employ them as well.

Hooks and weights

There are many different styles of hooks that anglers use when bottom fishing. Short shank live bait hooks are the most often used as they are easier to hide in the bait. Some anglers prefer a long shank hook. This is particularly true of flounder fishermen. Circle hooks are popular now as well. Circle hooks more often result in the fish being hooked in the mouth. This reduces the mortality rate among released fish. Circle hooks are mandatory in the Gulf of Mexico.

best Sarasota fishing charter

The rule of thumb when choosing a hook is to match it to the size of the bait being used, not the size of the fish being targeted. A small hook in a large bait will usually not result in a hook up. Using a hook too large may hinder a natural presentation. Many large fish have been landed by anglers using small hooks, so resist the urge to use a hook that is too big.

Sinkers also come in various styles. Egg, bank, and pyramid sinkers are the most commonly used in salt waters by inshore anglers. Egg sinkers work well with sliding rigs while bank sinkers are best for spreader rigs. Pyramid sinkers are primarily used by surf anglers. The amount of weight used is determined by the depth and current that the anglers is dealing with. The goal is for the weight to be just enough to hold bottom when anchored or bounce along the bottom when drifting.

Sarasota bottom fishing baits

Bait choice runs the gamut and is generally determined by the local forage available. Just about any fresh fish caught can be cut into strips or chunks and used as bait. Check local laws to current regulations. Squid is a universal frozen bait that produces fish everywhere. Local bait shops will have other frozen baits available and will give anglers the best advice as to the bait of choice.

best Sarasota fishing charter

Shrimp is king in Florida where I fish and really along the entire Gulf Coast and up the east coast to the Carolinas. Shrimp are a terrific bait live as well as fresh dead or frozen. They are the “nightcrawler of saltwater”, just about every inshore species love them. Live shrimp are hooked in the horn while dead ones are threaded on the hook.

Live bait fish can certainly be used by anglers bottom fishing. Flounder fishermen use live minnows with great success. Florida bottom fishermen use live pin fish for grouper and snapper. As with any fish, live or dead, check local regulations before fishing.

Bottom fishing techniques

Anglers fishing from boats need to make a choice; whether to anchor or drift. Both methods produce and have their advantages and disadvantages. Drifting is generally preferred when anglers are seeking a school of fish in open water. Drifting allows anglers to cover a lot of water, eliminating unproductive areas quickly. Both the spreader rig and slider rig will produce for anglers when drifting.

Flounder fishermen use a sliding sinker rig often. Flounder lie right on the bottom and this is an effective rig. Anglers targeting bottom fish that school up such as grunts and sheepshead will do well with the spreader rig while drifting.

Many bottom species such as grouper and snapper relate to structure. This structure includes ledges, hard bottom, wrecks, and artificial reefs. Anglers targeting these species usually choose to anchor and present their baits. This is especially true on smaller pieces of bottom.

Proper anchoring is critical when bottom fishing

Florida saltwater fishing in winter

Anchoring properly is critical to success when working a piece of structure. The preferred technique it to anchor so that the boat ends up just a bit up-current and up wind of the structure. Baits presented right on the edge of the structure will hopefully draw the fish out away from their protection. Anchoring is a skill that only time and experience will perfect. GPS trolling motors have helped greatly with this!

Anglers bottom fishing from bridges and piers usually choose a spreader rig. It is effective in this application. Sliding sinker rigs can certainly be used, especially when cast out away from the pier or bridge.

Surf fisherman do a lot of bottom fishing. Most fish caught off of the beaches are done so by anglers soaking a piece of bait on the bottom. This is true from Texas to Maine. Cut squid, cut bait fish, shrimp, and crabs are all great baits that produce a wide variety of species.

Sarasota bottom fishing species

Grouper are the king of species for anglers Sarasota bottom fishing. Gag grouper and red grouper are the two primary grouper species caught by Sarasota anglers. Gag grouper are caught both inshore and offshore while red grouper are primarily caught offshore. Any live or cut bait will fool grouper if presented well. Grouper are structure oriented and often hold tight to the cover. Proper anchoring is crucial. Grouper are fantastic on the dinner plate.

Sarasota bottom fishing

Sheepshead are a prime target of anglers bottom fishing. They are caught in the cooler months, especially January through early April. They spawn near structure in the passes and inshore Gulf of Mexico. Big Sarasota Pass, New Pass, nearby docks and bridges, along with the three inshore artificial reefs are prime spots. Sheepshead are very good eating.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Mangrove snapper are a prime target of anglers Sarasota bottom fishing. These tasty saltwater panfish are found both inshore and offshore. Obviously, the larger specimens are caught in deeper water. Shrimp and small bait fish produce for inshore anglers. Snapper are caught offshore by anglers using frozen sardines, shrimp, live pilchards and pin fish, and cut bait fish and squid.

Sarasaota mangrove snapper fishing

Flounder are a very popular bottom fish that are caught occasionally by anglers Sarasota bottom fishing. Flounder are rarely targeted by are more often an incidental catch. They are caught off the beaches and around structure such as docks, bridges, and submerged rocks. Shrimp, live bait fish, and cut squid.

Sarasota bottom fishing

Key West grunts are an abundant species caught in the inshore Gulf of Mexico by anglers bottom fishing. They are aggressive and are generally easy to catch once located. Many an offshore fishing charter has been saved by switching from grouper and going on a “grunt hunt”! They are a but tough to clean, but are terrific eating. Grunts and grits are a staple of southern anglers!

Whiting are most often caught by anglers fishing off of the Sarasota beaches. They are small but put up a good tussle on light tackle. Shrimp account for most of the whiting landed.

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

Best 11 Sarasota Fishing Reefs

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.

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.

View current Fishing Report

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.

Sarasota fishing reefs

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.

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.

Sarasota fishing reefs

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 fishing reefs

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

Sarasota fishing reefs

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.

Bradenton fishing forecast

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

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236