Sarasota Fishing Report

Sarasota Fishing Report

I will be posting my current Sarasota fishing report on this page. It will be updated every week or two as conditions and species change. It will include the baits or lures along with the species and locations.

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 and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

November 11 Sarasota fishing report

Action in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Sarasota beaches has been outstanding the last two weeks! The water temperature is now in the low to mid 70s and bait fish are plentiful. Not a lot of the action was found on the surface. The best bet has been trolling spoons and planers and chumming with live bait. Clients did have a few casting opportunities. King and Spanish mackerel, sharks, bluefish, and the stray false albacore were caught. Sharks are plentiful and great fun on medium tackle. They tend to migrate with and feed on the mackerel. This bite is dependent on conditions; strong winds from any direction other than east shuts things down. Hopefully, this will continue until Christmas.

Light tackle trolling in Saltwater

October 26 Sarasota fishing report

Weather has been an issue the last couple of weeks. A harsh rain storm, persistent east winds, and unusually warm temperatures made fishing a bit challenging. The best bite continued to be the deep grass flats. Spanish mackerel to 2 1/2 pounds, bluefish to 3 pounds, speckled trout to 20″, gag grouper, ladyfish, and more hit jigs and live baitfish on the grass flats in 6′ to 8′ of water. Snapper and small redfish took live shrimp under docks near the passes. I ran my first river trip this week. The water temperature was 81, which is too high for the snook to move in. Still, largemouth bass to 3 1/2 pounds and big gar made the trip fun.

Sarasota fishing report

October 13 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing has been steady over the last several weeks. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and ladyfish hit Bass Assassin jigs cast over grass flats in 6′ to 10′ of water. The flats north of New Pass have been best. Spanish mackerel are showing up in the inshore Gulf of Mexico as well. This action should really take off and hopefully false albacore and king mackerel will join the party. Jacks are schooling up in Robert’s Bay and Little Sarasota Bay. Snook are moving into these areas from the passes and beaches.

Sarasota fishing report

September 17 Sarasota fishing report

This will be my last report for a couple of weeks as I am heading to the NC mountains to terrorize the smallmouth bass and trout!  LOL  I had a charter today with my local regular clients Doc and John.  Action was steady for the 6 hours we fishing with 17 species being landed.  With zero breeze, we started in Big Pass, bouncing pompano jigs on the bottom. We also saw some breaking fish and cast into them. The boys caught tons on ladyfish, jack crevalle, another type of jack, blue runners, and a small permit. A move to structure using live shrimp produced red and gag grouper and mangrove snapper. We finished up casting Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head on the deep flats north of New Pass, catching Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, bluefish, catfish, and other species.

Sarasota fishing report

August 30 Sarasota fishing report

Between vacation and some rain, it has been a while since I posted a Sarasota fishing report. Action continued to be very good on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. The water is a bit less murky north of New Pass. Anglers casting Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits, Gulp shrimp, Rapala X-Raps, and chartreuse over white Clouser Minnow flies did well. Speckled trout (several were between 20″ and 23″), bluefish, jacks, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, mackerel, and a cobia were landed in recent weeks. Stephen’s Point, Middlegrounds, Bishop’s Pt., and Buttonwood were all productive spots. Fishing will probably shut down for a week or so due to the hurricane.

Sarasota fishing report

August 10 Sarasota Fishing Report

Fishing continued to be good on the deep grass flats in north Sarasota Bay, though we did have to deal with storms early in the week. The flats north of New Pass were the most productive. Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught bluefish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, ladyfish, grouper, and catfish casting Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp. The Middlegrounds, Stephen’s Pt., Buttonwood, and Long Bar were all productive spots. Snook are in the passes and starting to move back inshore. Spanish mackerel were schooling in the inshore Gulf of Mexico before the wind turned west.

Fishing report for Sarasota

August 3 Sarasota Fishing Report

Anglers on Sarasota fishing charters experienced good action on a variety of species this week. Once again, the best bite was on the deep grass flats. Afternoon showers have the water temperature around 85 degrees, which is good for this time of year. Spanish mackerel showed up in decent numbers and were found feeding on small bait on the surface. Speckled trout, bluefish, jacks, grouper, snapper, ladyfish, and catfish were also caught. Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits and Gulp Shrimp caught all of the fish. Stephen’s Pt. and Buttonwood were the top spots. Structure in the bay is loaded with snapper and grouper, though most of the fish are small. Live bait fished on the bottom worked well.

Sarasota fishing report

July 26 Sarasota fishing report

The best bite continues to be working the deep grass flats in North Sarasota Bay with jigs. Bass assassin Sea Shad baits and Gulp Shrimp were very productive. Both were fished on a 1/4 ounce jig head. Speckled trout numbers were on the rise and bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, grouper, snapper, catfish, and other species were landed. Stephen’s Pt. and Buttonwood were the top spots, though the Middlegrounds produced a few fish as well. Weather was an issue late in the week and I had to cancel a couple of trips.

Sarasota fishing report

July 16 Sarasota Fishing Report

Weather was an issues last week as Tropical Storm Berry shirted the area, bringing some rain and wind. As it passed, fishing rebounded quickly. The Gulf of Mexico is churned up a bit, bringing dirty water in through the passes. The best fishing spots have been in north Sarasota Bay where the water is clearer. One great sign is the dramatic increase in speckled trout. The season is closed to harvest as they bounce back from last year’s red tide. Along with trout, anglers landed bluefish, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, ladyfish, catfish, and other species. Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp caught all of the fish.  Stephen’s Pt. and Buttonwood were the top spots.

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

July 5 Sarasota fishing report

I took the end of the week off as the 4Th of July festivities kind of take over the town.  Action was steady this week, though we had one morning that was breezy and the fishing a bit slow.  The best spots this week were Stephen’s Pt. and Big Sarasota Pass.  Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught Spanish mackerel and ladyfish in the pass on jigs and live minnows.  Spephen’s Pt. and the Middlegrounds held bluefish, speckled trout, jacks, snapper, grouper, sharks, ladyfish, catfish, and other species.  Most of the fish were caught on Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp.

Sarasota fishing report

June 29 Sarasota fishing report

Despite water temperatures in the upper 80’s, fishing was very good this week.  The deep grass flats yielded speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, jacks, grouper, snapper, and ladyfish.  Most of the fish hit Bass Assassin jigs, but free lined shrimp produced a few fish as well.  Bait is plentiful on most of the flats and that attracts the game fish.  Stephen’s Pt., Middlegrounds, Bishop’s Pt., and Buttonwood were the top spots this week.

Sarasota fishing report

June 22 Sarasota fishing report

Once again, the best bite has been on the deep grass flats in north Sarasota Bay. Just about every flat with submerged grass in 6′ to 8′ of water held fish. There was a lot of bait fish that accounted for the good fishing. Anglers casting Bass Assassin jigs and Gulp Shrimp caught some decent sized bluefish, speckled trout, jack crevalle, ladyfish, catfish, and more. Middlegrounds, Bishop’s Point, and Buttonwood were the top spots. There are a lot of snook in the passes and off the beaches. However, west winds have hampered that fishing.

inshore saltwater fishing

June 15 Sarasota fishing report

Clients on Sarasota fishing charters experienced good action on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay.  Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits and Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head caught most of the fish.  Southwest wind had the Gulf churned up a bit, so the flats that were a bit away from the passes produced best.  Middlegrounds, Buttonwood, and Bishop’s Pt. were the top spots.  Bluefish, speckled trout, jacks, flounder, mangrove snapper, sail cats, and loads of ladyfish were caught.

Sarasota fishing report

June 8 Sarasota fishing report

Anglers experienced good action this week. The best bite was on the beach, in the passes, and on the flats close to the passes. Jigs with a Gulp Shrimp produced most of the fish. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, speckled trout, catfish, and a bunch of ladyfish and a little shark kept the rods bent. Spanish mackerel were found in the Gulf, just off of New Pass, although they were scattered out and a bit fussy. Small Rapala plugs fooled a dozen or so. Ladyfish were schooled up heavily on the New Pass bar, feeding on the surface.  Middlegrounds and Marker #5 were the best flats.

Sarasota fishing report

June 1 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was good this week on the flats, passes, and off the beach.  Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught a ton of Spanish mackerel off of the Lido Key beaches.  Schools of aggressively feeding mackerel were seen between Big Pass and New Pass.  The top producing bait was a #8 white Rapala X-Rap slash bait.  Jigs and spoons fooled fish as well.  Large ladyfish, bluefish, whiting, catfish, and mackerel were caught in both passes on jigs and X-Raps.  Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head produced ladyfish, jacks, bluefish, and speckled trout on the flats near the passes.

May 25 Sarasota fishing report

The best bite this week for anglers on Sarasota fishing charters was Spanish mackerel out on the beaches. Schools of mackerel were plentiful as there is a ton of bait. Silver spoons, plugs, and jigs cast into the fish produced strikes. A lot of the fish were on the small side, but there were some decent ones mixed in, too. Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass also had breaking fish, along with ladyfish and a few bluefish. The flats at Marker # 5 and Middlegrounds produced a couple of speckled trout, ladyfish, and sailcats.

Sarasota fishing report

May 19 Outer Banks fishing report

I was up in North Carolina in Kill Devil Hills this week for a little vacation. Of course, I did some fishing along with some great seafood meals and adult beverages.  Whiting, known locally as “surf mullet”, and skates hit shrimp fished on the bottom. One of the whiting went 18″, which is a good one.  On calmer days, I cast Gulp Shrimp on jig heads from the surf and landed spotted sea trout and bluefish.  The trout were tough to land in the surf with their soft mouths, but most were going to be released anyway.  We saved enough whiting and a couple of trout for a little fish fry, great fun!

fishing report

May 11 Sarasota Fishing Report

Fishing was decent this week, with the highlight being schools of breaking jack crevalle. We encounters schools of jacks feeding on the surface in several locations throughout Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay. They hit Bass Assassin jigs and Rapala X-Raps. Ladyfish were caught in Big Pass, the nearby flats, and up in the north bay. Snook hit plugs early in the morning and speckled trout and bluefish were caught on jigs on the deep grass flats.  I am headed to the Outer Banks for some surf fishing and R&R, next report will be in two weeks.

Sarasota fishing report

May 4 Sarasota fishing report

Once again, ladyfish on the deep grass flats provided the majority of the action for clients this week.  Most of the fish were caught by anglers casting Bass Assassin jigs, but live shrimp caught fish, too.  It was good to see that some very healthy speckled trout were caught as well.  This is a good sign as Sarasota Bay bounces back from the red tide.  The FWC has just passed a law that speckled trout, reds, and snook are catch and release for the next year.  Some anglers look down on ladyfish, but they really are a lot of fun and put up a good fight for their size.  They are a great little fish for kids and novice anglers to practice on and gain experience.

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

April 27 Sarasota fishing report

With sheepshead pretty much done, the best action this week was on the grass flats.  Ladyfish provided most of the action, keeping rods bent for clients.  Bass Assassin jigs and live shrimp worked well.  A few bluefish, mackerel, speckled trout, and sailcats were caught as well.  It was tough on Monday as a severe front had moved through.  However, the bite picked up each day, with Thursday being very good early in the morning.  Another front moved in on Friday.  Bait is showing up on a lot of the flats, which is a good sign for our summer fishing.

Florida bluefish

April 20 Sarasota fishing report

Clients on Sarasota fishing charters had decent action tis week, although weather was an issue early and late in the week.  Wind not only makes it difficult to fish, it stirs up the water.  Finding “clean” water was important.   Every spot that was dirty only produced catfish.  Flats that were better produced a lot of ladyfish with a few jack crevalle and bluefish mixed in.  Most of the fish hit Bass Assassin jigs, but shrimp caught some fish as well.  We had an excellent fly fishing trip on Thursday morning.  The grass flats north on New Pass were very clear with a lot of bait.  Fish were busting on the surface and chartreuse/white Clouser MInnow patters were very productive.

Sarasota fishing report

April 13 Sarasota fishing report

It is all about bending the rods with a lot of family trips this time of year.  Action was decent this week for clients going out on Sarasota fishing charters.  Big Sarasota Pass, Marina Jack flat, and Middlegrounds had good numbers of hard-fighting ladyfish along with bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and speckled trout.  Bass Assassin jigs (glow/chartreuse), Rapala X-Raps were all productive.  Friday was the best day, as we encountered large schools of ladyfish with bluefish and mackerel mixed in terrorizing bait in shallow water on the Big Pass sand bar.  Then, later in the morning, we caught Spanish mackerel and blue runners trolling spoons near Siesta Key Beach.  Sheepshead are really thinning out, though there are still a few around, mostly smaller males.

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

April 6 Sarasota fishing report

Anglers on Sarasota fishing charters this week experienced decent action on the grass flats near Big Pass.  Ladyfish were fairly plentiful with a few other species mixed in.  Speckled trout to 18″, Spanish mackerel and bluefish to 2 pounds, jacks and sail cats hit Bass Assassin jigs, live shrimp, and threadfin herring.  Brian caught the fish of the week as he wrestled a nice redfish out from under a Siesta Key dock using live shrimp.  Ladyfish were also caught in Big Pass on jigs.  I only targeted sheepshead one day, but the bite was still strong in the rocks in the pass.

fishing report for Sarasota, Florida

March 30 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was decent this week, though clients on Sarasota fishing charters had to battle some wind and a little rain.  The sheepshead bite continued to be very good.  Live shrimp fished on the bottom near structure and docks in both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass produced plenty of nice sized fish.  Though the spawning run is winding down, there are plenty of fish that are still around.  Anglers seeking action found it by casting Bass Assassin jigs on the grass flats on the east side of the bay.  A couple of speckled trout were caught as well, which is a great sign.

fishing report Sarasota

March 23 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was steady once again this week, though anglers did have to battle some breezy conditions.  The sheepshead bite was very good, with most of the fishing being in the 2 pound range.  Rocks, docks, and other structure, particularly in the passes, held plenty of fish.  Live shrimp was the best bait.  Ladyfish hit Bass Assassin jigs in Robert’s Bay on the incoming tide.  Anglers casting flies hooked them as well as a snook up in a residential canal.  One young angler sight cast to a couple of tripletail in the bay and caught one on a live shrimp.

Sarasota fishing report

March 16 Sarasota fishing report

The sheepshead bite remains strong in both Big Sarasota Pass, New Pass, and surrounding docks and bridges.  Live or frozen shrimp fished on the bottom worked well.  Most of the fish were in the 2lb range, with some larger ones mixed in.  Small Spanish mackerel hit Rapala plugs trolled and cast in the passes and inshore Gulf of Mexico.  Ladyfish and the occasional Spanish mackerel and speckled trout hit jigs and shrimp on the deeper flats.  We had perfect conditions on Tuesday and caught a half dozen king mackerel trolling spoons in the Gulf of Mexico just off off the inshore artificial reefs.

fishing report for Sarasota

March 2 Sarasota fishing report

Sheepshead were caught around structure in Sarasota Bay and on the artificial reefs in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. This has been the most consistent bite for the last few weeks. Live shrimp caught them along with a few mangrove snapper. Docks and structure in both passes were the top spots. Also, there is a ton of tiny fry bait in Robert’s Bay which has attracted good numbers of ladyfish. Clients caught them using Bass Assassin jigs and live shrimp. Dolphins were aggressive and shut down the bite several times. A few speckled trout were landed as well.

Sarasota fishing report

 

February 23 Sarasota fishing report

Action really picked up this week in Sarasota Bay!  Water temperatures were in the mid 70’s and small fry bait is plentiful on the flats.  Anglers casting jigs experienced fast action on large ladyfish and a couple of speckled trout.  Snook and jack crevelle hit live shrimp and Rapala plugs in creeks and residential canals.  The sheepshead bite remains strong.  Very few of the fish are under the 12″ minimum.  Some decent mangrove snapper were landed as well.  Live shrimp worked well fished on the bottom.

Sarasota fishing report

February 16 Sarasota fishing report

The best bite in Sarasota Bay right now is sheepshead.  These tasty saltwater panfish are hitting live and freshly frozen shrimp under docks, bridges and around submerged structure.  Most of the fish were decent sized, over 14″ or so.  Mangrove snapper to 14″ were also taken in the same areas.  In addition, a few snook and jacks were caught on Rapala X-Raps in creeks and canals.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

 

February 2 Sarasota fishing report

The big jack bite was hot for another week, but then slowed down after the cold front.  Water temperatures in the mid 50’s sent the fish seeking warmer water. Before the front, jacks to 12 pounds, snook, and redfish hit Rapala plugs in the Manatee River.  Hopefully the upcoming warm weather will get them biting again.  The best action in Sarasota Bay was sheepshead hitting live shrimp around structure.  The fish are spread out and it seems like their numbers are increasing each week.  Small snook hit lures in creeks and residential canals.

Sarasota fishing report

January 19 Sarasota fishing report

Winter fishing patterns continue in Sarasota.  The best two patterns have been fishing docks with live shrimp for sheepshead and black drum and casting plugs and jigs in creeks and rivers for jack crevalle and snook.  Docks in 8′ to 10′ of water near Big Pass produced sheepshead and drum.  Most of them were solid fish in the 14″ to 16″ range.  Anglers casting Rapala plugs in Phillippi Creek fooled snook and jacks.  The Manatee River has some VERY big jacks that were breaking on the surface and hit jigs and plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

January 5 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing has been fair over the last two weeks.  Fishing pressure was high due to the Christmas traffic and we are still rebounding from the red tide.  Sheepshead showed up under docks and around structure near the passes.  We caught them and mangrove snapper using live shrimp fished on the bottom.  Big jacks were found on the flats and in the channel and hit plugs, jigs, and flies.  Ladyfish were caught in deeper areas using jigs.

Sarasota fishing report

December 22 Sarasota fishing report

Weather was an issue over the last two weeks.  However, the forecast is good for the holiday week. Ladyfish hit jigs on drop-offs in 7′ to 10′ of water.  Sheepshead were present in good numbers under docks near Big Pass.  Snook and jacks have moved up into residential canals and creeks.  Anglers fishing the Myakka River hooked snook and gar casting plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

December 8 Sarasota fishing report

Weather has been an issue the last two weeks. Several severe fronts moved through and I had to cancel several trips due to wind around 20 knots. It does seem to have helped the rd tide, though. Ladyfish and small Spanish mackerel were breaking on the surface off of Siesta Key. Sheepshead and snapper took shrimp fished under docks and along rocky channel edges, especially south of Siesta Drive Bridge. Cooler water has snook and jacks moving up into area cheeks and rivers.

Sarasota fishing report

November 24 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing remained steady, though unspectacular, over the last two weeks.  Red tide still persists off the beaches and in Sarasota Bay, from the passes north.  The best fishing has been in the area from Siesta Drive south to Blackburn Point.  Sheepshead moved into the area and were caught under docks by clients using shrimp.  Mangrove snapper were caught in the same spots as well.  Jack crevelle hit plugs in residential canals and creeks.  Ladyfish were caught on jigs on the open flats.

Sarasota fishing report

November 10 Sarasota fishing report

I ran both Myakka River charters and Sarasota Bay charters this week.  Anglers casting Bass Assassin baits and Gulp! Shrimp on jig heads experienced fast action on ladyfish.  With the persistent red tide, the area between Siesta Drive and Blackburn Point were the most consistent areas.  A few speckled trout were caught as well.  Pilchards fished under docks fooled jacks, snook, and snapper.

Action in the Myakka River was fair this week.  It got VERY warm by the end of the week, and that slowed the bite.  Still, anglers casting Rapala plugs hooked a couple large snook and landed fish to 24″.  The approaching cold front should improve the fishing.

Sarasota fishing report

November 3 Sarasota fishing report

I did most of my fishing in the area rivers.  Anglers had good success on snook, jack crevelle, and largemouth bass casting Rapala plugs.  Snook ranged from 15″ to 15 pounds.  We landed fish to 35″ and lost two larger ones.  #10 gold Rapala X-Raps and BX Minnow plugs fooled all of the fish.  The Braden River, Myakka River, and Manatee River were all productive.  Charters in Sarasota Bay were a bit slower, with jack crevelle to 4 pounds and mangrove snapper hitting pilchards fished under docks and along shorelines.

Sarasota fishing report

October 20 Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was fantastic this week! I got out four days, taking a mixture of clients and friends. The snook bite was on fire all along Siesta Key. Snook to 34 inches were landed this week and several were hooked that we could not handle. A few the fish were caught on white #8 Rapala X-Raps first thing in the morning. Speckled trout to 16 inches, ladyfish, mangrove snapper to 14 inches, and jacks also hit the plugs early in the morning.

However, most of the fish hit live pilchards. Redfish to 24 inches, jack crevelle to 4 pounds, and mangrove snapper to 15 inches were also caught on the live bait. I like the combination of taking an advantage of the early morning bite with lures than switching over to live bait when that action slows.

Action from this week!

 

Regular clients Doc and John had a great day on Thursday. They caught snapper, jacks, snook, ladyfish, and a trout casting Rapalas. A switch to live bait resulted in over 40 snook along with several other species. Doc finished up with an inshore slam, catching snook, trout, and redfish all in one trip.

Bait fish were plentiful in Sarasota Bay this week. At the end of my charter on Thursday, we saw a dozen large schools of bait on the flats near Marina jacks. This is a great indication of quality water. It can also mean that the mackerel, false albacore, and other migratory fall species will be arriving soon. They are generally right on the heels of the bait. Hopefully the approaching front will kick start the inshore Gulf fishing.

October 13 Sarasota fishing report

The area south of Siesta Drive down to Blackburn Point provided steady action for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week.  I got out a couple of times after Hurricane Michael moved through.  The water was a bit stirred up, but the fish did not mind.  We had outgoing tides in the morning this week.  The best spots were creek and canal mouths along with docks on points.  Rapala X-Raps produced a few fish at first light, but most of the fish were caught using live pilchards.  Bait was present on the flats in several spots near Big Pass.  Chumming docks, shorelines, oyster bars, and creek mouths produced snook (mostly schoolies), jack crevelle to 4 pounds, and mangrove snapper to 15″.  Action should improve as it cools off.  Great to see the bay clearing and the fish biting!

Sarasota fishing report

October 7 Sarasota fishing report

I am back from a long road trip up to New Hampshire and Maine. Red tide was pretty bad when I left around Labor Day. It is still present, though the effects have eased off a bit. Persistent anglers can find juvenile snook, jacks, and mangrove snapper’s in the area at the south end of Siesta Key. A few schools of ladyfish are showing up in the flats around the passes and out on the beach. This is a good sign of things clearing up!

Sarasota fishing report

I have been doing a little freshwater fishing and local lakes. Bluegill and other panfish along with a few crappie are caught using jigs and small spinner baits. This fishing, like our saltwater fishing, will pick up as it cools off and the water temperature drops.

Sarasota fishing report information

There are many factors that go into fishing success. My Sarasota fishing report page will reflect this. Seasonal patterns are one of the primary factors influencing fishing success. Anglers can view my complete Sarasota fishing forecast.

Fishing in the cooler months is all about the weather. We start receiving serious cold fronts here in Sarasota, Florida around November. They usually persist until mid-March. Unseasonably pleasant winters will result in fish maintaining their spring and fall patterns. Conversely, an unusually cold winter will keep fish in their winter pattern.

Sarasota fishing report

In the winter time I do three types of fishing; bottom fishing, River snook fishing, and on nice days drifting the deep grass flats. I use live shrimp to bottom fish for sheepshead, snapper, drum, and other species around docs and other structure. Local area rivers produce snook and bass for anglers casting plugs. When conditions are favorable on the open flats, we use jigs and live shrimp to catch a variety of species.

As it warms up fish move out of the deeper waters where they spend the winter. The flats and passes become alive with snook, redfish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and other species. The passes and deep flats produce the most action while some anglers seek the challenge of catching snook in redfish in the back country.

When conditions are right, the fishing in the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be fantastic! East winds will result in clear water and plenty of baitfish. This will in turn attract Spanish mackerel, false albacore, sharks, cobia, and other species. Often times, the fish will be seen feeding aggressively on the surface. This is great fun as just about anything tossed into the feeding frenzy will draw strike.

Sarasota fishing charters

For many anglers, the heat of summer means one thing; tarpon! The silver Kings invade our area in early May and stay until late July. This is very challenging fishing, and not for everyone. However the reward is the fish of a lifetime! Tarpon to 150 pounds are landed off of the area beaches every summer.

While I still do a little tarpon fishing, most of my summer trips are run in Sarasota Bay. With all the anglers out on the beach chasing tarpon, fishing pressure in the Bay is lighter. My normal approach is to cast lures or shrimp at first light then use my cast net to catch bait and chum mid morning. Either way, with the heat of summer, we are will off the water early.

You’ll see me mention “deep grass flats”often in my Sarasota fishing report. This is where the majority of fish on my fishing charters are landed. These areas are large with a mixture of grass and sand bottom. Shrimp, crabs, and bait fish all hide in the grass. That obviously makes it an attractive place for game fish to feed.

Speckled trout in particular are associated with these deeper grass flats. But anglers will also catch Spanish mackerel, Pompano, bluefish, jacks, a lot of ladyfish, snapper, grouper, cobia, sharks, catfish and more while fishing the deep grass at one time of year or another.

Sarasota fishing

We primarily drift fish while working the deep grass flats. Anglers cast out lures, flies, or live bait as we drift across a productive areas in search of fish. Bass Assassin jigs, Rapala plugs, and spoons are effective artificial lures. The top live bait is a shrimp. These are fished either free line or under a noisy cork. In the summer time, live bait fish such as scaled sardines are used.

Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass produce a lot a fish for clients on Sarasota fishing charters. Anglers reading my Sarasota fishing report will see Big Pass in particular mentioned quite often. Sheepshead school up there thick and late winter and early spring. Mangrove snapper and snook are found in the rocks in the summer time. Ladyfish are often times thick right in the middle of the pass itself. Bluefish and mackerel can also be encountered as well.

Anglers drifting the passes cast jigs out and bounced them along the bottom. This is very effective and produces Pompano, bluefish, mackerel, and loads of ladyfish. Free lining a live shrimp with a split shot or fishing a live shrimp on a jig head can also be very productive. However, when the fish are biting jigs are more efficient as there is no need to stop and rebate the hook.

Sarasota Bay fishing report

There is a ton of structure in Big Pass as well. This is particularly true of the whole area along the north side of Siesta Key. The water is deep, there is good current flow, and abundant structure. This is a recipe for an excellent fishing spot, and it is! Bottom fishing with live shrimp and bait fish is very productive. Anglers do need to time this during periods of lesser current flow. It is difficult to anchor in fish when the tide is screaming.

Spinning tackle is used on the vast majority of my fishing charters. The reason is quite simple; it is effective and easy to use. Many freshwater anglers are experienced with close to faced reels. However, it usually only takes a few minutes before there casting like a pro with the spinning outfits. 10 pound spinning outfits are light enough that anglers enjoy the fight of even a smaller fish while still giving them a chance of the hook something larger.

Anglers seeking a bit more of a challenge will opt to targets snook, redfish, and jacks in the back country areas. This type of fishing is more of a “quality over quantity approach”. I use the trolling motor to ease the boat along a likely looking shoreline, while anglers cast lures towards the shoreline. I do use live bait occasionally as well.

River fishing charters

Visitors to my site will often see ”River snook fishing”in my Sarasota fishing report. This is a unique angling opportunity that I offer to clients. I am not aware of any other guide to do so. I use my 14 foot Alumacraft jon boat for this fishing. Shallow water and primitive ramps require this. However, this also results in less boat traffic and a quiet, serene angling adventure.

The Manatee River, Myakka River, and Braden River, are all within a 45 minute drive from the Sarasota beaches. Each has a distinct feel and personality. The Myakka River has some stunning scenery and big snook. The Manatee River is pretty as well but a bit more developed. It offers the most variety. The Braden River is the most developed but offers fantastic fishing for jack crevelle in the cooler months. Snook and redfish are available as well.

One unique aspect of fishing the rivers is the chance to catch freshwater species as well. The Manatee River and Myakka River are both brackish below the dams. This results in saltwater fish such as snuck, redfish, jacks, and juvenile tarpon being found in the same water as largemouth bass, sunshine bass, catfish, gar, and bream. These freshwater species will take the same lures meant for the saltwater fish.

In the spring and again in the fall we experience runs of pelagic species. This means that they spend most of their time in the middle of the water column and do not relate as much to bottom structure. Spanish mackerel and false albacore are prime examples. King mackerel show up here offer beaches as well. This fishing is dependent on conditions, the water needs to be clear and calm. When it is, fishing can be outstanding!

Inshore Gulf of Mexico

This type of fishing is very exciting in that it is visual. Often times we don’t even fish until we actually see the mackerel and false albacore busting baits on the surface. We will also look for big schools of bait fish which can be seen dimpling on the surface. Artificial lures work very well when the fish are breaking. We will also catch some of the live bait fish and cast them back into the school of bait.

On days when the fish cannot be seen working on the surface, trolling can be an effective technique. Trolling spoons and plugs is a great way to locate Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and even big King fish. It is also a great way to put a lot of fish in the boat quickly and is an easy technique for anglers with limited experience.

The “inshore artificial reefs”will be mentioned regularly in my Sarasota fishing report. I am referring to three man-made groups of structure that were placed between one and to miles off of Lido Key. The Gulf floor is for the most part flat and featureless. Therefore, any structure will attract fish and hold them there. Those three reefs provide excellent fishing for bottom fish such as sheepshead, snapper, and grouper along with pelagic species such as mackerel, King fish, cobia, and false albacore.

Fly fishing

Fly fisherman are certainly not to be left out of the action! False albacore in Spanish mackerel will most certainly hit a well presented fly out in the Gulf of Mexico. This is terrific sport for anglers wielding a fly rod. Any inshore species that can be caught on a jig will also take a fly. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, and more will hit a Clouser Minnow on the deep flats. Snook and jacks prefer whiteCrystal Minnow patterns in the back bays.

An 8wt outfit is a good all-around choice for fly fishing in Sarasota. It might be a tad light if the false albacore are running large. Otherwise, it is a good choice for the water and species that Sarasota offers. An intermediate sink tip line and then 9 foot tapered leader with a 24 inch piece of 30 pound bite tippet finishes off the outfit.

Readers will see a lot a families including children and my Sarasota fishing report. I really enjoy taking families out, it has become a big part of my Sarasota fishing charters. Many of these anglers have limited experience. One great thing about fishing here is that there are many species that do not require a great deal of skill or patience to catch. This is a good thing!

Also, while I don’t mind if clients keep a couple fish for dinner, I strongly encourage catch and release. Sarasota gets a lot a visitors and thus a lot of fishing pressure. It is important that the focus of the fishing trip beyond catching fish and enjoying quality time with families. I will certainly filet and bag up your catch at the end of the trip.  Current Florida fishing regulations and license requirements can be found HERE.

Fishing in Bradenton Florida, a Complete Guide!

Fishing in Bradenton Florida, a Complete Guide!

This comprehensive guide will cover fishing in Bradenton Florida. Bradenton offers anglers a wide variety of fish species, locations, and techniques that are used.

Bradenton is a resort city on the west coast of Florida, just south of Tampa and St Petersburg. It is strategically located at the mouth of Tampa Bay. The inshore waters offer anglers a wide variety of species than anglers can catch. Snook, tarpon, redfish, spotted sea trout, bluefish, king and Spanish mackerel, pompano, flounder, sheepshead, grouper, snapper, jacks, sharks, and more can be caught. Anglers use light spinning tackle and artificial lures and live baits. A variety of techniques are productive.

fishing in Bradenton Florida

Bradenton Florida fishing tackle

Light spinning tackle is most often used by anglers fishing in Bradenton Florida. Spinning tackle is versatile and easy for novice anglers to use. Quite often, light lures and live baits are used. Spinning tackle is the best choice for casting these light baits. A 6 1/2 foot medium action rod and a 3000 series reel work best. 10 pound monofilament or braided line is a good choice.

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 and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

Bradenton fishing charters

As a full time fishing guide for over twenty five years, I run fishing charters on a regular basis. Bradenton waters offer visiting anglers a wide variety of fishing options for clients on fishing charters. Anglers can contact me at captklopfer@comcast.net to get information about booking a trip.

The majority of fish caught on Bradenton fishing charters is done so while fishing the grass flats. The shallow grass flats offer experienced anglers the opportunity to catch snook, redfish, and other species. The deeper flats are better choice for novice anglers and those seeking action and variety. Many square miles of lush grass flats abound in our area.

Family fishing charters in Bradenton Florida

A lot of fish and charters involve children and novice anglers. One great thing about Bradenton waters is that this is a great place for those anglers who experience success. Drifting the deep grass flats with live shrimp, bait fish, and jigs will produce many species. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, Pompano, bluefish, snapper, grouper, flounder, ladyfish, sharks, and more are commonly caught species.

fishing in Bradenton Florida

This is fairly easy fishing. Anglers fish as the boat drifts over the grass flat. These are large areas and drifting is a good way to locate the fish. Anglers can either drift a live bait or cast artificial lures, depending on conditions and angler skill level. This technique generally provides good action as well as a variety of species.

Bottom fishing in Bradenton Florida

Bottom fishing is another method that is very easy for novice anglers to quickly become proficient at. The boat is anchored up near some likely structure, including artificial reefs, docs, bridges, and other structure. A baited hook is either than lower to the bottom or cast towards the structure. Sheepshead, which are abundant in the late winter and early spring are a prime target when bottom fishing. Grouper, snapper, drum, flounder, sea bass, and other species are also regularly taken.

Light tackle bottom fishing tips

Drifting the passes is another easy and very productive technique. Anglers bouncing small but tale jigs on the bottom in both Longboat Pass and at the north and near being point will do well on Pompano, mackerel, and ladyfish. Once again, this is a very easy technique to learn in a short amount of time.

Fishing for snook and redfish on Bradenton fishing charters

More experienced anglers may choose to target more challenging species. Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida and Bradenton has a good population of them. Snook are caught in a wide variety of habitat including the shallow flats, bridges, mangrove shorelines, and oyster bars.

Redfish are the next most popular game fish for anglers going out on Bradenton fishing trips. Redfish are most often caught on the shallow grass flats along the southern edge of Tampa Bay. They are available all year long in school up in big numbers and late summer.

redfish and trout fishing

Anglers can choose to fish the shallow flats using either live bait or artificial lures. Casting artificial lures is exciting and fun. Anglers drift over the flat casting into potholes, along the edges of oyster bars, and along mangrove shorelines. Top water plugs, shallow diving plugs, soft plastic baits, and weedless spoons are the top lures.

Live bait produces on Bradenton fishing charters

Live bait certainly accounts for a lot of fish on the shallow flats especially in the summer time. Shrimp are used all year long in our an effective bait. However, in the summer we utilize a very specialized technique. Using a cast net, we catch hundreds and hundreds of small shiny bait fish called pilchards. We then use these pilchards to chum the game fish into range.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Once the bait well is fall, a likely spot with good current flow is chosen. The boat is then anchored up current from the spot. Several handfuls of live bait fish are tossed into the water with no hooks attached. Sometimes the bait fish are squeezed, crippling them, making them swim erratically in the water. This can drive snook and redfish crazy! Once the fish are feeding on the chum, hooked baits are cast out into the fray. This technique works on the deep grass flats as well for speckled trout Spanish mackerel and other species.

Bradenton fishing charters in the inshore Gulf of Mexico

In the spring and then again in the fall, action and the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be outstanding. When the golf is calm in the water is clear, hordes of bait fish will show up just off the Bradenton area beaches. This forage will in turn attract game fish. Spanish mackerel, false albacore, sharks, cobia, and other species will come in to feed on the abundant bait fish.

When fish are breaking on the surface, the action can be fast and furious. Just about any lore or bait cast into the melee will get instantly devoured. This is another situation where inexperienced anglers can catch a lot of fish. Fly fisherman will find this a very unique and exciting opportunity as well.

On days where there’s a little chop on the surface and the fish aren’t showing, there are several techniques that are productive. Trolling is a great way to locate fish. The boat is idled along with a couple artificial lures out the back. I look for bait schools or bird activity and had the boat in that direction. Trolling can produce a lot a fish in a short period of time when the bite is on. Once a school of fish is located, anglers can then cast lures and baits if they so desire.

Spinning and fly tackle is used on Bradenton fishing charters

Light spinning tackle is used on the vast majority of my fishing charters. Spinning tackle is versatile and easy to use. Most anglers with even a little bit of experience are familiar with this tackle. It is very similar to what anglers use up north for their freshwater fishing.

Inshore saltwater fishing

Fly fisherman are certainly welcome on Bradenton fishing trips. Any fish that can be caught on and artificial lore will also take a well presented fly. Speckled trout Spanish mackerel bluefish and ladyfish will hit on the deep grass flats. Redfish and snuck can be cite cast it in the shallow flats. Nothing beats surface action on Spanish mackerel and false albacore in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. 7wt to 9wt outfits work best.

Giant tarpon on Bradenton fishing charters

We experience some world-class fishing off the Bradenton beaches in the summer time as giant tarpon migrate through. Tarpon average 80 pounds and fish over 150 pounds are hooked each season. Tarpon fishing does require some patients, this is not a numbers game. Instead, anglers are hoping for the trophy of a lifetime!

There are several different methods that produce when targeting tarpon. One option, which is my personal favorite, is to cite cast to schools of tarpon milling about in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. This is as much fish hunting as anything else. Anglers need be patient and then stock the fish, hoping for an opportunity. When it all comes together, there is nothing like it!

Sarasota tarpon fishing

A very productive technique is anchoring and fishing with live and dead bait. This is easier and in reality more productive. The boat is anchored in 10 to 12 feet of water off of being point and several baits are put out both on the bottom and closer to the surface. Then, anglers just sit and wait for a bite.

Finally, we experience an interesting situation when the tide goes out, particularly in the afternoon. These strong outgoing tides are called Hill tides. They flush out crabs and other forage for the tarpon. Just like the chumming with white bait mentioned earlier, this natural chum slick gets the tarpon fired up and feeding. Anglers fortunate enough to experience a good Hill tide bite, will never forget it!

Bradenton shore fishing

Anglers Bradenton shore fishing have many options. While those with boats certainly have an advantage, there are a myriad of spots for shore bound anglers to experience success. Bridges, piers, beaches, and wade-able flats abound in this area.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

In order to not be repetitive, I am going to go over species and techniques at the beginning of the article. Most of these tips and tactics will produce at all of the spots listed. Obviously, most of the techniques will work at all of the spots at one time or another.

Florida resident anglers DO need a fishing license to fish from shore if they are between 16 and 65 years old, with a few exemptions. This license is free to Florida residents. Non-residents need to purchase a Florida fishing license to fish from shore.  Anglers on fishing charters do not need a license.

Fishing Bradenton bridges and piers

The three main bridges in Bradenton offer great fishing for a variety of species. There are two long bridges going over the inshore bay and another going over Longboat Pass. The Rod and Reel Pier and other docks and piers are strategically located for good fishing.

Bottom fish such as mangrove snapper and flounder are available year-round. Sheepshead are thick in late winter and spring. Live or fresh dead shrimp fished on the bottom work well.

Fishing in Bradenton Florida

Snook fishing area bridges produces for anglers, especially at night. Live bait such as shrimp or pinfish works well. Heavy tackle is required to land a big snook in structure. Lures such as jigs with a soft plastic trailer and plugs will catch fish as well.

Pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and other species are also attracted to area bridges. Shade, current, and bait will hold them there. Shiny fast moving lures such as Gotchas, spoons, jigs, and plugs are effective. Pompano anglers will bounce small jigs on the bottom.

Fishing off of Bradenton beaches

Bradenton beaches offer good fishing for most of the year. Winter anglers catch whiting, silver trout, flounder, and other species from the beach as long as the water is clean. Live or fresh shrimp is tough to beat. Cold fronts and wind will stir up the surf and shut down the fishing.

Fishing in Bradenton Florida

Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish and other species will migrate along the surf in spring and fall. The key to this fishing is the abundance of bait fish. Shiny lures that mimic the bait will produce. Silver spoons, plugs, and jigs work well. Live bait anglers will net some shiners and do well. Live shrimp always produces.

Sight casting for snook is great sport in the summer. Snook, some of them quite large, will cruise the shoreline in the summer. Anglers cast small white jigs, plugs, and flies at these fish.

Wading in Bradenton

Anglers who don’t mind getting their feet wet will have great success Bradenton shore fishing. Several spots offer access to some very productive flats, especially on the south side of Tampa Bay. In fact, wading can be an advantage as many of these areas are too shallow for most boats.

Fishing in Bradenton Florida

Artificial lures are convenient for wade fishing. While live bait is certainly effective, it can be a nuisance dragging a bucket around. Topwater plugs are great fun early and late in the day. Weedless spoons work well on the shallow flats. Jigs produce on the edges where the grass drops off into deeper water.

Live bait is quite effective. A live shrimp fished under a popping cork will catch a lot of speckled trout along with other species. Free lining a shrimp will also work well.

Here is a list of the best Bradenton shore fishing spots.

Longboat Pass

Longboat Pass is a fantastic fishing spot! The pass lies at the south end of Anna Maria Island. Anglers can fish from shore on the breakwater or sea wall, as well as docks on the back side near the boat ramp. The jetty offers access to both the pass and the Gulf of Mexico. Beach anglers will do well on Snook in the summer and other species year round.

Cortez Rd Bridge

The Cortez Rd Bridge offers some very good fishing. This bridge is very close to Longboat Pass and has great current flow. Evening outgoing tides can be the best times to fish.

Bridge Street Pier

There is a nice public fishing pier at the east end of Bridge Street. Speckled trout and other inshore species are available. Parking can be an issue in the evening druring the busy times.

Beaches

The beach that runs the entire length of Anna Maria Island provides excellent fishing most of the year. Public access is plentiful. Several small piers and rock jetties attract fish. Anglers need to give swimmers plenty of room. The best fishing is early and late anyway, when swimmers are less present.

Neal Preserve and Manatee Ave Bridge

This is a great area for anglers Bradenton shore fishing. Wade fishing is very popular with plenty of room for many anglers. The Manatee Ave Bridge is very good for bottom fish along with other species.

Palma Sola Causeway Park

This is another great area for anglers that wade fish. There is a ton of parking with room for a lot of anglers. It does get very busy with jet skis and such on weekends.

Bean Point

Bean Point is in a terrific location right at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Currents rip past the point making it a natural ambush point. Snook fishing can be outstanding in the summer. Anglers should be VERY careful here! Do not wade! Currents are strong and very dangerous.

Rod and Reel Pier

The Rod and Reel Pier on the north end of Anna Maria Island is in a strategic spot, with excellent tidal flow. This pier has a long and storied past with some great fishing at times. Spanish mackerel run past and the bite can be non-stop. Snook, sheepshead, snapper, pompano and other species are available at certain times of year.

Robinson Preserve

This is a small area that can hold snook and redfish.

Desoto Point

Desoto Point at the north end of Bradenton on the mainland offers great access for anglers wade fishing. Lush grass flats abound, with snook, redfish, and speckled trout being the most targeted species.

Riverwalk and Green Bridge

The Green Bridge is technically in Palmetto, but it is right across the Bus 41 Bridge from Bradenton. It offers good fishing, especially in the cooler months. The Riverwalk has a nice sea wall that anglers can fish from as well.

Fishing Bradenton Beach

Visiting anglers enjoy fishing Bradenton Beach. Plenty of fish are caught from the beach itself. In addition to “surf” fishing, there are numerous piers and bridges that produce as well.

Anglers fishing off of Bradenton Beach and casting into the Gulf of Mexico catch a wide variety of species. Like most fishing, it is seasonal, but something is biting all year long. Snook, speckled trout, silver trout, pompano, whiting, sheepshead, sharks, redfish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, snapper, grouper, flounder, and more are landed.

Conditions will often dictate when fishing off of the Bradenton Beaches will be productive. Ideal conditions are an east wind. This results in calm seas and clear water. Add in a high tide, and conditions are ideal. Conversely, a strong west wind will churn up the surf, making it silty and muddy. This is the time to avoid the surf and seek some cleaner water in the backwaters. This is particularly true in the winter when fronts are severe.

Surf fishing Bradenton Beach

When the surf has settled down, fishing Bradenton beaches is good in the winter. Whiting school up and a mess can be caught in short order. They are not large, but fun on light tackle. And, they are quite tasty! Pompano, sheepshead, silver trout, flounder, and other species will also be taken.

Spanish mackerel will move along Bradenton beaches in the spring and again in the fall. The key is bait, when the bait shows up in the surf, so with the mackerel. They will often times feed actively on the surface. This is exciting fishing as just about anything that gets cast into the frenzy will fool a fish. Ladyfish, bluefish, jacks, and other species will be landed as well.

Snook fishing can be outstanding in the summer! This is truly world class sight fishing. Anglers walk the beach while scanning the surf line for fish. Once sighted, a presentation is made. Hopefully, a take will ensue. Small jigs, flies, and plugs work best for a subtle presentation. Snook will spook in the very shallow water.

Longboat pass on the south end of Anna Maria Island and Bean Point at the north end offer great snook fishing. Strong current flows through both of these spots, especially Bean Pt. Anglers need to be VERY cautious! It is best to stay out of the water, currents are quite strong.

Fishing Bradenton bridges and piers

There are three bridges in Bradenton that offer good fishing. They are the Longboat Pass Bridge, Cortez Rd Bridge, and Manatee Ave Bridge. All three are very close to the beach. They are a good option when the surf is stirred up. They are also very good at night, especially on an outgoing tide.

Piers are another great option when fishing Bradenton Beach. Piers are very convenient as anglers do not need a fishing license if there is a fee to get on. (Anglers DO need a license to fish off of bridges and the shore line) Another cool feature is the availability of bait and tackle. This is not the case when bridge fishing. The Bridge Street Pier and Rod and Reel Pier both lie along Anna Maria Island.

The Rod and Reel Pier is in a great location on the north end of the island. It juts out into lower Tampa Bay. It is usually loaded with bait fish. Spanish mackerel runs can be legendary! Snook, snapper, sheepshead and other species will be caught as well.

The Sunshine Skyway pier is not in Bradenton. It is a short drive away. When a new bridge was constructed, they turned the old bridge into a fishing pier. It is a long pier which anglers can drive their cars on. It offers very good fishing and is worth the short ride.

Tackle and rigging for beach fishing

Tackle requirements for fishing Bradenton Beach and surrounding piers and bridges are quite basic. A 7′ spinning rod with a 3000 series reel spooled up with 15 pound monofilament of 30 lb braided line will get it done. Anglers fishing the surf can go a bit lighter as there is less structure for the fish to get around.

The best rig for fishing live bait off of the Bradenton beaches, bridges, and piers is the “fish finder” rig. A sliding egg sinker is placed on the running line. A small black swivel is then tied on. This lets the line pass through the sinker. Fish can pick up the boat and move off without feeling any weight.

A 24” piece of 30 lb leader is tied onto the swivel. A #1 or #2 live bait hook finishes off the rig. The weight is determined by the strength of the tide and water depth. Anglers should use the minimum amount of weight that will hold the bottom. Surf anglers need only a ¼ ounce weight. Many people surf fishing use heavy weights and cast too far. Most of the fish are fairly close to shore.

Fishing with live baits

The most popular and versatile bait is shrimp. Live shrimp is available at most bait shops and is pretty easy to keep alive, especially in cooler weather. Fresh dead shrimp will catch plenty of fish. Whiting and sheepshead will take a piece of shrimp. Frozen shrimp are the third choice.

Cut bait can be productive off the beaches as well. However, sometimes it catches the less desirable species. Catfish, rays, and skates like dead bait fished on the bottom. Top cut bait is squid, but any legal fish can be cut up and used for bait. It will catch small sharks off the beaches.

Sand fleas ( AKA mole crabs) are a specialized surf bait. They are very effective for a variety of species, but are most often associated with pompano. Sand fleas are caught right in the surf line with special rakes that sift out the sand and keep the sand fleas.

Fishing with artificial lures

Artificial lures have their place, especially when fishing off the beach. Lures can be a bit more challenging off of piers and bridges. Jigs are very effective as they mimic crabs and other crustaceans. Small bucktail jigs work well, as does the jig and grub combo. Anglers can “tip the jig”. This is placing a very small piece of shrimp on the jig hook. Kind of the best of both worlds.

Plugs and spoons are also productive artificial lures for Bradenton surf casters. They work especially well when mackerel are schooling just off the beaches. Both with catch snook and other species as well. I like the Rapala X-Rap in the #8 size in Ghost. ½ ounce silver spoons are a great choice as well and they cast a mile.

Fly anglers are not to be left out of the action! A 7wt or 8wt outfit with a sinking or sink tip line and a 9 foot tapered leader work well. The leader should have a 25lb bite tippet. Small white flies work well when the water is clear, especially for snook. A #1 Clouser, Crystal Minnow, or D.T. Special will get it done.

Bradenton bridge and pier fishing

Anglers can achieve success when Bradenton bridge pier fishing. There are three large bridges in Bradenton. All three of them offer productive fishing for a variety of species. There are three nice fishing piers as well that are good fishing spots.

Fishing Bradenton bridges

Bridges and piers are basically artificial reefs. They provide shade, structure, and attract bait fish and other Forge. They are man-made fish magnets. The best bridges and piers are low to the water, have old pilings with lots of barnacles, and hopefully some grass bottoms.

The Longboat Pass Bridge connects the south end of Anna Maria Island to the north end of Longboat Key. It is a fairly low bridge, making it good for anglers to fish off of. It is shallow on the south end and fairly deep in the channel.

The Cortez Rd Bridge connects the mainland with Anna Maria Island, just a bit north of Longboat Pass. The channel runs on the east side of the bridge. Lush grass flats exist on the west side of the bridge. It is also fairly low to the water.

The Manatee Avenue Bridge is the longest of the area bridges. It connects the mainland to Anna Maria Island at the northern third of the island. There are flats on both ends and the channel runs pretty much in the center of the bridge. There is a small channel on the west side of the bridge.

Fishing Bradenton piers

The Bridge Street Pier lies at the east end of Bridge Street. It juts out into the inland bay. It expands over some nice grass flats and is good for trout, sheepshead, and snapper. Anglers can purchase bait and tackle there. Parking can be an issue in the evening, especially on weekends and in the busy season.

The Rod and Reel Pier lies at the north end of Anna Maria Island. It is strategically located and just out into Tampa Bay. This area gets very good current flow. Bait and tackle is available. Just about all species are caught here but the Spanish mackerel runs can be fantastic.

While in Palmetto and not Bradenton, the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier is such a great spot, I feel it necessary to include it. The pier is part of the old bridge that connected The south mainland with St. Petersburg. It is right at the mouth of Tampa Bay and is a fantastic fishing spot. Bait and tackle are available. It is quite long and anglers can fish right next to their vehicle, which is quite convenient.

Bradenton bridge and pier techniques

Fishing from both bridges and piers is similar, so I will address them together. Anglers fishing from the bridge or pier will catch most of their fish by working live bait close to the pilings. Live shrimp are the easiest bait to obtain and use. They catch every species all year long.

The rig is pretty basic. Anglers use a 7 foot spinning rod with 20lb braided line. Monofilament line can be used, but braid is better around the structure. A sliding egg sinker is slid on the line, then a small black swivel is tied on. A 24” piece of 30lb flourocarbon leader it tied on the swivel and then a live bait hook is tied onto the other end of the leader. Weight is determined bu the current. Anglers will do best using the lightest weight that will hold bottom.

Whenever possible, anglers will do best fishing the up-current side of the bridge. This allows the boat to float naturally back under the bridge with the current. Game fish will position themselves behind the pilings and out of the current flow. They will then dart out and attack prey as it flows past them.

Bradenton bridge species

Many different species will be encountered when fishing from bridges and peers. Snook, redfish, trout, Pompano, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, flounder, sheepshead, snapper, and grouper are just some of the species that will be encountered. Fish caught will be determined by bait availability water conditions and time of year.

There are times when casting out away from the bridge or peer can be productive. This is particularly true in the more shallow ends of peers and bridges are grass flats exist. Fishing a live shrimp under a popping cork can produce in these instances. Often times a long cast is more desirable. The same goes if breaking fish are seen out away from the bridge. Anglers may need to get the bait or lower out away from the bridge to them.

Artificial lures do have a place for anglers fishing from bridges and peers. Jigs work well as they are heavy enough to sink down to the bottom. One issue with using lures is the distance between the water in the actual bridge or peer structure. Too long a distance will make using lures difficult. Heavier jigs and spoons are the best choice in this situation.

Fishing Bradenton bridges by boat

As in most fishing situations, anglers with a boat have an advantage. It is usually best when anchoring, to do so on the up current side of the structure. The bait can then be allowed to flow back naturally with the current to the waiting fish. The same rig used for bridge and peer fishing works fine from a boat.

During times when current flow is light, free lining a shrimp can be deadly. This means just looking the shrimp on with no weight or just a small split shot. This is a very natural presentation. This is an extremely effective method for catching snook at night!  Some captains run specialized fishing charters for snook at night.

Anglers with boats can also do well casting artificial lures. Since the boat is level with the surface of the water, it is much easier to control the slack in the line and get the lore down into the desired strike zone. Small plugs work very well, especially when baitfish is present around the bridge. Jigs with a shrimp tail bounced along the bottom can be deadly.

When practical, which basically means during times when boat traffic is low, drifting the fender systems can be extremely productive. Large snuck, Jack Gravelle, grouper, and other species will be caught doing this. Anglers can free line a live bait, cast shallow diving plugs, or bounce a jig along the bottom as they drift.

Safety first when fishing bridges!

It is important to be careful when fishing around bridges either from a boat or off the bridge itself. When fishing off the bridge, it is easy to forget that there are cars and traffic. Anglers must the cautious when fishing off the bridge. Also, heat any signs that restrict fisherman, especially fishing near the opening span. Boaters need to be prudent as well, staying away from the portion of the bridge that raises and being careful around the pilings.

Fishing license requirements can be a bit tricky. Anglers fishing from a boat need a Florida saltwater fishing license. Florida residents do need a license to fish from bridges. However, this license is free. Non residents need a license to fish from bridges. Free piers and docks, including the Bridge Street Pier are the same as bridges. Anglers require a license. Anglers fishing on piers that charge an admission fee do NOT need a license, the pier buys one that covers it’s guests.

Bradenton surf fishing

Many visiting anglers and joy Bradenton surf fishing. There’s something very enjoyable and relaxing about standing at the edge of the sea and casting into it. When conditions are right, sir fishing can be very productive.

Surf fishing and Bradenton can be as simple or as complicated as an angler chooses it to be. Surf casters can bait a hook with some shrimp and just relax while the rod sits in a sand spike. Or, they can work hard, walk several miles, and make a lot of casts. Either way will produce fish.

Surf fishing off of the Bradenton beaches can be good in the winter. However, it all depends on the weather. Strong fronts will bring high winds. The beach will be rough and the water “dirty” from the churned-up sand. Fishing is not good under these conditions.

The wind will shift north east after the front moves through. The beach will calm down and clear up after a couple of days. That is the time to fish! Whiting are usually plentiful in the cooler months. They love shrimp and will hit a small piece fished on the bottom. Silver trout, sheepshead, pompano, and flounder will also be caught.

Tackle and rigging for surf fishing

The best outfit for Bradenton surf fishing is a 7′ spinning rod with 10lb monofilament or 20 braided line. Unlike surf fishing off the Atlantic beaches, long rods and long casts are not required. In fact, many novice surf fishermen cast too far out! Most of the fish are within twenty feet of shore, in the first trough.

The rig for surf fishing with shrimp, sand fleas, or cut bait is simple. It works great all year long, but especially so in the cooler months. A light sliding egg sinker is threaded on the main line. Then, a 24” piece of 20 lb shock leader is tied on the end of the line using a small black swivel. The swivel keeps the sinker from sliding down to the hook. A #4 live bait hook completes the rig. Anglers should use just enough weight to hold bottom. A ¼ ounce to ½ ounce sinker is perfect.

Another option for surf anglers is to use a ¼ ounce jig head with a small hook. This is very convenient as the weight and hook is all in one unit. The sliding weight is then omitted. This also allows the angler to switch to a grub on the jig if so desired.

Bradenton Surf fishing techniques

The technique is the same for both rigs. The hook is baited with either a small shrimp, a piece of shrimp, sand flea, or piece of cut bait. Shrimp are best in the winter. Cut bait works and stays on the hook, but can attract catfish and skates. Serious anglers catch sand fleas with a special rake. They are very good baits, but more difficult to obtain.

Once baited, the rig is cast out twenty or thirty feet. The bait may sit on the bottom or move a bit with the current. Either situation is fine. Anglers can hold the rod or place them in a sand spike. Sand spikes allow anglers to fish more than one rod at a time. However, when the bite is on, it is best to hold the rod.

Artificial lures are also productive for Bradenton surf anglers. They allow anglers to cover a lot of the beach as they walk along. Also, there is not the hassle of acquiring live bait and keeping it alive. Jigs, plugs, and spoons are the top lures. The best approach is to make several casts and then move several steps and repeat.

Artificial lures in the surf

Jigs work very well in the surf year round. A ¼ ounce jig head with a soft plastic grub body is very productive. Light colors work best when the water is clear. White, pearl, and chartreuse are good choices. Small buck tail jigs are quite effective as well. White is the best color for buck tail jigs.

One little trick is to “tip the jig”. This involves putting a small piece of shrimp on the tip of the jig. The shrimp piece needs to be small, about the size of a pea. Too large a piece will ruin the action of the jig. The lure is then cast out, allowed to sink, and retrieved back using a series of small hops.

Fishing with spoons and plugs in the surf

Silver spoons are another effective lure for surf fishermen. They cast a long way and are a great option when fish are schooling off the beach. !/2 ounce is the best all round size. Spoons work great on Spanish mackerel and ladyfish in the spring and fall. They can be reeled in fast and steady or erratically.

Plugs are another very good artificial lure in the surf. The lure needs to be relatively small to match the bait fish that are present. The # 8 Rapala X-Rap in Ghost (white) is a proven beach lure. Anglers can fan cast the area or cast it to breaking fish. It should be brought back in using a “twitch and pause” retrieve.

Fly anglers are certainly not to be left out of surf fishing. The best outfit for this is a 7wt or 8wt rod with an intermediate sink tip line. A 9′ tapered leader with a short 20lb to 30lb bite tippet finishes off the rig.

Beach snook fishing in Bradenton

Bradenton beaches offer anglers the opportunity for some world class sight fishing for snook. This is great sport! Anglers will catch some large snook using fairly light tackle. Plugs and small jigs work best. Fly anglers score using small, white bait fish patterns.

The technique is straight forward. Anglers walk along the beach and look for snook in the surf line. Once fish are sighted, the lure or fly is cast out a few feet ahead of the fish. Snook will be seen alone or in small schools. Any structure such as a pier, rocks, or sea wall are worth a cast or two. Bean Point on the north end of Anna Maria Island is a great spot, just be careful of the strong tides!

Live and cut bait fishing in Bradenton, Florida

Many anglers prefer to use live bait when fishing. The reasons are fairly obvious, fish like the real thing. The best Bradenton fishing baits are shrimp, pin fish, grunts, scaled sardines, threadfin herring, and sand fleas.

Best Bradenton fishing baits

Shrimp are by far the most popular live bait in Bradenton and really the entire state of Florida. They are the nightcrawler of saltwater, catching every species that swims. Shrimp are also available year-round. Most shrimp are purchased at bait shops, though some anglers to catch their own.

Shrimp are incredibly versatile. They are effective and just about every fishing situation. In most instances, the shrimp is hooked near the head through the horn, keeping the shrimp lively. This is the preferred method for fishing over the grass flats, either free lining shrimp or under a cork. Both methods work well when either waiting a grass flat or fishing from a boat.

Free lining shrimp is a very natural presentation. A shrimp with just a hook and it and no weight will swim naturally in the current. This is very attractive to game fish. Free lining shrimp works very well over grass flats that are 6 feet or deeper. And water shallower than 6 feet, the shrimp will tend to get down into the grass.

Shrimp can be free line either from a drifting boat or an anchored boat. When drifting a flat, having the shrimp drift out a good distance behind the boat is very effective. If it is breezy and the boat is moving quickly, a small split shot can be added.

Fishing techniques when using shrimp

Free lining live shrimp also works very well from an anchored boat. Generally the best approach is to anchor in deep water and cast the shrimp out towards the edge of a bar or flat. If current is present, casting up current and allowing the shrimp to flow naturally with the tide is very effective and productive.

Many of fish has been caught using a live shrimp under a popping cork. Most anglers have fished with a bobber and a warm at one time in their lives, this is very similar. The shrimp is hooked onto a number one live bait hook than a popping cork is added 3 feet above the hook. A popping cork has a concave face which when twitched sharply a minutes a loud pop. This imitates feeding fish and will call game fish to the shrimp.

Bottom fishing with shrimp is extremely productive. Anglers use a number 10 live bait hook and just enough weight to hold the bottom. Shrimp can be hooked through the horn as mentioned above, but for snapper and sheepshead threading the shrimp on can result in more hookups. Sheepshead especially are great at nibbling the bait off. Fresh dad and even frozen shrimp works fine in this application.

Snook and redfish love a nice lively shrimp! Anglers fishing lighted docks and bridges at night do very well using live shrimp. Shrimp are just as effective in the daytime fished around docs and other structure. They can also be used on the shallow flats in potholes and along the edges of oyster bars.

Fishing in Bradenton with pinfish and grunts

Pin fished are next in line on the list of best Bradenton fishing baits. Pin fish can be purchased at bait shops, but they are very easy to catch on the flats. They are so numerous in the summer time they are actually a nuisance. Anglers can either cast net over a shallow grass flat or use a small hook in a piece of shrimp. Either method should put a couple dozen pin fish in the well.

Larger live bait fish such as pin fish generally won’t produce as much as shrimp in terms of action. However, they will oftentimes catch larger fish. A 3 inch live pin fish fished under a cork is deadly on the deep grass flats. Pin fish will not only catch the largest trout specimens, they will also fool cobia sharks, and even tarpon.

Pin fish are also deadly on snook when fished around mangrove shorelines. Oyster bars that drop off into deeper water are prime spots as well. This is best on the high tide stages. Redfish, jack crevelle, and other species will also hit a live pin fish.

Grunts are a terrific live bait fish

Pin fish work well fished around deeper structure such as docks, bridges, and structure in the passes. Not only will snook take a live pin fish there are some large gag grouper that reside in the spots and will take a lively pin fish as well. Anglers will need to beef up their tackle for this type of fishing. Heavier tackle in the 20 pound range will be required to winch a larger fish away from the structure.

Grunts, also known as pig fish in some areas, are an outstanding live bait! A lively 2 1/2 inch grunt practically guarantees an angler a nice keeper trout. They are fish in exactly the same method as pin fish. Snook love them as well, as do most all other game fish.

Grunts are a little more difficult to catch and keep alive. They seem to be more plentiful in the Sarasota area in mid to late summer. The key is catching the right sized grunts. It is not difficult to catch four and 5 inch grunts, but those can be a bit large for trout on the flats. Some bait shops to sell grunts as well.

Fishing in Bradenton Florida with pilchards, whitebait and shiners

Scaled sardines are a tremendous bait for Bradenton anglers. Scaled sardines, also known as pilchards, white bait, and shiners, are caught using cast nets. This is a bit of a specialized to technique. It requires a cast net, the ability to throw it, in a large recirculating live well. But, the effort is well worth it.

Scaled sardines are caught both on the shallow grass flats and out on the beaches near the surf. The best grass flats are usually those just inside the passes. Some days, especially within incoming tide, the bait can be seen dimpled up on the surface. This makes them easy to locate and catch. On breezy days, cloudy days, or on an outgoing tide, the bait fish will be much more difficult to locate. The best bet under these conditions is to anchor up and chum the bait fish and close. A mixture of tuna cat food, canned mackerel, or even commercially available fish food will draw them in.

Live bait chumming with shiners

Often time captains on fishing charters will catch hundreds of scaled sardines. This is so that they can then chum on the flats or along mangrove shorelines. This is an incredibly effective technique! The boat is anchored in position, whether it is a flat or a nice shoreline, and then a few handfuls of live bait is thrown into the water. Some anglers squeeze them, crippling them so that they are even more attractive to the game fish. If the game fish are around, it won’t be long before there popping the freebies out behind the boat. Anglers then hook on a bait and cast it out behind the boat.

Threadfin herring are another small, shiny bait fish. While similar in appearance to the scaled sardine, they have a smaller mouth and a little black spot near the Gill. Some anglers refer to them as greenbacks. Threadfin herring will usually not respond to chum. Anglers will need to cast net them visually, either seeing them dimpling on the surface or swimming and schools in the water.

While very effective baits, they are not nearly as hardy as the scaled sardines. Their scales will come off quite easily in the cast net and in the bait well. Despite this, they are fantastic live baits. Larger specimens are deadly on snook. They are also very popular baits for nearshore golf anglers targeting king mackerel.

Fishing in Bradenton with sand fleas

Sand fleas, their true name being mole crabs, are a specialized bait prized by surf anglers. They are caught in the surf line using a special rake, jokingly turned a Florida snow shovel. Sand fleas are about the size of your thumbnail. They are a very good bait for Pompano, sheepshead, whiting, and other species.

Once caught, sand fleas are easy to keep alive in a bucket of sand with a little bit of water. They can also be frozen and used at a later date, though as in most bait fishing, fresh live baits are best. Surf anglers will use a small number two or number for hook and just enough weight to get out into the trough. Pompano in particular find them irresistible.

Sand fleas are also very good for sheepshead. Sheepshead are found near some type of structure. Docks, bridges, seawalls, and submerged rocks will all hold sheepshead. A sand flea fished on the bottom will seldom be refused if sheepshead are in the area.  Please check the Florida FWC website for all license requirements and fishing regulations.

Best 7 Lido Key Fishing Spots

Best 7 Lido Key Fishing Spots

This article will share the Best 7 Lido Key fishing spots. Lido Key offers anglers a wide variety of fishing opportunities!

Lido Key is a barrier island that lies just west of the resort town of Sarasota, Florida. St. Armand’s Circle is famous for its restaurants and shopping. The fantastic beaches of Lido Key attract many tourists as well. Lido Key is surrounded by waters that offer excellent fishing! Sarasota Bay lies to the east and the Gulf of Mexico lies to the west. Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass connect these bodies of water. Lido Key offers anglers excellent fishing all year long.

Best 7 Lido Key Fishing Spots

Capt. Jim Klopfer has been a full-time fishing guide in Sarasota since 1991. He fishes hundreds of days a year and is very familiar with all of the best fishing spots. He will share these in this article. These are the actual spots that he fishes daily on his Lido Key fishing charters.

Ken Thompson Park

Ken Thompson Park is number one on the list of the best 7 Lido Key fishing spots. While not on Lido Key, it is very close. The park offers anglers several different fishing options in both location and technique. New Pass Bait and Tackle shop is on the left just as you pull in. There is also a very nice boat ramp for anglers who bring their own boat. The ramp is also a good place for charter boat captains to pick up their clients.

There are several public docks on the north side of Ken Thompson Park. These are very accessible with parking close by. There is a covered picnic table as well. These piers jut out into New Pass. The water is quite deep here, by Florida standards. Also, the current flow is strong when the tide is running. Anglers can fish the submerged structure with live or frozen shrimp for variety of species. Spanish mackerel will be caught out in the middle of the channel as well by anglers drifting shrimp or casting spoons.

Shallow grass flats expand out from the south and east side of Ken Thompson Park. There is excellent parking as well as a very nice restroom. A playground will give young children a break from the fishing. The best approach at this spot is to wade out into the shallow grass flats in search of speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. Soft plastic jigs and live shrimp under a popping cork are the best bets.

Overlook Park on Longboat Key

Overlook Park is a very nice park at the very southern tip of Longboat Key, just across the New Pass Bridge. There is excellent parking very close to the fishing area. It is third on the list of the best 7 Lido Key fishing spots. Anglers can cast out into New Pass and fish for Spanish mackerel and pompano. They can also reach the bridge pilings and fish for sheepshead and snapper. Anglers who prefer to wade will do well working their way east along the shallow grass flat towards the point. Live shrimp or bait fish produce at the spot.

North Lido Beach

North Lido Beach Park can be an excellent fishing spot! It is next on the list of the seven best Lido Key fishing spots. Anglers will have to walk a little bit to reach this spot from the public parking area. It is probably a 10 minute walk. This section of New Pass is shallow with a lot of sandbars. These are prime areas for the desirable pompano, as well as Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, and other species. Jigs, spoons, and live bait all work well. Anglers should keep a sharp eye out for bait fish as well as fish working on the surface.

CAUTION: Anglers need to be very careful when waiting here, the tides are quite swift!

Lido Key Public Beach

The public beach on Lido Key offers some great fishing opportunities and is number four on the list of seven best Lido Key fishing spots. Anglers must avoid the prime swimming times and give way to anyone swimming in the water. Therefore, the spot is best fish early and late in the day. In the cooler months, whiting, sheepshead, flounder and other species will take a shrimp fished on the bottom. Artificial lures such as plugs, jigs, and spoons will produce ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, and more.

South Lido Beach

South Lido Beach is a fantastic fishing hole! It gives anglers access to the beach on the Gulf of Mexico, Big Sarasota Pass, and some excellent grass flats as well. This is probably the best fishing spot on Lido Key for anglers without a boat. There is excellent parking, facilities, a snack bar, a playground, and picnic tables in the shade. South Lido Park is number five on the list of the best 7 Lido Key fishing spots.

Most anglers who fish South Lido Park go straight to the southwest point. This is an excellent fishing spot as the tide has cut a deep channel very close to shore. Fish such as pompano, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, jacks, snook, and more will migrate through these cuts. Both live bait and artificial lures will produce here. Anglers can also work their way north and fish the beach.

CAUTION: wading is prohibited at this spot, as occurrence are quite swift!

As anglers work their way east along the shoreline, the water gets quite deep close to shore. Anglers do well all along this stretch fishing live bait on the bottom as well as casting artificial lures. It is best to fish the spot at the turn of the tide when currents are not quite as swift.

At the far east end of this area, the pass gives way to shallow grass flats. These are outstanding spots to wade for speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. A soft plastic bait on a 1/4 ounce jig head works well as does live shrimp either free lined or fished under a float.

South Lido Nature Park and kayak launch

This park is located at is most often used by kayakers and is number six on the list of best 7 Lido Key fishing spots. There is an excellent launching area for anglers who have their own kayak. This is a large area of very shallow grass with some deeper holes to the north. Parking is good and there are facilities. Anglers can wade these flats, though the bottom tends to be a bit muckier then does the spots closer to the passes. Speckled trout, redfish, and snook will be found in the potholes and edges of the flats.

Ringling Bridge Causeway Park

The Ringling Bridge Causeway Park is last on the list of the seven best Lido Key fishing spots. It is an excellent spot and offers anglers several different options. There is plenty of parking close to the water as well as portable restrooms. Anglers can wade the flats on the north side of the park. A deep channel runs through this area just a short ways offshore. The best approach is to wade out near the edge and fish the drop off with jigs or live shrimp.

Anglers can also access both the Ringling bridge and the twin bridges from this part. Anglers are prohibited from fishing off of either bridge. However, they can fish underneath these bridges and cast towards the pilings. Live shrimp fished on the bottom will produce sheepshead, snapper, jacks, snook, mackerel, ladyfish, and other species. A bait shop, Hart’s Landing, is on the mainland side of the bridge.

In conclusion, this article on the seven best Lido Key fishing spots will help visiting anglers be more productive when in Sarasota!

Bradenton Florida Fishing Forecast

Bradenton Florida Fishing Forecast

My Bradenton Florida fishing forecast will give visiting anglers an idea of what they can expect when they come down to fish. While every year is different, most seasonal patterns hold up over time. This forecast is based on over 25 years experience as a full-time fishing guide running fishing charters. Hopefully, it will help you catch more fish!

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 and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

Bradenton Florida winter fishing forecast

Bradenton fishing forecast

Winter fishing in Bradenton is all about the weather, pure and simple. The severity of our winter has a huge impact on the fishing. Unseasonably warm winters will result in fish maintaining their fall patterns. Conversely, a severe winter will accentuate the winter patterns.

So, let’s look at an average Florida winter. As it cools off, snook will move up into the creeks and canals. Snook are very temperature sensitive and cannot tolerate water temperature in the mid 50s for very long. Jack crevelle and other species will move into the same areas.

There are several techniques anglers can use in these creeks and canals to catch snook, jack crevalle, and other species. Trolling shallow diving plugs is a great technique to locate fish. Casting the same plugs to docks and other fish holding structure will produce as well. A large, live shrimp is always a great bait. Sheepshead, snapper, drum, and flounder will also be taken using shrimp.

Look for clean water

The primary influence that anglers must take into account is the effect that strong front side. Strong fronts will have high winds which will churn up the Gulf of Mexico. This will result in dirty water, (that means silty and muddy) which fish do not like. Incoming tides will bring this water into the passes and out onto the flats.

When this occurs, anglers will need to look for clean water. This generally means flats and bays a bit away from the passes. After the front passes, wins will settle down in the Gulf will clear up. This will result in good fishing in the passes and on the productive flats near the passes.

The best technique to use when fishing the passes and grass flats is to drift. Anglers drift along with the tide and wind, casting lures or live baits out in search of fish. A 1/4 ounce jig and grub combo is an excellent lore in both the passes and on the flats. A live shrimp either free line and over the flats or hooked on a jig head in the passes is also very productive. Speckled trout, bluefish, Pompano, jacks, ladyfish, and Spanish mackerel are all available.

Sheepshead are a much targeted species in the winter and Bradenton. Bridges, docks, oyster bars, and Rocky shorelines will all hold these tasty saltwater panfish. A live, fresh dead, or frozen shrimp is a great all round bait. Some anglers do prefer sand fleas and fiddler crabs, though these are a bit more difficult to obtain. This is simple bottom fishing with a hook and just enough weight to hold the bottom. Mangrove snapper and other species will be taken as well.

Spring fishing forecast for Bradenton

Bradenton fishing forecast

Spring is a fantastic time to be fishing in Bradenton, Florida. Just about every species is available at this time of year. Cold fronts are less frequent and the water temperature is rising. Flats fishing is very good and snook are moving out of their winter hunts. By the end of spring, even tarpon will be showing up.

As the water temperature rises, snook move out of the creeks and canals and scatter out onto the flats. This is a great time to fish for them as they are in a mood to feed. Shallow flats on the east side of Sarasota Bay and at the North and of Bradenton and South Tampa Bay are terrific spots to fish. The spots have a nice mixture of deep grass which holds speckled trout, mackerel, bluefish, Pompano and other species.

Anglers can also choose to fish shallow water for snook and redfish. Shallow flats with potholes, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines with a little bit of depth will hold these fish. Low tides will concentrate the fish into potholes on the flats. These are small depressions that are slightly deeper than the surrounding grass. Oyster bars and mangrove shorelines produce well on the higher tide stages.

Both lures and live bait produce in Bradenton

Both live bait and artificial lures produce on the flats and springtime. Lures are a good choice for anglers, allowing them to cover a lot of water and eliminate unproductive spots. Top water plugs, weedless spoons, and light jig heads with a soft plastic bait are good choices in the shallow water. Jigs, silver spoons, and suspending plugs work well in the deeper water.

Live shrimp are a great all round bait on the flats as well. They can be fished under a float or free line doubt with no weight. Large schools of small bait fish, locally known as shiners, white bait, or greenbacks, show up in the spring. The sunshine Skyway bridge is usually loaded with bait. Anglers fill their well with live bait, then use it to chum the fish into range. This is an incredibly productive technique on both the shallow and deep flats.

The inshore Gulf of Mexico off of the Bradenton beaches comes alive this time of year. Schools of Spanish mackerel and false albacore migrate north following the forage bait fish. This is great fun is there is often surface action! These fish can be taken trolling fast-moving lures such as spoons jigs and plugs, on fly, and will certainly hit a live bait.

Summer Bradenton Florida fishing forecast

fishing in Bradenton Florida

Many Bradenton anglers associate summer with tarpon fishing. The silver king moves into the area and late spring and by summer they are here and large numbers. There are several ways to fish for tarpon. Anglers can sight cast for them off the beaches, anchor up and fish live and dead baits, and drift the channels on the outgoing tides. This is truly world-class fishing.

Snook move out of the flats and into the passes and out on the beaches and summer. They do this as part of their spawning ritual. Structure and Longboat pass including the bridge, along with the small jetties and peers on the beaches will hold snook all summer long. Anglers can also cite cast to snook while walking the surf line.

Live bait and heavy tackle is the way to go when fishing bridges and other heavy structure for summertime snook. These are large fish and heavy tackle is required to get them out of the structure. A large live shrimp or hand sized live pin fish are grunt are the top baits. Anglers walking the beach do well the small white Lures such as a quarter ounce buck tail jig, small plug, or on fly.

Fish the flats early in the morning

Flats fishing can still be good in the summer the tactics need to change. It is very hot and it is usually an early bite. Water temperatures on the flats can often reach 90° by mid day. Artificial lures can be used at first light, but the most consistent fishing will be had by anglers using live bait. White bait is thick and easy to obtain. Chumming the edges of deep flats will produce both action and variety.

Many anglers choose to fish at night during the summer. This is a great strategy as it is much cooler at night and many species of fish feed heavily in the dark hours. Snook in particular are notorious night feeders, lighted docks and area bridges are top spots. A live shrimp is a great bait choice and will catch mangrove snapper and other species as well.

Fall Bradenton Florida fishing forecast

Bradenton fishing forecast

Fall is probably my favorite time to fish and Bradenton, Florida. The weather is stable and very comfortable, and the bays and beaches uncrowded. The fishing pattern basically reverses itself from spring. Snook move back into the inland bays. Action on the deep flats as good as the water cools off. Spanish mackerel and false albacore move back through on their way south.

When conditions are right, I spend a lot of my time in the fall out on the beach. The surface action for Spanish mackerel and false albacore is generally more reliable in the fall as weather patterns are more stable. This action can often last from mid-October up through Christmas. Casting lures and flies into schools of breaking fish is very exciting!

Action on the deep flats will be very good for speckled trout and other species. Both lures and live baits will be productive. Shallow water fishing for snook in redfish should be very good as well. Redfish school up in late summer and early fall. These are large schools of fish in the 30 inch range. They can be caught in shallow water as they feed before moving out into the Gulf of Mexico. Snook will be caught in the same spots as well.

I hope anglers reading this found my Bradenton fishing forecast useful and helpful! Feel free to call or email me for reports or other information.

17 Best Bradenton Fishing Spots

17 Best Bradenton fishing spots

Here is a comprehensive list of my 17 Best Bradenton fishing spots! Bradenton lies in a strategically advantageous spot on the south end of Tampa Bay. It offers anglers a wide variety of fishing opportunities.

The best approach for fishing the deep flats is to drift while casting lures or live bait. Once a school is located, anglers can anchor up and work that spot thoroughly. Anglers fishing the shallow flats cast topwater plugs and weedless spoons and jigs. It is a bit more challenging keeping the bait out of the shallow grass. Waders do well here as to fishermen in shall draft boats and kayaks.

Reefs, bridges, piers, and other structure provide structure that attracts bottom fish. Sheepshead, grouper, snapper, flounder, drum, sea bass and other species will be found in these spots. Live shrimp fished on the bottom will catch them up.

Florida fishing license requirements can be a bit complicated. Out of state anglers need a license to fish, unless they are on a pier that has a license. Guests fishing the Rod and Reel Pier, Bridge Street Pier, and Sunshine Skyway Pier do not need a license. Florida residents need a license to fish from shore, but it is free. Check HERE for license requirements.

17 best Bradenton fishing spots

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 and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

#1 Bradenton fishing spot; NORTH SARASOTA BAY

the grass flats in north Sarasota Bay provide anglers with some prime shallow water inshore fishing. Lush grass flats north of Long Bar to Cortez on the east side of Sarasota Bay are very good for trout, snook, and redfish. Deeper flats closer to the Intracoastal Waterway are good for trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, and other species.

#2 Bradenton fishing spot; LONGBOAT PASS

Longboat Pass is a very good fishing spot in Bradenton. It connects the Gulf of Mexico with the north end of Sarasota Bay. Shore anglers can fish the pass from the bulkhead, docks, or the rock jetty. They can also fish from the bridge. Anglers with boats will do well drifting the pass for pompano and fishing the bridge pilings for snapper and sheepshead. Spanish mackerel will school up at the mouth of the pass, especially on an outgoing tide. There is a boat ramp as well.

#3 Bradenton fishing spot; BRIDGE STREET PIER AND CORTEZ RD BRIDGE

Anglers can fish both the Bridge Street Pier and Cortez Rd Bridge for a variety of species. Snook, redfish, sheepshead, snapper, pompano, mackerel, ladyfish, flounder, grouper, ladyfish and other species will be attracted to the structure. The Cortez Rd Bridge is a terrific night snook spot on a falling tide. Nice grass flats surround the Bridge Street Pier.

#4 Bradenton fishing spot; PALMA SOLA BAY

Palma Sola Bay is another good Bradenton fishing spot. It is shallow with some deeper holes. Speckled trout will gang up here in the winter. The action can be fantastic when a school is located! Snook and redfish will also be found here. Shore bound anglers can access the area from the causeway on Manatee Ave. They can fish from shore or wade. Kayak anglers have a great launching area and Palma Sola Bay is protected from a north wind.

#5 Bradenton fishing spot; MANATEE AVE BRIDGE

The Manatee Ave Bridge crosses Anna Maria Sound and provides anglers a platform from which to fish. The same species that are caught at the Cortez Rd Bridge are found here as well. It is a bit longer with nice grass flats on both sides. It has excellent tidal flow, is relatively low to the water and is a very good fishing bridge.

#6 Bradenton fishing spot; BEACHES

The Anna Maria beaches offer great fishing for surf anglers. Whiting, silver trout, sheepshead, pompano, Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, flounder, and other species are landed there all year. Snook fishing can be terrific in the summer time. There are many access points for the public to fish the beaches.

#7 Bradenton fishing spot; INSHORE ARTIFICIAL REEFS

Several inshore reefs were constructed in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Bradenton beaches. There are fish magnets in the otherwise barren Gulf of Mexico floor. Bottom fish are caught along with pelagic species such as mackerel and false albacore.

3 Mile North Reef 27.29.99 82.47.00

1 Mile North Reef 27.29.41 82.44.99

Near Shore Reef 27.26.99 82.41.83

3 Mile South Reef 27.26.56 82.44.85

#8 Bradenton fishing spot; ANNA MARIA SOUND

Anna Maria Sound has some great grass flats, both shallow and deep, that offer good fishing for just about every inshore species. The Sound empties into Tampa Bay. The area gets very good current flow

#9 Bradenton fishing spot; BEAN POINT

Bean Point sits in an ideal location for fishing. Current flow is very strong as it sweeps around the point. Snook fishing is very good in the summer. Tarpon fishing is world class from May through July. Permit will be found there as well. Spanish mackerel and pompano are caught in Passage Key Pass.

#10 Bradenton fishing spot; ROD AND REEL PIER

The Rod and Reel Pier is the best fishing pier in Bradenton. It sits along the north end of Anna Maria Island and sticks out into Tampa Bay. Bait fish are attracted to the pier and this in turn attracts the game fish. Snook, sheepshead, snapper, drum, and mackerel are just a few of the available species. Anglers can get bait and tackle here as well.

#11 Bradenton fishing spot; THE BULKHEAD

The Bulkhead is a famous Bradenton fishing spot. Local charter boat captains fill their livewells with bait fish here. Sloping grass points create current breaks. The entire area has gorgeous grass flats. The Bulkhead Artificial Reef lies at 27.33.19 82.42.37

#12 SOUTH TAMPA REEF

The Southeast Tampa artificial reef sits in a great spot just off the mouth of Anna Maria Sound. It attracts bottom fish such as sheepshead, snapper, flounder, grouper, and other species. Spanish mackerel and ladyfish will also be found on top of the structure.

#13 DESOTO NATIONAL MEMORIAL

Desoto National Memorial Park is one of the best sods to wade in Bradenton. Shallow flats extend out into the Manatee River right near the mouth. Snook, redfish, and speckled trout can be caught in the lush grass. Low, incoming tides are best. This is also a good spot for kayak anglers to launch their crafts and fish.

#14 EMERSON POINT

Emerson Point lies on the north side of the mouth of the Manatee River. A long sloping point with shallow water and nice grass result is a good spot for wading anglers as well as thos in shallow draft flats boats. Redfish, snook, trout, snapper, and mackerel are usually present. The shallow flats gradually drop off into slightly deeper water. These are very good trout flats.

#15 MANATEE RIVER

The Manatee River has some very good fishing. In the warmer months, fish will be found near the mouth of the river at Emerson Point and the Bulkhead. As it cools off, fish will move up into the river. Anglers can fish from the Green Bridge Pier. In winter, snook and jack crevalle will move all the way up the river into the brackish portions. There are nice boat ramps at Green Bridge Pier and Warner’s Bayou.

#16 TERA CEIA BAY

Terra Ceia is a great fishing spot! It has a nice combination of shallow flats, mangrove shorelines, and some deeper flats. A nice shallow bar at the mouth offers good sight fishing. Edges of the bar are good for speckled trout and other species. Snook will push up into the upper end in winter. This really is a cool little bay with some very good fishing!

#17 SUNSHINE SKYWAY PIER (not pictured)

While not in Bradenton, the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier is a short drive away and can be a fantastic fishing spot for anglers without a boat. Cars are allowed to drive on it, making it convenient. There is no need to carry a bunch of gear a long way. Bait and tackle are available. Just about every Tampa Bay fish species will be caught here at one time of year, depending on conditions.

In conclusion, this list of the 17 best Bradenton fishing spots will help anglers find, and catch, more fish!

Top Lido Key Resorts

Top Lido Key Resorts

This post will list the top Lido Key resorts and hotels. Lido Key is a barrier island on the west coast of Florida. It lies just offshore of Sarasota, and an hour south of Tampa Bay. Lido Key is a famous tourist destination. It offers something for everyone and is very family oriented. The beaches are world class. Big Pass and New Pass separate Lido Key from Siesta Key to the south and Longboat Key to the north.

Lido Key is in a perfect location! If offers visitors access to the Gulf beaches and Sarasota Bay while being just minutes from downtown Sarasota. After enjoying a day at the beach, guests can savor a meal at one of the many restaurants on St.Armand’s Circle. Window shopping on an after dinner stroll is a popular activity. Downtown Sarasota offers food, entertainment, live theater, museums, and more and is a very short drive away. Mote Marine is a few miles to the north and is a great place to spend a day with the family.

Sandcastle Resort at Lido Key

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Kick up your feet in the comfortable rooms and suites at Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach. In addition to our well-appointed standard accommodations, we offer junior, deluxe, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites with additional amenities to accommodate groups for longer stays.

Whether you choose a standard room for your rewarding beach getaway or reserve a two-bedroom suite with 2.5 bathrooms and a private patio, indulge in a refreshing stay with modern conveniences. Sink into plush bedding when it comes time to retire after an exciting day. Stay well-connected to our high-speed Wi-Fi so you can upload photos of your Florida adventures with ease. And, no matter where your room is located, enjoy views of the courtyard, pool, hotel property or Gulf of Mexico.

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During the evening, relax with a cocktail in our lounge and enjoy a masterfully prepared meal in the Candlelight Dining Room. Our diverse menu and daily specials will please guests with even the most discriminating of appetites. Because it is difficult to leave the beautiful beach and pool area for refreshments, our Pool Bar is open from 11:30 a.m. until dusk daily and serves cocktails and a light menu. Enjoy breakfast in bed or a lazy day lunch right from your room. Our in room dining menu is full of delicious bites for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Coquina on the Beach

Your ideal choice for Sarasota Hotels, the Coquina on the Beach Resort Sarasota provides lodging on Lido Key near St. Armands circle and directly on beautiful Lido Beach.

We are a pet friendly hotel conveniently located near area attractions such as the Mote Marine Aquarium, John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Asolo Theatre, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and Ed Smith stadium as well as area businesses like Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

If a taste of the tropics is what you crave, Coquina on the Beach is sure to satisfy your every desire.

Nestled amidst swaying palm trees and white sand beaches, this resort, located directly on Lido Beach, features all the amenities for a relaxing tropical vacation get-a-way.

Wake to an invigorating swim in the beachside pool. Tantalize your senses white shopping or dining at the world famous St. Armand’s Circle. Take a carefree stroll on the beach or relax under a beach cabana. And for those in the mood for romance, the Coquina is a great place to capture a memorable sunset.

 

 

How to Catch Bait with a Cast Net

How to Catch Bait with a Cast Net

The subject of this article will be how to catch bait with a cast net. Live bait fish are often the key to angling success!

There is one inarguable fact when fishing; big fish eat little fish! In many fishing situations, the most productive offering is a live bait fish. Small bait fish, or minnows, are often the preferred forage of most game fish. A good cast net, and the ability to throw it, will provide an angler with all of the live bait fish needed. Anglers do need to check local fishing regulations to make sure they are obeying all of the laws.

How to catch bait with a cast net

Throwing a cast net

The ability to throw a cast net properly is obviously very important. There are several different methods to do so. None is really better than the other, it is just a matter of personal preference. Rather than try to explain it in print, below is a short video which shows how Capt. Jim throws his cast net on his Sarasota fishing charters.

Cast net sizes

There many different cast nets. However, the differences fall into three main categories; diameter or length, mesh size, and amount of weight per foot. While this may seem confusing, it really is not. Basically, nets with less weight and smaller mesh size will sink slower and are best suited for catching smaller bait fish in shallow water. Conversely, larger, heavier nets with a larger mesh size are best for catching larger bait in deeper water.

Here is a link to the cast net that Capt Jim uses. It is 8′ Radius – 3/16″ Mesh, click on the image to purchase or shop.

Cast net length

The length of the cast net is quite important. Obviously, the larger than that or the longer the diameter, the larger their circumference. This means that when properly thrown, a larger net will cover a larger area and therefore catch more bait. However, larger nets are heavy and cumbersome and more difficult to throw in empty. So, like in all things, cast nets are a compromise.

8′ is a good all-around that size for both novice and experienced anglers throwing a cast net. An 8 foot net is small enough that a beginner can learn to cast that well while being large enough to efficiently catch plenty of bait. Cast nets are available as short as 4 feet long. These are okay for kids, but really won’t catch enough bait for serious anglers. Conversely, seasoned pros will throw cast nets up to 12 feet in diameter. Annette this large will catch a bunch of live bait!

Cast net mesh size

The mesh size is extremely important when choosing a cast net! Anglers should cater than that to the size of the bait being pursued. Also, the mesh size will have a direct effect on how fast the net sinks in the water. Therefore, the mesh size chosen should be a balance between the size of the bait being caught in the depth of the water in which it is being caught.

A cast net with mesh that is too small will have no real ill effects on the angler, other than the fact that it sinks a bit slower. It is better to have a mesh size a little too small then a little too large. Mesh that is too large will not only result in the bait fish swimming through the mesh, but often times bait will be “gilled”.

chumming with live bait

This is where the bait gets stuck in the middle of the mesh. When this occurs, the bait fish usually dies and it can take an angler quite a while to clean the dead minnows out of the net. Anglers cast netting bait want to avoid this at all costs.

Capt. Jim uses an 8 foot diameter cast net with 1/4 inch mesh. In Florida where he fishes, most of the bait fish is between 2 inches long and 3 inches long. Also, most of the time the bait is caught in water less than 3 feet deep. This results in a perfect situation for using a smaller mesh net. Anglers catching larger bait in deeper water will obviously have to go up in a mesh size.

Cast new weight

Most cast nets let the angler know of the weight of the net. They do this and a pounds per foot designation. This is really only a consideration for anglers catching bait in deeper water. In most cases, the net manufacturer understands that a large net with large mesh is going to require more weight. Heavyweights do no good for anglers throwing a cast net in shallow water and it just adds weight, requiring more effort.

Bait fish locations and spots

Once an angler has purchased his or her net and learn to throw it, it is time to go out and catch some bait. There are a number of productive areas to catch bait, depending on the geography. Often times, bait fish can be caught right off the beach or shoreline. Grass flats are prime spots as well. Huge schools of bait will hold under bridges.

Catching bait fish on the flats

Shallow flats are the easiest places for anglers to cast net bait. They are both easier to see in easier to catch in shallow water. Shallow grass flats and bars near passes and inlets are prime spots. Where possible, it is best to hunt the bait when the water is calm and clear. This will make it much easier to spot them on the bottom.

All fish are influenced by tides, including bait fish. Generally speaking, bait will hold on the up tide side or edge of a flat or patch of grass. This is especially true if a small depth change occurs. A shallow point in a foot or two of water that drops off into 6 feet of water would be a prime spot. The bait will generally hold on the up tide edge.

Bait fish can often be seen dimpling on the surface. They will rise up in the school and in the slick calm water there are easy to spot. It almost looks like it is raining. In the morning and evening, they can be fairly easy to sneak up on. However, when the sun is up high they can be a bit skittish and harder to get close enough to to catch.

Catching bait fish near bridges

Bridges and channel markers are also good places to cast net bait fish. Often times, bait in these areas will be a bit deeper, requiring Annette that will get down faster. However, it is often worth the trouble. Huge schools of bait fish often relate to the shadow lines and pilings of bridges. Anglers do need to be very careful when throwing a cast net near a bridge in any type of current. It is best to tie the tag end of the cast net off to a cleat in order to prevent the angler being pulled overboard in the event that the net snags.

Chumming for bait fish

Chumming is a very effective technique when using a cast net to catch bait fish. It is a good strategy and water that is not very clear as well as early and late in the day when bait fish are difficult to spot. The angler anchors the boat up tide from a likely area or one that has proven to be productive in the past. He or she then pulls out small amounts of chum periodically in hopes of pulling the bait fish up behind the boat.

The amount of chum that is required will change depending on the tide. Obviously, if the tide is running swiftly, more chum will be needed to attract and keep bait fish up behind the boat. Anglers should start off small and then add more chum if the fish do not show up. Often times, just a few little clumps of chum will get them going. Once the bait fish are seen boiling in the chum, the angler can throw the net and catch them. This can be done from shore as well.

Every experienced cast net angler has their favorite chum. Capt. Jim likes to use a mixture of jack mackerel and wheat bread. This works well for the bait fish that he pursues in Florida. Dry bulk tropical fish food is easy to store and works very well. Anglers can mix up a small batch as needed. Commercial bait fish chum is available as well.

Keeping bait fish alive

Once the bait fish are caught, they must be kept alive and frisky. There is little point in catching a bunch of bait, only to have it die. Some bait fish are much hardier than others. Mud minnows and other bait fish are fairly easy to keep alive. A small live well and aerator is all that is required.

However, most of the bait that is caught with a cast net is much more fragile. These baits require large rounded bait wells along with high-volume pumps. The water needs to be recirculating constantly as well as being changed. Pumps draw freshwater from outside the boat and into the well. The water drains out through a stem pipe.

Capt. Jim and other guides and anglers in Florida employ a fishing technique that is extremely effective called “live bait chumming”. This requires a lot of bait! Once the well is stuffed with hundreds of lively minnows, the process can begin. The boat is anchored up tide of a good flat or other spot. Handfuls of bait fish are then tossed in the water behind the boat. If game fish are present, they will soon show up to feed on the freebies.

In conclusion, this article on how to catch bait with a cast net will help anglers understand the equipment and techniques required to master this very important angling skill!

Light Tackle Bottom Fishing Tips

Light Tackle Bottom Fishing; Tackle, Tips, and Techniques

This article will share some great light tackle bottom fishing tips and techniques. It will cover the tackle, rigs, baits, locations, and species that can be taking using this fishing method.

Bottom fishing is a simple, yet extremely effective fishing technique. In its basic form, it is simply lowering a weighted hook to the bottom with some type of live or natural bait attached. Many fish species being near structure close to or on the bottom. Anglers can use light tackle bottom fishing to pursue fish of just about any size. This includes both freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing. Much of the information in this article will apply to anglers fishing for just about any species all over the world.

Light tackle bottom fishing tips

Light tackle vs heavy tackle bottom fishing

Many anglers conjure up the notion of very heavy rods, large reels, and big fish when the term “bottom fishing” is mentioned. However, the reality is that the vast majority of fish landed by anglers bottom fishing do so using fairly light tackle. This can range anywhere from catching bluegill and other panfish and freshwater to saltwater species such as flounder and snapper.

There are some advantages to using light tackle when bottom fishing. First off, matching lighter tackle two smaller fish will greatly enhance the fish fighting capabilities of the species being sought. Even a small fish will put up a nice battle by anglers using ultralight tackle. Light tackle is also less cumbersome and physically demanding to use. These lighter rods are less expensive. Finally, and most importantly, this presentation often results in more bites!

Monofilament or braided line for light tackle bottom fishing?

Anglers have a choice when it comes to fishing line; monofilament line or braided line. Both have advantages and disadvantages and there really is no wrong choice. It is really a matter of angler preference. Braided line is more expensive. However, it is very sensitive and lasts a long time. So bites are more easily detected with braided line. Knots are a bit more difficult to tie.

fishing for catfish in rivers

Monofilament line is less expensive and knots are much easier to tie. However, monofilament line does stretch and is less sensitive. Monofilament line will also twist and break down over time. It is probably the best choice for beginning anglers.

Rods and reels for light tackle bottom fishing

For the majority of anglers light tackle bottom fishing, spinning outfits are the best choice. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and very versatile. This makes spinning tackle the overwhelming choice for novice anglers and for children. The best spinning outfit to use will vary greatly depending on the species being sought and the environment that it is being used.

light tackle bottom fishing tips

Conventional outfits certainly have their place for anglers light tackle bottom fishing as well. These outfits work very well and both freshwater and saltwater applications. Conventional tackle is preferred by many saltwater anglers fishing inshore waters for flounder, seabass, tautog, grouper, snapper, and more. Freshwater fishermen may use them when bottom bouncing for walleye or fishing for larger fish around deep water structure.

Ultralight spinning combo

Ultralight spinning tackle is an excellent choice for freshwater anglers chasing panfish and other smaller fish species. This could also include small catfish, walleye, bass, perch, crappie, and panfish. A 6 foot light action rod with a 1000 series reel loaded with 6 pound monofilament or braided line is a good all-around choice.

An all-round spinning combo

Anglers seeking one versatile all round spinning outfit will do well with a 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium light spinning rod matched with a 2500 to 3000 series reel. 10 pound monofilament or braided line works well with this outfit. Anglers fishing in saltwater will want to get a rod and reel with corrosion resistant components.

This outfit will work well in both fresh and saltwater applications. It will be fine for light tackle bottom fishing for inshore saltwater species such as snapper, sheepshead, seabass, and other species. It will also work well for just about any fresh water bottom fishing for anything other than very large fish.

Light conventional conventional combo

Sarasota bottom fishing

As mentioned earlier, there is a place for conventional outfits when light tackle bottom fishing, particularly in the inshore saltwater venues. Swift currents and heavy structure such as bridges and jetties will often require anglers to use fairly heavy weights. In this application, light conventional tackle is often the best choice as it will handle the heavier weights and larger fish better.

A 7′ to 7 ½’ rod with a medium action and a matching reel with a levelwind is an excellent combination. The “levelwind” device goes back and forth across the reel, spooling the line evenly. 20 lb monofilament or braided line is a good match. These reels are not meant to be cast, but instead bottom fishing as well as trolling.

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Light tackle bottom fishing rigs

There are many different rigs that anglers use when light tackle bottom fishing. However, there are several that are the most popular and effective. These are the sliding sinker, ( also known as the Carolina rig), spreader rig (also known as a chicken rig or high/low rig), 3 way rig, and knocker rig.

bottom fishing rigs

Sliding sinker rig

The sliding sinker rig, or Carolina rig, and it’s many variations, is a very effective rig for bottom fishing. Catfish anglers in particular get very creative. The running line passes through the sinker. A swivel stops the sinker and the leader is attached to it, followed by the hook. This rig allows for the fish to pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling the resistance of the weight.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Spreader rig

The spreader rig, or high/low rig, is another effective rig used by anglers light tackle bottom fishing. It is most effective in a vertical presentation, but is also used by anglers surf fishing as well. It consists of a sinker at the bottom, with multiple hook being tied off at intervals. This allows for multiple baits to be presented at several distances above the bottom.

3 way rig

fishing for river catfish

The 3 way rig is a versatile rig that can be used in most bottom fishing applications. However, it really shines when drift fishing. A 3 way swivel is attached to the main line. A dropper line connects the weight to the second ring on the s way swivel. Finally, a leader is attached to the third ring followed by the hook.

The leader and dropper lengths can be adjusted to match the conditions and species being sought after. Leader lengths can be a foot or 6 feet or more. Anglers will use floats to lift the bait up off the bottom. Often times, a lighter line is used on the sinker dropper, saving the rig should the sinker snag.

Knocker rig

bottom fishing

The knocker rig is a variation of the sliding sinker rig. The sinker rides right up against the eye of the hook. Note the weight in the picture above. This keeps the bait right on the bottom. It also makes getting snagged rigs unhooked from the structure. Finally, rigging is fast and easy.

Bottom fishing hooks

Hooks come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, colors, and finishes. Basically, there are two types of hooks; J hooks and circle hooks. Circle hooks have become very popular of late as they tend to hook the fish in the mouth, reducing fish mortality after being released. J hooks are still very popular and used by the majority of anglers who bottom fish.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

Hook size is generally determined by the size of the bait being used as well as the fish being pursued. Anglers presenting delicate baits for smaller fish often opt for a fine wire hook. Conversely, anglers chasing larger fish near heavy structure will need a stout or hook.

Hook sizes

Hook sizes can be a little confusing. Starting at #1 and going up, the larger the number, the smaller the hook. In other words, a #2 hook is larger than a #10 hook. However, once a hook gets larger than a #1, they switch to and “ought” system. It is represented like this, 1/0 would be a one ought hook. From there, the larger the number, the larger the hook. A #1/0 hook is smaller than a #5/0 hook.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Generally speaking, freshwater anglers targeting panfish and other small species will do well with a #6 to #10 fine wire live bait hook. These often have little barbs on the shank to help hold the bait on the hook. These are aptly named “bait holder” hooks and are a very good all-around choice. Anglers targeting larger species such as bass, catfish, and walleye can bump the size up with #2, #1, and #1/0 being the best all round sizes. #1/0 is a very good all round saltwater hook size, but obviously can be adjusted to the application.

Circle hooks

Circle hooks are sized a bit differently which complicates matters a little bit. The hook is sized by the distance between the point and the shank. Due to the shape of circle hooks, this results in anglers often using a circle hook that is two or three sizes larger than that what they would use in a J hook.

striper fishing

Circle hooks have a unique design. They have a cam like action when in a fishes mouth which causes it to turn and catch the lip on the way out. This results in the majority of fish being hooked in the outer lip. Obviously, this aids and releasing the fish in better condition. Anglers using circle hooks cannot set the hook! Instead, they need to let the line get tight then simply lift the rod tip and reel.

Anglers light tackle bottom fishing can use several different techniques. Many anglers successfully bottom fish from shore as well as docks. Anglers can anchor and fish vertically in deep water or cast toward structure in shallow water. Finally, anglers can choose to drift while presenting baits on the bottom.

Bottom fishing sinkers

Fishing sinkers come in quite a variety of shapes and weights. There are many specialty sinkers for anglers chasing catfish and other species. However, fishing sinkers basically break down into three types; egg sinkers, bank sinkers, and pyramid sinkers. While the three types are interchangeable, there are situations that makes one preferable over the other.

fishing for catfish

The general rule of thumb when choosing a weight is to use the least amount that will reach and hold bottom. And saltwater fishing, title flow is constantly changing. This requires anglers to adjust the weight of the sinker to match the conditions. This is true in freshwater as well, especially when fishing rivers.

Egg sinkers

Egg sinkers are probably the most commonly used sinker when fishing. They are generally round or egg shaped with a whole running through the metal. The running line slides through this hole and then a swivel is attached. This will not only stops the weight from sliding down to the hook, it gives anglers something to attach the leader to.

walleye fishing guide

The primary advantage to using egg sinkers is that a fish can pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling any resistance from the weight. The sinker will remain at the bottom while the line slides through the hole in the center. Egg sinkers work best when bottom fishing from a stationary position over structure. They also work well when drifting, as long as the bottom is relatively free. Egg sinkers will lodge themselves in rocky structure if allowed to drift.

Bank sinkers

Bank sinkers, as the name implies, are often used by anglers casting baits out from the shore. They are shaped a bit like a bowling pin with a hole at the top for the line to be attached. Bank sinkers work well with spreader rigs as they tend to hold bottom in both sandy and rocky bottoms. Bank sinkers also work pretty well when drifting over the submerge structure as the shape tends to bounce over the rocks instead of getting lodged in them. Anglers use bank sinkers with most 3 way rigs.

Pyramid sinkers

surf fishing

Pyramid sinkers are most often used by anglers surf fishing. Freshwater river anglers use them as well. They are designed to hold the bottom in the sand. Pyramid sinkers will snag quickly when fished over rocky bottom. Surf anglers use a clever device called a fish finder. This is a plastic tube with a clip on it. The running line passes through the tube, much like a sliding sinker rig. A clip on the tube allows for anglers to easily and quickly change the weight of the sinker to match the conditions.

Light tackle bottom fishing techniques

Anglers light tackle bottom fishing can use several different techniques. Many anglers successfully bottom fish from shore as well as docks. Anglers can anchor and fish vertically in deep water or cast toward structure in shallow water. Finally, anglers can choose to drift while presenting baits on the bottom.

Bottom fishing from shore

Probably the oldest form of bottom fishing was anglers casting a baited line out from shore. This technique still produces plenty of fish. Anglers chasing catfish, walleye, panfish, and other freshwater species do well using both live and cut bait. Saltwater anglers cast cut bait from shore in the surf as well as fishing from docks and piers.

river fishing in Virginia

The biggest obstacle to anglers bottom fishing from shore as limited access to fishing spots. Basically, shore bound anglers are limited to public areas where they can access bodies of water. Also, they can only fish spots that are within casting distance of shore. Still, anglers can be very successful bottom fishing from shore.

The spreader rig is often times the best choice for anglers bottom fishing from shore. This rig allows them to present multiple baits a little bit off the bottom. This generally snags less often. Bank sinkers are most often used in this application.

Bottom fishing from an anchored boat

Many anglers do their light tackle bottom fishing from an anchored boat. This is especially true when fish relate to smaller pieces of structure such as rock piles, bridges, piers, docks, and ledges. The most effective technique is to anchor up current of the area to be fished. The bait can then be presented back to the fish in a natural manner.

fishing Texas lakes

Both the spreader rig and sliding sinker rig will work well in this application. The choice often depends on the species being sought after. Fish that are right on the bottom such as flounder will often respond best to the sliding sinker rig, which keeps the bait closer to the bottom. Conversely, fish that school a foot or two off the bottom such as perch and snapper will like the spreader rig better.

Drifting baits on the bottom

Drifting can be an extremely effective technique for bottom fishing. It allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of feeding fish. The one downside to drifting is that anglers will inevitably hang up more often, especially when fishing rocky bottoms.

The three-way rig is most often used when drift fishing. Anglers will often times use lighter test line on the branch going from the swivel to the weight. That way if the weight snags the lighter line will break, saving the rest of the rig. This will save time when rereading and getting a bait back into the water.

Bottom fishing baits

The list of baits that anglers have used successfully to catch fish is a long one! Just about any fish, insects, or crustaceans that can be found in or near the water can be and has been used for bait. However, anglers are not even limited to that. Items found in the grocery store such as chicken livers and even soap have been used successfully by anglers. Finally, there are many commercially prepared baits that can be bought at tackle shops. These are convenient, easy to store, and effective.

Often times, the best approach is to visit a local bait and tackle shop. These folks stay up on what is biting and the best baits and spots. Local conditions and baits vary greatly depending on the region. Online resources can be excellent as well.

Freshwater baits

Freshwater anglers use live baits including worms and nightcrawlers, minnows, crayfish, helgramites, leeches, grasshoppers, and crickets. Anglers using live baits generally hook them in such a way that they will remain lively while still staying firmly attached to the hook. This will vary depending on the bait being used.

Cut baits and commercially prepared baits work well and freshwater, too. Just about any oily fish can be cut up and used for bait, with suckers, shad, and herring being the top baits. While catfish are often the primary species being pursued, cut bait will catch just about any fish that swims.

Commercially prepared baits have become popular of late. These can be paste type of baits that are used for catfish and even trout. Fish egg baits are also very popular for stream trout fishing. Dehydrated grass shrimp and other insects are a favorite among pan fisherman. In most cases, these baits can be kept sealed in a tackle box for long periods of time. This makes them very convenient.

Saltwater baits

Saltwater anglers certainly have their choice when it comes to bottom fishing baits as well. Top live baits include live bait fish, shrimp, and crabs. Saltwater anglers use fresh and frozen cut baits much more often than freshwater anglers do. Just about any locally caught fish can be cut up and used for bait, as long as regulations allow it.

In conclusion, this article on light tackle bottom fishing will help anglers everywhere catch more fish!

 

 

Tailwater Fishing tips and techniques

Tailwater fishing tips and techniques for action and variety

This article will share some great information on tailwater fishing tips and techniques. A tailwater is a river downstream from a dam, weir, spillway, or other obstruction in a river or flowing body of water.

Tailwater fisheries are abundant in the United States. They offer anglers an excellent fishing opportunity. A tailwater is a section of river just below a dam or spillway. Fish migrating up the river are stopped at this point. This results in a congregation of fish. Also, current flow is strong in these areas. Forage fish are also usually abundant. These factors all combine to create an excellent environment to catch fish! Many anglers assaciate tailwaters with trout fishing, and this is true. However, tailwaters also offer terrific fishing for striped bass, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and catfish as well.

Tailwater fishing for bass and catfish

There are an estimated 85,000 dams in the United States. Many, if not most, of these dams create a tailwater fishery. Most anglers live fairly close to some type of tailwater. The Tennessee Valley Authority created many lakes in the 60s. They did this to control flooding. However, the result was outstanding access for recreational uses such as boating and fishing.

Tailwater fishing tips

It is easy to understand why tailwater fisheries are so productive. Fish that migrate up rivers such as striped bass, shad, and other species are stopped by the dam. Unless there is some type of fish ladder, they cannot go any further. This results in the fish being concentrated in the water below the dam.

Fish also concentrate below the dam because it is an excellent feeding opportunity. Shad and other bait fish will get washed over the dam and sometimes chopped up going through the turbines of the generator. Many species will sit in the river just below the dam and feast on the buffet. Game fish are stronger and have the advantage in the stronger current over helpless bait fish. They will position themselves behind boulders and other obstructions out of the current, then dart out and grab their prey.

Tailwater fishing tips

Safety first when fishing tailwaters!

Safety is the number one concern when fishing tail waters! Current is usually very strong in tailwaters. This is particularly true when the the gates are open or in times of high rainfall. Anglers need to be cautious, whether in a boat or even wading. Many dams will have sirens to alert anglers and boaters downstream of the impending release of water. Anglers can often hear the change in water flow as well.

Some anglers think the the great fishing only exists at the dam. This is far from the truth! In trout streams in particular, the cool, rushing water will have an impact many miles down river. The same applies to warm water fishing for stripers, bass, and catfish as well.

Tailwater fishing produces multiple species

The list of species taken in tailwater fisheries is endless. Many of the most productive freshwater trout fisheries exist because of tailwaters. Water temperature in lakes will vary by depth. Water can be released into the tailwater to cater to the preferred temperature of the trout. This is especially true east of the Mississippi River. Just about every lake or reservoir in the hills or the mountains offers excellent fishing for trout in it’s tailwater.

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Warm water species such as bass and catfish will take advantage of tailwaters as well. Small mouth bass in particular enjoy a bit of current flow and will take up ambush points in the rivers below dams. Migratory species such as striped bass and white bass along with shad will migrate up the rivers as they prepare to spawn.

Dams can also be the dividing line between freshwater and salt or brackish water. Often times, this obstruction is not a hydroelectric dam, it is a weir or spillway. However, it has the same effect. Saltwater fish that can tolerate brackish water such as striped bass up north and snook in tarpon in Florida will migrate up the river at then be stopped at the obstruction. Once again, fish will set up feeding stations as smaller forage fish get washed over the top of the spillway.

Tailwater fishing tackle

Tackle for fishing tailwater rivers runs the gamut, Anglers will need a couple of outfits to cover the various species. An ultralight spinning outfit with 4-6 lb line works well when targeting trout and bass in smaller talilwater rivers. Choose the 2000 size outfit.

A medium spinning rig with 10 lb monofilament or braided line is good for larger bass and small striped bass and catfish. Choose the 3000 size option.

Anglers fishing for larger fish from shore will need a stout spinning outfit in order to make long casts and handle a big fish. A medium-heavy spinning outfit with 20 lb braid works well.

A medium conventional outfit is best for targeting larger fish in fast water. It will take some beef to subdue a large catfish or striped bass in heavy current. 30 lb braid is the best choice.

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Fishing the Susquehanna River tailwater

Kayla Haile grew up in fishing the Susquehanna River below the Cowingo Dam. This is basically the headwaters of Chesapeake Bay and is an outstanding tailwater fishery! Striped bass are the main quarry for most anglers, and Kayla is no exception. Catfish, smallmouth bass, walleye, shad, and other species are available.

Tailwater fishing tips and techniques

Kayla likes to “match the hatch” when fishing the Susquehanna tailwater. She uses a 3/4 ounce white buck tail as it resembles the majority of the forage in the river. This is primarily white perch but there may be shad and other smaller fish as well. Kayla drifts with the current while bouncing her jig along the bottom. White is a great all round color, however anglers will do well to match their baits to the size and color of the forage in the river.

Jigs are excellent tailwater fishing lures

Jigs are great lures for fishing tailwaters all over the country. They are relatively inexpensive and anglers fishing these rivers will certainly snag the bottom often. It just goes with the territory. Most of these tailwater rivers are strewn with rocks and boulders. However these are crucial as fish use them to lie in wait in the eddies.

Fishing tailwaters for walleye

Kayla does fish for other species as well. She will put up the heavy tackle used for striped bass and grab and ultralight spinning outfit and target smallmouth bass and walleye. Both of these species thrive in tailwater’s. They prefer cooler water with a little bit of current, and this describes many tailwater fisheries throughout the country.

Tailwater fishing tips and techniques

The same techniques that work for Kayla when targeting striped bass work for anglers in Tennessee catching smallmouth bass and out West for anglers catching salmon. Anglers can anchor just outside the main current and fish with bait. They can also drift with the current and cast lures, bounced jigs off the bottom, or drift with live or fresh bait. Out West, anglers do very well drifting with roe sacks.

salmon fishing in tailwaters

Live bait and cut bait is effective in these situations as well. Forage fish often do not survive the journey over or through the dam. The result is cut up fish and dead fish floating through the river. Live or cut bait fished on the bottom is therefore quite productive. Most anglers fishing with cut bait choose to anchor. Anglers using live bait can drift or anchor, depending on the conditions.

Catfish love tailwaters

Catfishing is extremely popular in the United States right now. The reason for this is simple, catfish are abundant and grow very large. Many large catfish are caught in tailwater just below the dam. One advantage to this type of fish and is that boats are often times not required. In fact, fishing from shore can be the most effective and productive method.

tailwater fishing tips and techniques

The best technique when using live or cut bait and a fast-moving river is to use a sliding sinker rig. The main line slides through the sinker than is attached to a swivel. A 24 inch to 36 inch piece of leader is used between the swivel and the hook. Large circle hooks are preferred as most fish are hooked in the mouth, making a healthy release easier. The sinker sizes adjusted with the current flow, with 3 ounces to 5 ounces being the average size.

Trout fishing in tailwater rivers

The creation of dams in the 60s and 70s along with the corresponding tail waters has resulted in a booming fishery for freshwater trout. Most of these are rainbow trout and brown trout. Trout fishing is excellent in these tailwaters as far south as North Georgia. One of the most famous examples, and probably the most productive trout fishing stream in the United States, is the white River and Arkansas. Once again, the key is the ability to control water temperature downstream from the dam, creating the optimal conditions for trout to thrive in.

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Trout anglers can either wade these streams or drift in a boat. While waiting is fun and productive, it is hard to beat a relaxing fishing trip in a drift boat. The anglers cast flies as the guide keeps the boat and prime position as it meanders down the stream. This allows anglers to cover a large portion of water in a relatively short amount of time. Most anglers fly fish for trout, however others spend fish as well. Trout fishing regulations can be a bit tricky, always check local regulations before fishing.

Drift fishing tailwaters

Drifting is a great way to fish any tailwater. Anglers will motor up close to the dam, then drift through the productive area. Many boats are equipped with jet propulsion versus propellers due to the rocky bottom. The current flow will generally ease up the further an angler gets from the dam. This technique of drifting works great no matter what the species, striped bass, smallmouth bass, musky, trout, catfish, and other game fish.

Water discharges are very important when it comes to tailwater fishing. Many dams actually publish the times when water will be released. In some circumstances, this increased flow of water will dramatically affect the bite. However, safety must be the first concern. No fishes worth dying over! Most anglers choose to trout fish when water is not being discharged.

Fishing tailwater rivers in Florida

Here on the West Coast of Florida where I fish, we have tailwaters as well. Snook, jacks, juvenile tarpon, and other saltwater species will migrate up into brackish rivers in the winter. They do this to escape the temperature extremes of the shallow flats. These rivers remain a bit salty due to the lack of rainfall Florida receives in the winter.

fishing for snook

Once again, a dam limits the migration of the species. The snook and other game fish are then concentrated in a relatively small stretch of river. Once again, drifting and casting lures such as shallow diving plugs or jigs is the best approach. My clients catch the largest snook of the year employing this technique in these rivers in the winter. On the occasions that we do receive some rainfall and water flows over the dam, it is game on! This is true of any spillway, even on the smaller creeks.

In closing, I hope this article tailwater fishing tips and techniques will help other anglers experience success in these outstanding locations. Be safe, but get out there and enjoy these man-made hotspots!

Light Tackle Trolling in Saltwater

Light Tackle Trolling in Saltwater, Tips, Tackle, and Techniques

In this article I will share some great information and tips on light tackle trolling in saltwater. Trolling is a very effective technique that will produce a wide variety of species.

Trolling in its basic form is the act of pulling lures or baits behind a moving boat. This allows anglers to cover a lot of water quickly and efficiently. Trolling will also produce both numbers of fish and quality sized fish. Lure selection, tackle, depth, speed, and distance behind the boat are all critical factors to achieving success when trolling. We will cover all of those aspects in this article.

Light tackle trolling in Saltwater

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Best trolling tackle

Conventional tackle is the best choice best choice for anglers trolling in saltwater. Spinning tackle can be used, however there is a large strain on the spindle. Conventional outfits have better drags, more line capacity, and more power. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of options that are both versatile and affordable.

The best trolling rods have a fairly fast action. That means that they are strong in the butt section but become very limber towards the tip. This limber tip is very important when trolling. A 7 foot medium fast action trolling rod paired with a 30 series conventional real is a great all round choice. This is light enough to enjoy the fight of a Spanish mackerel while being heavy enough to land a larger fish.

light tackle trolling in saltwater

 

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Rigging up for trolling

I use a variation of the same basic rig for all of my trolling. First off, I double about 5 feet of the running line using a Uni Knot. If I’m using a plug or live bait rig, I then add a 3 foot to 5 foot section of shock leader. This will vary depending on the size of the fish being pursued. When using planers or trolling sinkers, I simply tie either right to the double line.

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While some anglers use wire leaders, I rarely do. The best water conditions for anglers light tackle trolling in Florida are clear, calm waters. I just find that under these conditions wire reduce the strikes. Surprisingly, I experience relatively few cutoffs using fluorocarbon leader, especially on the spoons. Once in a while a large king mackerel will bite off a plug.

Trolling with plugs

Perhaps the easiest way to to start trolling is to do so with diving plugs. This type of trolling is very easy as there is minimal hardware involved. Plugs are available in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. They all have a bill on the front which to a large degree determines the depth that which the plug will dive. Most manufacturers have a fairly reliable chart that will help anglers decide which plug to use.

fishing with plugs

As a fishing guide in Florida, I have had many trips saved by trolling. At times I get anglers with very little experience. But, anyone can sit there and hold the rod while waiting for a fish to strike. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, trout, false albacore, jacks, ladyfish and more will hit a trolled plug.

My favorite lure for this type of trolling is a #8 Rapala X-Rap. This bait has a lot of action and will dive down several feet below the surface. White and olive are my top colors. This bait has produced many Spanish mackerel for clients over the years. This is one application where spinning tackle is fine as the lures are quite small.

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As mentioned above, anglers using larger plugs will do best with light conventional outfits. A 5 foot fluorocarbon leader of 80 pound test is a good all-around choice. Larger plugs are very effective for king mackerel, false albacore, and other species for anglers trolling the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

Top plugs for trolling in saltwater

Top plugs are the Bomber Long A, Yozuri Crystal Minnow, and #12 Rapala X-Rap. These are all effective and proven lures. The best approach is to choose a size and finish which matches the local forage. Local bait shops can often help out with this. Anglers should by their baits with several different lips in order to cover the entire water column. These plugs do have multiple treble hooks, which make releasing fish a bit more difficult.

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One tactic that is grown in popularity within the last decade is trolling deep diving plugs for gag grouper. This is particularly effective in the cooler months when grouper migrate in closer to shore and holdover shallow water ledges and structure. The Mann Stretch 30 were the first plugs designed for this type of fishing and still work well.

Trolling with plugs is very easy. This is one of the attractions, as anyone can do it. Once rigged up, the plug is let out a distance behind the boat, the the reel engaged, and the rod is put in a stern rod holder. The angler then drives around a bit above idle speed and search of fish. The drags should be set fairly loose so that when a fish is hooked the plug is not ripped out of its mouth.

Light tackle trolling in saltwater with jigs

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Jigs are another lore that anglers control fairly easily. Jig heads come in a myriad of different sizes and shapes. Most opt for the shad tail style baits as they have an enticing swimming action and mimic the local forage. Torpedo or triangular-shaped heads are generally the most effective jig head style.

Anglers can use jig head weight and boat speed to reach the desired depth. Generally speaking, jigs need to be trolled fairly slowly or they tend to twist and roll. Striped bass fisherman in the Northeast catch a lot a fish by trolling jigs! A white buck tail jig with a 4 inch to 5 inch Shad tail grub is a great all round combination. Jigs can be trolled behind the trolling sinkers and planers as well. More on that as we go forward.

light tackle trolling in saltwater

Trolling with spoons

Spoons are incredibly effective lures for anglers light tackle trolling in Florida. Trolling spoons are specially designed, being long and slender. When pulled through the water, they have a very erratic and enticing action. The most popular spoons are silver, which matches most bait fish found in open water. Most spoons have one single hook, which makes handling fish and releasing them much easier.

Spoons are light and some type of device must be used to get them down in the water column. Anglers have two choices; trolling sinkers and planers. Sinkers are simply weights with swivels at each and that are tied in line between the running line and the leader.

The rig consists of the trolling sinker, a length of fluorocarbon leader, a snap swivel, and the spoon. Leader lengths vary, with 10 foot to 15 foot leader is being the most effective. Obviously, the heavier the sinker the deeper the lure will go. However, this will be limited by the speed somewhat. This is especially true when trolling between 5 kn and 7 kn, which is a common speed for most inshore saltwater trolling.

trolling for mackerel

Using trolling sinkers

3 ounces is a good all-around size for this type of light tackle trolling. There are a couple of different sinker designs; keel sinkers and torpedo sinkers. Both work fine, it is really just a matter of angler choice in what is available. These sinkers do have swivels at the front and rear which will help reduce line twist.

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Trolling with this sinker rig is fairly simple. With the boat in gear, the spoon is dropped in the water and the leader played out by hand. The sinker is then put in the water and as the boat moves along line is played out behind the boat to a determined length. The rod is then put in the holder while the boat trolls in search of fish.

When a fish is hooked, the rod is removed from the holder and the angler fights the fish. If there is more than one line out, the boat must maintain forward motion or the other line will sink to the bottom and snag. Once the sinker is a foot or so away from the rod tip, the angler stops reeling backs up in the fish is hand lined in the rest of the way.

Light tackle trolling in saltwater with planers

Planers are clever devices that are used to get spoons and other lures down in the water column. They work similarly two diving plugs, but with a neat little twist. The planer has a sliding ring on it. The running line is attached to this ring. When the planer is set, with the sliding ring at the top, it digs down into the water causing the planer and the lure to run at a desired depth.

trolling with planers

When a fish strikes, the planer “trips”, resulting in the ring sliding to the back. This allows the angler to fight the fish unencumbered by the pull or dig of the planer. As with the spoon, once the planer is a foot or so from the rod tip, the angler walks backward while another hand lines the fish in the rest of the way.

Planer sizes

Planers come in sizes. A #1 planer will dive down 5 to 7 feet it is perfect for anglers pursuing Spanish mackerel and false albacore. A snap swivel is attached to the back of the planer. A 20 foot long fluorocarbon leader of 50 pound test followed by a spoon completes the rig.

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A #2 planer will dive down 12 to 15 feet or so. This rig will catch a lot of king mackerel. The rig is similar to a number one planer with an increase in leader strength. A snap swivel is attached to the end of the planer and a 20 foot long fluorocarbon leader of 80 pound test followed by the spoon completes the rig.

A #3 planer will dive down to 25 feet or more. However, this pushes the definition of “light tackle trolling”is a fairly stout rod is required to hold up under the strain of a number three planer.

Spoon size with planers

There are no real restrictions as to the size of the spoon that can be used with the planer. Large spoons can be used on the # one planer and small spoons can be used on the # two planer. The purpose of the planer sizes is to vary the depth in the water column at which the lures can be trolled. Planers also work well at high speeds of up to eight or even 10 kn without spinning or twisting. For most anglers light tackle trolling in Florida, 5 to 7 kn is the perfect speed.

light tackle saltwater trolling

A productive trolling spread

Setting up the trolling spread is very important. Doing so incorrectly will result in tangled lines and angler frustration. One basic principle that will help anglers is to keep the deepest lines in close and the shallowest lines further back. Having several lines at different depths and different distances will allow anglers to make turns without the lines tangle. Conversely, having several lines the same distance back at the same depth almost ensures a tangled mess.

Florida king mackerel fishing

The following spread is one that I use often on my charters and is worked well for me. I do this mostly in the inshore Gulf of Mexico when trolling for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore. However, it will produce just as well in any open water that is 20 feet deep or deeper.

With the boat in gear and idling forward, I put out a shallow diving plugs such as a Bomber Long A. I free spool the reel and count the line back for 25 seconds. I then locked the reel and put the rod in a port holder.

Putting out the trolling lines

Next, on the starboard side, I deploy the #1 planer, counting it back for 20 seconds and placing it in a starboard rod holder. Finally, I deploy the #2 planer, counting it back 15 seconds and placing it in the other port rod holder.

light tackle trolling in saltwater

The result is three lures running at various steps from right under the surface to 15 feet down and at varying distances behind the boat. This will cover the water column efficiently while allowing me the option to make turns and adjust course to cover structure or when I see fish on the surface.

Anglers in smaller boats or just starting out may choose to stick with two lines. Fishing a #1 and #2 planer will catch a lot of fish while helping the angler gets some experience trolling.

Live bait trolling

Anglers can also troll using live bait fish. This is a bit of a specialized tactic that tends to produce less fish, but larger ones. A rig called a “stinger rig” is used. This is a wire leader about 3 feet long with two hooks on it. The forward hook is used to go through the nose of the bait and the rear hook either swings free or is lightly embedded in the top of the bait fish.

Florida king mackerel

This rig is very effective. The front hook keeps the bait going straight while most of the fish are hooked on the rear hook. This rear hook is most often a trouble hook. King mackerel in particular are famous for clipping a bait fish and half and this rear hook, or stinger hook, will catch them. Anglers need to set the drag light to prevent the hook from pulling.

The best baits for slow trolling are blue runners ( AKA hard tails), cigar minnows, large scaled sardines, and threadfin herring. Blue runners are the preferred bait as a are quite hardy and troll well. Often times, anglers trolling with spoons will pick up blue runners while seeking mackerel. They can then be saved for slow trolling later. Sabiki rigs dropped down in schools of bait or over structure will put enough baits to fish with in the well in short order.

light tackle trolling in saltwater

Anglers troll very slowly when using this technique. It is best suited for fishing a smaller area such as an artificial reef or where a school of fish has already been located. We lines are another good spot to slow troll. Larger boats actually have special devices to keep the boat moving slowly enough. The idea is to make just enough headway to keep the line tight in the bait swimming naturally in the water.

Productive spots to troll

Anglers light tackle trolling and saltwater will seek out the same areas as a wood using any other type of fishing method. Here on the West Coast of Florida where I fish, the Gulf floor is relatively barren. This means that any type of structure will generally hold bait and game fish. Ledges and artificial reefs are top spots.

Structure is always a great place to start trolling. However, fish will often times be found in open water as well. This usually occurs as a are hurting up bait fish. Anglers should keep their eye on the horizon, searching for any signs of surface activity and birds working. Birds sitting on the surface or wheeling and diving are great indications that feeding fish are in the area.

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Working breaking fish is very exciting! There’s nothing better than saying a large area of the surface a rubbed as bluefish, striped bass, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and other species devour helpless bait fish. The best approach is to skirt the school with the boat then wants clear turn the wheel so that the lures passed through the feeding fish. Driving the boat through the middle of the fish will put them down and anger your fellow anglers.

Trolling in shallow water

Trolling works well in shallow water and should not be overlooked by anglers as well. Shallow diving plugs such as that #8 Rapala X-Rap are very productive. They allow anglers to cover a lot of water and it is a great way for novice anglers to catch a few fish. Submerge grass beds are great areas to troll inshore.

light tackle trolling in saltwater

In Chesapeake Bay, Pamlico sound, and other large shallow bays, trolling produces a lot a fish. Jigs are often a top choice for anglers trolling for striped bass in flounder in these waters. Channel edges are prime spots where a flat drops down into deeper water. Fish will often times hold right on the edge and ambush prey.

In conclusion, this article on light tackle trolling and saltwater will help you master this incredibly productive fishing technique!