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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
October 20 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.