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.

February 15 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was good over the last couple weeks for clients on Sarasota fishing charters.  Sarasota Bay is a bit warmer than normal, resulting in good action on the deep grass flats.  Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and more hit jigs cast while drifting the flats.  Anglers free lining shrimp around oyster bars found juvenile permit, snook, redfish, sheepshead, flounder, and snapper.  Sheepshead seem to be moving into the passes as anglers bottom fishing with shrimp caught some decent sheepies mixed in with a ton of small snapper and sea bass.  A fly angler scored his first couple jack crevalle up in a residential canal one breezy morning.  The warm water has not been good for river fishing, which has been a bit slow.  Persistent anglers caught snook and gar on Rapala plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing report for February 1

We have settled into our normal winter fishing patterns. Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught a variety of species using multiple techniques. One key to success is to keep moving in search of fish, locations will change daily. Action on the deep grass flats was steady, with a very good bite on Friday afternoon as the front approached. Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, trout, and ladyfish hit jigs, Rapala plugs, and live shrimp. Clients fly fishing scored using chartreuse/white Clouser patterns. Docks and oyster bars held redfish, sheepshead, snapper, grouper, black drum, and sea bass for anglers fishing with shrimp. Rapala X-Raps and jerk baits produced snook, jacks, and reds in creeks and canals. The pompano bite in the passes has slowed considerably.

Sarasota fishing report

January 25 Sarasota fishing report

Winter arrived in Sarasota this week!  Prior to the severe front, Mike Tyler landed a very nice snook in the Myakka River on a Rapala Jointed BX Minnow plug. Clients did well on Sunday morning on the flats and in the passes.  Monday was tough and Tuesday and Wednesday were blow-outs as the wind blew hard from the north and temperatures were in the 30’s in the morning.  After the front, clients fishing docks and bars with shrimp caught redfish, sheepshead, and jacks.  Jigs produced bluefish, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, ladyfish, pompano, and jacks on deeper flats.  Pompano and small permit hit jigs in the passes.  Small snapper and sea bass were thick on bottom structure in the passes as well, with a few sheepshead mixed in.

Sarasota fishing report

January 18 fishing report for Sarasota and Myakka River

Pompano continued to please anglers on Sarasota fishing charters this week, both in the passes and on the flats.  Banana jigs, small pompano jigs, and Gulp Shrimp on a jig head caught them.  There are a ton of small bottom fish in the passes such as snapper, sea bass, and grouper that took the jigs as well.  A few Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish were also caught.  In other words, a good way to keep the rods bent!  Early in the week, action on the deep grass flats was good, with a lot of speckled trout to 20″ being caught.  It is nice to see them rebounding!  Pompano, mackerel, blues, and ladies were also landed.  That bite slowed a bit later in the week, for whatever reason.

Sarasota fishing report

Trips to the Myakka River produced a few snook, largemouth bass, and several gar.  The water is really a bit too warm for ideal fishing, I think that is the reason clients caught so many gar.  Rapala plugs both cast and trolled caught the fish.

Sarasota fishing report

Jan 10 Sarasota fishing report

I spent all of my time fishing rivers, creeks, and canals this week. Two trips to the Manatee River produced small to medium sized snook for fly anglers casting chartreuse over white Clouser Minnow patterns. Later in the week I fished in Sarasota Bay, and it was quite breezy! We sought refuge in protected creeks, bayous, and residential canals. #8 Rapala X-Raps produced decent numbers of jacks with a few snook mixed in.

fishing report for Sarasota Florida

Good fishing in Sarasota to start 2020!

Fishing was good this first week of 2020! Clients on Sarasota fishing charters caught a variety of species using different techniques. The best bite in Sarasota Bay has been pompano in the passes and out on the flats. Small jigs produced the best, and color really did not seem to matter. Pompano in the passes were found near structure while those on the flats were located fairly shallow, in 3′ to 4′ on the bars. Action on the deep flats slowed a bit, with anglers catching trout, bluefish, pompano, ladyfish and more. Wind and dirty water hampered the bite.

Snook and jack crevalle were caught in Robert’s Bay along with residential canals by anglers casting and trolling #8 Rapala X-Raps. We found a school of very large jacks in a foot of water and landed a couple. Trips to the Myakka River produced snook and largemouth bass on larger #10 X-Raps.

Sarasota fishing report

Last fishing report of the year!  12/29/2019

Action on the deep grass flats was hot early in the week as a severe front approached. Trout to 22″, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, grouper, ladyfish, and other species hit jigs over grass in water between 4′ deep and 10 feet deep.  The flats north of New Pass were best.  Pompano were thick in the passes later in the week.  The bottom of the falling tide was best and there were plenty of ladyfish mixed in to keep the rods bent.  Action on the flats slowed later in the week as persistent wind had the water churned up a bit.  A trip to the Manatee River produced some nice jacks on Rapala X-Raps and white Gulp Jerk Shad on a jig head.  We missed a few snook as well.

Sarasota fishing report

December 21 Sarasota fishing report

Wind was a bit of an issue this week for clients on Sarasota fishing charters. The deep grass flats at Stephen’s Pt and Middlegrounds produced a wide variety of species. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, and more hit Gulp! Shrimp and Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits on 1/4 ounce jig heads. Stiff breezes made it a bit tough to fish as well as stirring up the water. The key was to keep moving and casting. Perhaps the best bite this week was in Big Pass. Ladyfish were plentiful, with a few pompano, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish mixed in. Small chartreuse pompano jigs worked best. We went up into canals to hide from the wind and landed jacks and snook trolling and casting #8 Rapala X-Raps.

Sarasota fishing report

December 14 Sarasota fishing report

The big news this week was the increase in pompano that showed up throughout the area. Pompano are one of the most desirable species, both for their hard fighting abilities and their incredible flavor. Pompano are fantastic eating! Small jigs bounced along the bottom in the passes and out on the flats work well as they mimic the crustaceans that pompano feed on. Anglers drifting in the passes caught pompano as well as bluefish, mackerel, and ladyfish. Pompano on the flats were found fairly shallow along the edges of bars. Speckled trout, jacks, bluefish, grouper, sea bass, ladyfish, and other species hit jigs and Gulp Shrimp on the deep flats north of New Pass.

Sarasota pompano

December 7 Sarasota fishing report

Action in Sarasota Bay has been very good! The deep grass flats north of New Pass provided clients casting jigs and flies with a variety of species. Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, pompano, bluefish, jacks, grouper, and ladyfish kept the rods bent.  Gulp Shrimp and Bass Assassin jigs produced for spin anglers while Clouser patterns worked well for those casting a fly. River trips produced snook and jack crevalle on Rapala plugs and flies.

Sarasota fishing report

November 25 Sarasota fishing report

The best bite the last two weeks has been on the deep grass flats. Bluefish to 5 pounds, Spanish mackerel to 3 pounds, pompano, speckled trout, grouper, sea bass, jacks, ladyfish, and other species hit Bass Assassin baits and Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head. The flats north of New Pass were the most productive spots. Big Pass had ladyfish and a few mackerel, pompano, and small permit. Action on the beaches has slowed in regards to mackerel and kings, though patient anglers are finding some very large tripletail on the crab pot buoys.

Sarasota fishing report

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.

Fly Fishing in Florida, Gulf Coast tips!

Fly Fishing in Florida, Gulf Coast Tips!

The intention of this post, fly fishing in Florida; the Gulf Coast, is to simplify the tackle and techniques used in fly fishing to encourage anglers to give the “long rod” a chance. Fly fishing can be confusing and overwhelming, but it does not have to be. In spin fishing the lure or bait provides the weight for casting and the line just follows behind.

fly fishing in Florida

With fly fishing, the line provides the weight; flies weigh practically nothing and would be difficult to cast any distance by themselves. Heavy, bulky flies are actually MORE difficult to cast. This is the fundamental difference. Fly casting will not be covered, there are great resources on YouTube and such that are better than print. Of course, this means that the tackle is different, too.

Fly fishing equipment and tackle

As in all hobbies, fly fishing requires an investment in equipment. Anglers need not spend thousands of dollars to get started. Entry level outfits can be purchased for $500-$600.

Fly Rods

Fly fishing in Florida

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

Fly lines

Fly lines also come in “weights” and need to be matched to the rod. Lines come in different varieties; floating, sink tip, and full sinking. The best all-round line is an intermediate sink tip line. This will get the fly down on the deeper grass flats but can still be worked quickly, keeping the fly near the surface.

fly fishing in Florida

One mistake many freshwater anglers make is using a floating fly line for all applications. Floating lines are easier to pick up and cast, but the fly will not get deep enough when fishing in deeper water. Fly lines also are not straight, they taper with the forward section being heavier.

These are designated “weight forward” or “saltwater taper” and greatly assist the fly angler when casting heavy or bulky flies. Fly lines are generally around 100 feet long. 200 yards of “backing” is spooled under the fly line. This adds diameter to the spool and is crucial when fishing for larger fish that make long runs. Fly lines usually have a loop at both the casting end and backing end to facilitate leader connections.

Fly fishing reels

fly fishing

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

Fly fishing leaders

Fly line is thick and easily seen, therefore a leader is used between the end of the fly line and the fly. Leaders are “tapered” meaning the butt section (the end of the leader that attaches to the fly line) is thicker than the fly end. This helps the leader extend out, allowing the fly to “turn over”, making for a good presentation.

A “bite tippet” is required in most saltwater applications. This is a short piece of florocarbon, usually 20lb to 30lb test and 24” or so long. Leaders can be purchased or made individually in sections. Most commercially made leaders have a loop at the butt end, which makes it very easy to attach to the fly line.

Flies for saltwater fishing

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

Saltwater fishing flies
2 Clousers, 2 D.T.Specials, 2 Crystal Minnows

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

saltwater fishing flies
Selection of Puglisi patterns

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

Florida fishing flies
3 Clouser patterns, 2 Leffy Deceiver patterns


Best fly fishing outfit

A 9 foot 8wt medium action fly rod, matching reel with backing, an intermediate sink tip line, several saltwater leaders, and a couple dozen flies ( a mix of #1 Clouser Minnows, #1 D.T Specials, and #4 Crystal Minnows in white, chartreuse, and pink ) along with a fly box will provide a novice saltwater with the basic outfit needed to get out and catch some fish.

Local fly shops are the best resource as they will usually spend the extra time with customers and even let them cast a rod or two before the purchase. As in all fishing, purchasing the best equipment that one can afford will make for a more enjoyable experience.

Florida Fly fishing techniques!

Finally, time to go fishing! There are different techniques and target species, but in each instance, from bluegill to giant tarpon, the general procedure is the same. The fly is cast out and allowed to settle or sink. With the rod tip low and pointed at the fly, the fly line is held with the index finger of the casting hand and with the free hand the fly line is retrieved in using short “strips” behind the finger holding the line. If no fish takes, the line is lifted out a cast again.

fly fishing techniques


When a fish takes, the line is pulled hard with the free hand, removing any slack and setting the hook. The rod is then lifted up. This is called a “strip set” and is the best technique for saltwater fly fishing. With smaller fish, the line is simply stripped in. Larger fish will make a run, taking up all of the slack and then “getting on the reel”. The fish is then reeled in as with spinning tackle. Remember that fly reels are single action and to keep the knuckles clear.

Line management is very important when fly fishing as there is always a pile of slack line at an anglers feet after the fly is stripped back in. This line can catch on anything that protrudes out from the boat, angler, or shore if on land. Wind only makes this problem worse. When fishing out of a boat, anglers will stand on the forward deck and find a place to stack the line.

Using a stripping basket when fly fishing

A great solution is a “stripping basket”. This can be anything that will contain the line. Laundry baskets, recycling bins, and collapsing lawn refuse containers all work well. Anglers may also purchase a commercial stripping basket as well.

stripping basket fly fishing

There are a few other incidentals and pieces of equipment that will help anglers enjoy fly fishing. Quality polarized sunglasses are very important, allowing anglers to see grass beds, bait, and even fish at times. A hat with a long bill will cut the glare and one with a flap will add protection for the ears and neck from the Florida sun.

On that note, sunscreen is very important, especially on the neck and face. While the water is warm for much of the year, wading boots and insulated waders will keep fly anglers who like to wade warm and safe.

Fly fishing on the deep grass flats

Grass flats are the primary cover on the West Coast of Florida. Many thousands of acres of submerged vegetation hold just about every fish species. In most of these areas, there is very little other structure. Bait fish and crustaceans seek sanctuary in the submerge grass flats. This in turn attracts game fish.

Sarasota fishing guide

Submerged vegetation can be found in water from very shallow up to 10 feet deep. In most instances, sunlight will not penetrate water deeper than 10 feet. Most anglers consider “deep grass” to be submerge grass beds in water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep. These deeper flats attract a wide variety of fish species and offer anglers an excellent opportunity for both action and variety.

Speckled trout are abundant and found year-round. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jack crevelle, flounder, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, sharks, cobia, and other species will be encountered during certain times of year. Ladyfish are plentiful are provide great sport on fly.

Best fly tackle for fishing the deep grass

A 7wt or 8wt outfit is the best choice when fishing the deep grass flats. An intermediate sink tip line or full sinking line will get the fly down in this deeper water. A common mistake many novice fly anglers make is trying to fish this water with a floating fly line. Even with a weighted fly, a floating line will usually not allow the fly to get deep enough to be productive.

fly fishing tackle

An 8′ tapered leader with a 20 lb to 30 lb bite tippet work well and cover most applications. Species such as big mackerel and bluefish that have sharp teeth may require a heavier bite tippet, upto 50 lb test.

The number one fly pattern when fishing the deep grass flats is the Clouser Deep Minnow. This is a very effective and well-known saltwater fishing fly. It is very similar to a buck tail jig. A Clouser consists of weighted dumbbell eyes along with some bucktail or synthetic dressing on the hook. They can be tied to imitate both bait fish and crustaceans. Other weighted patterns such as a Crystal minnow are also productive.

Florida speckled trout on fly

Non-weighted flies such as the lefty’s Deceiver, D.T. Special, and Puglisi flies can be extremely effective, especially with a sinking line. White is a great all-round choice, but just about any color will produce. Light colors work well in clear water and dark colors produce in stained water.

Tactics for fly fishing on the deep grass flats

Submerged grass flats are easy to spot in clear water, especially when the sun is high. Polarized glasses are a necessity. Amber isn’t excellent color choice for glasses when searching for submerged grass. Obviously, these flats are more difficult to spot when the water is stained or under low light conditions. Depth finders will also aid in locating submerged grass flats.

Tide is less of a factor when fishing the deep grass flats and it is when fishing very shallow water. In the deeper flats, there is always enough water for the fish to be comfortable. However, fishing is usually more productive during periods of strong current flow. Many anglers consider two hours before and after the high tide to be the prime time to fish. A light breeze is usually better than slack calm conditions.

Florida bluefish

Drifting is normally the most effective technique to use when searching for fish on the deep grass flats. These are usually large, expansive areas and it takes time to eliminate unproductive water. The best approach is to set up a drift where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same direction. This results in the easiest drift to both cast and manage the fly line.

It is best to begin the drift on the upwind and up tide side of the flat. The current and wind will then move the boat across the area that is to be searched and fished. It is best to have the wind over the anglers casting shoulder.

Working the fly on the deep grass

The fly is cast out, allowed to sink, and then retrieved back in. Anglers should vary the sink time and stripping technique until a productive pattern emerges. When a fish takes the fly, the “strip set” method is used to hook it. The rod should be low to the water as the fly is retrieved. When the fish takes, pull hard on the fly line with the stripping hand, removing all of the slack, then gently raise the rod tip.

Fish may like it very fast and aggressive while at times a more subtle and deliberate approach will work better. Don’t get preoccupied with the fly pattern; presentation is the most important aspect. Also, different species will respond better to different retrieves. Trout and pompano like it a bit closer to the bottom while mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish will take a fly stripped very quickly.

pompano on fly

Ideally, anglers will be drifting with the light when a five or six knots. However, ideal conditions are not always the reality. Often times, the wind will be blowing much stronger than that. There are techniques that will help anglers deal with this extra wind. Anglers should cast their fly at a 45° angle from the boat as opposed to straight out. This results in the fly swinging on a tight line is the boat drifts. Casting straight out in front of the boat results in the angler having to strip the line in very fast just to account for the drift of the boat.

Slowing the drift

Drift socks and anchors are other tools that anglers can use to slow down or even stop the drift. Drift anchors are like parachutes that are tied off behind the boat. They are excellent tools to slow down the boat and also adjust the angle at which it drifts. Anchors obviously work the same and can even be used to stop the boat in a location and allow anglers to thoroughly work a productive area.

fly fishing in Florida

Too many anglers overlooked fishing the deep grass flats, instead pursuing more glamorous species on the shallow flats. The deep grass flats are excellent spots to fly fish, particularly for novice anglers. Fun fish such as ladyfish, jacks, bluefish, trout, and mackerel may not be as challenging, but success is much more of a guarantee. This is also an excellent opportunity to introduce kids to the sport of fly fishing. Many anglers prefer action and variety over catching one or two larger fish!

Fly fishing on the shallow flats

It sounds like a contradiction, but often times the largest fish are found in the shallowest of water. While the deeper grass flats hold schools of fish and is a better option for action and numbers, fly anglers seeking a trophy will do well focusing on shallow grass flats, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines. Redfish and jack crevelle school up in shallow water, the largest trout are loners and will set up in potholes in shallow flats, and snook will feed on bait in the skinny water as well.

This type of fishing has exploded in popularity in recent years. Flats and bay boats abound and kayak fishing is very popular. The result is that these fish receive a LOT of pressure, especially in the popular Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor areas. Fish in these shallow areas are spooky and require different tactics in order to be successful.

redfish on fly

Tackle requirements are similar to other inshore fishing applications, a 7wt or 8wt outfit is fine. Floating lines are used as the water fished is seldom more that 3 feet deep and longer leaders with a 20lb bite tippet will increase the chances of fooling fish. But, the biggest change in tactics is the need for patience and stealth. Fish in water this shallow are extremely spooky and the slightest noise or shadow can send them running for cover. The most popular fly patterns are Puglisi and Clouser Minnows, shrimp imitations.

The approach when attacking a flat or shoreline is similar to that of the deep flats in that the wind and tide are factors that need to be taken into account when fishing from a boat. Whenever possible, choose an area where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same direction. Obviously, a shallow draft boat will be required to access these areas.

The classic situation is a flats skiff with the angler positioned on the bow and the guide or other angler poling the boat from the stern or poling platform. Kayaks are also great platforms to use to fish areas larger boats can’t launch or access.

Tides are crucial when fishing the flats

Many anglers prefer the low, incoming tide when working the shallows. Fish will stage on the edges where the flat drops off, waiting for the water to come up where they will get up on the flat, scatter out, and search for food. Along the same lines, fish will gang up in “potholes” on low tide stages.

These are depressions in the flats that can range in size from a foot to to over 20 feet and larger in diameter. In both instances, the low water concentrates the fish, making them easier to locate. The more water that there is on a flat the more places the fish can be.

Sarasota fly fishing charters

Tide strength and heights are crucial elements when fly fishing in the shallows. Anglers need to study the tide charts, it is much more complex than just the times of the high and low tides. The tide height and speed at which it is moving are very important to know so that anglers can understand fish movements. Wind is also a factor; on the west coast of Florida, a northeast wind will empty a flat of water while a south wind will flood the flat.

Anglers can choose to either blind cast likely looking areas or sight cast to specific fish or small bunches of fish. As the boat eases down the shoreline or across the flat, the fly is cast towards the shoreline or potholes and grass edges, allowed to sink a moment, and retrieved back in. Unlike the deep grass flats, the fish will normally be found in small areas and bunched up, it will take time, effort, and patience to eliminate unproductive water.

Blind casting strategies

Blind casting will normally produce more fish, but sight casting is very exciting! This is exactly what it sounds like, an angler either readies on the bow while boat fishing or stealthily wades a flat, visually searching for fish. Once sighted, the fly is cast out in front of the fish and the optimum presentation is to strip the fly away from the fish, and hopefully a take ensues.

It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but there are some things that anglers should key on to help locate fish. Edges are always worth investigating, whether it is a weed bed, oyster bar, or drop off. Current edges can also be used as ambush points by predators. Mangrove shorelines are very enticing, but there are miles and miles of them and fish will only be in short sections.

fly fishing Florida

The key is to find something different such as cuts, oyster bars, and especially holes and deeper water, fish will definitely hold there. Also, anglers will want to see signs of life; there is nothing worse than a “dead” flat. Areas that show glass minnows and other baitfish, mullet schools, birds, and best of all fish tailing, waking, or working bait are prime spots.

Anglers that are serious about mastering this technique will need to put in their time. Choosing a small area and learning it well is a good investment and will serve the angler well. It is amazing how different these types of spots are with just a little change in tide height. Learning the tides, bottom composition, and local fish migrations in one small area will help them catch fish in other locations.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Wading can be an extremely effective strategy when targeting fish in shallow water and allows anglers without a boat to enjoy this type of fishing. Some experienced guides will pole an area and not even fish, just look for signs and fish. Once a likely area is identified, they get out of the boat and walk. With the pressure that fish get these days, being able to eliminate boat noises will allow fly casters to get much closer to their quarry and allow more time for a good presentation.

Fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico

Anglers can experience some world-class fly fishing action in the inshore Gulf of Mexico when conditions are right. The inshore waters offer some outstanding site fishing to schools of breaking Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and other species. The key to this fishing are the hordes of bait fish that migrate along the beach in the spring and the fall.

fly fishing for false albacore

False albacore and Spanish mackerel are the primary species being pursued by anglers fly fishing in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. However, king mackerel, sharks, bluefish, ladyfish, cobia, and triple tail will also be encountered. Ideal water temperature is between 68° and 75°. Easter and Thanksgiving are generally the peak times in the spring and again in the fall.

These fish species are nomads and there are not really any specific spots. Game fish can be encountered feeding on the surface just about anywhere. However, areas of hard bottom and artificial reefs are places that will naturally attract bait fish and are good places to look. The mouse of passes are also excellent spots on an outgoing tide. This is not a situation that requires anglers to get up at the crack of dawn as often times a little sunlight is required to get the fish feeding.

Fly fishing tackle for the inshore Gulf of Mexico

Anglers primarily pursuing Spanish mackerel will do fine with a 7wt outfit. False albacore are larger and put up a stronger fight, requiring slightly heavier tackle. In most instances, a 9wt is the best choice to subdue a larger fish. Floating lines work best as a are easier to manage and the fish are feeding on the surface. 20 lb fluorocarbon tippets work well for the false albacore while Spanish mackerel will usually require a bit stouter leader.

Spanish mackerel fly fishing

Patience is definitely a requirement for this type of fishing, especially with the false albacore. Seeing fish feeding ferociously on the surface is exciting and many anglers race around from school to school. This is usually the least effective technique as it will put the fish down. The best approach is to stick with one school of fish, taking the time to get in position for a good fly casting opportunity. Positioning the boat upwind of the fish and allowing the breeze to ease it closer to the fish while having the wind behind the caster is the best technique.

Anglers often believe that with fish in such a feeding mood, that they can be easy to catch. This can be true with the Spanish mackerel, which will generally take any fly that remotely resembles a small bait fish. However, false albacore are notoriously fussy. The fish are often feeding on small glass minnows. Anglers who match the fly size to the available forage will usually enjoy more success.

Techniques for fly fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico

A very fast, erratic retrieve generally works best when fish are feeding on the surface. However, as in with all fishing, if that retrieve does not produce anglers should very it until a productive stripping technique emerges. The same goes with flies, if fish refuse a certain fly after multiple presentations, it is time for a change.

fly fishing

Tripletail are another species that fly anglers can catch when fly fishing in Florida. This is a unique sight fishing opportunity. The technique is pretty simple, anglers run the boat along strings of crab pot buoys, looking for tripletail. These fish will lie on their side behind buoys, markers, and floating structure, seeming to “pretend” to be grass, waiting for prey to use them for cover.

The same set up that anglers use for mackerel and bonita will be fine for tripletail, so no need to re-rig. The best approach is to run along the crap pot buoys until a fish is sighted, driving past the buoy for a bit, then slowing and idling back around. In most instances, the tripletail will position itself on the down wind or down tide side of the buoy, so the best approach is from behind. The fly is cast out past the fish, retrieved back to the buoy, then allowed to fall in front of the fish. Tripletail are quite aggressive and will often take the fly. Shrimp and baitfish patterns are very productive.

Fly fishing for tarpon on the west coast of Florida

Tarpon are caught along the beaches, in the passes, and on the flats near the passes all summer long on the West Coast of Florida. The further south and angler fishes, the earlier the migration generally begins. In the 10,000 islands area, tarpon fishing begins in April. By June, fish can be found along the entire Suncoast.

fly fishing for tarpon

Early in the season, tarpon are generally found in very large schools is a prepared to move offshore to spawn. By mid summer, these larger schools have broken up and fish are more often found as loners or in very small bunches. These fish found later in the year do not show as well, but they often times bite better as there spawning ritual is over.

Anglers also sight fish for giant tarpon on the shallow bars at the entrances to all of the passes. This fishing is often best in July and August, when many of the other tarpon anglers have quit for the season.

A 12wt outfit is best when pursuing giant tarpon on the West Coast of Florida. These fish average 75 pounds and fish over 150 pounds are hooked regularly. An intermediate sink tip line, commercially tied leader with a 60 lb bite tippet and a selection of Puglisi patterns, Cockroach, Black Death, and bunny flies in light and dark colors will be fine.

Beach tarpon fly fishing techniques

The technique for tarpon fishing on the beaches is actually pretty simple. Anglers get out on the beach just before or at first light and sit a few hundred yards from shore. Once set up, they scanned the water for schools of fish. Once a school is sighted, the boat is eased into position, ideally placing the angler upwind of the school. Electric trolling motors can be used in deeper water will push polls are used in shallow water.

It is important for anglers to recognize the best fish to try to catch. Only experience will teach anglers the skill. Often times fast-moving or Greyhound in schools are encountered. While there exciting to see swimming on the surface, they rarely will take a fly or even a live bait.

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Fly anglers will also encounter larger schools in deeper water that are not moving fast but do not stay on the surface very long. These can also be difficult to place a fly in front of. However, if a school is located that Mills about in the same area for any length of time, a sinking line can be used to get the fly down to the fish.

The ideal situation is to run across a school of “happy tarpon”. These are fish that are moving very slowly and milling about just below the surface. Often times, anglers will see their tails and fins protruding from the glassy calm water. These are the perfect fish to try to catch on a fly!

Unfortunately, fish behaving this way are becoming more difficult to find. Fishing pressure has become quite heavy, especially early in the season. Courtesy and patience can be lacking from anglers at times. The proper etiquette is to defer to a fly angler working a school as it is a given that it is more difficult to hook a tarpon on fly. Some anglers adhere to this policy, some do not.

Fly fishing for tarpon in deep water

Fly anglers will oftentimes have to sit on a school of daisy chaining tarpon. These are fish that mill about while occasionally surfacing. They swim around in a tight circle, thus the name. These tarpon will usually surface periodically, between a couple minutes and up to 30 minutes apart.

Anchoring the boat from the stern can help keep the angler in position while waiting for the tarpon to surface again. Once they do, get the fly in there quickly, before they head back to the bottom. It is very important not to cast over rolling tarpon! This is called “lining” the fish and will almost always send them off in a panic.

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Tarpon can also be caught by anglers fly fishing in shallow water. This happens on shallow bars and flats which normally occur at the mouth of the passes. This is one situation where the fly angler actually has an advantage over anglers casting live bait. Tarpon in the shallow water are spooky and a soft lead landing fly will not send them scurrying for deeper water.

These fish will often be seen in a long string of single file fish swimming nose to tail. Anglers will also see small pods of fish averaging a half dozen or so as well as large schools. When the sun is up these fish are very easy to spot in the shallow water. The most productive technique is to anchor the boat on the flat and wait for fish to come to them. A push poll can be used to re-position the boat, but angler should refrain from using the trolling motor in the shallow water

Patience is required when tarpon fishing. It is very easy to get excited and overly aggressive. The angler who takes the time to get into perfect position will score more often than the impatient one who runs around. A couple words regarding etiquette; do NOT run an outboard near a school of tarpon! It is better to let them go, motor around and re-position than to fire up the “big motor” in a school of fish. Also, if another boat is working a school, leave them to it unless they wave you in.

Tarpon fly fishing tips

Practice and patience is the key to a successful tarpon-fishing trip, especially with a fly rod.

Get yourself in shape. Tarpon are truly big game fish and it does take strength and stamina to land one. Now is the time to tune up your body and casting skills not when you’re standing on a boat in a 2-foot chop with a 10-knot wind blowing in your face and the tarpon daisy chaining 60 feet from the boat.

Tarpon will not come to the fly you have to get the fly to them.

With the proper equipment it’s not difficult to cast but it does take a little practice. Casting a 12 wt is quite different than casting a 5-8wt. A fly rod is a fly rod and if you know the proper technique all that’s needed is getting the feel.

Tackle must be in tip-top condition. Tarpon will test any gear to the limit and if there is a weak link they will find it.

Reels: lubed and drags clean

Lines: Check backing, make sure it isn’t snarled and is still strong. Clean fly line and check for abrasions and cracks. Use new leaders

Sharpen hooks, best to use new flies unless you take very good care of them, saltwater isn’t kind to hooks and fly materials.

Line management is very important. Know the line is clear and not underfoot or tangled. I use a stripping basket to lessen the chances of the line being out of control. The line is most always ready to cast. If anything can go wrong it will but taking precautions will lessen the mistakes. Condition your mind as to what you need to do when a tarpon is in your sights.

First you have to make the cast. Don’t think about the fish, think about the cast. One good cast is better than a 1000 bad ones. Lead the fish so the fly will be there when the fish comes.

Think about the hook set. You’ll basically never hook a tarpon with the rod. A tarpons’ mouth is rock hard. Think strip down and when you get the take pull long for the hook set. Now you have this monster on the end of your line and all hell is about to break loose!What it is going to do is anybody’s guess. The perfect scenario would be for it to take the fly and go away from the boat. But it can just as easily and come straight towards you. This isn’t the time to figure out what needs to happen. Work different scenarios out in your mind, then you might have a chance. If possible set the hook with the rod by pulling sideways and low with the butt of the rod after the take. Never have more line off the reel than necessary.

fly fishing for tarpon

Clear the line as it comes thru the rod. It’s probably going to be moving hard and fast. Don’t make the mistake of letting it loop around your hand or rod butt. Hopefully you stripped the line in a neat pile so it doesn’t knot up on the way out of the rod, breaking the guides.

The more pressure you put on the fish at the start of the battle the faster you’ll land it. Every fish is different. So, it’s difficult to predict what tactics it will use to beat you.

Many anglers are so thrilled when a tarpon jumps they just freeze. Remember to bow to the king. Not really bow but point the rod straight to it. If the line is tight when it jumps the chances are very good you and your trophy will part company. Play the fish with the butt of the rod low to the water using a short sweeping motion. Be ready for the jump.

Many tarpon are lost at the side of the boat while trying to land it. Play the fish out, not to the point of total exhaustion, but to where you can turn it over. Don’t pull the leader into the fly rod and don’t try to lift the fish with the rod tip high. This is where most fly rods get broken. Have your fishing partner leader the fish and lip it. Take photos with the fish in the water, revive it and release it to make more babies and give another angler the thrill of a lifetime!

All this sounds simple enough but I’d bet most of you will forget it all when you see the silver flash. I’ve seen very experienced anglers turn to rubber but that’s part of the fun. You may be hard on yourself at the time but it’s an experience you’ll relive many times with friends.

Fly fishing for beach snook

Most fly anglers find the idea of spotting a 28” fish in foot deep gin-clear water, quietly stalking it, presenting a fly and watching the take to be the pinnacle of fishing. Does it really get any better than that? That opportunity does exist from Tampa Bay all the way south to Marco Island. Best of all, very little gear is required and a boat is actually a hindrance!

Siesta Key snook fishing

Sight fishing for snook along area beaches is not a secret among local anglers, but it is not widespread knowledge throughout the country. But, the fact is that anyone with a little stamina to walk, a fly rod, the ability to cast 40 feet and a bit of patience can enjoy this experience. As in all fishing, there are nuances that will help fly caster be more successful.

Snook begin migrating out of the back bays and onto the beaches in April, especially in the southern region, and are usually thick by June. They are out there to spawn, but will certainly take a well presented fly. In fact, fly fishing is probably the most effective approach as these fly lands so softly and the fish are in quite shallow water.

The general weather pattern in the summer is for the wind to lay down around midnight, and blow lightly out of the ease or southeast in the morning. The beach should be calm with relatively little surf. Too much chop will stir the water up, making it very difficult to spot snook. By noon the sea breeze will kick up and it will continue to pick up throughout the afternoon.

Beach fly fishing techniques

The technique is relatively simple. Get out on the beach around 7:30 a.m., no need to get there too early as it will be too dark to see any fish. Choose a section of beach that has few swimmers, though that usually isn’t an issue that early. The best fishing will be walking north, with the wind and sun at the anglers back.

stripping basket fly fishing

Armed with a 7wt to 9wt outfit, a long leader with a 25lb-30lb tippet and a #2 white D.T. Special, Crystal Minnow, or any small pattern, the angler heads out, walking 15 feet or so away from the water, with 40 feet or so of line coiled in his hand, ready to make a quick cast. This will give a good vantage point to spot fish.

Most snook will be seen right in the surf line, withing a few feet of shore. There is very little structure on most beaches, therefore any rocks, pilings, or other structure can be very good spots. The same goes for beaches near passes, they can be fantastic places to fish.

Snook will range from loners to quite large schools, but mostly commonly will be seen in groups of several fish. The angler needs to determine which way they are heading. If the fish are moving towards the angler, he needs only stop, wait for the fish, and present the fly ahead of them. Subtle strips work best. If the fish are heading away, most of the time they are moving slow enough that the angler can walk around and get ahead of them, then present the fly.

As in all fly fishing, there will be refusals, but plenty of takes as well. Many of the fish are “schoolies” but there will be some trophy snook fish as well! Anglers may occasionally encounter redfish, jacks, mackerel, and other species as well.

More tips for beach fly fishing success and comfort

While the equipment requirements are minimal, there are a few things required to be comfortable and achieve success. A hat, good polarized sunglasses, sunscreen, and water are a few essentials. Comfortable shoes that are still comfortable when wet are important as well. A fanny pack is practical for toting water, sunscreen, leader material, and some flies. Some anglers find a stripping basket to be an invaluable tool, keeping fly line out of the surf and not under foot. While the walk back may be into the sun and wind, keep a sharp eye out. It is amazing how fish will suddenly appear!

Siesta Key snook fishing

While sight casting to snook is the most glamorous opportunity, fly anglers do have options during other times of year, particularly in the spring and fall. A couple days of east wind will result in calm, clear water along the beach and this will bring in the bait and of course the gamefish. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and other species will come within range of a decent caster. Clouser Minnow and D.T. Special patterns are solid producers. Look for bait and surface activity.

Fly fishing in Florida, wading tips and tactics

Anglers spend a ton of money on fancy boats in Florida and other places, but the reality is that wading does have an advantage over boat-bound fly casters in some situations, particularly when fishing shallow. Fish get a lot of pressure these days, especially in popular spots such as Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. No matter how quiet an angler in a boat is, a wader will be much quieter and will be able to get much closer to fish without spooking them.

Of course, it is possible to combine the two, boats and wading. Many anglers use a boat, whether it is a poling skiff or a kayak, to get to a productive area, then anchor the boat and get out and stalk their quarry on foot.

redfish on fly

One advantage wading anglers have is that they can access some spots quickly and easily by car or a short walk. There are many parks all along the west coast of Florida where fly casters can park their vehicle and in minutes be fishing.

A key component when choosing a spot to wade is bottom composition. Wading in soft, mucky bottom is not only no fun, it can be dangerous, with twisted knees and ankles a very real possibility. Sand bars and areas of hard bottom are not only safer, but they are generally more productive as well.

The “closing distance” is also an advantage when wading. On a breezy day the boat will drift down on fish rather quickly, forcing the angler to take a quick, perhaps hurried shot, at the fish. Wading eliminates that as the angler can take his or her time to make a good cast and presentation. It just makes a lot of it easier; shorter casts, more time, and much less noise.

Even though it is Florida and the water can be fairly warm, insulated waders are often times a good option. Wading in shorts and sneakers or wading boots is fine in the heat of summer, but some of the best wading opportunities occur in winter, when low tides will congregate fish. Also, oysters and other debris can cut through water shoes and other footwear, good boots along with waders work very well. Some anglers prefer a stripping basket to help with line management and some will opt for a wading staff to help with balance.

While tides that move a lot of water are usually preferred, that can sometimes be an issue when wading, as the “window” when the conditions are prime can be very short. A low, incoming tide is usually best, concentrating fish in holes and along edges as they wait for the tide to come up enough for them to feed. A flood tide makes it difficult to see fish, move around, and catch them. Focusing more on low tides with a nice steady incoming tide will extend fishing time and opportunities

Fly fishing at night

If I told you that there is a fishing opportunity where snook congregate in good numbers, a fly angler need only make 40 foot casts and could catch a couple dozen snook in several hours, would you sign up for that? The only concession would be that you might lose a little sleep, still in? Well, that does exist all over Florida; fishing lighted docks and bridges at night. Lights attract baitfish and shrimp, which in turn attract snook and other gamefish.

night fly fishing

Question: Are tides important and if so, which do you prefer?

Answer: Tides are very important! Outgoing tides are probably best, but as long as water is moving through, fish will actively feed on bait caught in the current. Conversely, fishing is usually very slow on a slack tide.

Question: Are evenings or early mornings preferred?

Answer: Both can be equally productive, but I prefer mornings because I am usually the only boat out there. It also gives me the the opportunity to combine a little night fishing with a morning bay or tarpon charter.

Question: What is your go-to night snook fly?

Answer: My favorite fly is a Puglisi bait fish pattern in gray and white. I tie them on #4, #2, and #1 hooks, that way I can match the fly to the available forage; small, medium, and large. However, any of the popular snook flies will produce, especially in white.

Question: What line and leader do you find most productive?

Answer: I prefer a floating line or a clear sink tip line. The clear sink tip is more versatile in that you can work the surface or a bit deeper. A 9′, 16 lb leader with a 20” piece of 30 lb bite tippet works well. Using too light a leader will result in a lot of lost fish on pilings.

Question: How do you position the boat?

Answer: Positioning the boat is very important. If you are too close you will spook the fish, too far away and accurate casting becomes more difficult. Keeping the boat about 30 feet away 90 degrees from the dock works well.

night fishing for snook

Question: Do you anchor or use the trolling motor?

Answer: I use both, depending on the fish. I use the trolling motor while prospecting as it allows working the light from various angles. If the fish are active, I like to anchor. Modern GPS trolling motors give you both options.

Question: What other species do you also catch under the lights at night?

Answer: While snook are the most commonly caught species, speckled trout and ladyfish can be plentiful at times; bluefish, redfish, jack crevelle, and the occasional juvenile tarpon will also take your fly.

Question: Do you ever fish the open water and not the lights?

Answer: Some evenings you will hear snook and other gamefish feeding on prey that they have trapped against the seawalls. You won’t usually see them, but a fly cast in where the noise is heard will usually draw a strike.

Fly fishing in Florida rivers

Florida’s West Coast is blessed with many tidal rivers and creeks that offer fly anglers the unique opportunity to target large snook on fly in an attractive environment. These waters range from very remote-feeling with fantastic natural scenery to quite developed, but all can offer very good fly fishing when conditions are favorable.

Fly fishing for river snook

Cooler months are generally the best time to target snook and other species in Florida rivers. Severe cold fronts will drive these fish species off of the shallow flats and into the sanctuary of this warmer deeper water. Forage species such as finger mullet and glass minnows react the same way. However, there are some resident fish there year-round.

While snook are the primary species being pursued in these rivers by anglers fly fishing in Florida, other species are available as well. Jack crevalle, juvenile tarpon, redfish, ladyfish, and other saltwater species may be encountered. Brackish rivers will give anglers the opportunity to catch largemouth bass, gar, catfish, and other freshwater species.

Sarasota snook

Rivers offer anglers fly fishing several advantages. The primary one is that fish are concentrated into smaller areas, making them easier to locate. Also, many of these rivers are no wake zones which results in a more peaceful and relaxing fishing experience. Canoes kayaks in Jon boats are the primary vessels of choice. These rivers are also protected, making them excellent spots on windy days.

Best tackle for fly fishing Florida rivers

A 9wt outfit with an intermediate sink tip line is the best all round choice for anglers fly fishing and rivers. Larger fish may be encountered and cover is usually present. This requires stouter tackle in order to keep the fish away from the structure and breaking off. Shorter leaders are fine in the darker water. 4 feet of 40 pound butt section along with a 3 foot piece of 30 pound bite tippet will work fine.

Bright, multiple colored flies that imitate bream and tilapia have been proven to be productive, as are gold/black and all white. Deceiver and Puglisi patterns are also effective and should have a monofilament weed guard to reduce snagging on the abundant structure.

fly fishing for jack crevelle

As mentioned earlier, one of the advantages of fishing rivers is that game fish are generally easier to locate. The number one spots when fishing rivers are outside bends in the river. The spots are almost always deeper and have some type of cover and structure, particularly fallen trees.

The fly is cast out towards the cover, allowed to sink several seconds, then retrieved back in using fairly aggressive strips. When a strike occurs, the angler must strip set and put good pressure on the fish to get it away from the cover. While outside bends are primary spots, angler should not ignore any good-looking fallen tree or other piece of cover.

Current is important when fishing Florida rivers

One important aspect when fly fishing in Florida rivers is to drift along with the current as opposed to against. Fly fishing while going against the current will usually result in an immediate bow in the line. This makes for a presentation that is not natural and put slack in the line making it difficult to come tight on a fish. It is much more natural for the fly and the fly line to sink with the current as the boat drifts along.

While not common, anglers will occasionally run across schools of fish feeding on the surface. This primarily happens with jacks, and other species such as snook and even sunshine bass will be found feeding on the surface and rivers. In this situation, just about any fly cast into the melee will draw a strike.

River fly fishing can be fantastic in the summer when certain conditions exist. Once the daily rains start here on the Suncoast, rivers and creeks will fill up fast, creating a lot of current. Anglers need to be VERY careful when fishing during these high water times! Snook, tarpon, and other species will stage at intersections where tributaries enter the river and ambush baitfish. Many rivers have weirs or dams, water flowing over the top of these can cause fish to stack up below the dam and fishing can be incredible!

Fly anglers that enjoy solitude and fantastic natural beauty should give this style of fishing a chance. Florida rivers and creeks offer both novice and experienced fly anglers a great change of pace in a relaxed and attractive environment, along with the opportunity to land the snook of a lifetime! The combination of exotic scenery, peaceful fishing, the variety of species that are available along with the opportunity to land a trophy snook on fly make this a unique experience.

Capt Jim Klopfer was born in Washington D.C. And cut his teeth fishing the Potomac River for bass and catfish and Chesapeake Bay for blues and stripers. Jim moved to Sarasota in 1986 and earned his U.S.C.G. License in 1991 and has been guiding in Sarasota ever since. Capt Jim really enjoys fly fishing, running his saltwater charters with a focus on action and variety on the deep grass flats and in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. His vessel is a 22′ Stott Craft Bay boat, very stable and comfortable with decks fore and aft and room for two fly anglers to fish at the same time.

Sarasota fishing reports

Capt Jim also offers clients a very unique fly fishing experience; drifting local rivers such as the Myakka River, Manatee River and Braden River for snook, largemouth bass, and other species. These trips are run using a 14′ Alumacraft boat and clients will enjoy some enjoyable fishing in a serene environment with great scenery!  (941)371-1390

In conclusion, this detailed post on fly fishing in Florida, Gulf Coast Tips will help anglers learn to catch more fish with the fly rod! Anglers can find Florida fishing regulations on the FXC site.

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida, an Anglers Guide

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida, an anglers guide

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida is enjoyed by many anglers. They are a terrific game fish that is widely distributed throughout the state. Spanish mackerel are available in all of the inshore and coastal waters of Florida at one time of the year or another. Spring and fall are top times to fish for them. Spanish mackerel are a hard fighting a great tasting species that put up a terrific fight on light tackle.

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida

The Atlantic Spanish mackerel is a migratory species that is found throughout the entire Gulf of Mexico. They also migrate as far north as Cape Cod. Spanish mackerel are a schooling fish that prefer relatively shallow water. While opportunistic feeders, their primary forage is small bait fish. This makes them prime candidates for anglers who prefer to cast artificial lures and flies in pursuit of them.

Spanish mackerel fishing tackle

The tackle used by anglers fishing for Spanish mackerel in Florida is fairly basic. The same inshore tackle used for speckled trout, snuck, redfish, and other species will do fine when chasing mackerel. A 7 foot medium light rod with a fast action paired with a 3000 series spinning reel is an excellent combination.

Inshore saltwater fishing

Anglers can opt for 10 pound monofilament or braided line, depending on preference. In this application, monofilament line is often preferred due to its stretch. Spanish mackerel hit so hard that often times the stretch and the line helps prevent the hook from pulling. Also, Spanish mackerel are most often encountered in open water where obstructions and structure are not an issue.

Rigging up for Spanish mackerel

The first thing most anglers notice when landing a Spanish mackerel is a mouthful of sharp teeth! Some type of leader is definitely required when fishing for Spanish mackerel. These teeth result in anglers making a choice when it comes to rigging; monofilament or wire leader. Spanish mackerel are most often found in clear water. The use of wire leaders in clear water will often result in fewer strikes.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Anglers may choose to use 30 pound to 40 pound fluorocarbon leader’s instead. This will certainly result in more lures and hooks being cut off. However, the trade-off will usually be more strikes. It is a compromise a decision that anglers will have to make. It does get frustrating, and expensive, when a bunch of lures are lost to these toothy critters.

Top Spanish mackerel fishing lures

Spanish mackerel are a species that are perfect for anglers who prefer fishing with artificial lures. Mackerel are very fast and often times charge into a school of bait fish with the intention of injuring them with their sharp teeth. They then go back through the wounded bait fish and pick off the stragglers and scraps.

The most productive lures for anglers Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida have two characteristics; a fast erratic action as well as some flash. Silver spoons, Gotcha lures, diamond jigs, plugs, and jigs are all top artificial lures. All of these baits imitate wounded bait fish, which is the primary forage of Spanish mackerel. The ability for these lures to be cast a reasonable distance is one more advantage.

Spanish mackerel in Florida with live bait

Live bait is most certainly very effective when Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida. Anglers can choose to drift live baits over the inshore flats as well is in the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Live bait can be cast into schools of breaking fish as well. Finally, chumming, whether with live or frozen bait, is an incredibly effective technique in both inshore and offshore waters.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

The top two live baits for Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida are live shrimp and live bait fish. The most effective live bait fish are the families of small silvery fish such as scaled sardines, Spanish sardines, and threadfin herring. Shrimp are available at local bait shops. In most instances, anglers choosing to fish with live bait fish bus catch their own.

Spanish mackerel fishing techniques

Spanish mackerel fishing can be very visual. This is one of the elements that attracts anglers to pursuing these fast and feisty game fish. Mackerel are very often seen foraging violently on the surface. When the water is calm, the churned up surface can be seen from quite a distance away. Actively diving and feeding birds are another sign that Spanish mackerel may be in the vicinity.

top 8 Sarasota fish species

When mackerel are feeding on the surface in this situation, there usually very easy to catch. Just about any shiny lure that is cast into the fray will draw a strike. Silver spoons and Gotcha lures are excellent for this as a can be cast a long distance. This is particularly true for anglers fishing without a boat. Plugs and jigs will also catch plenty of mackerel in this situation.

Anglers fishing in boats have the advantage of being able to chase down schools of feeding mackerel. Spanish mackerel do tend to stay on the surface longer than some other species such as false albacore. The best approach is to intercept the school of feeding fish, positioning the boat ahead of and upwind of the school. This is a result in an easy down when cast into the fish.

Inshore bay mackerel fishing techniques

Spanish mackerel will also invade the inshore waters of Florida as well. Inlets, passes, and flats produce a lot a fish. Mackerel are less often seen feeding on the surface in these inshore waters than they are in the open waters of the Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

Drifting is an excellent method used by anglers to locate schools of Spanish mackerel in the inshore waters. This is done both in the passes and inlets as well is on the flats. Deeper grass flats, those in 6 feet of water to 10 feet of water, and closer to the inlets and passes are often the best flats in which to locate Spanish mackerel. Inlets and passes will hold a lot of fish, particularly when bait is present.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Anglers drifting for Spanish mackerel can choose to fish with both live and artificial baits. A live shrimp or bait fish free lined out behind the boat works very well. A split shot or two can be added to get the bait down in the water column if required. A long shank hook will help reduce cutoffs. 1/0 is a good all-around size.

Artificial lures can certainly be used when drifting the grass flats as well. Spoons, plugs, and jigs all work well when fan cast out in front of a drifting boat. Spanish mackerel are attracted to fast-moving flashy lures. Therefore, and aggressive, erratic retrieve often works best. Spanish mackerel are often found in the upper part of the water column, so lures that work a few feet below the surface are often the most productive.

Mackerel fishing in Florida in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida

Many anglers Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida do so in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. These game fish are often found in large numbers in shallow water quite close to shore. This makes them excellent opportunities for shore bound anglers as well as those fishing and smaller boats. Mackerel can be caught in these waters sight fishing, drifting, structure fishing, and trolling.

Surface action is great fun!

As mentioned earlier, searching for schools of Spanish mackerel actively feeding on the surface is great sport! Anglers in boats often times cruise the coast several hundred yards off shore in search of feeding fish. On a call day, this action is easily seen as the surface of the water will be literally boiling. Diving birds will also give away the location of foraging schools of Spanish mackerel.

mackerel fishing

This is a situation that is tailor-made for anglers fishing with artificial lures. The fish are already located in actively feeding. Therefore, just about any fast-moving and flashy lore cast into the fray will draw a strike. Anglers who prefer to use live bait can certainly cast a hook baited with a shrimp or bait fish into the mix.

Drift fishing in open water

Anglers can choose to drift in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. However, it is often times less effective than it is in the inshore waters due to the area that needs to be covered. Drifting works best when done over areas of hard bottom as well as wrecks and artificial reefs. It is also productive when mackerel are not working on the surface but are known to be in a certain area.

Structure fishing for Spanish mackerel

Florida Spanish mackerel fishing

Like just about every other saltwater game fish, Spanish mackerel are attracted to structure. The primary reason for this is that structure attracts bait fish. This in turn attracts game fish species such as Spanish mackerel along with king mackerel, false albacore, and other inshore species.

Structure can take the form of artificial reefs, wrecks, hard bottom ledges, piers, bridges, and even channel markers. Wrecks, artificial reefs, and natural hard bottom ledges are the prime spots for anglers Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida in the open waters. Anglers can choose to anchor up current of the structure and chum, then drift back live and cut baits to the fish. This is the best approach on smaller pieces of structure. Trolling and drifting can also be productive, especially over larger wrecks and reefs.

Trolling for Spanish mackerel

light tackle trolling in saltwater

Trolling is an excellent technique used to catch Spanish mackerel. It is basically the act of pulling lures behind the boat in search of fish. As mentioned several times, Spanish mackerel prefer a fast-moving and flashy baits. Trolling spoons are specifically designed to be trolled at fast speeds, between 5 kn and 7 kn. This allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish. It is an excellent tactic when Spanish mackerel are not seen working on the surface or when that action is sporadic.

Techniques for trolling

Trolling requires at the lures get down in the water column. There are several different methods that can be used to accomplish this. The easiest method is to use a plug. Plugs have lips on them which will determine the depth that which the plug will dive when being pulled behind the boat. Since mackerel feet near the surface, plugs that dive down between several feet and down to 7 feet or so work best. Trolling with plugs requires no extra special gear, the plug is simply tied onto the end of the leader.

Spoons do require some type of device to get them down in the water column. Otherwise, when trolled at a fairly brisk pace they will simply rise to the surface and skip about. The two devices used to get spoons down in the water column are planers and sinkers. Both methods are a bit cumbersome and require longer leaders. However, the effort is worth it and will result in a lot a fish being caught.

Using trolling sinkers to catch Spanish mackerel

Trolling sinkers are fairly easy to use, they come in several different designs with the torpedo shaped being the most common. They also come in several weights which will allow the angler to adapt to the conditions in depth being fished. The trolling sinker is simply tied onto the end of the running line. Then, a 10 foot to 20 foot long leader is used between the trolling sinker and a spoon.

Both light conventional tackle and spinning outfits are fine when using trolling sinkers. The same inshore spinning tackle will work well when using lighter sinkers for average sized Spanish mackerel. Light conventional tackle is a better choice when using heavier weights for larger Spanish mackerel or when king mackerel are around.

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida

Deploying this rig is very easy, with the boat in gear and at idle speed the spoon is tossed out and then the trolling sinker is lowered into the water. Line is then let out behind the boat. Counting out 10 or 15 seconds is a good place to start. Rod is then put in a rod holder in the boat is driven around in search of fish.

There is no doubt when a strike occurs! The rod tip will start throbbing and a larger fish drag will be heard screaming from the reel. The fish is then played back to the boat. Once the trolling sinker reaches the rod tip, the angler can real no further. The fish must be then hand lined in the rest of the way. Plugs and other Lurs can also be used behind trolling sinkers.

Using planers to troll

A planer is a clever, though slightly complicated, device that allows anglers to get lures down in the water column. They work similar to diving plugs in that they have a flat surface that digs down into the water when pulled behind the boat. However, they have a sliding ring which allows the planer to “trip” when a fish strikes. This allows the angler to fight the fish without the drag of the planer.

Planers come in sizes. A number one planer will dive down 5 to 7 feet and a number two planer will dive down 12 to 15 feet. These are the two most commonly used planers by anglers fishing the inshore waters. While spinning tackle can be used, light conventional outfits are a better choice in most instances.

As with trolling sinkers, long leaders are required between the planer and the spoon. 20 feet is a good all-around length. Generally speaking, the longer the leader the better the action the spoon will have. Also as with trolling sinkers, once the plane reaches the rod tip, the fish will have to be hand lined in the rest of the way.

Sarasota fishing report

Deploying the planer takes a bit of practice it first. The spoon is tossed in the water as the boat is idled along. The planer is then lowered into the water with the split ring at the top. This will result in the planer digging down into the water. Line is then fed back, the real put in gear, and the rod placed in a holder. There will be a noticeable bend in the rod due to the drag of the planer. When a fish hits, the planer will trip and the rod tip will start bouncing.

Chumming for Spanish mackerel

Chumming is a very effective technique for anglers Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida. This is simply the act of throwing live or frozen bait in the water in hopes of attracting a school of fish. Chumming is a very common practice throughout the state of Florida for a wide variety of species. Chum comes in two basic forms; live or frozen.

Frozen chum is by far the easiest for anglers to use. They consist of blocks of ground up oily bait fish such as menhaden or sardines. The block of chum is then placed in a mesh bag and tied to the start of the boat. As the block thaws out, chum will be dispersed throughout the area behind the boat. Anglers can shake the bag to increase the flow of chum.

chumming with live bait

Bait fish will often times be the first species that show up in the chum slick. Hopefully, game fish will soon show up behind them. When the water is clear, Spanish mackerel and other species will be seen feeding in the chum slick. A live bait or chunk of cut bait drifted back into the chum will usually draw a strike. This method works well when anchored over structure or hard bottom as well is drifting in the open waters.

Chumming with live bait

Chumming with live bait is a bit more complicated but can be extremely effective. Anglers will be required to use a cast net and catch several hundred or more live bait fish. Once the well is fall, the boat is anchored in a likely spot. Wrecks, artificial reefs, and ledges work well for anglers fishing offshore while deeper grass flats are prime spots in the inshore bays.

Once the boat is anchored, several handfuls of live bait are tossed out behind the boat. Anglers will sometimes squeeze the bait fish, crippling them. This results in the wounded bait swimming in an erratic manner. If there are Spanish mackerel in the area, it will not take them long to home in on this buffet. A live bait fish hooked on a #1/0 long shank hook should instantly draw a strike.

Fly fishing for Spanish mackerel

Spanish mackerel are a perfect fish for fly anglers as well. The visual nature of their feeding along with their aggressive manner make them a prime target for anglers using the long rod. They are great fish for novice fly anglers looking to learn the sport.

The best outfit for anglers Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida the fly rod is an 8wt or 9wt outfit. A quality real with a good drag system will be required when larger mackerel are hooked. When fish are feeding on the surface, a floating line is the best choice. For anglers blind casting the deeper flats or when fish are feeding below the surface, an intermediate sinking line is a better choice.

Fly selection is pretty basic. Just about any bait fish pattern will produce Spanish mackerel. Clouser Minnow, D.T Special, and Crystal Minnow patterns are all proven effective flies. Some anglers use synthetic material as a feel that it will hold up better to the toothy Spanish mackerel. As the spin fishing, a fast and erratic retrieve works best.

Spanish mackerel on the dinner plate

Spanish mackerel often get a bad rap when it comes to table fare. In fact, many anglers consider them one of the best eating fish and saltwater. However, they do need to be handled carefully. Spanish mackerel are plentiful in omega three oils, which makes them a good fish to eat. Fish that are to be For dinner should be iced down immediately and eaten that they were the next. They do not keep or freeze well. Anglers can find current Florida mackerel fishing regulations on the FWC site.

Spanish mackerel can be baked, broiled, grilled, poached, or even boiled. Yes that’s right, boiled! Due to their oily nature, angler should avoid frying them. In most cases, the skin can be left on when preparing them.


Most Spanish mackerel caught by local anglers and up on the grill. Mackerel are a perfect fish for the grill as a are naturally oily and will not dry out like other species. The skin is usually left onto keep the fillets intact. The fillets are laid skin side down on a grill pan or even on the rack and season to taste. 6 to 8 minutes and a hot grill will usually get it done.


Spanish mackerel very well in baked and this is an easy preparation. The fillets are laid skin side down on a baking sheet and then covered with a tire breadcrumbs. Lemon slices can be added if desired. The fishes then baked in a hot oven, 450° works well. Depending on the thickness of the fillets, it will take 6 to 10 minutes for them to be done.


Broiled Spanish mackerel is delicious and is also a very easy way to prepare them. The fillets are laid skin side down on an oiled pan and then seasoned to taste. Salt and pepper works fine as does just about any other seasoning mix, either custom or commercially prepared. Again, 6 to 10 minutes under a hot broiler should be fine.


Poaching is another easy and simple method to prepare Spanish mackerel. One method that works very well is to heat up spaghetti sauce in a skillet and then poach Spanish mackerel fillets in the sauce. The skin is usually left onto keep the fillets from falling apart. The fish absorbs some of the tomato flavor and the tomato sauce absorbs some of the fish flavor. This can be served with a little side of pasta and is an excellent meal!

In conclusion, this article on Spanish mackerel fishing will help anglers put more fish in the boat!

Mangrove Snapper Fishing in Florida

Mangrove Snapper Fishing in Florida, a Complete Guide

Many anglers enjoy mangrove snapper fishing in Florida. Mangrove snapper are a very popular and highly desired fish species. They put up a great fight, especially on light tackle. Mangrove snapper are abundant and found throughout the entire state of Florida. Large boats and fancy equipment are not required to catch them. Finally, they are terrific eating! Many anglers consider mangrove snapper the finest eating fish and saltwater. They are also known as “gray” snapper and “mangs” for short.

Florida gray snapper

One of the keys to the popularity of mangrove snapper is their availability. Mangrove snapper are found in just about every saltwater environment along the entire coast line of the state. Snapper will be caught on the flats along mangrove shorelines, bars, and over grass flats. Structure such as bridges, docks, seawalls, artificial reefs, and natural rock ledges will also hold plenty of these tasty saltwater pan fish. Anglers can find current Florida snapper fishing Regulations on the FWC website.

Top Florida mangrove snapper baits

While mangrove snapper can be taken on artificial lures, the vast majority of fish are caught by anglers using natural bait, either live, fresh cut, or frozen. The list of baits that are effective for snapper fishing is long. Mangrove snapper have a varied diet, which is one of the keys to their success and abundance. They will feed on just about any type of crustacean or bait fish that they find.

mangrove snapper fishing in Forida

The number one bait for anglers fishing inshore is shrimp. Anglers are successful when pursuing mangrove snapper using both live or frozen shrimp. Depending on the circumstances, both can be equally effective. Live shrimp work best when fishing for snapper on the flats. A naturally swimming shrimp free lined on a hook will seldom be refused. Both live and frozen shrimp works fine when bottom fishing around structure.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

More mangrove snapper baits

Live bait fish are also a very effective bait and often times will catch larger fish. Small shiny fish such as scaled sardines, Spanish sardines, and threadfin herring work very well. Anglers often use these species to chum snapper into range as well. Small pin fish, grunts, and finger mullet will also catch plenty of fish. Larger pin fish and mullet are often too big for most mangrove snapper, which average a foot or so. However, these larger baits can be cut up into strips or chunks and are a top mangrove snapper bait.

chumming with live bait

Frozen bait is used successfully from mangrove snapper fishing in Florida as well. Top frozen baits include squid, shrimp, mullet, and any other baitfish that is common to the area being fished. Frozen Spanish sardines are the top frozen bait for anglers fishing deeper water offshore. Squid is a very effective inshore mangrove snapper bait. Many anglers find the convenience of using frozen bait to be a big advantage.

mangrove snapper fishing in Florida

Catching mangrove snapper with lures

While the vast majority of mangrove snapper are caught by anglers fishing with live or frozen bait, they will take artificial lures. Many an angler casting a shallow diving jerk baits such as a Rapala X-Rap or Yozuri Crystal Minnow for snook and redfish has been surprised by a feisty mangrove snapper which devoured the bait. Small plugs which mimic the size of the available forage such as finger mullet and scaled sardines work best.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Jigs are another lure that will fool the wary mangrove snapper. Inshore anglers do best with soft plastic baits on a light jig head. Scented baits such as the Gulp line of baits are particularly effective. Offshore anglers use heavy bucktail jigs often tipped with bait or special flutter jigs to catch snapper and deep water.

Mangrove snapper fishing in Florida, rigs and tackle

Most anglers mangrove snapper fishing in Florida use tackle that they already have. The same inshore spinning rods that are well suited for speckled trout and redfish will do fine when fishing for snapper. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium action spinning rod. With a 3000 series reel and spooled up with 10 pound monofilament or braided line works great. The same applies to offshore; medium-sized spinning tackle and light conventional tackle work well in deeper water around heavier structure.

gray snapper fishing

When it comes to terminal gear when mangrove snapper fishing in Florida, less is definitely more. This is especially true when fishing in clear water. A 2 foot fluorocarbon leader is generally used, with 20 pound test being a good place to start. A #1 live bait hook or a #2/0 circle hook will do well in most snapper fishing applications. If the bite is slow or fish are seen that won’t take, anglers will often times have to lighten up the leader and maybe drop down on the hook size.

Florida mangrove snapper rigs

There are several rigs that have proven to be very effective when bottom fishing for mangrove snapper and other species. These include a free line rig, high/low rig, Carolina rig, and knocker rig. These four rigs will cover just about every snapper fishing situation and each has its conditions where it performs well.

Mangrove snapper

Free line rig

The free line rig is the most simple and basic of all rigs. It basically consists of a hook that is tied onto the end of the leader. The hook is then baited with a live or cut bait and then cast or free lined back out behind the boat towards the structure. A split shot or two may be required if current is present to get the bait down into the strike zone. This is a very effective rig when fishing structure and flats in shallow water.

bottom fishing rigs

High/low rig

The high/low or “chicken rig” as it is known by some locals is an excellent choice when bottom fishing for mangrove snapper using a vertical presentation. The multiple hook suspend the bait at several different depths. This can help determine which depth the fish are feeding at. It works well when fishing from an anchored or drifting boat as well as from peers and bridges.

Carolina rig

The Carolina rig, also known as a sliding sinker rig, is an excellent all round choice for just about any snapper fishing application. An egg sinker is threaded onto the running line followed by a swivel. A leader is tied onto the swivel, then the hook is tied onto the other end of the leader.

fishing for snapper

The beauty of this rig is that the snapper can pick up the bait and move off a bit without feeling any resistance from the weight. Also, while the sinker sits on the bottom, the bait will swing seductively and naturally in the current. This presents a very natural presentation that fish find difficult to resist.

Knocker rig

The knocker rig is similar to the Carolina rig, with one exception. With the knocker rig, the sinker is installed on the leader just above the hook. Then, once the hook is tied onto the leader, the sinker actually rests right on the eye of the hook. This is an excellent choice when fishing rocks and other structure where hangups are common. The sinker will actually slide up the line and then back down, knocking the hook loose.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Another advantage of this rig is that the angler knows when the sinker is on the bottom, the bait is on the bottom as well. There are times when it is desired to keep the bait right on the bottom in a specific spot as opposed to with a Carolina rig, where it is allowed to swing with the current.

Mangrove snapper locations and Techniques

Mangrove snapper can be found in just about any Florida saltwater environment. Anglers will find them in a foot of water on the shallow grass flats as well as out in the open ocean or Gulf of Mexico in very deep water. Structure is the key when it comes to locating mangrove snapper. This structure takes many forms, however.

Snapper on the flats

Mangrove snapper get their name for their affinity for mangrove shorelines. This is a terrific environment which attracts just about every inshore saltwater species, including mangrove snapper. Mangrove roots offer protection and forage. The best sections of a mangrove shoreline to fish are those with slightly deeper water. Even a depth change of a foot or two can make a significant difference in an otherwise very shallow area.

Both sandbars and oyster bars will hold mangrove snapper on the flats as well. In the Florida Keys, these are called “banks” in our prime snapper fishing areas. Once again, slightly deeper water and a depth changes the key. Bars tend to be shallow on one side that drop off sharply on the other. The deeper edge of the bar is generally the spot that will hold fish.

Mangrove snapper will also school up over the open grass flats. Grass is the key to life on the flats in Florida as it holds a wide variety of forage. Mangrove snapper will often find a slightly deeper depression, also known as a pothole, to gang up in and wait in ambush.

Catching mangrove snapper on the flats

Mangrove snapper fishing in Florida is fairly straightforward. For the most part, it consists of positioning the angler, whether in a boat or from land, up current of the structure that is to be fished. Then, the bait is cast or floated back towards the structure with the current. This results in a very lifelike presentation.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

In most instances, live bait produces better than frozen bait fishing for snapper on the flats. They can tend to be spooky, especially in clear water. Live shrimp are a top bait, as are small bait fish such as pilchards, sardines, finger mullet, and silver dollar sized pinfish and grunts. However, this does not mean that mangrove snapper cannot be caught using frozen or cut bait on the flats.

Free lining the bait is an excellent option when possible. As in all fishing, the less weight required to get the bait down into the strike zone, the better. Again to stress the point that in shallow, clear water, snapper can be spooky. Lighter leaders, smaller hooks and less weight and terminal tackle will usually result in more success.

Fishing for mangrove snapper in passes and inlets

Passes and inlets are great spots to target mangrove snapper. These areas have good current flow and normally and abundance of structure. This combination results in a hot spot for mangrove snapper and other bottom species.

Sarasaota mangrove snapper fishing

Most Florida inlets and passes have residential docks which will hold snapper. These can range from being in a couple of feet of water to over 20 feet deep. Bridges are also very good man made structures that hold a lot of fish. Many inlets and passes have long rock jetties as well. These are fish magnets! Mangrove snapper are just one of the many bottom fish that will hold in the structure.

Tips for fishing passes and inlets

Boat positioning is crucial when it comes to fishing for mangrove snapper and passes and inlets. In most instances, anglers are fishing from an anchored boat. Drifting can be effective, however it often results in snagging lines. It is best to fish passes and inlets during periods of low title flow. Fishing can be very difficult and even downright dangerous when the current is running strong. This is particularly true during periods of heavy boat traffic.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

The best approach is almost always to anchor up current of the structure to be fished. This is true whether it is a bridge, or pier, dock, submerged a ledge, or a rock jetty. Anglers will need to experiment with the right amount of weight that will be required. Generally speaking, using just enough weight to hold bottom is ideal.

Several rigs can be used when snapper fishing in passes and inlets. If the water is shallow and current is slack, anglers can free line a bait. However, most often the Carolina rig or knocker rig will work best. Just about any bait can be used in the spots to catch fish. Successful anglers bring several baits and experiment to see what the snapper prefer that day.

More inshore snapper fishing spots

Anglers mangrove snapper fishing in Florida will find these tasty and hard fighting fish just about anywhere there is structure. Bridges, seawalls, artificial reefs, submerged rocky ledges, wrecks, docks and piers are some of the more popular places to find mangrove snapper inshore.

Many of the techniques used when fishing passes and inlets relate to fishing inshore structure as well. Current will dictate where on the structure the fish will locate and how the baits should be presented to them. Once again, boat positioning is crucial to success.

Mangrove snapper fishing without a boat

While boats are convenient, many anglers do quite well mangrove snapper fishing in Florida without one. There are countless places were anglers can fish from shore and do well. All that is really required as a little bit of depth in some type of structure. Jetties at inlets and passes usually offer public access to these excellent fishing spots.

Docks are excellent spots as well, as long as the angler has permission to use them. Bridges are another excellent spot to access some good mangrove snapper fishing. However, laws and restrictions vary in safety can be a concern. This is especially true when fishing at night.

Wading the grass flats is also an option when it comes to mangrove snapper fishing without a boat. The best spots are usually where there is a depth change, a pothole, or some type of structure including docks and rocks.

Mangrove snapper fishing offshore

Many anglers mangrove snapper fishing in Florida choose to do so offshore. And for good reason! While inshore snapper fishing offers good action and fun fishing, anglers seeking trophy mangrove snapper will do best to head out to the deeper water. Mangrove snapper are found in the offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico on just about every type of structure unimaginable.

Offshore bottom fishing in Sarasota


Artificial reefs and wrecks are great place for anglers without a set of bottom numbers to begin their mangrove snapper fishing. The spots to get a lot of pressure, however, as the locations are publicly posted. Anglers who go light on the gear will lose some fish to the structure but will also usually catch more fish.

Successful anglers take the time to find their own unique bottom fishing spots. Mangrove snapper relate well to smaller breaks and hard natural bottom. The spots can be a bit more difficult to locate on the bottom machine. However, once some of the spots are located, anglers can have productive snapper fishing spots for many years to come. Once a ledge or area of rocky bottom is located, anglers should search in that general area as often times more of these types of spots can be located.

Snapper movements

Mangrove snapper will also migrate closer to shore and then further offshore, depending on the season and location. If fishing is slow at a proven spot, it is best to change depth when moving to the next spot as opposed to a lateral move to a different spot in the same depth. This will more quickly determine the depth that the fish are holding at that particular day. Generally speaking, the fish move offshore when it is hot or cold and are closer to shore when water temperature is moderate

Just as when fishing inshore, boat positioning is crucial when it comes to bottom fishing offshore. It can also be a bit more complicated in deeper water as wind and tides will affect the position of the boat. Experience is a great teacher! Once again, the general rule is to position the boat up current of the spot to be fished.

Best baits for offshore snapper

While live shrimp can certainly produce for anglers mangrove snapper fishing offshore, bait fish and cut bait are more often used. Larger snapper tend to be caught on live bait fish and chunks of bait. Also, these baits tend to be hardier and stay on the hook longer. Shrimp can attract pesky bait-stealers.

Texas flounder fishing

Frozen Spanish sardines are a very popular bait for anglers bottom fishing offshore. Anglers fishing for snapper generally cut a sardine into three or four pieces. However, anglers targeting trophy fish can cut the tail off and lower down a whole sardine. Is important to thaw out frozen sardines and other frozen bait and saltwater. Thawing frozen bait in freshwater will result in the bait getting mushy.

Many anglers catch their bait on the way out to and offshore fishing spot. Live bait often produces best. Tossing a cast net in the shallows and catching several hundred scaled sardines or threadfin herring will give anglers both fishing bait and chum. Ballyhoo can be caught in a cast net as well as with very small hooks. Sibiki rigs are used around channel markers and hard bottom to catch bait fish as well.

Chumming is a productive technique when fishing for mangrove snapper

Chumming is a very productive technique used by many successful mangrove snapper anglers. It can be as simple as dicing up a few shrimp and tossing them out behind the boat to get fish in the mood to feed. Both inshore and offshore anglers use live bait as chum to excite and attract fish. Frozen chum is very popular as well.

Frozen chum is usually in the form of some type of oily fish that is ground up and frozen. It is then placed in a mesh bag and as it thaws the chum is dispersed throughout the area behind the boat. This type of chumming is most often done offshore and is extremely effective in lowering mangrove snapper and other species to the boat.

Inshore and offshore anglers anglers often chum with live bait fish. This is a bit of a specialized technique that requires a cast net, the ability to throw it, and large recirculating live well. However, the effort is often worth it as this is an exceedingly effective technique for mangrove snapper and just about every other saltwater species. Handfuls of live bait fish tossed out behind the boat, often times crippled before hand, will usually draw fish behind the boat if there in the area.

Snapper bite at night!

Fishing for snapper can be extremely effective at night as well. In fact, many experienced anglers schedule their offshore snapper fishing trips during the full moon’s in summer. This results in a very unique type of fishing trip. Along with being quite productive, anglers escape the heat and sun of the midday hours.

Anglers mangrove snapper fishing in Florida in the inshore waters have known for a long time that snapper feed at night. Lighted bridges and docks can be very productive. The same basic boat positioning, rigging, and fishing techniques that apply during the daytime will produce at night as well.

In conclusion, this article on mangrove snapper fishing in Florida will help anglers catch more of these tasty and hard fighting saltwater fish!

Flounder fishing in Florida, an Angler’s Guide

Flounder fishing in Florida, an angler’s guide

Flounder are a very popular inshore game fish. Anglers flounder fishing in Florida enjoy both the battle and some delicious fillets!

Flounder are the perfect bottom dwelling ambush predator. They are the most numerous species in the flatfish family, which includes fluke, halibut, soul, and turbot. Flounder lie on their sides in the sand, often times buried with only their eyes looking up. Any bait fish, shrimp, or other prey that comes within range can be instantly devoured.

flounder fishing in Florida

Most anglers flounder fishing in Florida will catch the southern Gulf flounder. These are easily identified by the three black spots on the back in a triangular shape. Southern golf flounder are similar to flounder found throughout the world, they just prefer the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico and southern Atlantic Ocean.

North Florida offers great flounder fishing

While southern Gulf flounder are found throughout the entire state of Florida, the northern half of the state does seem to offer better flounder fishing. This is largely due to cooler water which the flounder prefer along with ideal conditions. Title creeks and rivers in Northeast Florida are ideal flounder habitat.

Fishing for flounder

Flounder have an interesting life. They are born like most fish and swim vertically with an eye on each side of their body. As a mature, flounder start swimming on their side and the eye that was on the bottom migrates around so that both eyes are now on the top of the fish. It then spends the rest of its life swimming on its side, with both eyes looking up.

Flounder habits

While flounder do prefer to bury themselves in the sand and lion ambush, they are also structure oriented. This sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but it really isn’t. Typical structure that Florida anglers fish on a daily basis will hold flounder. These include bridges, rock jetties, docks, oyster bars, rocky ledges, and artificial reefs. The only difference is that flounder will often stage right on the outside edge of these structures were sand is available.

Texas fishing tips

Flounder are opportunistic leaders. They prefer live forage including bait fish and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. The most effective baits are live minnows and shrimp along with artificial lures that mimic this forage.

Flounder tackle and rigs

Anglers flounder fishing in Florida did not purchase any special tackle. The same light to medium action spinning tackle and light bait casting tackle that is used for other forms of inshore fishing will work fine. A 7 foot medium action spinning rod paired with a 3000 series real is a fine all round combination. Light conventional tackle is a great choice when drifting and strong currents or went fishing around heavy structure.


Many anglers choose to use braided line due to its sensitivity and zero stretch qualities. However, monofilament line is fine as well, it really just is a personal choice. With both lines, a leader is required. A 2 foot long piece of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader is a good all-around choice. The leader can be attached using a knot such as a blood knot or double Uni Knot or by simply using a number 10 black swivel. The hook or lure can then be attached to the end of the leader.

Flounder fishing rigs

Anglers flounder fishing in Florida will do well with a couple simple rigs. Flounder fishing does not need to be complicated. Flounder are caught in Florida by anglers using both live bait and artificial lures. The number one artificial lure by far is a jig as it can be worked on or close to the bottom where flounder feed.

bottom fishing rigs

Split shot rig

The simplest flounder fishing rig is the basic split shot rig. A # 1/0 live bait hook or a # 3/0 circle hook is tied onto the end of the leader. Split shot is used to get the bait down to the bottom. Obviously, this rig is best used in shallow water or in mid depths with very little current. The required weight can be easily adjusted as it is a simple matter to add or remove split shot as required.

Knocker rig

The knocker rig is a very effective rig for anglers flounder fishing in Florida. A sliding egg sinker is threaded onto the end of the leader. The hook is then tied on. The sinker will slide down and ride right on top of the eye of the hook. This looks a lot like what bass anglers call “Texas rigging” when fishing with plastic worms.

bottom fishing

This rig has several advantages. If the hook snags, the sliding weight can help dislodge the hook, knocking it off of the snag. This is how the rig gets its name. It is very quick and easy to tie into chains weight. Finally, with this rig anglers can be sure that when the weight is on the bottom the bait will be as well.

Sliding sinker/Carolina rig

The sliding sinker rig, also known as a Carolina rig, is a very popular and versatile all round bottom fishing rig. With this rig, the sinker is threaded on ahead of the swivel. The leader is then tied onto the other end of the swivel, followed by the hook. Anglers often times make this leader a bit longer than normal, up to 4 feet long.

Sarasota flounder


The beauty of this rig is that when a fish picks up the bait, it will not feel the resistance of the weight. Also, with the longer the leader the bait tends to flutter up and move around, making it more naturally appearing. Anglers will even sometimes at a small float a foot above the hook to lift the bait up.

Spreader rig or High/low rig

The spreader rig, also known as a high/low rig is most often used when fishing for other bottom fish. However, it can be effective for flounder as well. This is especially true when flounder are active and feeding a tad off the bottom.

3 Way rig

fishing for river catfish

The 3 way rig is an excellent choice for anglers drift fishing for flounder. It consists of a three-way swivel which is tied to the terminal line. A short dropper is added to the second ring of the swivel which then has the weight tied on. Anglers fishing in areas with a lot of snags often use lighter line so that if the weight does snag the rest of the rig can be saved. A 2 foot to 4 foot leader followed by the hook is tied onto the third ring of the swivel.

Flounder fishing with artificial lures

While most anglers associate flounder with live or cut bait, many a Florida flounder has fallen victim to a well presented jig. Jigs are by far the most effective artificial lore for anglers flounder fishing in Florida. The reason is quite simple; the jig can be worked right on or near the bottom, which is the strike zone in which flounder feed.

Sarasota bottom fishing

Both buck tail jigs and soft plastic grub’s on a jig head are extremely effective on flounder, and just about every other inshore saltwater species. In fact, many flounder are caught by anglers pursuing redfish, speckled trout, and other species on the flats. A white buck tail jig is incredibly effective, particularly when -tipped with a small strip of cut bait or a small piece of fresh shrimp.

Soft plastic grubs on a jig head are very effective as well. A 3 inch to 4 inch shad tail or a shrimp tail bait on a 1/4 ounce jig head is an excellent all round flounder fishing lure. Scented soft plastic baits such as the Gulp line of baits work very well, especially when the bite is a little tough.

Flounder fishing techniques

Many anglers catch flounder while fishing for other species. However anglers who specifically fish for flounder do change their tactics just a bit. The key difference is understanding how flounder relate to structure and cover. Like most fish species, flounder will generally stage on the up tide side of cover or structure.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

As stated earlier, they will generally be in that transition zone where the structure changes from a rocky bottom to a sandy one. This is true on the open grass flats as well. Flounder will most often be found in Sandy potholes as well as on bars where the grass transitions to a sandy bottom.

Bottom fishing for flounder with live and cut bait

Most flounder are landed by anglers fishing with either live or cut bait on the bottom. This is fairly simple fishing, yet very effective. Anglers working a specific piece of structure most often anchor. The best technique is to anchor up current of the structure to be fished. This allows the bait to be floated back naturally to where the fish should be holding.

As with all bottom fishing, the best approach is to use the minimum amount of weight required to reach bottom. If the bait actually moves or drifts a little bit with the current, so much the better. This just results in a more natural presentation. However, anglers do need to be wary of hanging up if the bait drifts too much.

Light tackle bottom fishing tips

The amount of weight required can vary from just a couple of split shot for anglers fishing a dock in shallow water with little current to several ounces when fishing a bridge or other deep structure in swift tides. The sliding sinker rig and knocker rig are good choices when bottom fishing for flounder in deeper water.

Anglers can also choose to drift fish for flounder. This is an extremely effective method when flounder are scattered over a large area. Generally speaking, the best areas for this type of flounder fishing are sandy flats between 5 feet deep up to 20 feet deep. Patches of grass or hard bottom will increase the odds of success. The three-way rig works best as it offers a natural presentation it allows anglers to quickly and easily change weights to match the conditions.

Flounder lures; jigs are best

Flounder fishing with artificial lures is actually fairly similar to those using live or cut baits. Most anglers pursuing flounder with lures do so while drifting as opposed to anchoring. This allows them to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. Anglers drifting deeper flats or working structure such as bridges will do well vertically fishing, bouncing the jig off the bottom as the boat drifts along.

Those flounder fishing in Florida in shallower waters will do well by casting their jigs out. Anglers can use a trolling motor to work a row of docks or a shoreline while casting the jig out to likely fish holding spots. Jigs are also effective when cast out in front of the drifting boat on the open grass flats. Depressions, pot holes, and edges of bars are prime spots.

Top flounder baits

Flounder are opportunistic feeders and can be taken on a variety of natural forage. Small bait fish or minnows are top choices. These can include finger mullet, but minnows, threadfin herring, scaled sardines, as well as small pin fish and grunts. In many cases, anglers will have to catch their own live bait fish, though there are some shops that sell them.

Live shrimp are a top natural bait for flounder and just about every other saltwater species. One benefit to live shrimp is that they are available year-round at just about every bait and tackle shop. Anglers fishing with live shrimp will have to be prepared for the myriad of other species that will intercept a shrimp meant for a flounder. However, this is not a terrible problem to have!

Cut bait can be extremely effective when flounder fish and as well, particularly off the surf and in deeper areas with a bit of current. A strip of cut bait will move seductively in the current while also emitting sent which will attract the flounder. Just about any legal fish can be cut up and used as bait. The white belly sections are often best. Frozen squid is a top flounder bait and is readily available. The best approach is to use a strip of bait 3 inches to 5 inches long and and inch or so wide that tapers to a point.

Best spots when flounder fishing in Florida

While southern Gulf flounder are found throughout the entire state of Florida, the northern half of the state does seem to offer better flounder fishing. This is largely due to cooler water which the flounder prefer along with ideal conditions. Title creeks and rivers in Northeast Florida are ideal flounder habitat. Expansive shallow water flats in both the Gulf of Mexico and inshore bays provide the perfect place for flounder to flourish.

Tidal creeks

Tidal creeks are outstanding spots to search for flounder and other species. Northeast Florida is well-known for these types of creeks and rivers. Tides are extreme in this area! However, title creeks can produce flounder throughout the state and all year long, with the exception of very warm periods.

The best time to fish for flounder in title creeks is on a high, outgoing tide. On the high tide, flounder and other game fish will move up on the flats to feed. As the tide turns to go out, fish will stage at the mouse of feeder creeks and drains and ambush prey as it washes out with the current.

Both live bait and jigs work well in this situation. Most anglers drift with the current in search of fish. Once a decent concentration of flounder is located, anglers can anchor and work the area thoroughly. It is important to be careful on these outgoing tides so that the boat is not left high and dry. Extreme tides in Northeast Florida can vary as much as 10 feet in a six-hour.


There are untold numbers of docks in the state of Florida. Docks can be found in backwater canals, passes and inlets, and on flats. Anglers can choose to anchor up current of a dock and pitch live or cut baits back to it. Another effective approach is to cast jigs or live baits while working a row of docks with the trolling motor. This method will help anglers eliminate unproductive water more quickly.


Bridges are flounder magnets! They generally have all of the ingredients required to hold fish. Often times, the water is deeper and the tides are swifter and areas were bridges are built. Abundant structure from the pilings and reinforcing rubble below offers perfect fish holding habitat.

Anglers can drift bridges while working jigs or natural baits on or near the bottom. Many anglers also prefer to anchor up current of bridge pilings and float natural baits back with the current. Both of these methods can be quite effective. Those who decide to anchor need to make sure that they are doing so legally, staying out of the main channel and knot tying up to the bridge pilings themselves.

Inlets and passes

Many flounder are caught by anglers fishing inlets and passes. Pass is just another term for an inlet that is used on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Inlets are natural fish highways that connect the open waters of the golf and the ocean with the in land bays. They are natural spots for flounder to congregate and feed.

Many inlets have rock jetties extending along the mouth of the inlet. While anglers fishing these areas will inevitably snag quite often, it is often worth the effort as these are prime fish holding locations. Fishing at periods of low current such as the turn of the tide will help reduce snags. Docks and bridges are often found in inlets and passes as well. Anglers can also drift the open pass or inlet. However, this is discouraged during periods of heavy boat traffic. Also, anglers should never try to anchor in an inlet or pass when strong currents or heavy boat traffic is present!


Many a flounder has been caught by anglers fishing the flats in Florida. Oyster bars are prime spots to catch a flounder, particularly where they drop off into slightly deeper water. Depressions in grass flats can hold flounder as well. Sand bars that drop off into grass in deeper water are prime spots, particularly on a high outgoing tide.

Anglers can do well catching flounder using live bait on the flats. However, this is a situation that is made for artificial lures. Anglers casting jigs can cover a lot of water and thoroughly work the prime spots. The best approach when using live bait is to free line a live shrimp or bait fish using a small split shot if required.

Flounder for dinner!

While flounder are fun to catch, they are prized just as much or more for their value on the dinner plate. Flounder are considered one of the best eating fish on the planet. They are a very mild fish with white flesh and are quite delicate. Most recipes go light on the spices and breading in order for the taste of the flounder to come through. Flounder can be baked, broiled, or fried. They are not the greatest candidate for grilling due to their delicate nature.

However, flounder are a bit difficult to clean. This is due to their unusual shape. The best approach when cleaning a flounder is to lay it down and make the first cut right along the backbone that goes down the center of the fish. The fillet knife is then worked along the bones from the inside working out towards the edges of the fish. Many anglers make the mistake of discarding the flounder after removing the top fillets. This is a mistake as the underside, or white side, of the flounder has plenty of meat as well. Anglers can find current Florida flounder fishing regulations on the FWC site.

In conclusion, this article on flounder fishing in Florida will help anglers catch more of these hard fighting an incredibly tasty bottom dwellers! It is a favorite species on fishing charters!

Tarpon Fishing in Florida, an Anglers Guide

Tarpon Fishing in Florida, an Anglers Guide

Many saltwater anglers consider tarpon to be the ultimate challenge. Anglers tarpon fishing in Florida relish the opportunity to sight cast to tarpon that average 75 pounds and go up as high as 200 pounds. Tarpon are available to anglers along the entire Florida coastline. However, there are some areas that are well known to produce tarpon. Also, while tackle, rigging, and techniques are similar, each area has subtle variations that anglers use to be successful.

tarpon fishing in Florida

Tarpon can not tolerate cold water. They spend their winters in the mild waters of the Florida Keys and the Caribbean. As it warms up, fish will migrate north along both coasts of Florida. On the east cost, tarpon can be found as far north as North Carolina. On the west coast, fish will be found along the entire Gulf Coast.

Tarpon fishing tackle

Many anglers opt for spinning tackle when fishing for tarpon in Florida. There are several reasons for this. Surprisingly, tarpon often feed on smaller baits such as live shrimp and crabs. These do not weigh very much and spinning tackle allows anglers to get the bait out a reasonable distance. The same principle applies to anglers casting lighter artificial lures towards rolling tarpon as well.

tarpon fishing in Florida

7 foot to 8 foot heavy spinning rods with a fast action are the best choice when fishing for tarpon in Florida. The soft tip allows for those lighter baits to be cast out, while the stout butt section gives anglers the power they need to fight a huge fish. The rod is paired with a matching real, usually and the 6000 to 8000 size. Most anglers opt for braided line in the 50 pound range as it allows for longer casts and more capacity on the spool.

Conventional tackle for tarpon

Conventional tackle can also be used as well. Anglers use conventional tackle when fishing for tarpon in Florida in a couple of different circumstances. Vertical presentations are used in passes and inlets, no casting is required as the bait or lure is lowered straight to the bottom. Conventional rods are also a good choice when fishing live or large cut baits from either an anchored or drifting boat.

Many saltwater anglers already own a conventional outfit that it will be fine for targeting tarpon. As was spinning rods, longer rods in the 7 foot to 8 foot range with a fast action work best. Reels are generally spooled up with 50 pound braided line.

Fly fishing for tarpon is extremely popular as well, particularly in the Florida Keys. The shallow, clear water and abundance of tarpon make it a prime spot to target these trophy fish. However, they are difficult to hook and land! 12Wt outfits with a floating or intermediate sink tip line work best.

Tarpon fishing techniques

There are several productive techniques for anglers tarpon fishing in Florida. These include bridge fishing, beach fishing, inlet and pass fishing, and Flats fishing. While many of the baits, lures, flies, and tackle can be used wherever tarpon are found, each type of fishing does have different techniques that are proven to be successful.

Beach tarpon fishing

Tarpon fishing can be incredibly exciting! Standing on the bow the boat with your finger on the line in the bail open while waiting for the tarpon the surface can be nerve-racking. Then, the fish surface and the crab is tossed out just ahead of the school. The line gets tight, the fish leaps up out of the water, and it is fish on! However, there can be hours and hours in between when this happens.

Sarasota fishing calendar

Beach tarpon fishing is not for everyone. It is as much fish hunting as it is fishing. Anglers get out on the beach just before first light. They sit patiently, 100 yards or so offshore. Then everybody just looks. Schools of tarpon can be seen moving through the area. They can also be seen milling or “daisy chaining”on the surface.

Once the tarpon are sighted, the guide must determine the best approach in stock the fish. Using an electric trolling motor, the boat is eased into casting range. There is a lot that goes into this. The guide must determine the direction the fish are moving in the speed at which their doing so. Also, the interval between their surfacing is a huge component.

When everything goes right, the boat will be in a position where when the fish surface the anglers can get baits in front of the fish. The optimum opportunity would be a very slow moving school that is just easing along and staying up near the surface. This will allow the guide to put the boat in the proper position, resulting in an easy cast for the angler.


Tarpon fishing hooking techniques

Tarpon bites can be surprisingly subtle, given the size of the fish. This is particularly true when casting to milling fish. Often times, the slightest tick or bump is all that will be felt. It is actually a lot like largemouth bass taking a plastic worm. The bite is easier to feel with fish that are moving as normally the line just gets tight and moves off to the side.

We don’t set the hook when of tarpon takes the bait. This is difficult for many anglers to not do. The technique when employee when a tarpon takes the bait is to keep the rod tip low and just real as fast as possible. Once a line gets tight and the fish is taking drag, the rod tip is raised.

Sarasota fishing excursion

Now comes the hard part! There is a saying, “bow to the Silver King”. When the tarpon jumps in the line is tight it will often throw the hook. So, the angler must be ready, and as soon as the fish clears the water he or she takes the rod tip and points it right at the fish. This will result in the fish jumping on a slack line. This is something that only comes with experience.

Florida beach tarpon fishing tackle

Spinning tackle is used on the majority of tarpon fishing trips when fishing the beaches. The reason for this is the need to make a cast. It is simply difficult to cast a 3 inch crab or small bait fish using heavy can conventional tackle. These spinning outfits are quite beefy, though.

7 foot to 8 foot spinning rods mass with 6000 series and larger reels are the preferred outfits. Reels need to have smooth drags, large handles, and substantial line capacity. If there are any weak spots in the tackle, tarpon will find them. These fish put an incredible strain on the line, knots, and tackle, so it all needs to be in tip top shape.

tarpon fishing in Florida

Terminal rigging varies by preference as every angler has their favorite. The first choice is whether to use braided line or monofilament line. Most anglers have now switch to braided line. Braided line can last all season and not twist up like monofilament line. It is also thinner, resulting in longer casts. However, it does not have the stretch, which can sometimes be a good thing with a tarpon on.

A leader of some sort is used when Sarasota tarpon fishing. When using monofilament line, I like to double about 6 feet of the running line using a spider hitch. Then, I attach a 30 inch piece of 80 pound fluorocarbon leader and a hook. No weight is used, with the exception of times when the crabs are really small. A pinch on weight may be required in this circumstance.

Rigging for tarpon fishing

Just like everything, hook choices vary depending on opinion. Tarpon are large, in a large hook is required. However, just like in all fishing, it is best to match the hook to the size of the bait and not the size of the fish being pursued. A #4/0 octopus live bait hook is a good all-around choice. Many anglers prefer circle hooks, in which case a #8/0 works well.

I still prefer the use of the conventional “J” hooks when tarpon fishing. I have not seen my hookup ratio chains with the use of circle hooks. Also, circle hooks are much meatier and sometimes putting one through a crab will kill it. Circle hooks are great choice when fishing larger live baits or cut bait on the bottom.

Anglers using braided line will need a longer leader, generally 6 to 8 foot. They can then attach the leader to the braided line using a double Uni knot or knot of choice. Since there is very little stretch when using braided line, the drag setting is critical. If it is a bit too tight, the line will break almost immediately.

Conventional tackle can be used for beach tarpon

Not all anglers use spinning outfits, however. Some guides in anglers prefer to anchor and put a spread of baits out behind the boat. These anglers normally choose to use conventional tackle as there really is no need to make long cast with light baits.

While it is not quite as exciting as stalking the fish, it has several advantages. Several lines can be placed out at once, some on the bottom and other suspended under floats. This obviously ups the chances for a bite. Also, the heavier tackle allows the angler to put more pressure on the fish, subduing it in a shorter amount of time. This is better for both the fish and the angler.

There are several different approaches when using this technique. Some guides in anglers just choose a spot, anchor up, and sit there all morning. Others will employee the same site fishing method mentioned above. However, they try to get way ahead of the fish and anchor. They then deploy the spread and wait for the fish to come to them.

Beach tarpon fishing baits

Anglers can use live and cut bait using this approach. Some anglers go to the trouble of catching a lot of bait. They keep some of the bait alive, but most of it will be used is chum. Then, once anchored up they put a couple live baits out and a couple chunks of the dead fresh bait on the bottom. Then, a lot of the bait is cut up in the small pieces and tossed out into the water as chum to attract the tarpon and get them in a mood to feed.

A 3 inch blue crab is undoubtedly the top tarpon bait in Sarasota. These little critters are in high demand in May and June and can cost up to five dollars a piece. However, they cast very well, and live a long time. Most importantly, tarpon love them. The hook is carefully inserted near one of the tips of the crab.

Live bait fish account for many anglers Sarasota tarpon fishing. The number one live bait fish is probably a threadfin herring. These, along with cigar minnows, pin fish, and blue runners are caught using a Sikibi rig while out on the beach searching for tarpon. Live bait fish can be either free lined or fished under a cork. Corked bait fish are a great option when the fish are not showing on the surface very well.

Most of the fish will be moving from north to south. This is especially true early in the year. After the full moon in June, more fish will be seen heading northbound. It seems as if they are heading to the mouth of Tampa Bay to feed.

Beach tarpon fishing etiquette

Tarpon fishing is very competitive. Unfortunately, there can be confrontations out there. There are some rules of etiquette that most of us follow. Some anglers don’t know these or can get caught up in the heat of the moment as it is very exciting. Here are a few rules that we all try to follow.

  1. there is a slot that the fish usually swim in, from 100 feet out from the beach to about a half a mile from the beach. Whenever possible, try not to run at high speed on plane in this area. This is especially true early in the morning. Boats running over top of the fish will put them down and they won’t show or eat.
  2. Most fish will be moving from north to south. If you see fish coming in there are no boats between you and the fish, just sit there and let the fish come to you. This usually works better than charging up on them.
  3. If another boat or boats is working a school, give them room. It is okay to stay where you are and if the fish come to you take a shot. But don’t drive in on a school that other anglers are working. The exception to this is when they waive you in.
  4. Some anglers choose to fly fish for tarpon. This is very difficult as they need to get fairly close and need the right kind of fish. Give anglers flyfishing a school a very wide berth or better yet leave them alone to work the school.
  5. Do not cast your line over top of tarpon that are moving away from you. This never works, all it does a spook the fish. If they get past you, give them time to put some distance between you and the boat. Then, idle around in front of them giving them a wide berth and set up again.
  6. Once a tarpon is hooked, try to get it out of the school as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is difficult. But, the quicker the the fish can be pulled out of the school, the better chance anglers down the beach have of hooking a fish.

Bridge Fishing for Florida Tarpon

Bridges are tarpon magnets. Strong tides create a swift current and boats anchor near the bridge and float live mullet and other live bait back behind the boat. This is actually a fairly relaxing way to fish and really does not require great skill on the part of the angler.

When a giant tarpon takes a bait, it is game on! Often times the guide will have a quick release clip from the anchor line. This will allow the boat to chase the fish, increasing the odds that it is landed. Many times the tarpon will head under the bridge and will be successful and breaking off on the heavy structure. This is just part of the game. Once the fish either escapes or is landed, the boat is idled back to the anchor ball and the process repeated.

Anglers tarpon fishing in Florida around bridges also do very well at night. Tarpon will tend to congregate in the shadow line that the lights from the bridge create. Both fly anglers and spin fisherman will be successful casting flies, live baits, and artificial lures around bridge pilings, fender systems, and in the shadow lines.

Fishing in passes and inlets

This type of fishing is not for the faint of heart! Local tarpon anglers, especially some of the guides, will be quick to let you know that you are in their way. There are a lot of boats in a small area and it can get crazy when multiple fish are hooked at once. Novice anglers will do best to sit back a bit and watch and see how the other boats interact before jumping into the fray.

Anglers use both live bait and artificial lures when tarpon fishing in inlets and passes. The top lure is a jig with a grub tail. These get down deep where tarpon are located. Current can be swift and often heavy jigs are required. Many anglers use break-away jigs where the weight comes off when a tarpon eats it. This is safer and results in more fish being landed.

Top live baits include crabs, large shrimp, and whatever bait fish is available in the area being fished. Crabs and shrimp will produce either free lined near the surface with the current as well as fished deep. Bait fish are normally fished near the bottom. Once again, the rig is set up so that the weight breaks free.

Hill Tides

There is a neat bite that happens occasionally, called “Hill tides”. These are strong afternoon outgoing tides that occur several times a month. A small purplish crab called a “pass crab” gets caught up in the strong current. Tarpon feet heavily on these crabs as they are easy prey.

The technique is fairly simple. Anglers use a debt net and scoop up a dozen crabs or two for bait. Then, either look for feeding fish or just set up a drift and free line the baits out behind the boat. When the bite is on, the fishing can be incredible. Anglers do need to be careful of the afternoon thunderstorms. This is big open water and it can get nasty quickly.  Current Florida tarpon fishing regulations can be found HERE.

Tarpon fishing on the flats

Pursuing tarpon on the flats is both challenging and rewarding. Hours of staring into empty water will be required to get a high percentage shot. Tarpon on the flats will often string out, swimming head to tail in a line. This makes a good presentation more difficult as the cast needs to be perfect.

Tarpon will move in defined paths at times. Top spots are edges of flats, channels, bridge lines, and deep shorelines. Tides will certainly influence these movements and only experience will provide this knowledge.

Top Florida tarpon fishing spots

Tarpon can be caught along the entire coast line of Florida. However, there are areas that are more productive than others. Florida will be broken down into areas and each section covered separately. While many of the tactics that are effective on tarpon will produce throughout the entire state, each region does have some subtle differences in techniques and tactics.

Tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys

When anglers think about tarpon fishing in Florida, the Florida Keys often comes to mind. This is perfect habitat for the Silver King! Flats around the shoreline of both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastline. It is a common sight to see an angler perched on the bow waiting for an opportunity while the fishing guide stands on the polling platform to put the boat into proper position.

This type of fishing is as much hunting as it is fishing. Patience is definitely required! There will be plenty of days when conditions are less than ideal and fish are difficult to spot. Also, there will be days when the fish either aren’t there or just won’t eat. These are the reasons that anglers consider it both a challenging and rewarding style of fishing. Most often fish are seen in small bunches known as pods that range from a half dozen fish to 30 or so. However, single fish will be spotted as well as huge schools at times.

Both fly anglers and spin fishing anglers achieve success when targeting tarpon on the flats in the Florida Keys. Seldom is conventional tackle used as long casts are normally required. Fly selection varies with each guide or angler having his or her favorite patterns. Anglers spin fishing generally use large hand picked shrimp or live crabs, though small bait fish can be used as well.

Tarpon fishing in the Ten Thousand Islands

The Ten Thousand Islands are a very unique place. It is similar to the Florida Keys and that there are countless square miles of shallow flats that will hold tarpon. However, the water is not nearly as clear. This is due to the flow of freshwater from the Everglades. This water is tannin stained and looks a bit like coffee or root beer. The result is that tarpon are much more difficult to see here than they are in the keys.

Fortunately for anglers, tarpon have an unusual habit; they often roll on the surface and gulp air. Tarpon are a prehistoric fish species that have an air bladder. This is a result of juvenile fished often times growing and stagnant backwater areas that are devoid of proper oxygen content. When the surface is calm, rolling tarpon are very easy to spot from a long distance.

Once fish are spotted, the lure, bait, or fly is cast out in front of the fish in hopes of a strike. Artificial lures and flies are allowed to sink a moment or two, then are retrieved back using twitches with a pause in between. Live baits are allowed to swim naturally. Most often the fish will be found as single fish loosely grouped in an area.

Larger schools of tarpon will be found out and slightly deeper water off of the outside barrier islands. Anglers fish for them using the beach tactics just as they do throughout the state.

Tarpon fishing Florida’s west coast

Tarpon show up off the west coast beaches in early to mid May. They normally stick around until late July. In the early part of the season, they are usually bunched up in larger schools. This is particularly true as we come up on the full moon. Tarpon school up on the moon and then move offshore to spawn.

By early July these larger schools have broken up. The fish also don’t surface quite as well and there will be a lot of singles and doubles seen. However, these late-season fish bite better than do the early-season larger schools. I suppose it is because they have completed their spawning run and are more focused on feeding.

Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande

Boca Grande is world famous for it’s tarpon fishing. Tarpon school up in huge numbers in the deep holes in Gasparilla Pass. They do so in preparation for spawning, which they do offshore on the full moon. Anglers fish near the bottom using a vertical presentation. Night fishing on outgoing tides offers great fishing with less pressure and cooler temperatures.

Afternoon outgoing tides can be strong. These are known as “Hill Tides” and the action can be fantastic as pass crabs caught in the current flow are helpless prey for the feeding tarpon. Anglers need to heed safety concerns including the strong current and afternoon thunderstorms.

Tampa Bay tarpon fishing

Speaking of Tampa Bay, an interesting fishery has developed over the last few years. Huge schools of tarpon seem to be congregating there at the mouth of Tampa Bay just off of Bean Point. Locals call this “Boca Grande North”in deference to the famous spot about 50 miles south of Sarasota well-known for its tarpon fishing. The fishing is very similar as fish school up in the deep hole, spread out along the beach, and feed on afternoon “Hill tides”.

Homasassa tarpon fishing

Homasassa is a place for fly anglers seeking a record tarpon or fish of a lifetime to try their hand. Be forewarned, these fish are tough! Days may go by without even a decent opportunity. However, those anglers who persist may be rewarded with a trophy fish.

Several factors contribute to this challenging fishing. It is a very large area for one thing. This simply makes finding them more difficult. Tarpon in this area seldom roll, similar to Keys tarpon. The water is clear, but much of the bottom id grass or dark. This makes spotting fish more difficult. Finally, west winds will cause a chop, further making spotting fish tough.

East Coast tarpon fishing

Tarpon migrate north along the east coast of Florida, starting in spring. These are fish that spend winter in the Florida Keys and points south. Typical beach, inlet, and bridge fishing techniques are used successfully. Tarpon will stage in inlets, but not as prominently as on the west coast.

In north Florida near Jacksonville, tarpon are caught by anglers using shrimp by-catch to chum up fish and also used as bait. This is a bit less exciting than sight fishing, but it is a very effective technique.

In conclusion, anglers tarpon fishing in Florida will find this article helpful in catching a silver king!




Best Sarasota Fishing Guide for 2020

Best Sarasota fishing guide in 2020

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

Sarasota fishing guide

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.

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

Sarasota fishing charter options

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

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

jack crevalle fishing

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

Sarasota fishing guide

Sarasota inshore bay fishing trip

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

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

Sarasota fishing charters

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

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

Sarasota fishing guide

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

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

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

Sarasota fishing calendar

Snook fishing in Sarasota

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

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

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

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

Sarasota fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

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

Sarasota fishing videos

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

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

Sarasota inshore artificial reefs

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

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

Sarasota fishing reefs

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

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

Sarasota fishing guide

Sarasota offshore fishing

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

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

Light tackle trolling in Saltwater

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

Sarasota river fishing charters

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

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

fishing for snook

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

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

Sarasota fishing excursions, fly fishing

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

Sarasota fishing guide

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

Fishing Charters in Sarasota during the summer

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

trolling for mackerel

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

Artificial Lures

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

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

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

Jigs are productive on Sarasota summer fishing charters

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

best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

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

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

More effective lures

fishing on Siesta Key

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

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

Catching Bait on Sarasota summertime fishing charters

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

chumming with live bait

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

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

Sarasota fishing, Chumming Them Up

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

Sarasota fishing

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

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

Summer snook fishing

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

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

Lido Key fishing charters

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

Snook fishing on Sarasota beaches

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

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

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

Sarasota Family Fishing Charters

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

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

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

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

Sarasota fishing charters, action and variety!

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

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

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

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

Charter fishing Sarasota; techniques

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

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

Trolling is a productive fishing technique

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

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

Sarasota family fishing charters, live bait tactics

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

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

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

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

Siesta Key fishing charters

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

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

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

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

Bottom fishing on Sarasota family fishing charters

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

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

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

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

Chumming with live bait

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

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

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

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

Inshore Gulf of Mexico

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

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

Fishing the artificial reefs

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

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

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236














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 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 Gulf 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 lure 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.


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.