Fishing Siesta Key, Pro Tips

Fishing Siesta Key, Pro Tips

Anglers fishing Siesta Key have many different species that they can target. Siesta Key offers inshore light tackle sport fishing all year long. Multiple techniques and spots will produce some great catches!

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fishing Siesta Key

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Anglers fishing Siesta Key have several options. Inshore fishing is good all year long. The Gulf of Mexico provides terrific fishing when conditions are right. They can explore and fish on their own or even rent a boat. The best way to experience the diverse fishing options that Siesta Key offers visiting anglers is to go out on a Siesta Key fishing charter.

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Most hobbies require specialized equipment, and fishing is no exception. Fishing equipment basically consists of rods and reels, line, the terminal tackle, and some tools and accessories.

The best choice for the majority of anglers fishing Siesta Key is spinning tackle. Spinning tackle is easy to used and a decent outfit can be purchased for around $100 many anglers grew up freshwater fishing using spend cast tackle. This just does not hold up and saltwater.

Conventional or bait casting tackle certainly has applications and saltwater fishing. These outfits are primarily used by anglers casting heavier lures or when trolling or bottom fishing offshore.

Fishing tackle

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 on the PRODUCTS page.

The best choice for anglers fishing Siesta Key in the inshore waters is a 7 foot medium action spinning rod. This rod should be mated with a 3000 series spinning reel. There are many different manufacturers who make quality equipment. A local bait and tackle shop will give a better recommendation than will one of the bigger box stores. Penn, Shimano, and Diawa are all popular brands.

fishing Siesta Key

There are many different fishing lines to choose from. The primary lines are braided line and monofilament line. Like most things in life, both have advantages and disadvantages. Monofilament line is easier for beginners to use. It is less expensive and knots are easier to tie. However, monofilament line stretches and will twist.

Braided line cost more and knots are more difficult to tie. However braided line has no stretch and will last a very long time. Braided line has a smaller diameter and generally speaking cast further than monofilament line. Anglers using braided line must have good line control skills. Braided line will loop and not up. Once that not is drawn tight, it is very difficult to remove.

Terminal tackle and rigging when fishing Siesta Key

Terminal tackle consists of any hooks, lures, leaders, swivels, weights, or floats that are attached to the end of the line. We will cover each of these individually.

Hooks come in a myriad of sizes and shapes. Once again, to the novice angler this can seem overwhelming. However, it is really fairly simple. A selection of live bait hooks in sizes #2, #1, and #1/0 will cover most angling situations. #1/0 long shank hooks work well when toothy species such as Spanish mackerel and blue fish are around. The long shank will help reduce cutoffs.

fishing Siesta Key

Once in a while, a larger hook such as a #4/0 will be required when using a large live bait or large piece of cut bait. Circle hooks are required for anglers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. This basic selection of hooks is all that is required for anglers fishing Siesta Key.

Shock leaders are required when fishing and saltwater. Many fish have teeth and most have some type of raspy jaws. That requires a leader that is a bit heavier than the running line to help prevent fish from cutting off. 30 lb test is a good all-around leader strength. 24 inches is a good leader length as anything longer than that can make it difficult to cast. Leaders can be attached to the mainline with a line to line not such as a double Uni Knot or by using a small black swivel.

Sinkers and floats

Sinkers are used to get the bait down to the bottom. Once again, sinkers come in many different sizes and shapes. Anglers fishing Siesta Key only need two types of sinkers; egg sinkers and split shot. Egg sinkers are around and shaped like an egg with a whole running through the center. The running line is slid through this hole before the leader or hook is tied on. A selection of egg sinkers between 1/4 ounce 21 ounce is all that is required. Split shot are small sinkers that way very little and are pinched on the line.

fishing Siesta Key

Floats are often used by anglers fishing Siesta Key. They’re often times referred to as corks. Floats and saltwater fishing accomplish two things. They suspend the bait up off the bottom while giving a visual reference to when a fish takes the bait. Corks also are used to attract the fish. Noisy corks are used to simulate fish feeding on the surface. This will draw game fish to the bait suspended below.

Fishing Siesta Key with artificial lures

Artificial lures can be very confusing to the novice angler. While it can be daunting staring at a rack full of lures, they fall into several categories. The three types of lures used most often by Siesta Key anglers are jigs, plugs, and spoons. Artificial lures will often times out fish live bait. The key is confidence and choosing the proper lure and presentation.

A jig is a simple lure that is very effective. It is probably the oldest artificial lore used by man. A jig is basically a hook with a lead weight molded and near the eye. This provides casting weight along with giving the lure it’s action. The lure will hop and fall in the water column thus the name “jig”. The hook is adorned with some type of dressing such as bucktail or synthetic care or a plastic grub body that mimics a shrimp or bait fish.

fishing Siesta Key

Spoons and plugs

A spoon is a curved piece of metal with a hook at the end. Most spoons used by saltwater anglers have a metallic finish, either silver or gold. Spoons can be cast a long way and have a terrific action. They wobble and flash in the water, mimics an injured baitfish, thus attracting game fish. Most spoons have a trouble hook and are used in open water. However, other spoons are designed with a single hook that are relatively weedless and are used in shallow water.

Plugs are plastic lures that imitate small bait fish. Plugs are very effective but have a couple of drawbacks. They are fairly expensive, averaging around $10 apiece. Also, most plugs have treble hooks. That makes them more dangerous when casting and when unhooking a fish. However, when used with caution they are extremely effective lures. They can be cast or troll to catch fish.

Fishing Siesta Key with live bait

Live bait is the best choice in most instances for anglers just getting started fishing Siesta Key. Shrimp and bait fish are the two predominant baits in this area. Shrimp are the most versatile as every fish and saltwater eats them. They can be purchased at all local bait shops. Shrimp are fairly easy to keep alive in a bait bucket with and aerator. Fresh dead shrimp can be very effective for bottom fish as well.

fishing Siesta Key

Live bait fish are bit more complicated. While they can occasionally be purchased at bait shops, in most instances anglers will have to catch their own. Bait fish come into separate categories. Pin fish and grunts are a bait fish that is similar to freshwater bluegill. The other type of live bait fish are one of the family of small shiny fish such as scaled sardines or threadfin herring.

The rig for using live bait is simple. Anglers tie on a number 10 black swivel to the mainline. A 24 inch piece of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader is tied onto the other end of the swivel. A live bait hook finishes off the rig. #1/0 is a good all-around size when fishing for most game fish. Anglers targeting smaller bottom fish off the beaches are around structure will use a #2 hook.

Hooking live shrimp

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Live shrimp are hooked either under the horn near the head or through the tail. The hooking location really depends on the species being targeted. Game fish such as trout, snook, mackerel, and others prefer a shrimp hooked in the horn. This allows the shrimp to swim naturally in the water. Bottom fish are less particular. Often times, threading the shrimp on the hook is the best approach. Live bait fish are hooked under the dorsal fin or through the nose.

Live baits can be either free lined, fished under a float, or fished on the bottom. The technique used depends in most cases on the species being targeted. Anglers fishing the shallow flats will use a court to keep the shrimp suspended up off the bottom. In deeper water, over 6 feet or so, free lining the shrimp works better. At times a small split shot may be required to keep the bait down. Anglers bottom fishing slide and egg sinker onto the running line ahead of the swivel.

Siesta Key live bait fishing techniques

The popping cork rig is an extremely effective technique for anglers fishing Siesta Key. It is likely that more speckled trout have been landed using a popping cork in a shrimp then with all the other fishing methods combined. The cork is placed 3 feet above the hook. The rig is cast out and allowed to settle. The rod tip is then sharply twitched. This causes the court to make noise which will attract speckled trout and other game fish to the helpless shrimp.

fishing Siesta Key

Free lining a shrimp works very well. This method is employed when fishing water deeper than 6 feet or so. The shrimp looks very natural swimming in the water with little or no weight. Anglers can free line a shrimp out behind a drifting boat. They can also anchor and cast the shrimp to an edge or drop off. Anglers fishing from the surf will add a split shot or two and allow the shrimp to swim naturally in the surf.

Siesta Key bottom fishing

Bottom fishing is a very simple and effective technique for anglers fishing Siesta Key. Many fish live on the bottom and relate to structure such as rocks, bridges, docks, ledges, and oyster bars. Since fish live and feed on the bottom, presenting a bait there is going to be productive. Bottom species such as sheepshead, snapper, grouper, drum, flounder, and more are all taken by Siesta Key anglers.

The key to bottom fishing is getting the bait down to the bottom while still having a natural presentation. Anglers should use just the amount of weight to region hold bottom. Depth and current flow are the primary factors in determining this. If the sinker is constantly bouncing on the bottom, eventually it will snag.

Using artificial lures when fishing Siesta Key

The main obstacle beginning anglers will have to overcome when using artificial lures is confidence. Once an angler start catching fish on lures, they will gain confidence and resist the urge to want to switch back to live bait many times, artificial lures catch more fish than live bait. The main advantage of artificial lures over bait is that lures cover a lot more water. Anglers are constantly casting and retrieving them. Lures will trigger strikes from fish that are not hungry but will strike out of reflex. Finally, lures are more convenient as there is no bait to keep alive along with less mess.

Most popular lure for anglers fishing Siesta Key is without a doubt the jig and grub combo. These lures are very versatile, effective, and relatively inexpensive. Jig heads come in many colors and sizes. Red and white are the most popular colors and one quarter ounce is the best all round weight. 1/8 ounce jigs are used in shallow water.

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A plastic grub of some type is then hooked on to the jig. Grubs are designed to imitate either bait fish or shrimp and other crustaceans. Again, anglers have many different sizes and colors to choose from. However a selection of 3 inch to 4 inch shad tail and shrimp tail baits in gold, white, root beer, and chartreuse will get the job done.

Jigs are effective when fishing Siesta Key

Jigs can also be purchased that come with a synthetic fiber or buck tail dressing. Buck tail jigs have been catching fish for a long time, with white being the best color. Pompano jigs work well and usually come with synthetic care. They generally have a much shorter dressing as pompano have a small mouth. The main disadvantage of hair jigs is their lack of durability when catching saltwater fish.

Passes and inlets can be great spots to use jigs. Most passes have shallow bars and deep channels which will hold fish. Vertically jigging works very well in the deeper water. The angler simply drops the jig down to the bottom and bounces it up in short 1 foot hops as the boat drifts along. Pompano jigs work very well in this application. Each time the jig hits bottom, it kicks up a puff of sand, imitating a crab. Jigs are cast out and retrieved on the shallower parts of the pass.

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Jigs are extremely productive on the deeper grass flats. These are submerge grass beds in water between 6 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, Pompano, flounder, and other species will take a jig. The jig is cast out and retrieved back to the boat, using a sharp twitch of the rod tip. Most strikes will occur as the bait is falling helplessly through the water column.

Fishing with spoons on Siesta Key

Spoons are another lure that are effective on a variety of species. Spoons are very easy for the novice angler to use. They cast a long way and have a great built in action. Anglers can retrieve steadily or use a “twitch and pause” retrieve. A swivel must be used when using spoons otherwise line twist will be an issue. Spoons are especially effective when fish can be seen feeding on the surface.

Spoons also work very well for anglers who troll. This is another very simple technique. The spoon is simply cast out behind the boat, then the boat is idled along in search of fish. This is a great way to locate fish over a large area. Anglers targeting king mackerel in Spanish mackerel use a special trolling spoon which is designed to be pulled at a fairly brisk pace.

Plug fishing Siesta Key

Plugs catch a big fish. Plugs are more expensive, the trouble hooks require caution, and they generally produce fewer strikes. However, they seem to catch bigger fish. Plugs come in two basic styles; floating and subsurface. Floating plugs, or top water plugs, stay on the surface while being retrieved. Subsurface plugs float on the surface then dive down when retrieved. The size and shape of the lip on the plug determines the depth and action.

Top water plugs come in two basic styles; walk the dog baits and poppers. Poppers are the easier of the two to fish and are very effective. These are floating baits have a concave face. The lure is cast out allowed to settle, then the rod tip twitched sharply. This causes the face of the Lord to dig into the water, making a loud pop.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel

Walk the dog baits are a bit more difficult. The venerable zero spook is an example of this type of bait. The rod tip is held near the surface and a rhythmic twitching results in the lure dancing back and forth seductively on the surface.

A common mistake many anglers make when using top water plugs is working them to quickly. This is especially true on a calm sea. Generally speaking, a slow subtle action will draw more strikes. Striking too soon is another mistake that is easy to make. The sight of a large fish blasting a top water plug is thrilling! However, it is necessary to feel the weight of the fish for setting the hook. Also, a smooth sideways sweep of the rod tip is not only more effective, it is much safer. No angler once a plug with multiple treble hooks flying back into the boat!

Diving plugs produce in Sarasota

While top water fishing is exciting, more fish are caught on diving plugs. These lures float on the surface and dive down several feet when the retrieve is begun. The plastic lip on the front of the plug determines the depth and action of the plug. However, speed and line size will affect the depth as well. The best plugs for anglers fishing Siesta Key dive down 3 to 5 feet in the water column.

Suspending plugs work well over the deeper grass flats. The MirrOlure is the most popular local example of that. These lures sink slowly when cast out, roughly a foot per second. They are retrieved back using a sharp twitch. The lore will jerk forward then hover there seemingly helpless. This is an especially effective bait for speckled trout.

Trolling with plugs in Sarasota

Trolling plugs is a great way to locate fish in a large area. It is also a great tactic with novice anglers and children. As long as they can hold rod, they can catch a fish! Trolling works well in the inshore bays, passes, and in the Gulf of Mexico. A #8 Rapala X-Rap in white or olive is a good lower to troll.

The technique is very simple. The plug is dropped alongside the boat with the bail open. As the boat idles forward, the angler counts out to 15 or so. The bail is angler’s and the boat simply idled around at a slow speed. When a fish hits, there is no mistaking. This is extremely effective for Spanish mackerel is a like a fast-moving lure.

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Trolling and casting plugs works very well in the inshore Gulf of Mexico as well. Plugs are cast to fish that are seen breaking on the surface. These are fish that have trapped smaller bait fish up against the surface and are feeding on them aggressively. A plug that is cast into this melee and retrieved back quickly will almost always draw strike. On days when fish are not seen feeding on the surface, trolling can help locate them.

Siesta Key flats fishing techniques

Several different approaches can be used successfully on the deep grass flats. Large expanses of grass are most efficiently fished by drifting. Smaller patches can be worked from an anchored boat. This is especially true of a flat that drops off quickly into deeper water.

Anglers fishing Siesta Key do well drifting the deep flats while casting artificial lures. This is extremely popular and very effective. The major benefit of this technique is that it allows anglers to cover a lot of water. This is important on the larger flats is anglers can eliminate unproductive water in a short amount of time. The lead head jig and grub combo is a very effective lure for doing this.

Anglers can certainly cast plugs and spoons as well. Both cast a long way and have a great built in fish catching action. The MirroLure MirroDine is an excellent suspending plug. A 1/2 ounce silver or gold spoon with a single trouble hook is the best all round choice for drifting the deep grass flats.

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Live bait is also extremely effective while drifting the deep grass flats. A live shrimp under a popping cork is tough to beat in water between 4 feet deep and 6 feet deep. The idea is to have the cork 3 to 4 feet above the shrimp. This allows the shrimp to hover just over the top of the submerge grass. It can get a little cumbersome fishing a popping cork in water deeper than 6 feet.

Siesta Key live bait fishing

Free lining a shrimp works very well in water deeper than 6 feet. The shrimp is hooked through the horn then cast out behind the drifting boat. As the boat moves along, it brings the shrimp along as well at a natural pace. Breezy days may require a split shot or two to keep the shrimp down in the water column.

Live bait fish can be used on the deep grass flats as well. Pin fish and grunts will require a float, otherwise they will get down in the grass. Smaller bait fish such as pilchards and herring can be free lined behind the boat just as a shrimp is.

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In the summer time, anglers use a very effective technique called “live bait chumming”. This is a bit of a specialized technique. Anglers use a cast net to catch several hundred small shiny bait fish such as scaled sardines or threadfin herring. The boat is then anchored in a likely spot and handfuls of the live bait fish are tossed out behind the boat. This will attract game fish in short order. Hooked baits are then tossed in with the chum and the action begins!

Fishing Siesta Key shallow flats

Many anglers are surprised to learn that the largest fished oftentimes live in the shallowest of water. These larger fish are generally loners where as the fish on the deeper flats are schooled up. However, a big fish in shallow water is very difficult to catch. Anglers need to be patient and stealthy. Artificial lures are most often used as a can be difficult to fish live bait in very shallow water. However, a large shrimp or live bait can be used under a float or fished in a hole.

Jigs, plugs, and spoons are all effective for fishing the shallow grass flats. A 1/2 ounce gold weedless spoon has been used successfully for decades. It can be cast a long way, is relatively weedless, and is especially deadly on redfish. Jigs can be used effectively, though anglers need to go down in size. 1/8 ounce and 1/16 ounce jig heads with a soft plastic body work best. The the jig will ride with the hookup, reducing snags. Anglers casting plugs will have to use surface plugs in most instances.

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Fish may be located anywhere on the shallow flat, however certain areas will consistently hold fish. Oyster bars, potholes, (these are small depressions in a flat), and mangrove shorelines are all good spots. Deeper water around the bars and shorelines will make them more attractive to game fish. Waiting can be very effective as it allows anglers to make less noise than a boat.

Siesta Key structure fishing

It is an undeniable a fact that fish love structure. Structure provides cover and attracts forage such as crustaceans and bait fish. Just about all inshore species will relate to structure at one point or another. Anglers fishing Siesta Key will target sheepshead, snapper, flounder, gag grouper, redfish, snuck, Jack crevalle, black drum, and more.

Sheepshead are very reliable in the winter and early spring and are the staple of bottom fishing anglers and Siesta Key. Structure in the passes as well as docks and bridges near the passes will hold these tasty saltwater pan fish. Sheepshead often bite when the water is cold or dirty and other fish are shut down.

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In most instances, a vertical presentation works best when bottom fishing and water deeper than 10 feet. A sliding sinker rig works well in this application. Anglers should use just enough weight to get and hold the bottom, which is generally 1/2 ounce 21 ounce. A 2 foot long leader of 30 pound test line and a #1/0 live bait hook finishes off the rig

Fishing Siesta Key docks

Siesta Key has countless docks along at shoreline and in its residential canals. Bridge pilings and dock pilings and 4 feet of water to 12 feet of water are the most productive. The best approach when fishing docks and bridge pilings and the shallower water is to anchor up current a cast away. Then, the bait can be cast towards the dock or bridge pilings.

Oyster bars are not to be overlooked a structure. Any oyster bar that drops off into four or 5 feet of water can hold fish. Snook, redfish, sheepshead, jacks, and other species will stage in the spots. The boat is quietly anchored a long cast away from the bar to avoid spooking fish. Free lining a live shrimp or pilchard is most productive technique. Higher tide stages are usually best.

Fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico

Anglers fishing Siesta Key beaches can experience world-class action and the spring and again in the fall. Huge schools of bait fish will move through on their annual migrations. Larger pelagic game fish will be hot on their trail. The primary species are king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, along with false albacore. However, cobia, sharks, and even tarpon will also be encountered.

Ideal conditions for fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico are calm seas in clear water. Easterly breezes will result in these conditions. This is especially true in the fall when we get many days in a row of high-pressure which equates to Northeast winds. This type of fish and gives anglers the chance to catch a very large fish quite close to shore.

There are several techniques that anglers use in pursuit of these game fish. The most exciting technique, when the situation arises, is to cast to breaking fish. These are fish that are feeding aggressively on the surface. They have rounded up schools of forage and have them trapped up against the surface of the water. Fish can be seen feeding birds can be seen diving.

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Light to medium action spinning rods are perfect for this type of fishing. Small plugs, spoons, and jigs will all produce. Basically, anything that closely resembles the baitfish that they are feeding on will draw a strike. False albacore can be a tad bit fussy, though. When they are feeding on tiny glass minnows, a small offering is required often times. Also, anglers may need to drop the leader down to 20 pound test in clear water.

Fishing Siesta Key, sight fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Patience is required for this type of fishing. Instead of charging around from school to school, anglers will do better to set and wait for a good opportunity. Charging into schools of breaking fish usually just puts them down. It is better to sit back and try to get an idea which way the fish are moving, then position the boat to intercept them.

Fly anglers are certainly not left out of the action! Long casts are normally not required, especially when targeting Spanish mackerel. These fish are hungry and aggressive. Spanish mackerel between 2 pounds and 4 pounds put up a great fight on an 8wt outfit. Anglers targeting false albacore will do better to bump up to a 9wt. Small, white baitfish patterns such as Clouser Minnows and Glass Minnows work well.

Sarasota false albacore fishing

Trolling is an extremely effective technique that can put a lot of fish in the boat quickly. It is very efficient when a school of fish is located. Often times, fish will not be seen working on the surface. Trolling is an excellent way to locate them. Plugs worked well when trolled back behind the boat, as do spoons.

Trolling with planers

Serious anglers use planers and trolling spoons when targeting king mackerel Spanish mackerel, and false albacore. This type of fishing is a bit more involved. Planers are devices that dive down into the water when the boat is moved forward. Different size planers are used along with different sizes to achieve varying depths. When a fish hits, the planer trips. This results in the angler fighting the fish without the drag of the planer.

Live bait can certainly be used successfully as well. One very effective method is to slowly troll a large live bait for king mackerel. A stinger rig is used. This is a wire rig about 3 feet long with two treble hooks. The bait is hooked through the nose with the top hook in the second hook swings free. This is often the hook that catches the fish. Anglers can also free line smaller shrimp and bait fish for Spanish mackerel and false albacore.

There are three artificial reefs between Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass. Anglers fishing Siesta Key catch many different species all year long on these reefs. Pelagic species are available in the spring and the fall. Large spawning sheepshead are caught in February and March. Snapper and grouper are present all year long. These three reefs are within 2 miles of the beach and are great spots to fish when the seas are calm.

Siesta Key winter fishing

Winter fishing on Siesta Key is for the most part determined by the weather. Severe fronts move through every week or so. The day of the front is usually not fishable due to high winds. Water will be turned up for the couple days afterwards. However, the water will settle in warm up and action on the flats will improve. As another front approaches, the when will turn south, sometimes blowing hard.

The key to success for anglers fishing Siesta Key in the winter is understanding how this cycle affects the fishing. Sheepshead are plentiful and winter around docks, rocks, seawalls, bridges, and other structure. Anglers fishing with shrimp on the bottom will catch these tasty fish along with black drum and other species. Sheepshead fishing is less affected by the weather than are other types of fishing. The only real consideration anglers have is to find some shelter from the wind, if it is blowing.

Strong winds will turn up the water in the Gulf of Mexico. This will result in the water in the passes and on the flats being dirty. Anglers targeting speckled trout, ladyfish, and other species on the flats will do best getting away from the passes and trying to find cleaner water. The flats along the east side of Siesta Key in Roberts Bay and little Sarasota Bay are often good spots.

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After couple days, the water will begin to clear up and settle down. Both passes should be productive. The deep grass flats near the passes will also resume decent action. Most of the fish on the flats are in deeper water this time of year. Submerge grass beds between 7 feet deep and 10 feet deep are prime spots. Speckled trout and ladyfish can often be found in channels, especially if the water dips into the upper 50s.

Snook migrate up into rivers, creeks, and canals in the winter. Anglers fishing Siesta Key target them using both live bait and artificial lures. A large live shrimp is the best live bait. Deeper holes, docks, and other structure are good spots to try. Artificial lures such as plugs allow anglers to cover a lot more water in a short amount of time.

Siesta Key spring fishing

Spring is a great time to be fishing in Florida! Just about every species is available at one time or another. Sheepshea will still be present in the passes. Action on the flats will heat up with speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. Snook and jack crevelle will have migrated out of the creeks and canals and onto the backcountry flats. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and false albacore should be out on the Siesta Key beaches.

Both passes offer excellent fishing in the spring. Structure on the north end of Siesta Key will hold sheepshead, grouper, and snapper for anglers bottom fishing with live shrimp. Drifting the middle of the pass while bouncing a small jig on the bottom will produce pompano, mackerel, bluefish, and loads of ladyfish.

The deep grass flats throughout the area, live in spring. Just about every species that can be caught on the deep grass flats will be in the spring. Speckled trout are normally the most abundant species, being caught on just about every grass flat between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Pompano, ladyfish, snapper, grouper, cobia, sharks, flounder, jacks, and more may also be taken.

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As the shallow flats warm-up, snook, redfish, and jacks will be caught along mangrove shorelines and oyster bars. This is a great time to cast shallow diving plugs along these edges. Weedless spoons and jigs will also be productive. This type of fishing does not produce in terms of numbers, but anglers will generally catch larger fish.

Action out on the beaches should be excellent as well. Spanish mackerel and king mackerel along with false albacore will be anywhere from right on the beach to several miles out. They will be foraging on the abundant bait fish. Sharks, cobia, and even and early tarpon may be hooked as well.

Siesta Key summer fishing

Fishing is usually excellent in the summer time. Action on the deep grass flats is usually outstanding. The key to this fishing is the abundance of live bait fish that are present on the flats in the summer time. It is usually very easy to load up the live well with live bait then use them to chum the fish into a frenzy. Speckled trout, mackerel, ladyfish, grouper, snapper, sharks, bluefish, cobia and other species will be taken.

It is hot in the summer however. The best bite is the early-morning one. Anglers get out there at first light, catch their bait, get their fishing in, and are home by 11 o’clock. With the abundance of bait fish, game fish are less apt to take and artificial lure. However, one strategy that does work well is to cast artificial lures first thing in the morning for an hour or so. Then, when that bite dies, switching over to live bait and chumming will get them going again.

Siesta Key snook fishing

Snook fishing is good in the summer time as well. They are schooled up in the passes in are out on the beaches. Snook spawn in the summer and that’s what they are doing out in the Gulf of Mexico. Anglers site fish for snook as a cruise just a few feet off of the beaches. Small white plugs and jigs work well as does live bait. Fly anglers score using white bait fish patterns.

Siesta Key snook fishing

Snook are stacked up in the passes in the summer time. Anglers fishing Siesta Key and targeting snook do well using live bait around the deeper structure in the passes. Rocks at the northwest tip of Siesta Key are an especially productive spot. Live pilchards can be used to chum the snook up. They will also take a nice live shrimp.

Anglers can also beat the heat of the day by fishing at night. Lighted bridges and docks throughout the area attract shrimp and small minnows. This in turn attracts game fish such as speckled trout, snook, jacks, and other species. Live bait works well as does any artificial lure or fly that mimics the shrimp and small bait fish.

Tarpon show up off the Siesta Key beaches in mid May. Many anglers consider tarpon the ultimate fishing challenge. These fish average 75 pounds and grow well over 150 pounds. Anglers cast to schools of fish using live crabs, live bait fish and even fly fisherman get in on the bite. This is as much hunting as fishing, and is best for more experienced anglers. It takes time in patients, but when it all comes together the result is the fish of a lifetime!

Siesta Key fall fishing

Anglers fishing Siesta Key in the fall have a lot of room to themselves. With the kids back in school and many outdoorsmen hunting, fishing pressure is light. By mid October the tropical storms are done, the water is cooling off, and the bite is on. Snook are moving out of the passes and into the backcountry. Action on the deep grass flats picks up as the water cools off. False albacore and Spanish mackerel should be options in the inshore Gulf of Mexico.

As the water cools into the mid 60s, the bait fish that were abundant in summer time leave. This results in jigs and other artificial lures once again been very productive on the deep grass flats. The cooler water temperature also makes the fish more active and aggressive. Speckled trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and other species should be plentiful on flats between 6 feet of water and 10 feet of water. Live shrimp will certainly produce plenty of fish as well.

Fall local fish migrations

Snook will be found in the same spots as they were and spring. Mangrove shorelines and oyster bars in the back water areas of Roberts Bay in North Sarasota Bay will be productive. Live bait fish will be caught most years until early November. Anglers can use them to chum snook and jacks up in the same spots.

Action and the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be nothing short of spectacular in the fall when conditions are right! The weather in the fall as more stable than it is in the spring, with fewer fronts. High-pressure system seem to stall right off of the Florida Georgia line 4 days at a time. This results in East and Northeast winds which keeps the Gulf of Mexico clear and calm. Spanish mackerel and false albacore are most often targeted as they forage on bait fish. Kings, cobia, and sharks are available as well.

Siesta Key river snook fishing

It was nearing dusk as I eased my Jon boat around a sharp bend in the river. A dead oak tree was lying in the water; a very likely fish-holding spot. Erinn cast out her plug, twitched it twice, and a huge boil appeared where the lure used to be. The drag screamed as the snook headed back to the sanctuary of the fallen timber. 

I put the electric trolling motor on high and tried to drag the fish into open water. Fortunately, we had a little room to maneuver. Erinn played the fish like a pro, patiently letting it make several short runs before I slid the net under it and held it up for a quick photo before releasing it back to please another angler in the future.  Another successful Sarasota river snook fishing charter!

Sarasota trolling techniques

We are blessed in Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida with a wide variety of angling options, but river fishing for snook is my personal favorite. The solitude, scenery, and wildlife are worth the trip alone, and the chance to land trophy fish casting artificial lures on fairly light tackle is just icing on the cake. Best of all, this method is pretty simple and straight-forward for anglers willing to put in a little time and effort.  The Manatee River, Braden River, and Myakka River are the top spots.These are all a short drive from the Siesta Key beaches.

The west coast of Florida from mid-state south has a myriad of rivers, creeks, and canals that hold snook. These can be productive all year, but I focus on them in the cooler months. Snook will migrate into these areas in the winter to escape the harsh conditions on the flats. Most rivers have deep holes, warmer water, and plenty of forage. As an added bonus, largemouth bass are fairly numerous and will be caught using the same lures and techniques. Juvenile tarpon, jack crevelle, catfish, and gar are also common catches.

Advantages to river fishing

There are several advantages to fishing rivers. Unlike vast open waters of bays and lakes, the fish are relatively confined into a smaller space. They will migrate up and down river, and only time on the water will give anglers the experience that is required to score on a consistent basis. Another advantage, and one that I have used as a fishing guide, is that rivers offer protection from high winds that frequently occur in the winter. In fact, these are often the most productive days to fish. Lastly, fishing pressure is usually very light.

Sarasota snook fishing

I choose to fish with shallow diving plugs in rivers, they cover a lot of water, hang up infrequently, and the hook-up ratio is good. In the tannin waters, I have found gold/black and Firetiger to be the most consistent producers. Often times the fish will hit on the pause as the bait just hangs there motionless, seemingly helpless. I like a 7’ Medium action rod, a quality spinning reel with a good drag spooled with 40 lb braided line with a 24” piece of 40 lb fluorocarbon leader.

The best spots in most rivers will be the outside bends. Choose a stretch of river that has twists and bends; that will generally be better than those with long straight sections. Current flow will gouge a deep hole and concentrate fish. Add in some cover such as fallen trees and the result is perfect structure to hold a trophy fish. Depth is critical in river fishing. Most Florida rivers will “undulate”. Two stretches of bank may look the same, but if one has 18” of water and the other has 6’, the latter will produce much more consistently. This depth change will usually not be apparent from the surface, so a bottom machine will help in locating the more productive stretches.

Siesta Key snook

Siesta Key snook fishing

Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida. They are a subtropical species and cannot tolerate water temperature cooler than 60° for very long. They are found roughly from Orlando south on both coasts. Snook grow quite large, with the state record approaching 50 pounds.

Snook are very similar inhabits to freshwater largemouth bass. They can be caught all year long, and creeks and rivers in the winter, the flats in the spring and fall, and out on the beaches and in the passes in the summer. They can be caught using live bait but will readily hit artificial lures and flies.


Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Redfish are perhaps the most challenging species for anglers fishing Siesta Key. There a highly sought after fish all along the Gulf Coast. They are caught all year long using two primary techniques. Redfish are caught on the shallow grass flats by anglers casting weedless spoons and soft plastic baits. Late Summer is the best time to find the large schools of redfish.

Many reds are caught by accident by anglers fishing docks with live shrimp. Like most game fish, reds like the shade and structure that docks provide. A nice lively live shrimp free lined up under the dock is hard for them to resist. Anglers use live pin fish as well.

Spotted sea trout

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Spotted sea trout, better known locally as speckled trout are arguably the most popular inshore game fish throughout the south. While redfish are popular, trout are plentiful, cooperative, beautiful, and fantastic eating. Trout are fairly aggressive and are found in large schools. When trout are located, the action is usually fast.

Most speckled trout in the Siesta Key and Sarasota area are found on the deep grass flats. This is especially true for the numbers of school trout. Larger gator trout are found often times alone in the shallower water in potholes and along oyster bars. Trout are taken on a wide variety of artificial and natural baits.


Sarasota fishing calendar

Tarpon earned the nickname the Silver King. It is a unique opportunity for an angler to be able to cite cast using spinning tackle to fish of over 100 pounds that are rolling 30 feet away. This is not easy fishing and requires patience and time on the water. There will be days when no fish are hooked. However, anglers fortunate enough to hook and land a tarpon will never forget it. The best time of year to catch Siesta Key tarpon is from mid-May to late July.

Spanish mackerel

fishing Sarasota Florida

Spanish mackerel are a terrific, and sometimes underrated game fish. Mackerel are very fast and when hooked make a long blistering run. They are very aggressive and will hit just about any artificial lure, bait, or fly when well presented. Mackerel school up in very large numbers at times off of the Siesta Key in Sarasota beaches. They are also found on the deeper flats inside Sarasota Bay, particularly just inside the passes. Spanish mackerel are terrific eating when enjoyed that evening.


Sarasota fishing calendar

Pompano are one of the finest eating fish that swims. Even local anglers get excited when the pompano start to run. Though they average 2 to 3 pounds, they put up a fight that many anglers would credit fish three times their size. They are smaller versions of a permit. They are most often caught using shrimp and small jigs in the passes, on the deep grass flats, and out on the beaches. Fall is the best time to catch them, with spring being a close second.

Mangrove snapper

Sarasota fishing calendar

Mangrove snapper are a very desirable species for anglers fishing Siesta Key. These saltwater pan fish are aggressive and put up a nice little battle on light tackle. However, the reason they are so prized is for their value on the dinner plats. Mangrove snapper are fantastic eating!

Snapper are structure oriented fish. They are found in the rocks and seawalls on the north end of Siesta Key in Big Pass. They are also found under docks and bridges throughout the area. Oyster bars and holes in creeks will hold them as well. Snapper also school up on the deep flats in July and August.


Florida bluefish

Bluefish are well-known to northern anglers. However, anglers fishing Siesta Key catch them all year long, with the cooler months producing more fish. Blues are very aggressive and are usually found in schools. Once located, the bite can be fast and furious! Most bluefish are caught on lures by anglers drifting the deep grass flats. They are found in the passes as well. Smaller bluefish are decent eating when iced immediately and eaten right away.

Jack crevalle

Sarasota jack crevelle

Jack crevalle, or “jacks” for short, are one of the hardest-fighting game fish in salt water. They are a bit like over-sized bluegill. They have broad sides and pull very hard. Jacks school up in large numbers and feed aggressively as competition kicks in. They are often seen feeding on the surface. Lures work very well, but jacks can be caught on live bait as well. Jacks can be found anywhere, but larger ones are taken in creeks, canals, and rivers in the winter.

False albacore

Sarasota false albacore fishing

False albacore are a terrific game fish! They are basically small tune fish. They are very fast and will empty the spool in short order. Anglers fishing Siesta Key target them off of the beaches. Point of Rocks is a top spot. Most anglers sight cast to breaking fish as they forage on the surface. Plugs,, jigs, spoons, and flies that mimic bait fish will fool them.


Siesta Key fishing charters

Sheepshead are a staple of Siesta Key anglers in the winter. They have saved the day on many a Siesta Key fishing charter. They school up near structure such as docks and submerged rocks. Sheepshead pull hard, grow to 5 pounds regularly, bite when cold dirty water shuts down other species. And, they taste great! Sheepshead are seldom caught using lures. Live or dead shrimp is the top bait.

Gag grouper

Sarasota bottom fishing

Gag grouper are mostly caught by anglers fishing offshore. They are highly prized and are caught bottom fishing with live and frozen bait. Grouper are very structure oriented and are normally found near docks, bridges, and other structure. They are caught inshore as well. In the late summer, small gag grouper are caught on the open flats as they migrate out to the Gulf of Mexico to mature. They are fantastic eating!


Cobia Sarasota Bay

Cobia are another species that are caught primarily in the Gulf of Mexico. They are found over the inshore artificial reefs off of Lido Key. However, they do wander into Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay. They are caught occasionally by anglers targeting other species. Cobia will hit lures and love a live pinfish. They are great eating, but most cobia caught inshore are a bit short of the legal minimum limit of 33”.

Black drum

Black drum are often mistaken for sheepshead. They look similar, sporting black vertical bars. However, they are a bit more tapered and have barbels on their chin. Black drum are caught in the same spots as sheepshead, particularly under and around docks. They are rarely caught on lures, with shrimp and crab being the top baits. Smaller drum are very good to eat, larger fish can be wormy.


best Sarasota fishing charter

Ladyfish are great sport on light tackle! Some anglers disparage them since they are not good to eat. Ladyfish are aggressive and will take artificial lures and flies. Many are caught on live bait as well. They are a great fish to teach young and inexperienced anglers how to use lures and fight a fish that makes runs and jumps. Ladyfish have saved many Siesta Key fishing charters!

Angler fishing Siesta Key can find all Florida fishing regulations at the FWC site.

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236


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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