Fishing Charter in Sarasota with Capt Jim Klopfer

fishing charter in Sarasota

Fishing Charter in Sarasota with Capt Jim Klopfer

This article will thoroughly cover what anglers can expect on a fishing charter in Sarasota. Sarasota is a resort city on Florida’s west coast, just south of Tampa. It is famous for it’s beaches, restaurants, and theater. However, it offers some excellent fishing opportunities as well.

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I am a fishing charter captain in Sarasota, Florida. I have been taking clients out on Sarasota fishing charters since 1991. I fish in a variety of ways for quite a few different species. Fortunately, we have seasonal migrations and the fishing opportunities change with the seasons.

One of the requirements of a captain running fishing charters is to cater the trip to the expectations and experience level of the clients. A family with small children will require different techniques than an experienced bass angler who fishes tournaments. Also, weather and conditions are major factors in the decision as to how and where we will fish.

Fishing charter in Sarasota

Currently, I am running my fishing charters in Sarasota out of a 22′ Stott Craft Bay boat. It is a stable boat with plenty of cockpit space as well as storage. It is fairly flay and floats quite shallow. The trolling motor allows me to maneuver along shorelines. It is not great for fishing offshore, but that is something that I rarely do.

Sarasota fishing reports

Anglers fishing with me on a fishing charter in Sarasota have several options when it comes to the trip, depending on the season and conditions. Bottom fishing is productive all year, especially in the winter. The deep grass flats produces action and variety all year. Experienced anglers can probe the back country waters with lures. When conditions are right, the inshore Gulf of Mexico can provide world class fishing!

Flats fishing charter in Sarasota

fishing charter in Sarasota

It is safe to say that the majority of my Sarasota fishing charters are done so on the flats. A flat is just a large area of similar depth. Here in Sarasota, we fish both the shallow flats and the deep flats. In most cases, these are areas with submerged vegetation, though areas of oyster bars and mangrove shorelines can be included as well.

Click to read Capt Jim’s Sarasota fishing reports!

There is no doubt that anglers seeking action and variety will do well in fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota. These are large areas with lush vegetation on the bottom and water depths between 4 feet and 10 feet deep. The primary reason for the productivity of these areas is simple; the availability of forage. This aquatic vegetation attracts bait fish, crabs, and shrimp the game fish then feed on.

This is an excellent option for anglers with less experience as anyone can do it. As the boat drifts along over the grass, anglers cast lures out in front of the boat or drift live baits behind the boat. This does not require great casting accuracy or any other advanced angling skill. I can teach young children to cast jigs and catch fish in a short amount of time. When necessary, I will catch or buy live bait and it is a simple matter to let the bait float out behind the boat while waiting for a bite.

Shallow water flats fishing in Sarasota

More experienced anglers often choose to fish the shallow flats on a fishing charter in Sarasota. The primary targets in this situation our snook and redfish along with large spotted sea trout and jacks. This is actually similar to what anglers fishing for pike and bass up north are used to doing. I use the trolling motor to guide the boat along a likely shoreline or flat.

I primarily use artificial lures for this type of fishing. The main reason I do so is that lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish. They will also elicit strikes fish that are not feeding as lures will excite or aggravate them as well as triggering a reflex strike. I will use live bait as well. Chumming with live bait fish is an extremely effective technique that I often use on the shallow flats, particularly in fall when game fish are moving into the backwater areas and bait is easy to procure.

Pass fishing charter in Sarasota

Sarasota fishing charters

There are two passes in Sarasota that connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. These are Big Sarasota Pass (or Big Pass) and New Pass. Both offer excellent angling opportunities and I hit them often on a fishing charter in Sarasota. Big Pass in particular is a very diverse spot with open areas to drift, shallow bars, and an abundance of structure. New Pass is good as well and has the advantage of a no wake zone to minimize waves.

The two techniques I use most often when running a Sarasota fishing charter in the passes is drifting and bottom fishing. Drifting the pass while bouncing a jig along the bottom is an extremely productive technique for a variety of species. Pompano are the prize as they put up an excellent fight and taste great. Juvenile permit, loads of ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and jack crevelle are encountered regularly.

This is a very simple technique and is one that anglers have any experience level can do this no casting is required. The jig values are heavy and compact and sink easily to the bottom. As the boat drifts along, the angler simply gives the lure a little hop by jerking the rod tip a foot or so. This simulates a fleeing crab or shrimp.

I will also anchor and fish with live bait in both passes as well on my fishing charters. In the winter, sheepshead show up in big numbers. These are a terrific fish for charter boat captains as they bite even when the water is cold and dirty, they are fairly cooperative in most instances. It is also an easy way for anglers with little experience to fish as it is simple bottom fishing. In the summer, snook will stack up in the deep water of the pass and can be caught with the larger live shrimp and other bait fish. Chumming with live pilchards is extremely productive!

Inshore Gulf of Mexico fishing charter in Sarasota

fishing charter in Sarasota

One of my favorite fishing charters in Sarasota is in inshore Gulf of Mexico trip. When conditions are right, anglers can experience truly world-class fishing. In the spring and fall pelagic (migratory) species such as king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, cobia, and sharks move through the area. This is dependent on conditions, the water needs to be clear and calm in order for it to be an effective option.

The key to this fantastic fishing is simple; bait. Huge schools of bait fish move into the area and the predator fish follow closely behind. The bait ranges greatly in size from finger nail sized glass minnows to hand sized herring. Anglers have the option of catching live bait and using it as well as fishing with artificial lures and flies.

One of the aspects of this type of fishing that I enjoy the most is that much of it is visual. Often times anglers encounter game fish feeding ferociously on the surface. In most cases this is Spanish mackerel and false albacore, though ladyfish and bluefish will do the same thing. Anglers can use live bait, but this is the perfect situation for casting artificial lures and flies as the fish are in an aggressive mood and will hit just about anything that moves.

Abundant bait fish is the key to great fishing

Larger game fish will often hover on the edges of these large schools of bait and schools of feeding fish. They do this to take advantage of the scraps left behind as well as wounded bait fish that are an easy meal. I will take a larger rod such as one used for tarpon fishing and either hook a large live bait or a big chunk of mackerel and floated out behind the boat. Sharks are usually plentiful along with the occasional king mackerel or cobia.

fishing charter in Sarasota

Some years king mackerel moving quite close to the beach and I will pursue them on a fishing charter in Sarasota. This does not always happen but when it does it offers the opportunity to catch a large fish close to shore in calm conditions. Trolling is most popular ineffective technique. Both artificial lures such as spoons and plugs are used as well as slow trolling with a large live bait fish such as a blue runner. The three artificial reefs right off of Lido Beach are excellent spots to do this as well as the area south off of Point of Rocks on Siesta Key.

Speaking of those artificial reefs, besides Spanish mackerel, also albacore, king mackerel, and cobia, bottom species such as mangrove snapper and sheepshead will be caught there as well. Larger sheepshead often stay out in the inshore golf as opposed to coming in the bay. On days when the wind isn’t blowing in the winter, these three artificial reefs can produce some excellent bottom fishing.

Finally, anglers seeking the ultimate challenge can pursue the Silver King, giant tarpon! This is not easy fishing, at all and is really big-game fishing and every aspect. Anglers cast to schools of tarpon as they moved by in hopes of getting a bite. A live bait fish or crab can also be floated out behind the boat in hopes of hooking a fish that is not on the surface. These fish average 75 pounds to 100 pounds. This is not easy fishing, but if everything comes together it truly is the ultimate angling experience!

River fishing charter in Sarasota

I also run river fishing charters in Sarasota. This is a unique trip and is best for more experienced anglers. It is very similar to bass fishing and has a freshwater feel to it. The environment is also different from what some might expect when visiting Florida. This is truly old Florida with a lot of oak trees and scrub pines.

Sarasota river fishing charters

Artificial lures are only used and it is strictly catch and release fishing. As the boat drifts down with the current, anglers cast lures, usually plugs and soft plastic jerk baits, towards shoreline structure. The primary quarry is large snook, however other species are caught as well. These include largemouth bass, jack crevalle, gar, juvenile tarpon, catfish, snapper, ladyfish, and other species.

There are several rivers that I fish on these River fishing charters that are a 45 minute drive or so from Sarasota and Siesta Key. These are the Braden River, Manatee River, and Myakka River. All three fish a little differently and add different elements to the charter. The river I choose is dependent on tides and current conditions.

In conclusion, this article on a fishing charter in Sarasota will help anglers choose the best trip!


Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

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