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.

Fishing report for Sarasota, April 4

Like most guides in Florida, most of my clients had to cancel their vacations. However, I did get out a couple of times this week with local “regulars”. Bill, Doc, and John fished with me on Monday. WE decided to do something different and fish the bars and mangrove shorelines between Stickney Pt and Blackburn Pt. The bite was steady with the fellas catching most of the fish on #8 Rapala X-Raps. Doc had the hot hand, catching a half dozen snook, some nice speckled trout, and a redfish to complete the “slam”. He also caught 3 keeper mangrove snapper, with one really nice 15″ fish. Bill lost a big red that ran under a dock. Jacks and ladyfish were also caught. Later in the week I fished the Manatee River.  It was after the front and the bite was pretty slow. We caught a few small snook and snapper on plugs.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing report March 28

As with most Florida fishing guides, I was booked solid but had cancellations due to the health emergency.  I still got out three times this week. Early on, I had a fly/spin trip.  There was no wind and we headed out in the Gulf just off the Siesta Key beaches. Rapala X-Raps produced Spanish mackerel for the spin angler while the fly anglers scored using Clouser patterns.  After a bit we went back inside and caught ladyfish and trout on Gulp baits, the bite was slow for the fly guys.  Another inshore trip produced speckled and silver trout, ladyfish, and other species on jigs.  Bottom fishing produced a ton of action on snapper, grouper, sea bass, and sheepshead.  It looks like the run of sheepshead is winding down.  I ran a trip to the Myakka River as well.  It was a bit slow as the water temperature was in the upper 70’s.  However, we landed a nice snook on a white #10 Rapala.

Sarasota fishing report

March 21 fishing report for Sarasota

Fishing was very good this week for anglers going out on Sarasota fishing charters with Capt Jim Klopfer. The best bite was on the deep grass flats. Clients casting Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits and Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head landed a variety of species.  Speckled trout and ladyfish were plentiful with Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, grouper, jacks, sea bass, small sharks, and catfish also being landed. Middlegrounds, Radio Tower, Bishop’s Pt and Stephen’s Pt were the top spots. Sheepshead are still around docks and structure in the passes.  Bottom fishing with shrimp produced some nice sheepies along with tripletail, sea bass, grouper, and snapper. Rapala X-Raps worked along a mangrove shoreline produced a few small snook one morning.

Sarasota fishing report

March 14 Sarasota fishing report

Fishing was very good this week! Anglers on Sarasota fishing charters experienced good action and variety on a multitude of species. Big Pass was hot for several days. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and a lot of ladyfish hit Bass Assassin and Silly Willy jigs on the bar and in the channel. Sheepshead took shrimp fished on the bottom. The wind eased up, allowing us to fish the deep grass flats. Gulp Shrimp on a 1/4 ounce jig head produced speckled trout, pompano, jacks, mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish. I finished up the week with a fly trip, where anglers caught trout anfd ladyfish inside, and Spanish mackerel out on the Fisher reef casting Clouser Minnow flies.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing Report for March 7

Wind was a factor that clients on Sarasota fishing charters had to deal with this week. Strong breezes out of the south limited area that we were able to fish. Big Pass was fairly protected and provided good action. Bottom fishing with shrimp produced sheepshead, snapper, grouper, sea bass, and pompano. Drifting with jigs fooled pompano and ladyfish. I had two river trips, which is another option for experienced anglers to deal with the wind. Rapala plugs, Gulp Jerk Shad, and chartreuse/white Clouser Minnow flies produced snook to 32″, big jacks, snapper, bass, and gar.

Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota Fishing Report, 2/29

Weather was certainly an issue for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week. Early in the week, action was very good both on the deep grass flats and in the passes. The cooler weather seemed to help the sheepshead bite fire up. Decent numbers of these feisty bottom dwellers were caught by anglers fishing shrimp on the bottom. A few pompano were landed as well. Speckled trout were numerous on the deeper grass flats at the Middlegrounds, Stephen’s Pt and Bishop’s Pt, hitting Bass Assassin and Gulp baits on a jig head. A severe front moved through Wednesday, bringing strong winds. I finished up the week with a fly angler in the Manatee River, who caught a few small snook.

Sarasota fishing report

February 22 fishing report for Sarasota

The best action for clients on Sarasota fishing charters this week was on the deep grass flats. Speckled trout were numerous, hitting jigs and live shrimp. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, pompano, ladyfish, small sharks, big sailcats, and other species were also landed. The flats from New Pass north were best as the water cleared up the further from the passes we got. Sheepshead fishing in the passes was hit or miss.  We had a couple good days and a slow day as well.  There are a LOT of smaller snapper, sea bass, and pinfish which makes getting a shrimp to the sheepshead difficult.  Perhaps the cooler weather will help as the water temperature was a bit too high for mid February.  Anglers drifting with jigs in Big Pass caught a few pompano, mackerel, and ladyfish as well.

Sarasota fishing report

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.

Fishing Articles

Fishing Articles from Capt Jim Klopfer

This post is the list of fishing articles written by Capt Jim Klopfer. These articles will be broken down into several categories. These include Sarasota fishing articles, Florida fishing articles, freshwater fishing articles, and miscellaneous fishing articles. Simply click on the article title to read the article.

fishing articles

Saltwater fishing articles

Inshore Saltwater Fishing, a Complete Guide

Best 7 Fishing Lures for Redfish

Top 9 speckled trout fishing lures

Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures

Jack Crevalle Fishing, a Complete Guide

Light Tackle Bottom Fishing Tips

How to Catch Saltwater Fish with Jigs

Spotted Sea Trout Fishing, Tips to Succeed

Spanish Mackerel and False Albacore Fishing Tips

Fishing for Redfish and Speckled Trout

Fishing for Bluefish, Tips and Techniques

Top 15 Sheepshead Fishing Tips

Best 6 Saltwater Fishing Lures

Fly Fishing for Jack Crevalle

Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures

Florida fishing articles

Fishing for Snook, a Complete Guide

Florida Inshore Fishing Tips

Florida Offshore Fishing Tips

Florida Pompano Fishing

Florida Bluefish

Freshwater Fly Fishing in Florida

Fly Fishing in Florida, Gulf Coast Tips

Tarpon Fishing in Florida, an Anglers Guide

Light Tackle Trolling in Saltwater

Jacksonville Florida Fishing Tips

Best Snook Fishing Tackle and Lures

Florida King Mackerel Fishing, Tips and Techniques

Top 21 Florida Saltwater Game Fish

Fishing for Florida Panfish and Crappie

Top 25 Florida Game Fish

Florida Saltwater Fishing in Winter

Fishing for Ladyfish in Florida

Freshwater fishing articles

Best 9 fishing lures for bluegill and panfish

How to Catch Catfish, a Comprehensive Guide

Walleye Fishing, a Beginners Guide

Fishing for River Catfish, Tips and Techniques

Smallmouth Bass Fishing for Beginners

Best 7 River Smallmouth Fishing Lures

Fishing Franklin North Carolina

Top 27 Freshwater Game Fish Species

Minnesota Walleye and Pike Fishing

Manitoba and Alberta Fishing Tips

Women Bass Fishing, Tournament Tips

Fishing Texas Lakes and Rivers

River Fishing Tips and Techniques

Fishing the North Shore of Minnesota

Sarasota fishing articles

Fishing Sarasota Bay, Pro Tips!

Fishing Siesta Key

Sarasota Fishing Calendar

Sarasota Bottom Fishing

Best 11 Sarasota Fishing Reefs

Sarasota Offshore Fishing

Sarasota Redfish

Sarasota Chumming Techniques

River Snook Fishing Charters

Sarasota Bass Fishing

Sarasota Snook Fishing

Sarasota False Albacore

Sarasota Fishing Forecast

Sarasota Crappie Fishing

Sarasota Sheepshead Fishing

Sarasota Mangrove Snapper Fishing

Sarasota Speckled Trout Fishing

Longboat Key Fishing Charters

Sarasota Freshwater Fishing

Best 6 Sarasota Fishing Lures

Fly Fishing Sarasota Rivers

Best Sarasota Fishing Charter

35 Best Sarasota Fishing Spots

Sarasota Jig Fishing

Sarasota Trolling Techniques

Siesta Key Snook Fishing

Best 7 Lido Key Fishing Spots

17 Best Bradenton Fishing Spots

Fishing Charters in Sarasota

Miscellaneous Fishing Articles

Top 12 Texas Game Fish

Striped Bass Fishing Tips and Spots

A Guide to Kayak Fishing for Beginners

Best 7 Fishing Lures for Redfish

Best 7 Fishing Lures for Redfish

In this article, Capt Jim shares his Best 7 fishing lures for redfish. Redfish, or red drum, are a very popular inshore game fish from Texas to the mid Atlantic. There are many different redfish fishing lures on the market. Shopping for them can be intimidating. However, there are really only a handful of baits that anglers will need in their tackle boxes to catch redfish.

Best 6 fishing lures for redfish

The best 7 redfish lures are: gold Johnson spoon, Bass Assassin Sea Shad, Rapala X-Rap, Redfish Magic spinnerbait, Gulp baits, Rapala Skitterwalk, and the DOA Deadly Combo. These seven artificial lures will catch redfish in any fishing situation.

Best fishing tackle for redfish

Most anglers opt for spinning tackle when casting artificial lures for redfish. Spinning tackle is versatile, affordable, and effective. Lighter lures are much easier to cast with spinning tackle as well. The same inshore saltwater tackle that is used for speckled trout and other species will be fine for redfish, too. A 7 foot medium action rod matched with a 3000 series real and spooled up with 10 to 15 pound monofilament line or 20 pound braided line is a great all round combo.

fishing for redfish

However, conventional casting tackle certainly has its place when fishing for redfish as well. This is particularly true in the upper Gulf Coast where the largest redfish in the country are caught. These bull reds will put even stout conventional tackle to the test. Also, in most instances, anglers are casting fairly heavy lures in search of these larger fish. A medium action conventional outfit spooled up with 20 pound line works very well.

Most saltwater anglers already own a suitable rod and reel combination. However, for those that don’t, the links below will allow anglers to shop. Capt. Jim likes the conflict spinning combination in the Lew’s conventional outfit.

“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon”

Redfish habitat and lure selection

Redfish are often found in a wide variety of habitats. Many anglers picture fishing for them in very shallow water. This type of fishing in skinny water is both challenging and rewarding. Redfish are also found under docks and around structure. Inlets and passes will also hold redfish at certain times of the year. Reds can even be found schooling in the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

fishing for bull redfish

Many of the redfish lures are tailored to catch them in shallow water. They are designed with a single hook that rides up, reducing snags. Other lures, particularly jigs, will fool redfish in deeper water. It is important when choosing a lure to pick one that suits the water in which anglers will be pursuing redfish. Depth, cover, structure, and current are just a few of the factors that will affect lure choice.

1) Gold Johnson Silver Minnow

It would be hard to argue against the venerable gold Johnson Silver minnow spoon as the top redfish artificial lure of all time. To this day, gold weedless spoons produce many redfish. They are terrific search baits. Spoons can be cast a long distance. This allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish.

redfish lures

Like many productive saltwater fishing lures, the Johnson Silver minnow spoon started out as a largemouth bass lure. While it does come in silver and other finishes, gold is the more productive color for redfish. The spoon is relatively weedless as it rides hook up and also has a weed guard. Spoons have an enticing wiggle and put out a lot a flash and vibration. They can be fished in water as shallow as a foot deep effectively.

The technique when fishing with weedless spoons is fairly simple. Anglers make a long cast and reel the spoon back in using a slow, steady retrieve. It is extremely effective when used overlarge expansive shallow grass flats. The Johnson Silver Minnow can also be used along oyster bars and shorelines. The 1/2 ounce size is most popular.

2) Bass Assassin Sea Shad

Second on the list of Capt. Jim’s best seven fishing lures for redfish is the 4 inch Bass Assassin Sea Shad soft plastic swim bait. These types of lures have been around for a long time. They are still very effective for catching a wide variety of fish species, and redfish are no exception.

redfish lures

These soft plastic swim baits are simple, economical, and very effective. The bait is 4 inches long and has a shad style tail which produces a lot a vibration and a natural swimming action. Bass Assassin offers a myriad of color options for anglers to choose from. Lighter colors work well in clear water while darker colors perform best in stained water. Hot pink and chartreuse work best when the water is muddy.

Anglers have several choices when it comes to reading these baits. Most often, a jig head is used. The jig head provides both weight and hook. The lure rides with the hookup, making it relatively weedless. However, the jig had will pick up grass. Special shallow water jig heads have a tapered head which helps reduce this. Anglers can also rig this bait on a weighted swim bait hook.

fishing for edfish and speckled trout

One of the keys to this baits effectiveness is its versatility. The bait can be rigged on a very light jig head and fish and extremely shallow water. Anglers will swim it over the grass than allow it to sink down into potholes. It can also be bounced down the edges of oyster bars. When used with a heavier jig head, this lore can be used when redfish are found in deeper water such as and inlets and passes.

3) Rapala X-Rap

Number three on the list of best redfish lures that Capt. Jim likes is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. This is a shallow diving jerk bait that is very effective on redfish as well as other species. The bait floats at rest that dives down several feet upon retrieve. The best retrieve is usually an erratic one with a pause in between. The bait has a lot of flash and vibration.

redfish fishing lures

X-Raps are available in several sizes and multiple colors. In the waters of Sarasota were Capt. Jim fishes, the #* X-Rap is often the best choice. It realistically mimics the smaller forage such as finger mullet, glass minnows, and sardines that are available. Olive is a great all round color with white being his second choice. Gold works great in rivers and tannin stained waters.

As in all fishing applications, anglers should match the size and color of the bait to the locally available forage. If redfish are feeding on larger pogies, pin fish, mullet, and grunts, stepping up to the #10 X-Rap is probably a good decision. Again, lighter colors in clear water and darker colors in dark water is a good rule of thumb.

best fishing lures for redfish

4) Redfish Magic Spinnerbait

The strike King Redfish Magic spinner bait is number four on Capt. Jim’s list of the best seven fishing lures for redfish. Once again, this is basically a converted largemouth bass fishing lure. Spinner baits are really a combination of two very effective baits; a jig and a spinner. The lure has a wire frame with a jig and grub combination at the bottom and a flashing spinner blade at the top.

beginners kayak fishing

Like the spoon, this is an excellent search bait that allows anglers to cover a lot of water. The best approach is usually to cast it out, allow it to sink a second or two, then reel it back in using a slow, steady retrieve. This bait puts out a ton of vibration and is an excellent choice when the water is murky. It is also an excellent lure for novice anglers to use as it has a lot of built in action.

This bait really shines in conditions of limited visibility regarding water clarity. The Redfish Magic spinner bait puts out a lot a vibration and flash. This will help fish locate the bait when visibility is poor. The swim bait tail can be easily replaced when anglers want to make a change in color. Gold is the preferred blade finish.

5) Gulp! Baits

The Gulp! line of baits made by Berkeley work extremely well for anglers fishing for redfish. Soft plastic baits have been scented for many years. However, these are a whole step above that. The lure is actually manufactured from scented material. On days when the bite is tough, this added advantage of the scent can make a huge difference.

Texas redfish

The two Gulp! baits that Capt. Jim likes to use are the 3 inch Gulp! Shrimp in the 5 inch Gulp! Jerk Shad. Both will fool redfish as well as just about every other saltwater species. The Gulp! Shrimp works best on a jig head and water depth from 2 feet and deeper. The jig had is matched to the depth and current. White with a chartreuse tail and new penny are his favorite colors.

The Gulp! 5 inch Jerk Shad is a tremendous bait in shallow water. It can be rigged with a very light jig head. However, it really shines when rigged up weedless on a light swim bait hook. These are specially designed hooks that have a weight near the bend of the hook. This allows for the lure to be presented and a horizontal manner. This rig can be worked through the shallowest of grass effectively without hanging up.

6) Rapala Skitterwalk

The Rapala Skitterwalk is six on Capt. Jim’s list of the best seven fishing lures for redfish. Redfish have an inferior mouth. This means that the nose of the fish protrudes forward with the mouth being behind and underneath. However this does not prohibit redfish from taking a top water plug!

fishing with lures for redfish

Since redfish are often times found in very shallow water, top water baits are often a logical choice to use. These baits will ride over top of submerge grass and not get hung up. They will also call fish up to the surface. The Skitterwalk is a “walk the dog bait”. This means that it does not have a lot of built in action, the angler must provide.

The lure is cast out and allowed to set motionless for several moments. With the rod tip held low near the surface of the water, the bait is retrieved back in while the rod tip is twitched. When the proper rhythm is found, the lure will dance seductively from left to right on the surface. It is important to wait until the weight of the fishes fell before setting the hook. Otherwise, most fish will be missed and the plug will come flying back to the boat.

7) D.O.A. Deadly Combo

Last, but certainly not least, on the list of top redfish lures is the DOA deadly combo. This is really a system that consists of a noisy cork, a short leader, and then and artificial shrimp. This is a very productive bait, particularly in stained or muddy water. It is also a great choice for novice anglers as it is fairly easy to use.

best redfish lures

The idea of the bait is fairly simple. The noisy float is twitched sharply, causing it to pop and rattle. This simulates feeding fish. This will attract game fish in the area to the sound of the cork. Once there, they will see the shrimp dangling underneath and devour it. It really does work quite well! It really is just and artificial lore version of the venerable popping cork and live shrimp combination, which has been catching fish for many decades.

This is a great lure choice for children. The more they jerk and clack and make noise, often times the better it works. The bite is also visual as when a fish takes the court just disappears. For these reasons, this makes the DOA deadly combo a good lower for both kids and novice anglers. It will catch plenty of speckled trout as well.

In conclusion, this article on the best 7 fishing lures for redfish will help simplify the lures and techniques for catching reds!




Top 9 Speckled trout fishing lures

Top 9 Speckled Trout Fishing Lures

This post will list the Capt. Jim Klopfer’s top 9 speckled trout fishing lures. Speckled trout, or spotted sea trout, are arguably the most popular inshore saltwater game fish species. They are widely distributed, being in coastal waters from Texas to the mid Atlantic. Speckled trout are an aggressive fish that will readily hit artificial lures.

Sarasota speckled trout fishing

The top nine speckled trout fishing lures are the Bass Assassin Sea Shad, Gulp Shrimp, Rapala X-Rap, MirrOlure MirrOdine, Johnson Sprite spoon, 52M series MirrOlure, Gulp Jerk Shad, Rapala Skitterprop, and the Clouser Minnow fly. This selection of artificial baits will cover most speckled trout fishing applications.

Speckled trout fishing tackle

Both spinning and conventional tackle can be used for anglers speckled trout fishing. However, most opt for spinning tackle. Lighter lures are easier to cast and spinning tackle in general is more versatile. Anglers can click on the link below to purchase a good outfit for those in the market for new equipment.

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1) Bass Assassin 4″ Sea Shad Baits

There is no doubt that the number one speckled trout fishing lure is the jig and grub combo. This is a simple yet extremely effective artificial bait for a wide variety of species. It consists of a lead head jig with some type of soft plastic grub body. Jig head weight is determined by the depth of water being fished. One quarter ounce is a good all-around size.

top 8 Sarasota fish species

Grub bodies come in a myriad of shapes, colors, and styles. Most imitate either a bait fish or a crustacean. Most strikes are elicited as the lure is falling. The vibration and action of the tail simulate a wounded bait fish, shrimp, or crab. One great feature of the jig and grub combo is that the plastic tail can be quickly and easily changed. This is very convenient and allows anglers to adapt to ever-changing fishing conditions.

Capt. Jim’s favorite soft plastic bait is the Bass Assassin Sea Shad. He primarily uses the 4 inch size. These baits are available in many different color patterns. The Shad style tail gives it an excellent swimming action and good vibration. It is a fairly easy lore for even novice anglers to use to catch fish. Glow/chartreuse, New Penny, and Red/Gold Shiner are his favorite colors.

2) 3″ Gulp Shrimp

The Gulp line of baits have revolutionized fishing with soft plastic lures. They really do bridge the gap between live and artificial baits. Soft plastic lures have been scented for decades. However, the gulp baits are different. The lure bodies are actually made from the scented material as opposed to the said just being added.

Best Speckled trout fishing lures

Capt. Jim’s favorite Gulp bait is the 3 inch Gulp Shrimp in the white/chartreuse color pattern. This lure stands out very well against dark grassy bottom. It is almost always fished on a jig head, similar to other soft plastic baits.

Sarasota anglers

One very effective way to fish the Gulp Shrimp is to rig it under a noisy popping cork. These floats are very popular in areas where the water is a little bit murkier. These corks make a lot of noise and rattle when twitched sharply. This attracts fish from a long distance. The gulp shrimp is rigged on a 1/8 ounce jig head 2 feet to 3 feet under the float.

3) #8 Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait

Number three on Capt. Jim’s list of top speckled trout fishing lures in the #8 Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. These lures are about 3 1/2 inches long and closely mimic in size and shape the bait fish that speckled trout feed on. These include sardines, finger mullet, pin fish and grunts, and glass minnows. Olive and ghost (white) are his favorite color patterns.

plug fishing Sarasota

This bait floats at rest that dives down to to 3 feet upon retrieve. This makes it an excellent choice when speckled trout are feeding on bait fish in fairly shallow water. This can be both oyster bars and shallow grass flats. On high tide stages schools of bait fish can often be seen peppered up on the surface. This is a prime situation to cast the X-Rap out in search of a large speckled trout.

The X-Rap is also a fantastic bait to use when trolling. This is an excellent technique to use when speckled trout are scattered over a large area. Simply idling along with the bait out 100 feet behind the boat will produce speckled trout and other species. Once fish are located, anglers can work the area more thoroughly.

4) Mirrolure Mirrodine

The MirrOlure Mirrodine is a very simple looking lure. However, it is extremely effective for speckled trout and other species. This is a suspending bait. That means that after being cast out it will slowly sink down in the water column. When the bait reaches the desired depth, it is worked with a twitch and pause retrieve. The bait will suspend motionless in the strike zone. Speckled trout fineness irresistible and will strike with abandon!

fishing charters Siesta Key

This bait closely imitates a scaled sardine, thus the name. However, it is also similar in profile to pin fish, grunts, threadfin herring, and other bait fish. Capt. Jim prefers the 17MR-18 Mirrodine, which is silver with and olive back. This lure works terrific whence speckled trout are found in water between 3 feet deep and 5 feet deep.

5) Gold Johnson Sprite Spoon

The gold Johnson Sprite spoon is number five on Capt. Jim’s list of top speckled trout fishing lures. Spoons have been around a long time and continue to catch fish to this day. The Sprite spoon is an open water spoon. The primary difference is that it comes with one trouble hook as opposed to a single hook with a weed guard.

Spoons are very effective artificial lures for a variety of reasons. They can be cast a long way which allows anglers to cover a lot of water. Spoons are used to cover the entire water column. They have excellent flash and vibration as well. Finally, they are very easy lures for novice and inexperienced anglers to use. The spoon is available in silver as well. However Capt. Jim prefers gold for speckled trout fishing.

Top saltwater species in Florida

The bait is simply cast out, allowed to sink several seconds, then worked back in using an erratic retrieve. The entire water column can be fished by varying the time with which the lure is allowed to sink. The spoons can also be trolled effectively. Anglers should always use a swivel or snap swivel when fishing with a spoon to reduce line twist.

6) MirrOlure 52m series plugs

The 52M series MirrOlure has been a productive speckled trout fishing lure for a very long time. It is similar to the MirroDine and that it is a suspending bait. However, it has a larger profile and is designed more to imitate pin fish, grunts, and larger forage. This is an excellent bait for fishing the open grass flats and 4 feet of water to 8 feet of water.

Top Florida saltwater game fish

Capt. Jim prefers the 19 color pattern. This pattern has a green back and gold sides. It is an excellent combination for speckled trout fishing in a variety of watercolor conditions. If the water is very stained, anglers can switch to the CH or chartreuse color pattern which will stand out better in the dirty water.

This bait is fairly easy to use. It can be easily cast a long distance. The lure is allowed to sink a few seconds then worked back in with a hard twitch and a significant pause in between. Most strikes will occur as the bait pauses and sits there motionless. This mimics a wounded bait fish and will draw strikes from game fish.

7) 5″ Gulp Jerk Shad

The 5 inch jerk Shad is next on the list of Capt. Jim’s favorite speckled trout fishing lures. There are times when speckled trout want a larger soft plastic bait, and this one fills the bill. Like other gulp products, it has the advantage of being scented. Capt. Jim likes white, but just about any color will catch speckled trout when properly presented.

Spotted sea trout fishing

The jerk Shad is a versatile artificial bait. It can be rigged weedless on an unweighted swim bait hook and work extremely shallow through grass and over oyster bars. It can be used on a weighted swim bait hook as well. Anglers can then swim the lure slowly through fairly shallow grass. Finally, it can be rigged on a 1/4 ounce jig head and fished over deeper grass or in deeper channels.

8) Rapala Skitterprop

The list of top speckled trout fishing lures would not be complete without a surfaced plug. Speckled trout are known for their affinity to attack a top water bait. This is especially true early and late in the day in shallow water. Some of the largest speckled trout taken have fallen prey to this angling technique.

There are many fine top water plugs available. Capt. Jim prefers the Rapala Skitterprop for a couple of reasons. This bait has a propeller on the rear. When twitched, it puts out just the right amount of splash and noise. These baits have more built in action then do the classic “walk the dog”style baits. This makes them easier to use for novice anglers, which is important for a fishing charter boat captain.

There are couple tips which will help anglers be more successful when fishing this bait. Many anglers fish top water plugs to quickly. With the bait such as the Skitterprop, it is important to let it set few moments between twitches. Also, it is very important to wait until the weight of the fish is felt before setting the hook. Understandably, many anglers get excited when they see a fish blowup on the plug and jerk it out of the mouth of the fish.

9) Clouser Deep Minnow fly

The last bait on Capt. Jim’s list of favorite speckled trout fishing lures is actually a fly: the clouds or deep minnow. Fly fishing for speckled trout is both enjoyable and productive. The clouds or minnow closely resembles small bait fish that are found on the flats were speckled trout feed.

fly fishing in Florida

This fly consists of a hook, weighted eyes, and some type of dressing. The dressing can be synthetic care or bucktail. If this kind of sounds familiar, it is. In reality, it is just a version of a buck tail jig. It fall slowly through the water column that is retrieved back in using quick strips with a pause in between. It is most effective when used in water 6 feet deep or shallower.

In conclusion, this post on the top nine speckled trout fishing lures will help anglers catch more of these popular and beautiful inshore saltwater species!

Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures

Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures

This post will list Capt Jim’s Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures. Capt Jim has been running Sarasota fishing charters since 1991. He loves chasing Spanish mackerel and considers them an underrated game fish. They fight hard, attack lures and flies with reckless abandon, are beautiful, and are excellent table fare when prepared fresh. Spanish mackerel are found all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida

Capt Jim’s best 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures are the #8 Rapala X-Rap, Crocodile casting spoon, Clark trolling spoon, Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits, Gotcha lures, and Diamond jigs. Spanish mackerel are aggressive feeders. They feed in clear water and use their razor sharp teeth to kill or wound prey. Then, they come back through and clean up the scraps. This makes flashy, fast moving lures the best choice when pursuing Spanish mackerel. Anglers can read more about Spanish mackerel fishing in this link.

Spanish mackerel fishing tackle

The best choice for most anglers fishing for Spanish mackerel is a 61/2 foot to 7 foot spinning outfit. Often times fairly long casts are required. 10lb monofilament or braided line works well. The good news is that most anglers who fish inshore salt waters throughout the country already own suitable equipment. Capt Jim likes the Penn Conflict gear. Anglers can click on the link below to shop,

Light conventional tackle is better suited for anglers who like to troll for Spanish mackerel. Conventional tackle handles the strain of planers and larger plugs. Anglers can spool these outfits up with 30 lb monofilament or braided line. This outfit is also ideal for bottom fishing for other species as well as vertical jigging. The Warfare 20 is an excellent and affordable light conventional outfit.

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Leaders of some type are required for Spanish mackerel fishing. Capt Jim uses a flourocarbon leader between 30lb and 50 lb test, depending on fish size and water clarity. Spanish mackerel will cut off lures, it is just part of the game. Steel leaders are an option. However, Capt Jim would rather get more bites and lose a few baits. In clear water, steel leaders will usually result in fewer strikes.

1) #8 Rapala X-Rap Slashbait

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

The #8 Rapala X-Rap Slashbait is number one on Capt Jim’s list of top Spanish mackerel fishing lures. It is his “go to” bait! Often times, Spanish mackerel are feeding on smaller sardines, herring, and glass minnows. These plugs closely mimic this small forage. White is the top color, with olive being second. Anglers should match the color to the water color and local forage.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

These lures are extremely effective when both cast and trolled. Anglers can blind cast using a fast, erratic, aggressive retrieve. Also, they can be cast into feeding fish. This is great sport! Rapala X-Raps are also very productive when trolled. This can be done simply on spinning tackle. Anglers need only let out the plug, count to ten, and drive around. This is an excellent technique in shallow, inshore waters to locate fish. Also, they work well when trolled behind planers.

2) Crocodile Casting Spoon

Florida Spanish mackerel fishing

The Crocodile casting spoon is a terrific lure! It is number two on Capt Jim’s list of top Spanish mackerel fishing lures. One ounce is a great all-round size, though anglers can go up in weight if needed. These lures cast a mile and are a great choice when mackerel are popping up quickly. Crocodile spoons wobble enticingly and put out a lot of vibration. They are also effective for blind casting. Trolling is also extremely effective. Anglers should use a swivel to prevent line twist when using spoons.

3) Clark Trolling Spoons

Clark trolling spoons are extremely effective when fishing for Spanish mackerel. They are long and slender and have a tight wiggle. Clark spoons can be trolled at fast speeds, up to 10 knots. They are very light, however, and it is not really an option to cast them. Clark spoons come in many different sizes to match the local forage. Some type of device is used to get the spoons down in the water column. Trolling weights and planers are most often used. Anglers can learn more about light tackle trolling in the linked article.

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida

Planers are clever devices that take a lure down, then “trip” when a fish is hooked. A #1 planer with a 20 foot long 40 pound test flourocarbon leader works great with a Clark spoon. This will dive down five to seven feet. Once the planer hits the rod tip, the fish will need to be hand lined in the rest of the way. Same goes for trolling sinkers. Generally speaking, the longer the leader, the more action the spoon will have.

4) Bass Assassin Sea Shad Baits

Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits are number 4 on the list of top Spanish mackerel fishing lures. These soft plastic baits catch just about every saltwater species, and Spanish mackerel are no exception. Anglers blind casting while drifting flats and passes catch mackerel when fishing for other species. They also work well when casting into schools of bait as well as breaking fish.

Longboat Key fishing charters

These baits are very economical to use. Spanish mackerel will tear up the grub. However, unlike a bucktail jig, the tail is easily replaced. Even if the entire jig gets cut off, the angler is out less than a dollar. It is hard to beat that these days! 4″ is the best size. Bass Assassin baits come in many different colors. All of them can be productive, with glow/chartreuse being Capt Jim’s favorite, followed by red/gold shiner. 1/4 ounce to 1/2 ounce jig heads are most often used, though anglers can go larger if depth or current dictates it.

5) Gotcha lure

The Gotcha lure is a well-known and productive lure for catching Spanish mackerel. This is particularly true on the east coast. Surf and pier anglers use them extensively. They cast a mile, have a lot of flash, and the hook-up rate is excellent with the treble hooks. They are also reasonably affordable. The best Gotcha lures for mackerel have the chrome finish.

top 8 Sarasota fish species

The Gotcha lure is very easy to use. It is cast out, allowed to sink, then brought back in as fast as possible with hard, aggressive jerks. The bait will flash and roll and attract Spanish mackerel to it. obviously, it works great when cast into breaking fish. This lure is primarily designed to catch Spanish mackerel, and it does the job well!

6) Diamond jigs

Diamond jigs are a bit of a ‘secret weapon” among charter boat captains in my part of the world. They do not look like much, nor do they have a lot of action. However, they are extremely effective in a certain application. That is when Spanish mackerel are feeding on glass minnows in clear water. They can be extremely fussy then and can be difficult to fool. The Diamond jig has just enough flash to get them to bite. They are light, therefore most often trolled as opposed to being cast out. One ounce works well when the bait is small. Larger versions are often used by anglers vertically jigging over structure.

In conclusion, this post on the top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures will help anglers catch more of these speedy game fish!




Best 9 Fishing Lures for Bluegill and Panfish

Best 9 Fishing Lures for Bluegill and Panfish

This article will list Capt Jim’s best 9 fishing lures for bluegill and panfish. Bluegill and panfish are arguably the most popular fish in America. There are several reasons for this. Panfish are widely distributed. Most anglers live within a few miles of a good fishing spot. These diminutive gamefish put up a terrific fight on ultralight tackle. Finally, they are fantastic eating!

The best 9 fishing lures for bluegill and panfish are; a Beetlespin, Roostertail spinner, Mister Twister grub, Rapala Ultralight Floating Minnow, Blakemore Roadrunner, Rebel Teeny Wee Crawfish, Gulp Alive Minnow, Betts popper, and Rapala Jigging Rap. These lures will produce bluegill and panfish in any angling application.

Many anglers use live bait such as worms and crickets to catch bluegill and panfish. However, artificial lures can be used successfully as well. This is particularly true for the bluegill. They have a fairly large mouth given their size. Also, they are probably the most aggressive species in the panfish family. Remember, largemouth bass are really just giant sunfish, and we all know how they can be taken using lures!

Proper tackle for fishing with lures for bluegill and panfish

Without a doubt, ultralight tackle is the best approach when fishing for bluegill and panfish with artificial lures. It is important to have the right tackle when casting lures for panfish. Most anglers opt for spinning tackle. However, spin casting outfits are also used quite often. A quality rod and reel can be purchased for around $50 or less. 4 pound test monofilament line is a good all around choice. This will allow anglers to cast the very light lures a reasonable distance and results in a sporty battle.

Below are a couple good rod and reel combinations. Simply click on the image to shop.

1) 1/16 ounce Johnson Beetlespin

The 1/16 ounce Johnson Beetlespin is Capt Jim’s “go-to” lure when fishing for bluegill and panfish. Beetlespins are number one on his list of best bluegill and panfish fishing lures! It is extremely productive on a variety of species! The Beetlespin is just a very small spinnerbait. This is a lure with a “safely pin” wire frame. A spinner blade rides on top and a jig/grub are attached to the lower arm.

This lure is very easy to use. Anglers simple cast it out, allow it to sink, then retrieve it back in slowly. Generally speaking, the slower the retrieve the better, as long as the blade is spinning. Best colors vary greatly. Water color will often dictate the most productive color to use. In darker water, darker grubs such as black and green work well. White and chartreuse are good choices in clear water.

Beetlespin baits are also quite weedless. This makes them a great choice in areas with submerged vegetation. Bluegill and panfish are often found in this environment. Anglers can cast into open spots in lily pads and other plants. Often times, casting paralell to a weed line will produce. Finally, these lures work great when trolling. This allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of a productive area.

best panfish lures

2″ Mister Twister grubs on a jig head

A Mister Twister 2″ grub on a 1/16 ounce jig head is second on the list of best 9 fishing lures for bluegill and panfish. This is a basic lure that is effective for just about every freshwater and saltwater fish species. These diminutive versions are extremely effective for panfish as well. Jigs are also very versatile and will produce fish in a variety of applications.  Colors are endless, but chartreuse is Capt Jim’s favorite color. They are also very effective when added to a small spinnerbait.

fishing for panfish with lures

Mister Twister jigs can be cast out to weedlines, docks, fallen trees, and other shoreline structure. The best technique is is cast the lure out, allow it to sink, then retrieve it back slowly. Jigs can also be fished vertically over structure in deeper water. Mister Twister jigs can also be trolled slowly to help locate schools of fish. They are a terrific, cost effective lure that catches a ton of fish!

3) Roostertail Spinners

The Roostertail spinner is #3 on the list of best fishing lures for bluegill and panfish. Spinners are very effective freshwater fishing lures. Roostetail spinner blades rotate and flash at very slow speeds. They also come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. 1/16 ounce is an excellent size for panfish. However, anglers can go up to 1/8 ounce to catch larger fish.

Like most panfish lures, Roostertails produce best with a slow, steady retrieve. Spinners work best in open water as the hook and blade will foul on vegetation. Roostertail spinners are a fantastic choice in river and streams. Anglers cast across the stream and allow the lure to drift down on a tight line.

4) Rapala Ultralight Floating Minnow

The Rapala Ultralight Floating Minnow is number four on the list of the best 9 bluegill and panfish lures. These baits are not for anglers seeking numbers of fish. For the most part, these plugs will attract the largest bluegill and other panfish. They will also catch a lot of small bass. The lure is cast out towards likely structure and worked back in with an erratic retrieve.

Best panfish lures

The Ultralight Floating Minnow floats at rest and dives down a foot or two when retrieved. They are best used in shallow water. Productive colors include silver and white in clear water and gold in tannin stained water. Firetiger is a good all-round color choice.

5) Blakemore Roadrunner

The Blakemore Roadrunner is number five on the list of productive panfish lures. These baits combine a jig and a spinner, sort of like a mini spinnerbait. It is a very versatile bait that can be used in any water depth. The dressing can be either marabou or plastic. They come in a variety of sizes. Once again, 1/16 ounce is the best all-round size for bluegill and panfish.

Best panfish fishing lures

Anglers cast them out to structure in shallow water. Again, they work west with a slow, steady retrieve. Roadrunners are a terrific choice when panfish are located in deeper water. In this application, a vertical presentation works best. Finally, Roadrunners are extremely effective when trolled and will catch a lot of crappie as well.

6) Rebel Teeny Wee Crawfish

Number six on the list of best fishing lures for bluegill and panfish is the Rebel Teeny Wee Crawfish. This is a bit of a specialized bait, designed primarily for fishing in streams and rivers. Crawfish are a top forage in flowing waters. Bluegull, warmouth, smallmouth bass and other species will take this bait. The best technique is to cast across the stream and bounce the lure off the bottom in an erratic manner. This will simulate a freeing crawfish.

7) Gulp! Alive! 1 Inch Minnow

Anglers seeking to enjoy the best of both live bait and artificial lure fishing will like the Gulp! line of baits. These lures are heavily scented and really produce a lot of fish! They are particularly effective on days when the fish are less aggressive and the bite is slow. The Gulp! 1′ Minnow can be used on a plain hook under a bobber. However, it is most often employed on a very light jig head.

8) Betts Poppers

Bluegill are notorious for attacking bugs on the surface. Popping bugs are very effective, particularly on aggressive bluegill. They are also great fun to fish! Most anglers cast poppers with a fly rod. However, when short casts will suffice, spinning tackle can be used. The bug is cast out close to structure such as lily pads, fallen trees, weedlines,, and docks. After the popper settle, it is twiched which results in a “popping” sound. This will draw bluegill to the bait. Anglers can read more about Freshwater Fly Fishing in this article.

9) Rapala Jigging Rap

The Rapala Jigging Rap is a time proven ice fishing lure for bluegill and panfish. The bait sits horizontally. Jigging Raps come in a variety of sizes and colors. The 05 size is 2″ and best for smaller gamefish. Perch is a great all-round pattern. It is lowered down into the water and jigged up and down gently. Subtle movements are best in the frigid water.

In conclusion, this list of the best 9 fishing lures for bluegill and panfish will help anglers catch more of these tasty light tackle game fish!







Fishing for Ladyfish in Florida, Tips to Succeed!

Fishing for Ladyfish in Florida, Tips to succeed!

Many anglers enjoy fishing for ladyfish in Florida. Ladyfish put up an excellent fight for their size. They only average a couple of pounds, but will leap high up out in the water and larger specimens will usually take some drag. Ladyfish do not get a lot of respect from local anglers. This is due mostly to the fact that they are not very good to eat. However, ladyfish are and underrated light tackle game fish!

fishing for ladyfish in Florida

One of the great things about ladyfish is that they can be found in just about all of the inshore waters of Florida. Ladyfish are caught by anglers on the deeper grass flats in bays, in passes and inlets, from the beaches, and in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. They also can be caught on a wide range of artificial lures and live baits.

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.

Fishing for ladyfish; tackle, lures, and rigging

The same inshore tackle that most anglers use for targeting speckled trout and other species as well suited when pursuing ladyfish as well. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium light spinning rod matched with a 3000 series real works fine. Anglers can use 10 pound monofilament or braided line, depending on their preference.

Fishing for ladyfish in Florida with artificial lures is great fun! Ladyfish often school up in large numbers and can be very aggressive. For this reason, fast-moving flashy lures are often produce the best results jigs, spoons, and plugs are the top artificial lures for catching ladyfish in Florida.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Ladyfish do not have teeth, however the use of a shock leader is required. This is a 24 inch piece of 30 pound to 40 pound monofilament leader that is attached to the running line. Ladyfish have a raspy jaws and gill plates which will quickly fray lighter line. Even with the use of a shock leader, anglers will have to constantly cut and retie as the line becomes worn.

Fishing for ladyfish with live bait

Live bait certainly accounts for many ladyfish catches. As with most fishing in Florida, the number one live bait is shrimp. Live shrimp are available at just about every bait shop serving saltwater anglers in Florida. They can be free lined over the deeper flats, or fished under a cork on the shallower flats, or bounced off the bottom on a jig head.

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Live bait fish will also produce for anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida. The top live bait fish are the family of small shiny fishes such as scaled sardines, Spanish sardines, and threadfin herring. Finger mullet may produce as well. Larger bait fish such as pin fish and grunts are generally not as effective. Chumming with live bait fish can produce nonstop action.


The reality is that most ladyfish are caught by anglers searching for other species. The same areas that produce the other more “desirable” fish species such as speckled trout, Pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and other species will often times hold ladyfish as well. The primary techniques that are effective when fishing for ladyfish are fishing the deep flats, fishing the passes and inlets, and fishing the inshore open waters.

Fishing for ladyfish in Florida

Fishing for ladyfish on the flats

Many ladyfish are caught by anglers drifting the grass flats throughout the state of Florida. Many northern anglers will recognize the term “weed beds”. They are essentially the same thing. Submerged vegetation and water depth between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep hold a lot of game fish in Florida. Ladyfish are no exception.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

In many instances, drifting is the most efficient way to fish the deeper grass flats. This is particularly true in large expanses of grass. Drifting with the wind and tide allows anglers to thoroughly cover a large area in a relatively short amount of time. This eliminates unproductive water while helping to locate fish.

Ideally, anglers choose a flat where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same direction. Anglers casting lures fan cast out in front of the drifting boat. Live shrimp work well free lined back behind the boat. Once a productive area is found, the boat can be anchored and that area worked more thoroughly.

Fishing for ladyfish in passes and inlets

Ladyfish will often times school up in huge numbers and passes and inlets. “Pass” is just another word for an inlet that is used on the Gulf Coast of Florida. These are natural fish holding locations. Currents are stronger in passes and inlets as the constricted water is forced through. This results in a natural feeding station for ladyfish and many other species.

fishing for ladyfish in Florida

Bouncing a lead head jig on the bottom while drifting along with the current will produce ladyfish, pompano, and other species. Specially designed jigs are often used. They have a heavy head and sparser dressing. This allows the jig to get down to the bottom in swift currents. The jig bouncing along on a sandy bottom closely imitates a fleeing crab or shrimp.

This is very easy fishing that can be quite productive. It is an excellent method to use for inexperienced anglers. No casting is required. All and angler needs to do is drop the lure down to the bottom, engage the reel, and sharply twitch the rod tip as the boat drifts along. Anglers can tip the jig with a piece of shrimp or even fish with a live shrimp on a bear jig head as well.

At times, anglers will see fish feeding violently on the surface. This is often referred to by anglers as “breaking fish”. Most often, these are ladyfish, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel. This is exciting fishing as just about any lure or bait cast into the fray will draw strike.

Fishing for ladyfish in the Gulf and Atlantic

Anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida will often find them in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Shallow bars at the mouths of most passes and inlets are prime spots to find these feisty game fish. Jigs cast onto the bar and then bounced off into deeper water will often prove productive.

fishing for ladyfish in Florida

Just as in fishing the passes and inlets, ladyfish will often be seen feeding on the surface in these inshore waters. The boat is eased into casting position, preferably upwind of the feeding fish. Baits can then be cast into the surface action. Silver spoons are excellent for this type of fishing as they can be cast a long way and have a terrific erratic action.

Best lures for catching ladyfish

Anglers drifting the grass flats do well casting artificial lures. As mentioned earlier, ladyfish can be quite aggressive. They respond well to fast-moving and flashy baits. The number one artificial lure in the inshore waters of Florida is the jig and grub combination. This is a lure that has proven to be very effective for a wide variety of species.

Jigs are both productive and cost-effective. The jig head is a hook with a piece of lead molded near the eye. This weight provides both casting weight and gives the bait its jigging action. Jig heads come in a variety of sizes and shapes. For most anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida, one quarter ounce jig heads are a good all-around size.

Catching ladyfish

The jig head is then adored with some type of plastic tail. Again, these grubs come in a wide variety of styles, shapes, and colors. Most either imitate a bait fish or a crustacean. 3 inch to 4 inch grubs work very well. Shad tail baits have a great swimming action while paddle tail baits flutter seductively in the water column.

Other ladyfish lures

While jigs are the most popular artificial lures for anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida, there are other productive baits as well. Silver spoons are very effective lures for ladyfish, mackerel, bluefish, and trout. Spoons can be cast a long distance. This can be an advantage when fast-moving schools of fish are seen breaking on the surface. Spoons can also be trolled effectively to help locate fish.

Plugs are another effective lure anglers use on the deep grass flats. They can be either cast or trolled quite effectively. One disadvantage to using plugs is the fact that most come with treble hooks. Since the vast majority of ladyfish caught by anglers will be released, this can be a problem for both fish mortality and angler safety.

Using live bait to catch ladyfish

Anglers who prefer fishing with live bait have a couple of choices. Shrimp and bait fish are the two most popular live baits for anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida. Live shrimp are easy to procure and keep alive. They are very versatile and will catch ladyfish and just about every other saltwater species that swims. Bait fish can be very effective, though are a bit more complicated to catch and use.

Live shrimp are very productive

Live shrimp are extremely productive! Just about every saltwater species that swims will devour a live shrimp. Anglers drifting the flats do well hooking a shrimp just behind the eyes. It is important to avoid the dark spot, which is the shrimp’s brain. Putting a hook through this spot will kill it instantly. The shrimp can then be free lined behind the boat in deeper water or fished under a cork in shallower water.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Anglers fishing in deeper water such as passes and inlets often times use a live shrimp on a jig head. The jig head provides both the hook and the weight in one tidy unit. The shrimp is hooked just behind the eyes up from the bottom. This results in the jig bouncing on the bottom and the shrimp naturally walking behind.

Shrimp produce ladyfish and many other species for angler surf fishing as well. On the Gulf Coast, most fish are found in the first trough, not very far from shore. In this situation, a hook with a split shot or two is plenty. Angler surf fishing off of the East Coast often encounter rougher conditions. This will require heavier weights and more conventional surf casting rigs.

Live bait fish

While most anglers using live bait while fishing for ladyfish in Florida prefer shrimp, live bait fish can certainly produce as well. Small shiny fish such as sardines and threadfin herring are the top live bait fish. Smaller pin fish and grunts can be used as well. In most instances, the bait fish is hooked through the lips or nose in order to keep it nice and lively

Chumming with live bait fish is an extremely productive technique used by anglers in the warmer months. Bait fish are plentiful and hundreds of them are caught by anglers throwing a cast net once the well is fall, the boat is anchored in a likely spot. Handfuls of live bait fish are then tossed out behind the boat. If ladyfish and other game fish are nearby, it won’t take long before they show up in the chum. Hooked baits are then cast out in action is practically guaranteed.

Ladyfish make great bait

Ladyfish are used by many anglers as bait. They are a shiny, oily fish in the scales come off quite easily. This makes them great candidates for cut bait. Both inshore anglers in offshore anglers use cut ladyfish successfully. Using chunks of ladyfish under a cork near mangrove shorelines has become a popular way to catch redfish.

Chunks of ladyfish work very well for sharks as well. Smaller sharks in the 15 pound to 40 pound range are great fun and sport on fairly light tackle. They are often found in shallow water, which adds to the fun. The boat is anchored up current of a likely flat. Several chunks of ladyfish are put out on larger hooks with wire leaders. They can be free line or put out under a cork.

Serious anglers will use live ladyfish for bait as well. Primarily, anglers doing so are fishing for tarpon and will giant snook. There are certain times of year one tarpon will move into the base and feed on ladyfish. During these times, a ladyfish hooked under the dorsal fin and fished under a float will result in a giant tarpon. Snook fisherman will free line ladyfish around bridges at night.

In conclusion, this article on fishing for ladyfish in Florida will help anglers catch more of these hard fighting and underrated game fish!

Freshwater Fly Fishing in Florida

Freshwater Fly Fishing in Florida

Freshwater fly fishing in Florida is often over-shadowed by the excellent saltwater fishing that is available. However, Florida offers anglers a variety of fly fishing opportunities! Mention fly fishing in Florida and most anglers envision a flats boat with the guide perched upon the platform as the angler casts towards tailing redfish. Perhaps stalking the mighty tarpon in the Keys comes to mind. However, fly fishing for bream and other freshwater species is relaxing, productive, and just plain fun!

Freshwater fly fishing in Florida

One of the main attractions of this type of fly fishing is the ease and simplicity of it. Big boats, expensive tackle, and long casts are not required. Jon boats, canoes, and kayaks are the vessels of choice, and a modestly-priced outfit along with a handful of flies will get it done. Also, while I am a strong proponent of catch and release most of the time, anglers can actually improve some fisheries by taking some fish home for a meal. Catfish, tilapia, bass, bream, and other species will also take a well presented fly.

Freshwater fly tackle

A 4wt combo with a 6’ section of 6 lb leader is perfect for targeting panfish and small bass and will give anglers a fighting chance if a larger bass or catfish is hooked. A floating line is the best choice for most applications and is the easiest to both cast and manage. Anglers can go up in size if larger fish are being sought after. An 8wt rod is best when casting larger, wind resistant bass bugs and poppers.

Fly fishing for smallmoth

The reel can be inexpensive as the drag will rarely come into play. Fly selection is very basic; poppers and other floating bugs for surface fishing, minnow imitations for working the mid-depths, and sinking flies for crawling near the bottom. If I had to choose one fly to fish with it would be a #10 bead head black Wooly Bugger.

Here is a nice, all-round complete 5wt outfit for $200, click on the link to shop,

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Best Florida freshwater fishing flies

Poppers are great fun to fish and are very productive, especially for bluegill and bass. Foam rubber bugs will also fool a lot of bream. Mornings and evenings and overcast days are usually the best times to use surface flies. While topwater strikes are great, plying the mid and lower depths will usually produce more fish.

Florida freshwater fishing

Bait fish patterns such as Lefty’s Deceiver and the Myakka Minnow with chartreuse in them have proven to be quite effective. Finally, anything dark and “buggy” such as a Wooly Bugger that will work the lower part of the water column will round out the flies needed to be successful. It is important to cover the entire water column.

Many of these flies are weighted to facilitate working the deeper water. These sub-surface flies are more productive for species of panfish other than the aggressive bluegill, such as crappie, stumpknockers, redears, shellcrackers, warmouth and catfish. Yes, catfish will take a fly! Often times the fish will take these submerged flies very subtly, making it difficult for a novice angler to detect the bite.

For this reason, “strike indicators” are often used. This is a piece of material (usually yarn or foam) that floats on the surface suspending the fly at the proper level. Stream trout fishermen have successfully employed this technique for decades. The “bobber” goes under; fish on!

Fly fishing for Florida bream

Fly fishing for bream is fun! It is a simple and basic form of angling that is both relaxing and productive. There are several species of small freshwater panfish that with take a fly. The best aspect of fly fishing for bream is that it is so relaxing. It is also a great way for anglers to hone their skills while catching fish. Bream put up an excellent battle on a light outfit!

Freshwater fish species

Crappie are known as “speckled perch” in Florida. Since these largest members of the panfish family primarily feed on minnows, small streamers will certainly fool these delicious fish. This is particularly true when the larger schools break up and the fish move to the banks. This usually occurs from mid october to early December, depending on weather and location.

Anglers fly fishing in Florida can find the current freshwater fishing regulations on the FWC website. They also have an excellent fish species identification chart to help anglers. There are many different panfish species as well as exotic species. Many of these fish are similar in appearance.

Techniques for catching Florida panfish on fly

As I stated earlier, one of the advantages of fishing for bream is the fact that long casts are not required. 20’ is plenty as most often the boat used is a canoe, kayak, or Jon boat with makes very little noise. Shore bound anglers can also do well. The fly is simply cast out towards a weed line, fallen tree, or some type of submerged structure or vegetation.

freshwater fly fishing in Florida

Poppers and surface flies are “twitched”, resulting in a commotion that will hopefully draw a strike. Don’t be in a hurry! Often times a bluegill will attack the offering as it lies motionless on the surface. Sub-surface flies are allowed to sink then slowly retrieved back using short strips with a pause in between.

As with all types of fishing, vary the retrieve and fly until a productive pattern emerges. Also, keep moving, covering as much water as possible until the fish are located. Freshwater panfish tend to congregate, once a productive area is located, work it hard until the action slows, then move on. The same approach will produce largemouth bass as well. In reality, while called “bass”, they are really the largest member of the “sunfish” family.

Fly fishing with the popper/dropper rig

Another very effective technique is the “popper/dropper” rig. The popper takes the place of the strike indicator and offers the fish an added opportunity to get caught. A popper is tied on to the line then an 18” to 24” piece of light (4-6 lb) monofilament leader is tied to the bent of the popper’s hook. A small nymph or other submerged fly is tied on the tag end and the rig is complete.

It is cast out, allowed to settle, and “popped” with a sharp twitch. The lower fly rises up then slowly and seductively descends towards the bottom. If the popper either gets eaten or disappears (which means a fish has grabbed the “dropper”) the rod tip is lifted and it is “fish on”! This is a great option as it covers the surface as well as the mid depth. Also, the take on a subsurface fly is often very subtle. The popper makes it much easier to detect a strike.

Fly fishing for largemouth bass in Florida

An added benefit that fly fishing for panfish offers is that bass will inevitably be hooked while targeting bream.Laremouth bass are the top freshwater game fish in the United States. Florida is well known for it’s excellent largemouth bass fishing! Anglers have a choice when persuing bass; either go light for smaller fish or beef it up for larger fish. The techniques and flies that fool panfish will work well on smaller bass, with perhaps stepping the fly size up a bit.

Anglers fly fishing for bass will need heavier tackle for a couple of reasons. Bass like a big meal and larger flies and poppers will get their attention. These bulky, wind-resistant flies are much harder to cast. 8wt outfits with a floating line work best. Leaders should be short and simple. 3′ of 40 lb butt section followed by 3′ of 25′ tippet will be fine. Poppers work great on the surface. Large streamers such as Deceiver patters are best fished below the surface. Weed guards are often used to help reduce snagging  on the weeds.

Freshwater fly fishing in Florida

Weeds and submerged vegetation are top spots to search for a bass on fly. This type of fishing is best done in fairly shallow water. Bass are tough to catch on fly when they move into deeper water. The best areas will have some weeds and distict edges, but also plenty of open water in which to work the fly. Bass found schooling on the surface in open water are certainly good prospects.

Largemouth bass from 1/2 pound to 2 pounds are abundant in most Florida waters, over-abundant in some fisheries. In fact, the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) made a rule change in 2016 for largemouth bass. There is no minimum size and a limit of one fish over 16” with a bag limit of 5 fish per person. The goal is to harvest smaller fish while releasing the larger specimens. This approach of keeping smaller bass to eat would hopefully improve the overall quality of fishing and increase the number of larger bass.

Other freshwater fish species

Florida has a wide variety of freshwater fish that can be taken on a well-presented fly. In fact, any fish that will hit a jig or other lure can be caught on fly. These include channel catfish, striped bass and hybrids, Suwannee and spotted bass, pickerel, and gar. Most of these will be “accidental” catches, though some anglers actually focus on one of these species.

Fly fishing for “exotics” in Florida

The very southern portion of Florida offers fly anglers a unique experience; fishing for exotic species. The canals, creeks, and ponds on Florida from the Everglades south are full of exotic species. These are not native fish. They have been introduced into the waters and flourished. Oscars, cichlids, and tilapia are the most numerous and well-known species. They can be quite aggressive, particularly oscars and cichlids.

The same techniques used for bream in Florida will catch these exotic species down south. In most instances, kayaks and canoes are the best way to access these hidden waterways. In the Miami area, peacock bass are also an option.

Freshwater fly fishing in Florida rivers

Lakes and ponds get the most attention when it comes to freshwater fishing, but rivers can offer fantastic fishing as well. Rivers also have other attributes that make them a good choice when fly fishing. They normally get very little pressure. Also, rivers offer more protection on breezy days. The scenery can also be spectacular! Finally, fish in rivers are much easier to locate; there simply is not as much water to cover.

During low water periods, this is especially true. Fish will congregate in the deeper spots in the river. The outside bends tend to have holes carved out by the current and are usually reliable spots. The same flies and techniques that produce in lakes will work well in rivers. When the water is high, fish will look for sloughs and coves out of the current.

Snook fishing in Florida rivers

Don’t be surprised if a snook inhales your fly meant for a freshwater fish. Snook can tolerate absolute fresh water and will be found in many Florida rivers. Capt Jim 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.

In conclusion, hopefully this article on freshwater fly fishing in Florida will encourage anglers to give the long rod a try!

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 less than $400.  Here is an excellent Redington starter kit for $379, click on the image to shop.

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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.

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.

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. Anglers can read more about and shop for Capt Jim’s top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures in this link.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!