Sarasota Bottom Fishing Charters

Sarasota bottom fishing charters

Sarasota Bottom Fishing Charters

In this article, I will discuss Sarasota bottom fishing charters. As a fishing charter captain in Sarasota, Florida, I use a variety of fishing techniques in order to be successful. Bottom fishing is a fairly simple and straightforward technique that has been around a long time. Lowering down a baited hook with a weight may perhaps have been the first method used by man to actually catch a fish.

When some anglers hear the term bottom fishing, images pop up in their head of heavy rods and many ounces of lead while fishing deep water for grouper, snapper, and other species. However, on my Sarasota bottom fishing charters I am mostly targeting smaller fish in the 1 pound to 3 pound range. These are sheepshead, mangrove snapper, grunts, smaller grouper, black drum, flounder, and other species. I use fairly light spinning tackle on all of my trips unless specifically targeting larger species such as big drum, snook, or grouper.

Sarasota bottom fishing charters are an excellent choice when my clients include novice anglers and children. Here in Sarasota, we experience a really good run of sheepshead from January through early April. This also coincides with the time when I run quite a few Sarasota family fishing charters. The fact that the anglers do not have to cast in can just open the bail and drop the bait to the bottom makes it easy for anyone to be successful.

Sarasota bottom fishing charters

There are a variety of structures that will hold bottom fish in Sarasota. These include bridges, docks, seawalls, channel markers, artificial reefs, submerged rocks, and ledges. All of these structures, in Sarasota Bay, Big Sarasota Pass, New Pass, in the inshore Gulf of Mexico will all be productive at times, depending on current conditions.

Sarasota bottom fishing charters

There are two different techniques I employ when running my Sarasota bottom fishing charters. These are vertical presentations and casting towards a dock or other structure. For the most part, the vertical bottom fishing is done in deeper water, from 10 feet deep in deeper. Casting when bottom fishing is usually done in water that is shallower where the cast is needed to keep the boat away from the structure and avoid spooking the fish.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Bottom fishing using live bait in Sarasota using a vertical presentation is both efficient and effective. Boat positioning is critical, and therefore when I am right on top of the structure and my clients drop their weighted hooks to the bottom, I know the bait is being placed in the correct spot. Also, being straight up and down results and giving the angler a little bit better angle to pull the fish away from structure as opposed to making a long horizontal type cast.

I employ this vertical presentation on my Sarasota bottom fishing charters both from an anchored boat and while drifting slowly. The electric trolling motor on the bow comes in quite handy for keeping the boat in the proper position. This is mostly done when the tides are not very strong as a ripping current makes keeping the boat in the baits in the proper place quite difficult.

If the tide is running hard, I will generally anchor. Also, I will anchor if I am fishing a small piece of structure or if I am confident that the fish are there. This confidence may come in the form of marking fish on the bottom machine as well as my success on recent trips.

Sarasota bottom fishing techniques

I will also use both the drifting method and anchoring technique when fishing the inshore artificial reefs both in Sarasota Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico. The silver tooth reef and particular has structure scattered over a wide area and drifting can be the preferred technique. However, it is understood that anglers will generally experience more snags when drifting. Therefore, I usually do it when winds are light and currents are not very strong.

fishing in Sarasota

Many of my Sarasota bottom fishing charters involve having clients cast the weighted rig out towards structure. In most cases, the structures that I am fishing are docks and bridges. I will also anchor and cast out towards oyster bars using a shrimp and a split shot, though this technically may not be bottom fishing in the classic sense.

There are advantages and disadvantages to casting to structure when bottom fishing. The main disadvantage is that it is much more difficult to exactly place the bait when casting as opposed to dropping it straight down. However, it is not feasible in most cases to pull up to a dock and five or 6 feet of water and drop the bait straight down along with piling. The boat will simply spook the fish. Therefore, anchoring the boat 30 feet away and casting in towards the structure is the only realistic approach.

best Sarasota fishing charter

One advantage to fishing this way is that when a fish is hooked it can be easier to pull it away from the structure. Also, when the tide is running hard a little bit of chum will often pull the fish away from the structure and towards the baited hook. Most of the redfish and black drum that clients catch on my fishing charters are done so around docks. Snook, redfish, flounder, snapper, and other species will be caught as well.

Sarasota bottom fishing baits

The top bait by far that I use on my Sarasota bottom fishing charters are shrimp. Generally speaking, live shrimp are preferred, especially when targeting game fish species such as snook, redfish, and jacks. However, frozen shrimp can be very productive on some species including black drum and sheepshead. Frozen shrimp is less expensive and on a fishing charter it saves me the time from having to stop by the bait shop in the morning on the way out.

saltwater fishing with shrimp

When bottom fishing in Sarasota with live shrimp, I usually hook it through the head under the horn. Again, this is especially true when seeking game fish. However, if clients are having trouble hooking fish in their bait is being stolen, I will read the live shrimp on the hook as well. Fishing with frozen shrimp is easy, I simply read a small shrimp on the hook and with larger shrimp I pinch them in half. In either case, I try to hide as much of the hook as possible.

saltwater fishing with shrimp

I will use live bait fish occasionally as well. This is particularly true in the summer time when I am throwing my cast net and catching scaled sardine, threadfin herring, and pin fish. The deep structure in the passes will hold large snook that will hit these live baits. Smaller bait fish can be very effective for snapper as well. Since for the most part I am only catching these bait fish in the warmer months, that is when I tend to use them.

Best hooks and rigs for Sarasota bottom fishing

Speaking of hooks, I have pretty much gone to strictly using circle hooks these days. Not only are they required gear in many bottom fishing situations, they also reduce fish mortality as the fish are almost always hooked in this corner of the mouth. It does take a little bit of extra time to bait the hook over a traditional, but it is worth. I use a size #1/0 to #3/0 hook for most of my Sarasota bottom fishing charters.

I use a couple of different rigs on my Sarasota bottom fishing charters. The two that I use the most are the knocker rig and the chicken rig. The knocker rig has an egg sinker which slides onto the leader and rest right on the eye of the hook. This looks odd to some clients and they think that the sinker will scare the fish. However, it does not. The beauty of this rig is that the bait is where the sinker is as opposed to other rigs where there is a long leader between the weight and the hook. The angler is always very much in contact with the bait. It also snags less often.

bottom fishing

The other rigs that I use is the chicken rig. I use this most often when fishing vertically, and especially when drifting. With the chicken rig the sinker lies at the bottom and the hook is suspended a bit above the weight. The hook and be placed anywhere from 6 inches to two or 3 feet above the weight. I normally tie the hook 8 inches to 10 inches above the weight. This suspends the bait right up off the bottom in the fishes strike zone.

Another aspect of Sarasota bottom fishing charters that anglers find attractive is the fact that many of these fish are very good to eat. Sheepshead are difficult to clean, but are very good eating. Mangrove snapper are among my personal favorite fish to eat. Smaller drum are excellent eating as well, particularly in the cooler months. Flounder are occasionally landed and are certainly prized by clients. I seldom catch legal grouper on my trips.

bottom fishing charters in Sarasota

Speaking of keeping fish, it is important to be responsible and the harvest of fish, even bottom fish. When the bite is on it is easy to keep too many. On my fishing trips, the goal is not to send clients home with coolers full of fillets. Instead, my objective is to have fun, experience some great action, and have the anglers go home with enough for a meal.

In conclusion, this article on Sarasota bottom fishing charters will help anglers understand the options available to them when fishing with me!

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!

Recent Posts