Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida have many opportunities. Sarasota offers good fishing inshore, along the beaches, and offshore. Many different species are caught using a variety of techniques.
Where can anglers find great information on fishing Sarasota, Florida? This article will help visiting anglers get started fishing in Sarasota. Sarasota is a resort town on the West Coast of Florida. It sits between Tampa/St. Pete and Fort Myers. Siesta Key in Sarasota is famous for its beaches. While Sarasota is not an angling destination, it does offer excellent fishing. Snook, redfish, speckled trout, and other species are caught inshore. False albacore, mackerel, and giant tarpon are caught along the beaches. Grouper and snapper are prized offshore catches.
Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida have several choices when it comes to how they are going to fish. Fishing from the beach are sure is easy and not very complicated. It is also not very expensive. Anglers can rent a boat and ply the inshore waters on their own. This is fun and adds a sense of adventure.
The best option for anglers who can afford it is to go out on a Sarasota fishing charter. Capt. Jim Klopfer runs adventure charters and has been doing so since 1991. His experience fishing the Sarasota waters dramatically increase the success rate for his clients.
Spinning tackle is the equipment of choice for most visitors fishing Sarasota Florida. Many of the baits used are light and spinning tackle is the best method of casting them. Also, majority of anglers are novices, including children. Spinning tackle is certainly the easiest equipment for them to be comfortable with. Fly fisherman can also do well. Any fish that will take a jig or other lure will take a well presented fly.
Fishing Sarasota Florida options
Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida inshore have quite a few options. They can target action and variety on the deep flats and in the passes. More challenging fish such as snook in redfish are sought after on the shallow flats and along mangrove shorelines. Tasty bottom fish such as snapper and sheepshead are caught under docks and other structure throughout the area.
Most of Sarasota Bay is fairly shallow. The maximum depth is around 10 feet. It has many acres of submerge grass beds. These are called “grass flats”. Grass is the primary cover for game fish and bait fish in Sarasota Bay. There is very little hard bottom view natural ledges. Therefore, fish will do most of their feeding in the submerge grass beds.
Deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay
Deep grass flats are submerge grass beds that grow in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay on these deep grass flats will experience the most in terms of action and variety. Speckled trout are one of the primary species targeted on the deep grass flats. They are beautiful fish that are aggressive and taste great.
Drifting the grass flats is a great way to locate schools of speckled trout. Anglers using live shrimp under a noisy cork do very well. Shrimp can be free lined behind the boat as well. Live bait fish are often used, particularly in the summer time. Chumming with live pilchards and threadfin herring is extremely productive. Bait fish are usually plentiful on the shallow flats near the passes. They are easily caught with a cast net. The bait is kept alive in a large well and is used both as chum to attract the fish and bait to catch them.
Artificial lures on the deep flats
Artificial lures such as a jig and grub, plug, or spoon will catch plenty of fish for those that prefer casting. The lead head jig and grub combination will catch fish anywhere on the planet. It consists of a hook with a piece of lead at the eye and a soft plastic body that imitates the crab or shrimp. One quarter ounce is the most popular size. These lures are very effective. It does not take long for even a novice angler to catch fish with them.
Many other species are caught on the deep grass flats as well. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Pompano, jacks, ladyfish, grouper, snapper, catfish, sharks, cobia, flounder, sea bass, and other species are encountered in these areas at one time of year or another. The same lures, baits, and techniques that produce speckled trout will catch all these other species as well.
Shallow grass flats in Sarasota Bay
Anglers seeking more challenging species such as snook, redfish, and jacks will target them on the shallow flats. These are areas between 1 foot deep and 4 feet deep. They are usually a combination of grass, sand, oyster bars, and mangrove shoreline. Artificial lures that cover a lot of water such as shallow diving plugs, weedless spoons, and soft plastic baits work well. Fish can be scattered and these types of search baits help locate the fish.
Live bait also works on the species for anglers fishing Sarasota Florida. A large live shrimp is a great bait, especially in the cooler months. They work very well fished on the flats or under docks. 3 inch pin fish and grunts are good baits as well. In the warmer months pilchards are very effective baits. Many of the small Silver fish are caught using a cast net. They are then used both as live bait chum and as baits to catch fish.
Sarasota has two passes, Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass. Both connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. Pass is a term used on the Gulf Coast. It is basically an inlet. Both passes have good current flow and a lot of structure. They also have some of the deepest water around, up to 30 feet deep. These are ingredients for good fishing spots.
Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida passes do so in a couple different ways. Drifting through the middle of the pass while bouncing jigs on the bottom is very productive. Ladyfish can be loaded up in the passes times and are great fun on light tackle. Pompano are a delicious and highly prized fish that are caught using this technique as well. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks will also be taken. Live shrimp can be fished either free lined out behind the boat or near the bottom on a jig head.
Deep water structure in the passes holds quite a few different species. Mangrove snapper are available all year long. Sheepshead move in by late January and stay until April. Snook school up there in the summer time. Redfish, drum, grouper, flounder, jacks, and other species may be taken there at any time. Live bait is generally the most productive when fishing these types of spots.
Sarasota river fishing
Several rivers flow close to Sarasota that offer a unique angling experience. The Manatee River, Myakka River, and Braden River are all less than a 45 minute drive from Sarasota. Snook migrate up into these rivers in the winter. Jacks, redfish, juvenile tarpon, largemouth bass, and other species are caught as well. It is a relaxing fishing trip with excellent scenery.
The fishing technique and rivers is pretty simple. Clients cast shallow diving lures such as a Rapala towards shoreline cover as the boat drifts along with the current. Fallen trees and rocks will hold snook and other game fish. This is a Sarasota fishing charter that is best for experienced anglers. Some casting skill is required. It is also not a numbers game. The goal is a trophy snook. Capt. Jim is the only Sarasota fishing guide that offers this experience.
Sarasota inshore Gulf of Mexico
The inshore Gulf of Mexico can offer world-class fishing to anglers visiting Sarasota. When conditions are right, the waters within a mile from shore will be teeming with bait and game fish. East winds will result in clear and calm water. This is a situation that is optimum.
Pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and false albacore will migrate up and down the coast just off the Sarasota beaches. They are following the schools of sardines and herring that they feed on. Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida can catch the species along with cobia and sharks in the spring and again in the fall.
Spanish mackerel and false albacore will often times feed on the surface. These are called “breaking fish”. This is very exciting fishing is so much of it is visual. Schools of fish will be seen foraging aggressively on the surface, feeding on the hapless bait. Just about any lure, bait, or fly that remotely resembles the forage that they are feeding on will get taken. The fish are very excited and aggressive!
Big fish close to shore
King mackerel grow much larger than Spanish mackerel. They will seldom be seen feeding on the surface. However, quite often they will be hovering just below the melee. The best approach when targeting king fish is to troll a large plug or live bait around the edges of the big bait schools. Some of the largest king mackerel are caught quite close to shore.
Giant tarpon show up off the Sarasota Beaches in mid May. Many consider them to be the ultimate angling challenge. There are very few opportunities to sight cast to fish over 100 pounds using spinning tackle. Again, this is a Sarasota fishing charter best suited to experienced anglers or hunters. That’s right, hunters. Tarpon fishing is as much fish hunting as it is fishing. Sighting the game and then stalking them is a big part of the fun and the challenge. There will be days when no fish are hooked. However, when it all comes together, it is nothing short of amazing!
Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program. There are a dozen small reefs inside Sarasota Bay. Most of the reefs are out in the Gulf of Mexico. Three of these reefs are within 2 miles of shore, just off of Lido Key. They provide excellent fishing for pelagic species when they are around. Anglers bottom fishing do well on sheepshead, flounder, grouper, snapper, grunts, and other species.
Offshore fishing in Sarasota
The waters offshore of Sarasota offer anglers quite a bit of variety as well. Bottom fishing for gag grouper and red grouper is very popular. Mangrove snapper, lane snapper, yellowtail snapper, Key West grunts, and triggerfish are also caught. Most of these fish are very good eating. Trolling produces king mackerel, blackfin tuna, and the occasional dolphin. Angling regulations change constantly. Current Florida fishing regulations can be viewed at the FWC website.
Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida for bottom fish target two types of spots. One is the previously mentioned artificial reef. These reefs are great fish holding structures. However, the numbers are published and everyone knows where there at. They get a fair amount of fishing pressure, particularly on weekends. The deeper the reef, the less pressure it receives. The deeper reefs and wrecks are the best spots to target amberjack.
The best spots for anglers bottom fishing are natural ledges. Most of the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is barren of structure. The vast majority is just flat sand. Therefore any area of hard bottom or ledge becomes a fish magnet. Coral will grow their which will in turn attract smaller fish. This will obviously attract the larger game fish. Live bait fish and cut bait such as frozen sardines works well. Florida does require that all anglers fishing offshore you circle hooks to reduce fish mortality. Fishing regulations are constantly changing, see the current rules on the FWC site.
Trolling offshore in Sarasota
Sarasota is not really known for its offshore trolling. The water simply does not get deep enough. At 30 miles from shore, the water is only about 100 feet deep. However, trolling does produce plenty of king mackerel in the spring and the fall. Most are caught between five and 15 miles from shore.
Adventuresome anglers will travel a long distance offshore in search of wahoo and Bill fish. This is a game for the serious angler and safety is a big concern. Boats need to be an excellent working condition, have large fuel capacity, and angler should never venture out there alone. The reward for all this effort and expense is a big wahoo, sailfish, or even a blue Marlin!
In conclusion, anglers fishing Sarasota Florida have the chance to catch many different species while enjoying a beautiful day in the Florida sunshine.
Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay have the opportunity to catch over 20 saltwater fish species. Multiple techniques are effective. Sarasota Bay can fished all season long.
How can anglers achieve success when fishing Sarasota Bay? This article on the Fishing Lido Key site will get them started. Sarasota Bay is on the West Coast of Florida. It runs northwest to southeast and sits south of Tampa Bay and North of Charlotte Harbor. Sarasota Bay is roughly 10 miles long and 3 miles wide and is fairly shallow. It has many acres of submerge grass beds which hold fish. Other excellent habitat includes mangrove shorelines, creeks, and passes. Sarasota Bay can offer excellent fishing all year long!
This fishery actually extends another 10 miles or so south. Roberts Bay and Little Sarasota Bay are narrower. The character of these bays is a bit different as well. Grass flats are less plentiful while oyster bars are the primary habitat. Docks in both the bays and in residential canals and creeks offer fish sanctuary as well.
Sarasota Bay is home to many inshore saltwater species. Snook, redfish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jack crevelle, ladyfish, cobia, sharks, tarpon, red and gag grouper, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, Key West grunts, flounder, black drum, whiting, catfish, and black sea bass are some of the more popular species.
Tackle used for anglers fishing Sarasota Bay is pretty basic. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium action spinning rod with a 3000 series reel spooled up with 20 pound braid or 10 pound monofilament line is the best all round rig. Anglers then attach a 24 inch piece of 30 pound fluorocarbon as a shock leader. The lure or hook is then attached to the end of the leader.
Sarasota Bay fishing seasons
While every year is different, seasonal patterns hold up over time. A cold winter will find fish in the deeper holes as well as in creeks and residential canals. Fish on the grass flats tend to be a bit deeper, in a to 10 feet of water. Several days of warm weather may have them up on the shallower flats.
Residential canals and creeks will hold a lot of fish in cold weather. They also offer anglers some refuge from the wind. Docks in these areas will attract and hold fish. They offer shade, structure, and forage. Anglers fishing live and frozen shrimp under docks will catch sheepshead, black drum, snapper, snook, redfish, and jacks.
Anglers targeting snook in jacks will do well in the upper end of canals as well as several creeks in the area. Phillippi Creek, Hudson Bayou, Whitaker Bayou,Bowlees Creek, in the grand Canal on Siesta Key are but a few of these types of areas. The best approach is to cast a search bait such as a shallow diving plug. Trolling the same plugs can help locate fish.
As it warms up in the spring, fish will move out of these deeper sanctuary waters and scatter out over the flats. They will be active, aggressive, and in the mood to feed. All of the deeper grass flats in 4 feet of water to 10 feet of water should hold speckled trout, ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, and more.
Snook, redfish, jacks, and large speckled trout will be found on the shallow grass flats, around oyster bars, and along mangrove shorelines. Artificial lures are usually the bait of choice as they allow anglers to cover a lot of water in search of these game fish. Live bait can certainly be used as well.
Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are very productive spots in spring. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay passes will find the sheepshead schooled up heavily on structure. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper will be mixed in with them. They show up in late February and usually stay until April. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish will be caught in the passes themselves.
Summer offers anglers fishing Sarasota Bay outstanding action! Many visiting anglers are surprised to learn this, as many times fishing slows down in the heat of summer. The key to the summer action in Sarasota is the abundance of live bait. Small forage fish such as scaled sardines and threadfin herring are plentiful on the grass flats near the passes.
Anglers fishing and summer do need to get up early. The best bite is first light and it gets hot awfully fast. The deeper grass flats provide great action on a variety of species during the summer. Anglers can use live bait or artificial lures. Night fishing is another way to catch fish while escaping the heat of the Florida sun.
Snook will migrate into the passes and out along the beaches and summer. Anglers can sight fish snook on all of the Sarasota beaches. Structure in both passes will hold plenty of fish as well. Live bait is usually the best approach for fishing for snook in the passes.
Fall is a great time for anglers to be fishing Sarasota Bay. The kids are back in school and the tourist traffic in Sarasota is low. The weather is usually quite reliable in the fall as well. Spanish mackerel will be migrating back south. Fishing the flats will pick up is water temperatures drop.
Snook, redfish, and jacks will be found in the same places as they were in the spring time. Shallow flats, mangrove shorelines, docks, and oyster bars are good places to target these fish, particularly in Roberts Bay and Little Sarasota Bay. As fall comes to a close and it gets cold, fish will move back to their winter haunts and the pattern will repeat itself.
Sarasota Bay fishing techniques
Deep grass flats
Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay who seek action and variety will do well to target the deep grass flats. By “deep grass flats”we are reference submerge grass beds that grow in water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep. These grass beds hold bait fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans that the game fish feed on. When the water is clear, these areas are easy to see.
The best approach when fishing the deep grass flats is to drift. These can be large areas without any specific structure. Therefore, fish will roam about on the flats in search of food, anglers drifting cover more water and have a better chance of locating feeding fish. Speckled trout are the primary species targeted on the deep grass flats. However, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and other species are encountered regularly as well.
Both artificial lures and live bait are very productive when drifting the deep grass flats. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay who prefer live bait will do quite well using live shrimp. Shrimp are available at bait shops all season long. A live shrimp under a popping cork has produced a lot of speckled trout over the years. The technique uses a noisy cork or float to attract the fish. Once the noise draw them in, they eat the live shrimp dangling there. On the deeper grass flats, free lining the shrimp often works better.
Live bait fish are used on the deep grass flats as well, particularly in the warmer months. A live 3 inch pin fish or grunt floated out behind the boat under a cork will catch some of the larger trout as well as perhaps a stray cobia. Live bait chumming is incredibly effective in the summer. The bait well is loaded up with live baits than they are used to attract game fish behind the boat.
The number one artificial lure for anglers fishing Sarasota Bay is without a doubt the jig and grub combo. It is a simple, cost-effective, ineffective lure. It consists of a lead head jig. This is a hook with a piece of lead near the eye. The weight provides both casting distance in action to the lure. One quarter ounce is the best all round size. White, red, and chartreuse are the most popular colors.
Some type of plastic body is then put on the jig hook. These grub bodies come in endless colors, sizes, and styles. They all imitate either a crustacean or a bait fish. Shad tail baits are very popular as a have their own built in action. Paddle tail and shrimp tail baits work as well. 3 inch to 4 inch baits are best for anglers fishing Sarasota Bay.
Jigs in Sarasota Bay
The jig and grub can be worked in a couple different ways. The best approach is usually a “jig and fall”retrieve. The lure is cast out, and allowed to sink several feet in the water column. It is then brought back in by twitching the rod tip sharply then adding some slack. This results in the jig jerking up quickly than falling helplessly back down. This action triggers a lot of strikes. Jigs can also be cast out and reel steadily back to the boat.
Plugs and spoons are also effective lures on the deep grass flats. These lures work very well when “breaking fish”are seen. These are schools of fish that are feeding on helpless bait fish on the surface. They can be seen splashing about as they feed. Bird activity is often a great indication of breaking fish. A fast, erratic retrieve usually works best.
Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay on the deep grass flats can also troll. This technique works well on days when there is little wind to provide a drift for the boat. It is also a good technique for novice anglers and children with perhaps less than ideal patience. Plugs work very well for this. The Lord is simply cast out a ways behind the boat and then the boat is idled along until a fish bites.
Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay in search of snook, redfish, jacks, and gator trout will do well to target the shallow areas. It perplexes some anglers to learn that the largest fish are often caught in the shallowest of water. For the most part, these fish are loners. While the smaller fish are not comfortable in the shallow water the larger fish are.
Tactics are different for anglers targeting fish in shallow water. These fish can be spooky and a quiet, stealthy approach is required. Anglers that lighten up their tackle will be more successful. Long, accurate casts are often times required. Most anglers choose to use artificial baits in shallow water. Lures are easier to keep out of the grass and are more effective when searching for fish.
Jigs, spoons, and plugs are all effective baits on the shallow flats. Light jig heads in the 1/16 ounce to 1/8 ounce range are best. Anglers can use buck tail jigs as well as a jig head with a soft plastic body. Longer trailer such as a six-inch jerk worm tend to work well. Jigs remain relatively weedless as a rod with the hook up.
Weedless spoons are a staple of shallow water anglers all over the country. These lures cast a long way, run shallow, and are fairly weedless. They are particularly effective for redfish. Spoons are great search baits. Gold is the preferred color in 1/2 ounce is the most popular size.
Passes connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. Pass is just another word for an inlet that they use on this coast. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay can experience excellent action in the passes. Ladyfish are often times thick right in the pass itself. This is great fun for children and novice anglers as the action can be virtually nonstop. Pompano, mackerel, bluefish and other species can be taken in the middle of the passes.
Vertical jigging while drifting the passes works very well. It is also quite simple to do. The angler simply drops the jig down to the bottom, engages reel, then gives the jig little 1 foot hops as the boat drifts along. Most of the fish in the passes will be feeding on crustaceans on the bottom. This jigging action mimics a fleeing crab or shrimp and is very productive. A jig head with a live shrimp can be used as well.
Structure in both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass hold fish all year long. In the winter and early spring, sheepshead will school up thick in the passes. A live or frozen shrimp fished on the bottom will catch them, as well as other species such as grouper and snapper. In the summer, snook will school up in the same rocks.
Docks and bridges in Sarasota Bay
Docks and bridges are basically inshore artificial reefs. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay target them for a variety of species all year long. Most anglers use live or frozen bait when fishing docks and bridges. However, artificial lures can be used as well.
The most productive approach when fishing a dock or a bridge is to anchor up current from the structure about a cast or so away. The bait is then cast out towards the pilings and allowed to sit. Live shrimp, frozen shrimp, cut squid, cut bait, and live bait fish can all be used. Sheepshead, snapper, drum, grouper, flounder, snook, redfish, and other species will be taken.
Anglers using artificial lures to fish docks have success using both plugs and jigs. Plugs allow anglers to cover a lot of water fairly quickly. A lower that dives down 3 to 4 feet is perfect. 3 inch to 4 inch baits in olive and white match the local forage. Shad tail baits on a 1/4 ounce jig head will produce as well, though they cannot be worked quite as fast.
In conclusion, I hope this article on fishing Sarasota Bay helps anglers experience success. Please contact me if you are interested in a Sarasota fishing charter! Anglers can find Florida fishing regulations on the FWC site.
Sarasota Florida fishing charters with Capt. Jim Klopfer
Captain Jim Klopfer offers Sarasota Florida fishing charters to visiting anglers. He has been guiding full time since 1991. His knowledge of Sarasota Bay and its fish species will help you catch more fish. Capt. Jim runs his charters on a 22” Stott Craft bay boat.
How can an angler find the best information on Sarasota, Florida fishing charters? Sarasota is a great place for anglers to come and go fishing. Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico hold many different species. On most Sarasota Florida fishing charters, anglers catch 6 to 8 species. However, it is not uncommon to catch 10 species are more on a four hour fishing charter. Anglers use a variety of techniques to catch speckled trout, snook, redfish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, snapper, grouper, sheepshead, flounder, drum, sea bass, cobia, sharks, and more.
Capt. Jim provides all the tackle, bait, and licenses on his Sarasota Florida fishing charters. Spinning tackle is used the vast majority of the time. It is the best choice for most anglers, and is easy for novices to learn to use. Fly tackle will be provided upon request. A cooler with ice is kept on board for drinks and snacks.
Many different fishing techniques are used on charters as well. This is advantageous as the trip can then be catered to the angler skill level and experience. Bottom fishing with live shrimp is simple and easy I can be very productive. Drifting live shrimp or live bait fish over the flats produces a lot a fish as well. Both of these techniques can be learned in short order even by the most novice angler.
More advanced fishermen may choose to cast artificial lures as the boat drifts along. Jigs are the primary lure that is used on Sarasota Florida fishing charters. It is simple but effective, and catches a lot of fish! Anglers seeking even more of a challenge can cast jigs and plugs along mangrove shorelines in search of snook, redfish, and jacks.
The inshore Gulf of Mexico can provide fantastic action as well. When conditions are right, which means calm seas in clear water, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, sharks, cobia, and a wide assortment of bottom fish are all available within a couple miles of shore. Several area rivers provide advanced anglers the opportunity to catch a trophy snook in the wintertime.
Sarasota fishing seasons
Winter Sarasota fishing charters
Winter fishing is all about the weather. Weather in the winter can vary from gorgeous to downright nasty. On pleasant days, anglers can drift the flats for speckled trout, bluefish, pompano, and ladyfish. Jigs are a great bait as the fish are active in the cooler water. A live shrimp drifting behind the boat will certainly produce as well.
Bottom fishing with live shrimp under docks, bridges and around structure is very popular on winter Sarasota Florida fishing charters. This is a great option on breezy days as many of the docks are in protected canals. Big pass is on the lee side of Siesta Key on a hard south wind. Sheepshead, snapper, grouper, flounder, and black drum will take a live or frozen shrimp fished on the bottom near some type of structure.
Snook and jack crevelle will migrate up into residential canals, creeks, and area rivers. This results in the fish being concentrated in a relatively small area, and thus are easier to locate and catch. Capt. Jim offers River fishing charters to the Myakka River, Manatee River, and Braden River. He is the only one offering these types of Sarasota Florida fishing charters. This trip is best for experienced anglers.
Spring Sarasota fishing charters
Like most fisheries, spring is an excellent time to go fishing. Rising water temperatures have the fish moving out of deep water and up onto the flats to feed. Many fish spawn in spring and feed heavily before they do so. Spring also brings migratory species such as Spanish mackerel, false albacore, cobia, and Pompano to the area.
The deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay will be very productive in the spring. Lush submerged vegetation will hold shrimp and bait fish, which in turn will attract the game fish. Speckled trout fishing is at its peak in late spring. Live shrimp and jigs are equally productive. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Pompano, ladyfish, jacks, cobia, and other species will be taken on the grass flats as well.
The two passes connecting Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico can be teeming with fish and spring. These passes are migration routes for fish moving in and out of Sarasota Bay. Ladyfish are generally very plentiful in the passes. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and other species are caught as well. A jig bounced along the bottom from a drifting boat is very productive.
Snook, redfish, and jacks will be targeted by experienced anglers on the shallow flats. Grass flats, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines and water from 2 feet deep to 5 feet deep will hold these game fish. Jigs and live shrimp work best for redfish. Plugs are a great artificial lure to use to locate snook and jacks on a large flat.
Summer Sarasota fishing charters
Summer is a great time to fish in Sarasota! Anglers are often surprised to find out that summer offers the fastest action of the year in terms of number and variety. The key to this great summer fishing on Sarasota Florida fishing charters is the abundance of live bait. Hordes of small shiny baitfish cover the shallow flats, especially those near the passes.
Charter boat captains use a special technique this time of year called “live bait chumming”. It requires a lot of live bait. A cast net is used to procure 500 or so frisky live baits. They are put in a large well with a recirculating pump. The boat is then anchored on a likely flat and a few handfuls of live bait fish are tossed off the stern.
If game fish are around, it won’t be long before there taking advantage of the free meal. Hooked baits are then cast in and it is “game on”! However, it is very hot so this is an early-morning game. Clients meet at the docket first light and are usually back home by late morning.
Summer also offers visiting anglers a special thrill, the chance to catch a giant tarpon! These fish move into the area in mid May and stay until mid July. Tarpon average 75 pounds and fish to 150 pounds are not uncommon. This is big-game fishing and is an unpredictable. There will be days when no fish are hooked. This is definitely a charter for more experienced hunters and fishermen.
Snook will school up in the passes and out on the beaches in the summer as well. The rocks in Big Sarasota Pass on the north end of Siesta Key are a particularly good summer time snook spot. Live bait works best in this situation. However, artificial lures and flies are the baits of choice when site fishing for snuck on the area beaches.
Fall Sarasota fishing charters
Fall is a great time to visit Sarasota, Florida. By mid October it has started to cool off a bit. Shorter days and falling water temperatures get the fish moving as a are transitioning into their fall and winter patterns. By this time, chances for a tropical storm are low in the weather is usually very reliable. Also, tourist traffic is light, which means hotels and restaurants are not crowded.
When conditions are right and the bite is on, I spent a lot of time in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and the fall. Site casting to schools of breaking false albacore is fantastic sport on light spinning tackle or on fly. These diminutive tuna fish make long, fast runs and will test the tackle. Spanish mackerel, sharks, cobia and other species are mixed in as well.
Sarasota Bay offers visiting anglers excellent action and the fall as well. Snook have moved from the beaches in the passes back inside. They are found in the normal spots, docks, mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, and flats. Outgoing tides early and late in the day our prime times to catch them. Jacks and redfish will be taken as well.
Both the passes and deep grass flats should provide steady action for clients on Sarasota Florida fishing charters as well. Grass flats in from 6 feet of water to 10 feet of water will hold the majority of species. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Pompano, ladyfish and other species will be taken. Pompano are targeted in the passes on the outgoing tides in the fall.
Sarasota fishing techniques and locations
Sarasota deep grass flats
The majority of fish caught on Sarasota Florida fishing charters are taken on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. These are submerged weed beds in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. These are fertile environments which hold bait fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans. The abundance of forage attracts the game fish.
The deep grass flats are fished in two ways; drifting in anchoring. Drifting is the preferred technique when anglers are searching for schools of fish. Jigs are cast ahead of the drifting boat while a live shrimp or bait fish is free lined behind the boat. Often times, both methods are employed at once. This is a very effective strategy.
Once fish are located, the boat can be anchored. Anglers can then thoroughly work the area, maximizing the bite. Once the bite slows, the anchor is picked up and the drift is resumed. Another option is to continue the drift then motor back around slowly and re-drift the productive area again.
Anchoring can also be very effective on the deep grass flats. This is done when live bait chumming and also when anchoring on the edge of a flat. Chumming will draw the fish up behind the boat so there is no need to drift. Fish often relate to edges. Therefore, anchoring on the edge of a flat where it drops off into deeper water can be very productive. For the most part, anglers anchoring on the grass flats will use live bait.
Sarasota shallow flats
Anglers fishing the shallow grass flats will often catch the largest fish. This may seem backwards, however, the larger fish are loners and will often be found in water that is to feet deep to 4 feet deep. Redfish school up in these shallow waters. Large speckled trout will take up residence along and oyster bar or in the deeper hole. Snook will be found along the edges of bars and mangrove shorelines.
For the most part, anglers fishing the shallow flats are giving up numbers in search of quality. Patience is required as there is often a lot of water to be covered in order to find the fish. Many times the fish are loners or scattered out as opposed to encountering schools. Artificial lures are usually chosen as they allow anglers to cover the water effectively. Plugs, spoons, and jigs are all good choices.
As mentioned earlier, passes connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. A pass is an inlet, it is just the term used in the Gulf of Mexico as opposed to the Atlantic Ocean. Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are the two passes in Sarasota. Longboat Pass to the north separates Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.
Big Pass is a great fishing spot that will hold fish all year long. There is a plethora of structure on the entire north side of Siesta Key in Big Pass. Concrete seawalls, riprap, docks, and submerged rocks and ledges hold large numbers of sheepshead in the late winter and spring. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper can be found all year long. Snook will hold in the structure in the summer time as well. The key to the spot is the abundance of structure along with the deeper water, up to 25 feet deep.
Plenty of fish will be caught in the pass itself, particularly ladyfish. These hard fighting rascals are great fun on light tackle and are a perfect fish for novice anglers to practice up on. They are very cooperative and aggressive. They leap high up out of the air when hooked. Pompano, bluefish, jacks, and Spanish mackerel will also be taken regularly.
Vertically jigging from a drifting boat is an excellent technique when fishing the passes. It is also very simple and easy for novice anglers to do. The jig is simply let down to the bottom, then the bail on the reel is closed. As the boat drifts along, the jig is hopped sharply up off the bottom a foot or so. Then, is allowed to fall back to the bottom. This action closely mimics a fleeing crab or shrimp and is very effective. Anglers can drift with live bait as well.
Breaking fish will often be seen in the passes. Bird activity will often give their location away. Once the angler gets closer, it is easy to see the fish feeding aggressively on the surface. This is great fun as just about lure or bait that remotely resembles the prey will get eaten. Jigs, spoons, and plugs are all productive lures.
Sarasota docks and bridges
Docks and bridges are fish magnets. They provide shade, structure, and hold forage. These are all the things a fish needs. There are many docks in the area, and not all will be productive. Capt. Jim has learned which once produce on his Sarasota Florida fishing charters.
Live bait is most often used when targeting fish under docks and around bridges. Live shrimp are used most of the year and are an extremely effective bait for a variety of species. In the summer time, a switch to live bait fish is more productive. Pin fish can be sick in the summer time and are a nuisance, nibbling the shrimp off of the hook.
Anglers can also fish docks using artificial lures. Plugs are a great choice as I don’t hang up on the bottom and allow anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. These plugs will fool snook, jacks, redfish, snapper, and more.
Fishing lighted docks and bridges at night is a very productive technique for catching snook. The lights attract plankton which then attracts small a bait fish and shrimp. The snook and other game fish are then attracted to the bait. Anglers fish the shadowy area where the light turns to dark. An outgoing tide is considered best. This is a great way to beat the heat in summer time. Trout, snapper, bluefish, and ladyfish will be caught as well.
Inshore Gulf of Mexico
Clients fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico can experience some world-class fishing in the spring and again in the fall. Pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and false albacore migrate up the coast in the spring and back down the coast in the fall. They migrate with the schools of glass minnows and other bait fish. They are often seen aggressively foraging on the surface. We call this “breaking fish”and it is very exciting! Jigs, spoons, small plugs, and flies are all very effective. Live bait will work, but there generally is no need to use them with lures being so effective.
Most of this action will take place from several hundred yards offshore to 2 miles or so. Anglers simply cruise around looking for signs of fish. There are three artificial reefs right off of Lido Key. On days when surface activity is difficult the fine, these can be excellent backup spots.
Those artificial reefs also offer anglers excellent bottom fishing all year long. Large sheepshead will be caught in late spring. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper are present all year long. Flounder are taken sometimes in the winter. Grunts can provide action at any time. Live or cut bait fish on the bottom will produce the bottom species for anglers looking for a fresh fish dinner.
Trolling can be a very effective technique in the inshore Gulf of Mexico as well as in Sarasota Bay. Trolling is very well suited for the open Gulf. While casting to breaking fish is preferred, there are times when the fish just do not show. This is when trolling can save the day as it takes the lures down to where the fish are.
Trolling also allows Capt. Jim to cover a lot of water in a short amount of time on his Sarasota Florida fishing charters. Trolling works very well for Spanish mackerel and king mackerel in particular, but will catch false albacore and other species as well.
Fly fishing is something many visiting anglers enjoy. Saltwater fly fishing is a bit different from fishing in freshwater trout streams. The primary difference is that saltwater fly anglers need to be able to cast about 40 feet or so in order to regularly catch fish. However, this is fairly easy to do with modern fly equipment.
Any fish that will take a jig or other artificial lure can be caught on fly. The number one fly in this area, as it is in many other areas, is the Clouser Minnow. This fly will sink down on the deeper flats and closely resembles a shrimp or small bait fish. Speckled trout, ladyfish, bluefish, mackerel, jacks, and more are caught on the deep flats.
Spanish mackerel and false albacore will most certainly take a fly out on the beach. When these fish are actively feeding, they will readily take a well presented fly. On some days, flies will actually out produce lures. False albacore in particular can be very fussy when they’re focused on tiny glass minnows. A fly is a better invitation for these than any lure.
River snook fishing charters
Anglers seeking a different experience may like a River snook trip. Snook migrate up into residential canals, creeks, but most of all area rivers in the winter. They do this to escape the extreme temperature changes on the shallow flats. The Manatee River, Braden River, and Myakka River all hold good populations of snook in the winter. Jack crevelle, redfish, juvenile tarpon, and other species will be caught in these locations as well.
These are brackish rivers. This means that they are tidally influenced but have a low salinity level. Largemouth bass, catfish, and other freshwater species will inhabit the same areas as the snook will. The combination of the scenery, species available, and the opportunity to land a trophy snook make this a unique angling experience.
Rapala plugs are used on the vast majority of river charters. These lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water while inducing reaction strikes. This results in the fish coming out of the cover to attack the bait, giving anglers a better chance to land the fish. Strikes are often times ferocious and sometimes right at the boat! This trip does require patience and decent casting skills. It is best for experienced anglers.
Sarasota fishing charters species
Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida. Sarasota has a decent population of snook. They are basically a saltwater version of the largemouth bass. Snook are ambush predators. They have a largemouth in a wide, broad tail. They are built for short bursts of speed to either attack a bait or elude a predator.
Snook have a distinct seasonal migration. They winter in creeks, canals and rivers. As it warms up, they move out to the open flats and scatter out and feed. By summer time they have moved into the passes and out on the beaches to spawn. As fall arrives, the migration pattern reverses itself in the fish move back into Sarasota Bay and eventually back into the creeks and canals by winter.
Snook can be taken by just about every angling technique. Live bait such as shrimp, pin fish, grunts, and pilchards are extremely productive. Snook will also take artificial lures such as plugs, jigs, spoons, and flies. Snook are nocturnal and anglers seeking fast action will fish the lighted docs and bridges at night. Anglers can view current fishing regulations on the FWC site.
Sarasota speckled trout
Speckled trout are probably the most popular inshore game species in Sarasota and the entire Gulf Coast. Speckled trout are numerous, aggressive, take lures and live baits, and taste great. They are the perfect charter fish! While not the greatest fighters in the sea, they put up a decent tussle on light tackle.
Anglers seeking numbers of fish will do well to target the deep grass flats. Submerge grass beds and 4 feet of water to 10 feet of water will hold good numbers of speckled trout. Fish generally school up by size. Once anglers start catching fish, most of them will be of a similar size. If a school of smaller fish is located, it is best to move on. At some point, patient anglers will find some decent sized fish.
It would be easy to argue that a live shrimp under a popping cork has resulted in more speckled trout being caught than all other live baits and lures combined. It is an extremely effective technique for catching trout and other species. A special cork is used. It has a concave face on the top. When twitched, it causes a “popping”noise. This simulates feeding fish and will draw trout and other species to the helpless shrimp. Bait fish and artificial shrimp can be used under a popping cork as well.
The jig and grub combo has resulted and many speckled trout for Sarasota anglers. Capt. Jim uses the jig and grub combo extensively on his Sarasota Florida fishing charters. They are very effective and it is an easy bait for novice anglers to learn to use. The jig casts well in the Shad tail has a good built in action. Jigs worked over the deep grass flats will produce ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, Pompano, grouper, snapper, and other species.
Redfish are extremely popular all along the southeast part of the United States. Fishing tournaments that target redfish occur in all southern states. While Sarasota Bay does have some redfish, the numbers aren’t as great as Tampa Bay to the north and Charlotte Harbor to the south. Both of those areas have much larger areas of expansive shallow grass flats.
Redfish in Sarasota are caught two different ways, under docks and on the shallow flats. Many redfish are caught by accident by anglers targeting other species using live shrimp under docks and along mangrove shorelines. This is especially true in the cooler months. Redfish will be caught in the same locations as sheepshead, black drum, snook, and other species.
Many anglers prefer the challenge of site casting to redfish in shallow water. This requires stealth, patience, and determination. Redfish in shallow water are very spooky. It can be quite frustrating to cast over and over to fish that will not take the bait. But, as that is part of the challenge, it is also part of the reward when a fish is caught. Most anglers use artificial lures such as we list spoons and soft plastic baits. They allow anglers to cover a lot of water in search of redfish.
Sarasota Spanish mackerel
Spanish mackerel are a terrific and underrated game fish! Mackerel fight hard, make blistering runs, hit artificial lures, flies, and live baits with reckless abandon, and when eaten fresh are terrific eating. Some years Spanish mackerel can be caught all season long. But, generally speaking, spring and fall are the best times to catch them.
Spanish mackerel will be caught and both passes and on the deeper grass flats near those passes. Mackerel will oftentimes be encountered in water slightly deeper than trout and other species. Grass flats and 8 foot to 10 or 12 foot of water are prime spots. Spanish mackerel will often be seen working on the surface. This is true on both the flats and in the passes.
The best Spanish mackerel action in Sarasota usually occurs in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Clients on Sarasota Florida fishing charters experience fantastic action when conditions are right. When the water is calm and clear, bait fish will be thick several hundred yards off the beaches. This in turn will attract Spanish mackerel, false albacore, ladyfish, and other species. Anglers casting lures, flies, and baits into the schools of bait or to schools of breaking fish will have success. Trolling works well on days when the fish are not seen on the surface.
Pompano are a hard fighting and very desirable little fish that resembles the permit. Pompano are found in Sarasota Bay, though they are an intermittent catch. They put up a tremendous fight for their size, however they are prized for their delicious flesh. Pompano are one of the finest eating fish that swims.
Pompano are caught in the passes, on the deep flats, and off the beaches. Anglers targeting pompano use special jigs called “pompano jigs”. These are small, compact little lures that mimic the small crabs that Pompano feed on. They have a smaller hook and shorter dressing than the larger jigs used for trout on the deep flats. Anglers cast them while drifting over the grass flats or vertically jig them while drifting in the passes. Surf anglers catch them casting jigs and using live shrimp and sand fleas.
Sarasota jack crevelle
Jack crevelle, or “jacks” for short are one of the hardest fighting fish in Sarasota. Jacks are the bar room brawlers of inshore fishing. They are mean and nasty! Jacks user broadsides and large Fort tails to pull incredibly hard. Jacks readily take artificial lures and flies along with live bait. They are not good to eat.
Jacks oftentimes school up in large numbers. This is a factor in their aggressiveness, as competition among the other fish takes hold. Jacks will be seen foraging on the surface. Anglers will sometimes find them milling just below the surface as well. Anglers blind casting for snook regularly hook jack crevelle.
Capt. Jim loves throwing plugs when targeting jacks. The take can almost jerked the rod out of the anglers hand! Shallow diving plugs work very well when targeting jacks and rivers and canals. The jig and grub combo falls plenty of jacks on the open flats as well is when they feeding aggressively on the surface. Some of the largest jacks caught on Sarasota Florida fishing charters are done so on River snook trips.
Northern anglers are quite familiar with bluefish. They inhabit the entire East Coast from Maine down to Florida and around to Texas. The bluefish that we have in Sarasota Bay average 2 pounds and a 5 pound bluefish is a nice one. However, they are great sport on light tackle. Blues are very aggressive and pull extremely hard for their size. Smaller ones are decent eating when bled out, immediately put on ice, and eaten that day.
Most of the bluefish caught by Sarasota anglers are done so accidentally while targeting other species. Like pompano, bluefish tend to favor the deeper grass flats. Submerge grass and 10 feet of water is ideal. Jigs are effective bait for catching bluefish as a can be cast a long way and will sink down in that depth of water. Most bluefish are taken by anglers casting artificial lures, though they will certainly take a live bait as well. The deep flats near the passes and the passes themselves are the prime spots.
Ladyfish are disparaged by some anglers because they are not good to eat. This is a shame, as ladyfish put up a great fight on light tackle. They are aggressive, pretty, take lures flies and baits, and leap high into the air when hooked. Ladyfish are often targeted on Sarasota Florida fishing charters when children and novice anglers are on board.
Ladyfish school up, often times in huge numbers. It is not uncommon when encountering a school of ladyfish to have every angler hooked up at once. It gets a bit exciting when for anglers are fighting for fish at the same time! The deep grass flats throughout Sarasota Bay along with both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are prime spots. Ladyfish will often be found schooling out on the beach as well.
Sheepshead are a member of the porgy family. They are a structure oriented species that is found under docks, on rocky bottom, around seawalls, and on oyster bars. They are rarely taken on artificial lures. Sheepshead are crustacean feeders and are caught by anglers using live shrimp, fiddler crabs, oyster crabs, and sand fleas. These saltwater panfish are very good eating but the large rib cage can make them difficult to clean.
Sheepshead show up in Sarasota Bay around Thanksgiving. However, their numbers increased dramatically around the end of January, when they begin their spawning run. They are generally sick in the passes, on the inshore artificial reefs, and around docs and bridges near the passes until late March.
Sheepshead are great fun and provide both action and meals for clients on Sarasota Florida fishing charters. One great aspect of this fishery is that anglers do not need to be great casters in order to achieve success. This is particularly true when they are schooled up in the passes. A hook baited with a shrimp and drop to the bottom will fool them.
Sarasota mangrove snapper
Mangrove snapper are often considered and offshore species. However, they are plentiful in Sarasota Bay and on the inshore artificial reefs. Snapper are taken all year long. Mangrove snapper are delicious eating and are prized by both local and visiting anglers. Most the snapper are taken by anglers using live bait or frozen bait. However, anglers fishing with Capt. Jim have caught many snappers casting artificial lures as well.
Mangrove snapper are caught around structure in Sarasota Bay all year long docs, bridges, oyster bars, and other structures will attract and hold them. Mangrove snapper also school up on the deep grass flats in the summer. They respond well to live bait chumming. Some of the snapper caught on the open flats are very nice ones, up to 18 inches. July and August are the top times to catch the flats snappers.
Ledges and areas of hard bottom in the inshore Gulf of Mexico hold a lot a snappers as well. This includes the artificial reefs just off of Lido Key. There is an area of coral bottom to miles off of old Midnight Pass as well. Anglers using light tackle, light leaders, lightweights, and small hooks will have more success is mangrove snapper can oftentimes be line shy.
Grouper are another species most anglers associate with offshore fishing. However, quite a few gag grouper are caught inshore as well. Red grouper are less common inshore. Gag grouper are caught in the cooler months by anglers fishing for sheepshead. It is not unusual to hook a large grouper that the angler cannot control. Structure such as seawalls, docks, and bridges will hold gag grouper inshore. Most grouper in the cooler months are caught by anglers using live bait.
Gag grouper are caught on the open grass flats as well in the late summer. This is part of an annual migration as grouper in the 10 inch to 16 inch range migrate into the Gulf of Mexico. These fish can be caught quite plentiful on the grass flats near the passes. They are caught on live bait but will readily take a jig and grub as well as other artificial lures.
Tarpon, also known as the Silver King, are the ultimate game fish. Anglers have very few opportunities in the entire world to sight cast to fish of 150 pounds using spinning tackle or fly rods. Most fish of that size are caught by anglers trolling or bottom fishing with heavy tackle. Experienced anglers are best to target tarpon on Sarasota Florida fishing charters.
The run of giant tarpon begins in Sarasota in early May and peaks in mid June. Tarpon will be around until late July, though angling pressure thins out dramatically after the Fourth of July weekend. By that point it is also awfully hot. The week before the full moon in May and the full moon in June are the peak times to target tarpon.
This is not a game for the faint of heart. Tarpon will test both the tackle and the angler. Anglers sit several hundred yards off the beach and scan the water for signs of fish. Tarpon will be seen in groups rolling and milling about on the surface. The direction and speed of the fish are judged and hopefully the boat is put in position for an opportunity. This is as much hunting as it is fishing. It is not easy as everything must come together.
Sarasota false albacore
False albacore are a pelagic species that are found off of the Sarasota beaches in the spring and again in the fall. They are a terrific game fish! They are basically small tuna fish and are extremely fast. False albacore will make a long initial run. Often times, anglers will need to fire the boat up and chase it down.
One of the most exciting aspects of false albacore fishing is that so often it is visual. The fish are targeted as they forage aggressively on the surface. Small plugs, jigs, and flies cast into the melee will fool them. False albacore can be fussy at times, patience is required. They are not considered good to eat.
Cobia are a migratory species that cruise the coast lines. Anglers can often sight fish them in clear, calm water. They will also congregate over artificial reefs and ledges. Cobia to come into Sarasota Bay and will put up a great fish on light tackle. Cobia grow very large, up to 100 pounds. They are fantastic eating.
Most cobia landed in Sarasota Bay are accidental catches. Jigs produce plenty of cobia, but they will certainly take a live shrimp or bait fish. Pinfish in particular are great baits. Anglers targeting them in the inshore Gulf catch them trolling and bottom fishing with live bait.
Flounder are in incidental catch for most anglers on Sarasota Florida fishing charters. They are caught near structure such as docks, bridges, bars, and ledges. In these locations, most fish are caught by anglers using live bait. Flounder are caught on jigs when drifting the flats as well. Flounder are fantastic eating!
in conclusion, anglers thinking about taking out Sarasota Florida fishing charters can expect action, variety, and a great day out on the water with Capt Jim Klopfer.
Sarasota bottom fishing is a very simple, yet effective, angling technique. Many fish live and feed on or near the bottom. Bottom structure holds bait and gamefish.
What is Sarasota bottom fishing? Bottom fishing is an easy and effective technique that any anglers can use successfully. It places natural bait on the bottom in hopes of attracting a fish. Live, fresh dead, and frozen bait can be used. Baits vary by location, depending on the forage available locally. Bottom fishing is effective in just about every fishing location for a wide variety of species.
While bottom fishing is basically dropping a bait to the bottom using a lead weight, there are nuances that will make a difference in success. Leader strength and length, hook sizes, weights, and rigs are all factors that the successful bottom fishing angler will take into account.
Sarasota bottom fishing rigs
There are several rigs that anglers use when Sarasota bottom fishing. Sliding sinker rigs and spreader rigs are two of the most popular rigs for bottom fishing. Both have multiple variations and both are effective. Sliding sinker rigs allow fish to pick up a bait off the bottom and move off without feeling and resistance. Spreader rigs suspend multiple baits at various depths just off the bottom.
A sliding sinker rig consists of a leader and a sinker with a hole in it. Egg sinkers work well in this application. Egg sinkers come in many different sizes. They also roll on the bottom and do not hang up easily. Surf anglers use a device called a “fish finder”. This is a small plastic tube with a clip on it. The line passes through the tube and a clip is used to attach the weight. Pyramid sinkers are most often used by surf casters.
With either rig, most anglers use the same approach. The running line is passed through the sinker or fish finder. A swivel is then attached to the end of the line. The swivel stops the sinker from sliding down. The leader is then tied on to the other end of the swivel. Leader lengths vary, but most anglers use 2′ to 3′ of leader. A hook finishes off the rig.
One variation of this is called the “knocker rig”. It is just like the sliding sinker rig above, except the sinker is placed on the leader, between the swivel and the hook. This results in the sinker sitting right on the eye of the hook. The knocker rig has two advantages. It keeps the bait right on the bottom where the fish feed. Also, if the hook hangs up, the sinker will often “knock” it free, thus the name. I use this rig a lot when targeting sheepshead and snapper on Sarasota fishing charters. It is very effective.
Spreader rigs separate the hooks both horizontally and vertically. Wire arms are often used. Snelled hooks are attached to the arms. The hooks then go off to the side and away from the main line. When the fish are biting, double headers are common. This rig works well fished vertically from a boat, bridge, or pier. Surf casters employ them as well.
Hooks and weights
There are many different styles of hooks that anglers use when bottom fishing. Short shank live bait hooks are the most often used as they are easier to hide in the bait. Some anglers prefer a long shank hook. This is particularly true of flounder fishermen. Circle hooks are popular now as well. Circle hooks more often result in the fish being hooked in the mouth. This reduces the mortality rate among released fish. Circle hooks are mandatory in the Gulf of Mexico.
The rule of thumb when choosing a hook is to match it to the size of the bait being used, not the size of the fish being targeted. A small hook in a large bait will usually not result in a hook up. Using a hook too large may hinder a natural presentation. Many large fish have been landed by anglers using small hooks, so resist the urge to use a hook that is too big.
Sinkers also come in various styles. Egg, bank, and pyramid sinkers are the most commonly used in salt waters by inshore anglers. Egg sinkers work well with sliding rigs while bank sinkers are best for spreader rigs. Pyramid sinkers are primarily used by surf anglers. The amount of weight used is determined by the depth and current that the anglers is dealing with. The goal is for the weight to be just enough to hold bottom when anchored or bounce along the bottom when drifting.
Sarasota bottom fishing baits
Bait choice runs the gamut and is generally determined by the local forage available. Just about any fresh fish caught can be cut into strips or chunks and used as bait. Check local laws to current regulations. Squid is a universal frozen bait that produces fish everywhere. Local bait shops will have other frozen baits available and will give anglers the best advice as to the bait of choice.
Shrimp is king in Florida where I fish and really along the entire Gulf Coast and up the east coast to the Carolinas. Shrimp are a terrific bait live as well as fresh dead or frozen. They are the “nightcrawler of saltwater”, just about every inshore species love them. Live shrimp are hooked in the horn while dead ones are threaded on the hook.
Live bait fish can certainly be used by anglers bottom fishing. Flounder fishermen use live minnows with great success. Florida bottom fishermen use live pin fish for grouper and snapper. As with any fish, live or dead, check local regulations before fishing.
Bottom fishing techniques
Anglers fishing from boats need to make a choice; whether to anchor or drift. Both methods produce and have their advantages and disadvantages. Drifting is generally preferred when anglers are seeking a school of fish in open water. Drifting allows anglers to cover a lot of water, eliminating unproductive areas quickly. Both the spreader rig and slider rig will produce for anglers when drifting.
Flounder fishermen use a sliding sinker rig often. Flounder lie right on the bottom and this is an effective rig. Anglers targeting bottom fish that school up such as grunts and sheepshead will do well with the spreader rig while drifting.
Many bottom species such as grouper and snapper relate to structure. This structure includes ledges, hard bottom, wrecks, and artificial reefs. Anglers targeting these species usually choose to anchor and present their baits. This is especially true on smaller pieces of bottom.
Anchoring properly is critical to success when working a piece of structure. The preferred technique it to anchor so that the boat ends up just a bit up-current and up wind of the structure. Baits presented right on the edge of the structure will hopefully draw the fish out away from their protection. Anchoring is a skill that only time and experience will perfect. GPS trolling motors have helped greatly with this!
Anglers bottom fishing from bridges and piers usually choose a spreader rig. It is effective in this application. Sliding sinker rigs can certainly be used, especially when cast out away from the pier or bridge.
Surf fisherman do a lot of bottom fishing. Most fish caught off of the beaches are done so by anglers soaking a piece of bait on the bottom. This is true from Texas to Maine. Cut squid, cut bait fish, shrimp, and crabs are all great baits that produce a wide variety of species.
Sarasota bottom fishing species
Grouper are the king of species for anglers Sarasota bottom fishing. Gag grouper and red grouper are the two primary grouper species caught by Sarasota anglers. Gag grouper are caught both inshore and offshore while red grouper are primarily caught offshore. Any live or cut bait will fool grouper if presented well. Grouper are structure oriented and often hold tight to the cover. Proper anchoring is crucial. Grouper are fantastic on the dinner plate.
Sheepshead are a prime target of anglers bottom fishing. They are caught in the cooler months, especially January through early April. They spawn near structure in the passes and inshore Gulf of Mexico. Big Sarasota Pass, New Pass, nearby docks and bridges, along with the three inshore artificial reefs are prime spots. Sheepshead are very good eating.
Mangrove snapper are a prime target of anglers Sarasota bottom fishing. These tasty saltwater panfish are found both inshore and offshore. Obviously, the larger specimens are caught in deeper water. Shrimp and small bait fish produce for inshore anglers. Snapper are caught offshore by anglers using frozen sardines, shrimp, live pilchards and pin fish, and cut bait fish and squid.
Flounder are a very popular bottom fish that are caught occasionally by anglers Sarasota bottom fishing. Flounder are rarely targeted by are more often an incidental catch. They are caught off the beaches and around structure such as docks, bridges, and submerged rocks. Shrimp, live bait fish, and cut squid.
Key West grunts are an abundant species caught in the inshore Gulf of Mexico by anglers bottom fishing. They are aggressive and are generally easy to catch once located. Many an offshore fishing charter has been saved by switching from grouper and going on a “grunt hunt”! They are a but tough to clean, but are terrific eating. Grunts and grits are a staple of southern anglers!
Whiting are most often caught by anglers fishing off of the Sarasota beaches. They are small but put up a good tussle on light tackle. Shrimp account for most of the whiting landed.
This is a list of the best 11 Sarasota fishing reefs. These Sarasota fishing reefs are all located in Sarasota Bay and the inshore Gulf of Mexico.
Sarasota County has an extensive reef program. While many of these reefs are miles offshore, there are plenty of Sarasota fishing reefs available to anglers with small boats. This article will focus on those reefs in Sarasota Bay and within a couple miles of the beaches. These reefs provide excellent fishing action on a variety of species all year long.
There are eight artificial reefs in Sarasota Bay. Most of these Sarasota artificial reefs are in water around 10 feet deep. This optimizes the amount of species that will inhabit the reefs. All of these reefs will hold bottom fish such as mangrove snapper, sheepshead, and grouper. They will also attract pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel and bluefish at times.
Most anglers choose to anchor when fishing these Sarasota fishing reefs. For the most part, they are small areas. This makes anchoring a more practical approach. Live bait is most often used, but frozen shrimp or cut bait can be effective as well. These reefs can be drifted while artificial lures such as jigs are plugs are cast.
The best approach when anchoring on Sarasota fishing reefs is to place the boat a little bit upwind and up tied of the reef structure. For one thing, this eliminates the risk of hanging the anchor up in the structure and losing it. It also results in the bait being drifted back naturally to the fish holding structure.
Reef fishing tackle and techniques
Tackle for fishing the reefs in Sarasota Bay is fairly straightforward. A 7 foot medium action spinning rod with 12 pound monofilament or 20 pound braided line works well. The terminal rig consists of a 24 inch piece of 30 pounds fluorocarbon leader, a hook, and just enough weight to hold the bottom. A #1/0 live bait hook is a good choice.
Often times anglers can get away with just a split shot or two to get the bait down to the structure. Most of the Sarasota fishing reefs are in 8 to 10 feet of water. So, unless there is a strong current, a split shot or two will be plenty. When needed, a 1/4 ounce or 1/2 ounce egg sinker can be used. Again, the best approach is to use the least amount of weight required. This will reduce hangups and present the bait naturally.
Live shrimp is undoubtedly the number one bait on Sarasota fishing reefs. Shrimp are available all year long and every species feeds on them. These baits can be hooked through the horn, which allows them to move naturally. Threading them on the hook is a better approach when targeting bottom species such as sheepshead and snapper. Frozen shrimp can be used as well.
Live bait fish can be used successfully on Sarasota fishing reefs as well. They are particularly effective for catching grouper. A 2 inch pin fish or grunt will attract the larger grouper and snapper. Anglers will need to beef up the tackle when using this technique. Cut fish strips, chunks, and squid can be used to catch grouper and other bottom dwelling species.
Sarasota Bay fishing reefs
Jonnie Walker Reef 27.22.38 82.35.52
The Jonnie Walker Reef is located on the west side of Sarasota Bay just south of the Moorings. It consists of rocks, boulders, and reef balls and is located in 12 feet of water. The Jonnie Walker Reef is adjacent to some very good deep grass flat areas. It will hold most of the inshore game fish in Sarasota Bay at one time or another.
Sportfishing Anglers Club Reef 27.21.08 82.35.88
The Sportfishing Anglers Club Reef is located on the west side of Sarasota Bay just off of Country Club Shores. It consists primarily of reef balls. The Sportfishing Anglers Club Reef sits in 12 feet of water with a deeper dredge hold to the west and some nice grass flats just to the south. It is a good spot for bottom fish such as sheepshead, snapper, and grouper.
Hart’s Family Reef 27.22.07 82.34.48
The Hart Reef is located on the east side of Sarasota Bay, southwest of Stephen’s Pt. It consists of concrete, FPL insulators, and reef balls. The Hart Reef is considered by many to be the best of the Sarasota fishing reefs. It lies just south of an extensive grass flat and 10 feet of water and attracts just about every inshore species including tarpon.
O.D. Miller Reef 27.20.19 82.34.55
The O.D. Miller Reef sits and New Pass right along the seawall. It is accessible to anglers fishing from the City Island fishing piers. The Miller Reef consists of concrete rubble that sits in water between 10 feet deep and 20 feet deep. This is an excellent spot for mangrove snapper and sheepshead. It is best to fish this spot when title flow is not very strong. It is difficult to fish or when the current is running very hard.
Pop Jantzen Reef 27.19.71 82.33.85
The Pop Jantzen Reef sits at the south end of a large grass flat area and just north of the Ringling Causeway. It consists of concrete, FPL insulators, and reef balls. The Pop Jantzen Reef sits and 10 feet of water and there is a very deep channel just to the south of the reef. This is a very good spot to catch mangrove snapper. It is also a good spot to try on a hard south wind as bird key offer some protection.
Bully Powers Reef 27.18.87 82.34.29
The Bully Powers Reef sits in 12 feet of water just west of Otter Key and consists of concrete and FPL insulators. It is adjacent to a very shallow grass flat and is in a good protected spot on a north west wind. It holds the normal bottom fish along with the occasional redfish, flounder, and even snook.
Jim Evans Reef 27.19.73 82.35.52
The Jim Evans Reef lies and 10 feet of water on the south west corner of the Ringling bridge. It is accessible to anglers fishing from shore at the park. The Jim Evans Reef consists of concrete and FPL insulators. It is a very good reef for anglers targeting sheepshead. Gag grouper and mangrove snapper will also be caught there. Anglers can also cast to the Ringling Bridge pilings from the park on the west side.
Rose Coker Reef 27.18.70 82.35.52
The Rose Coker Reef is the shallowest of the Sarasota fishing reefs, lying in 6 feet of water on the east side of Sarasota Bay just north of the Siesta Dr., Bridge. The Rose Coker Reef sits just east of a shallow grass flat. It will hold many of the inshore species including speckled trout, jacks, Spanish mackerel, along with the normal bottom species. It consists of concrete and FPL insulators.
Three artificial reefs were constructed off of Lido Key just a couple miles from shore. These Sarasota fishing reefs offer outstanding fishing throughout much of the year. The bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is almost entirely sand and featureless for the most part. Therefore, any type of structure will attract fish. These artificial reefs are magnets for bait and the game fish. I work these reefs quite often on Sarasota fishing charters.
Bottom fishing will produce on these reefs all year long. Mangrove snapper, Key West grunts, gag grouper, red grouper, and in season sheepshead will all hold on these artificial reefs to feed. Most anglers anchor on the reefs when bottom fishing. However, anglers can drift fish if it is not breezy.
Live shrimp fished on the bottom will produce for anglers working these Sarasota fishing reefs. A 1/4 ounce or 1/2 ounce egg sinker is normally plenty to keep the bait on the bottom. Frozen shrimp can be used as well. Anglers seeking larger fish and grouper in particular will do well with a live pin fish or grunt fished on the bottom.
NOTE: Anglers bottom fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use circle hooks. Circle hooks reduce the mortality of fish being released as a are almost always hooked in the corner of the mouth. Current Florida fishing regulations can be found at the FWC website.
Sarasota fishing reefs hold bait
These three artificial reefs will attract hordes of bait fish in all but the coolest months. This in turn will attract a pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, sharks, and false albacore. Anglers heading deeper offshore will often stop at these inshore artificial reefs to load up on bait for the day.
Anglers targeting these pelagic species can do so in several ways. Often times, fish will be seen breaking on the surface as they forage on the bait. This provides anglers with an exciting fishing opportunity as they cast lures to these actively feeding fish. Jigs, spoons, and plugs cast into the fray will normally be instantly devoured.
Trolling is another method that is extremely productive on and around these Sarasota fishing reefs. Anglers using #1 and #2 planers with a trolling spoon or plug catch some very nice king mackerel in the spring and the fall. Slow trolling with a live blue runner can produce some trophy fish, up to 50 pounds! Diving plugs will produce king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore as well.
Anglers can also anchor on the reef and chum these fish up behind the boat. This can be very exciting if a school of fish is lured to the boat. Blocks of frozen chum are normally used. However, chumming with live bait fish is a deadly method that can and produce some incredible fishing action!
Gulf of Mexico inshore reefs
Donald Roehr Reef 27.18.21 82.35.54
The Donald Roehr Reef is the closest to shore. It lies and 22 feet of water and consists of the old Orange Ave., Bridge debris. The structure is distributed in a fairly small area. It is a very good reef for sheepshead and winter and spring. It will also hold schools of very nice sized flounder in the winter. Spanish mackerel will be thick at times in the spring, summer, and fall. It is best to anchor as this is a small area to fish.
Alan Fisher Reef 27.18.11 82.37.12
The Alan Fisher Reef is an excellent fishing spot. It sits and 30 feet of water to miles straight out of New Pass. It consists of the old New Pass bridge along with other concrete rubble. There are several distinct piles of structure. Sheepshead, snapper, and grouper fishing is excellent at times.
King mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore will also hold over this reef. Anglers can sight fish, troll, drift, and anchor to catch them. It is easy to tell when the king fish bite is on as there will be quite a few boats in a small area.
Lynn Silvertooth Reef 27.17.16 82.35.99
The Lynn Silvertooth Reef is by far the most expansive reef of the Sarasota fishing reefs. Concrete rubble, reef balls, and bridge debris is spread over a large area and 30 feet of water. There are in reality many small artificial reefs on this site. Anglers who take the time to find the spots will catch fish all year long.
Bottom fishing is outstanding at the Silvertooth Reef. Sheepshead will school up heavily from January through April. They are caught mostly by anglers using live or frozen shrimp. Some very nice mangrove snapper, up to 4 pounds, are also taken there on a regular basis. Gag grouper inhabit this reef as well and are caught by anglers using live bait fish and cut bait such as frozen sardines.
This is the best of the Sarasota artificial reefs to troll for king mackerel. The reason for this is the large amount of area that the structure covers. Anglers can troll both lures or live baits to achieve success. Spanish mackerel and false albacore will be thick over the reef at times as well.
In conclusion, anglers seeking action, variety, and a tasty fish dinner will do well to target these top 11 Sarasota fishing reefs. Sarasota County has done a great job constructing these reefs for both local and visiting anglers. We will all do well to take advantage of this great fishing opportunity!
Sarasota redfish are highly sought after by visiting anglers. These popular inshore game fish are second only to snook.
Sarasota redfish are a hard-fighting and popular inshore species. They are available all year long. Redfish have a distinct seasonal migration. While any species may be caught in any location, the vast majority of Sarasota redfish are caught on the flats and under docks. Redfish may be encountered in singles or and schools of 500 fish or more. They are a common target on Sarasota fishing charters.
Redfish have an inferior mouth. This means that the mouth is below the nose. This indicates the habits of the fish and the type of feeding that it does. Redfish are built to scour the bottom in search of crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs. However, they are not limited to this diet. Small bait fish are a primary forage as well. This is particularly true as reds grow larger.
The seasonal migration of redfish is similar to that of both snook and jack crevelle. While more tolerant of cold water then these other two species, redfish will seek deeper water in the winter. Creeks and residential canals will be particularly attractive. Water in these areas is deeper, darker, and generally at least several degrees warmer than the open bays.
As it warms up, redfish will move out of these areas and scatter out onto the open flats. It will inhabit these areas until late summer. At this point, redfish will school up into big numbers on the flats. Many of these fish will be over sized breeder females. These fish will move out into the Gulf of Mexico to spawn. By late October, the schools have broken up and the fish begin to migrate back towards their winter locations.
Sarasota redfish locations
Sarasota has quite a bit of prime habitat that holds redfish. Expansive flats in North Sarasota Bay are great spots to target redfish. On the east side of the bay, Long Bar in the flats north of it produce a lot of reds. Productive flats on the west side of the bay begin at country club Shores and go all the way up to Longboat Pass.
The character of the inshore waters change south of Siesta Drive. The inshore bays from Siesta Drive down to Blackburn Point have less open grass flats and more oyster bars and mangrove shorelines. There are also many docks and canals that attract and hold reds. The Siesta Key area also tends to get a bit less fishing pressure. It is particularly good in the cooler months.
Live Bait for redfish
It is tough to beat a large live shrimp when it comes to catching Sarasota redfish. Live shrimp are available at local bait shops all year long. When available, it is best to purchase “hand picked” shrimp. That means that the largest shrimp are separated out from the other average sized shrimp.
Live bait fish produce redfish as well. Small pin fish and grunts are very effective baits. Occasionally, they are available at bait shops. But in most instances, anglers will have to catch their own. They do so with either a cast net or with small hooks and a tiny piece of shrimp or squid. Live scaled sardines and threadfin herring are caught by anglers using a cast net.
Cut bait can be extremely effective for Sarasota redfish, especially in the heat of summer. Water temperature in the upper 80s can have the fish a bit lethargic. A chunk of freshly caught ladyfish or mullet will often entice a redfish to bite when it is less than willing to chase down a lure or live bait.
Artificial lures for redfish
Artificial lures catch plenty of redfish, especially on the flats. The three most popular lures for Sarasota redfish are weedless spoons, soft plastic baits, and plugs. These three lures cover the water column and will catch redfish all year long and in all locations.
Weedless spoons are great choice for anglers targeting redfish on the shallow grass flats. Anglers can cast them a long way. This results in a stealthy presentation as well is allowing the angler to cover a lot of water. It is a great bait to prospect a large flat. Gold is the most productive color with 1/2 ounce being the best all-around size.
Soft plastic baits produce Sarasota redfish on the flats, under docks, and along mangrove shorelines. These very versatile baits can be rigged to fish very shallow water as well as deeper holes and canals. They come in a wide assortment of colors, shapes, and sizes.
Plugs are another very effective bait for catching Sarasota redfish. They imitate small bait fish such as mullet and sardines. Plugs come in two varieties, top water plugs and diving plugs. Top water plugs are worked exclusively on the surface. Diving plugs float on the surface, but a lip causes them to dive down several feet below the surface. Plugs should match in size and color the local forage that redfish are feeding on.
Sarasota redfish on the shallow flats
Many anglers enjoy the challenge of targeting redfish on the very shallow grass flats. Site fishing for reds in a foot of water is great sport! However, it requires patients and a time commitment. Fish and water that shallow are very skittish and can be very difficult to catch. But, for many anglers the reward is worth the effort.
Redfish on the shallow grass flats can be caught along the shoreline, in potholes, along the edges of oyster bars, and even over the open grass. Tides are very important when targeting redfish in the shallow flats. Reds will make fairly distinct movements depending on the tides.
On the low tide stages, reds will be concentrated in deeper holes. They have no choice, is there simply is not enough water on the flats for them to swim and feed. Potholes (which are depressions in the grass flats) will hold fish on the low tides. The same is true for drop-offs and deeper areas along shorelines and along oyster bars.
For this reason, many anglers prefer a low, incoming tide when targeting Sarasota redfish. They understand that the reds will be schooled up along the edges of bars and in potholes waiting for the tide to rise. Redfish are easier to locate then as there is less water to search.
As the tide rises, redfish will move out of these deeper areas and scatter out over the flats. While they are in a mood to feed, they are more difficult to locate. Anglers can blind cast these areas as they drift along. Anglers can also wait until they cite a fish and cast towards it. Often times, especially in summer, the larger schools are easily spotted as they “wake” across the flat.
By the time the tide reaches the highest stage, redfish can be anywhere. This can be a difficult time to locate them. The best bet is often to work a mangrove shoreline. Redfish tent to move up under these areas on the higher tide stages. As the tide reverses itself and begins to flow out, redfish will reverse their movements. Reds that are chased off the flat on the following tide can be difficult to catch.
Small small channels and cuts in flats and between oyster bars are great spots to try on a falling tide. Redfish (and other species) will stage in the spots as they are good feeding stations. The current will bring food to them as they lie in these ambush spots.
While live bait can be used when targeting redfish on the shallow flats, many anglers choose to use artificial lures. Lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. This is important when searching for fish in a large area. Once fish are located, live or cut bait can be used very effectively.
Live bait chumming is a deadly technique on the grass flats. This involves the angler catching several hundred scaled sardines with a cast net. The angler than anchors up current of a likely pothole, oyster bar, or mangrove shoreline. Live bait fish are then thrown out a handful of the time to attract the redfish and get them in a feeding mood. This technique requires a fair amount of effort, but it can really pay off!
Weedless spoons, soft plastic baits, and top water plugs are all effective baits for targeting redfish on the shallow grass flats. 4 inch to 6 inch soft plastic baits can be fished on a light jig head as well as specially designed swim bait hooks. These hooks have a weight built in that results in the soft plastic bait being presented horizontally. They can also be rigged weedless.
Shallow diving plugs are very effective when fishing slightly deeper water. This would include oyster bars that drop off into three or 4 feet of water as well as mangrove shorelines with a little depth. These plugs are not effective and water less than a couple feet deep as they will hang up on the bottom.
Docks produce Sarasota redfish
Many Sarasota redfish are landed by anglers fishing under docks. Docks provide shade, cover, and food. These are all elements of a great fishing spot. Docks are also generally found in slightly deeper water. Only experience and trial and error will determine docks that produce redfish on a reliable basis.
The best docks are those in water between three and 8 feet deep with good current flow. Isolated docks are better than a row of docks tightly bunched. These will tend to congregate the fish as there is less available structure. Redfish will relate to docks all year long.
There are many miles of residential canals on Longboat Key, Siesta Key, and the mainland. There are also several creeks including Bowlees Creek, Phillippi Creek, North Creek, Hudson Bayou, and Whittaker Bayou that will attract redfish, particularly in the cooler months. All of these creeks and canals have fish producing docks.
Cock fishing techniques
Generally speaking, live bait works best when fishing docks. The best approach is to anchor upwind and up tied of the dock to be finished. The angler can then present the live bait back under the dock in a natural manner. As mentioned earlier, a large live shrimp is a great bait when targeting Sarasota redfish under docks.
Other live and cut baits will produce as well. A live pin fish, grunts, or scaled sardine will produce a strike from a nice redfish as well. The same goes for a chunk of cut bait such as mullet or ladyfish. Cut bait seems to work best when the fish are less active such as when the water is quite warm or cold.
Artificial lures do have a place for fishing docks as well. This is particularly true in creeks and canals or along shorelines were docks are bunched together. It is simply a matter of efficiency. A can take too long to spend 10 or 15 minutes at each dock trying to to determine if it holds fish. Slowly moving along while casting plugs or jigs is a good way to locate productive docks.
The same inshore tackle that anglers use for snook, speckled trout, and other species will work fine when targeting Sarasota redfish. A 7 foot medium action spinning rod with a 3000 series real and 20 pound braided line is a great outfit. Anglers can opt for monofilament line. However, I find that braided line is a better choice, especially when fishing around docks. Braided line also cast further which can be an advantage when fishing the flats on a clear day.
Redfish get a lot of fishing pressure in this area. Like most fish species, they can be cyclical. As of right now, 2018, redfish numbers are down a bit. Lower numbers of juvenile redfish along with a pretty severe bout of red tide have resulted in the redfish population being below average.
However, nature is resilient and these fish can bounce back quickly. I understand that redfish are good eating, but on my charters I promote catch and release for both redfish and snook. Florida fishing regulations for redfish do change. Anglers can find the current regulations at the FWC site.
In closing, anglers visiting the area should give Sarasota redfish a try. They are a hard fighting, challenging species. However, they are well worth the effort!
Chumming has been around for as long as humans have been fishing. Anglers use Sarasota chumming techniques to catch a wide variety of species. Fish will respond to chum of all kinds in a variety of applications. These tactics not only work in Sarasota, but anywhere that anglers fish.
Chumming is basically the art of using food to attract fish to the angler. It can be done from shore, bridges, and piers. However, most associate chumming with boats. Chum can be live, fresh dead, or frozen. All are effective when used properly. Chumming is a deadly technique that should be part of every angler’s arsenal.
Frozen chum blocks are very effective. These are basically chunks of ground up oily fish. Oily fish such as menhaden, sardines, mackerel, and mullet make the best frozen chum. The oils that are emitted from the chum block help to attract the fish. Chum blocks often come in a mesh bag. This makes using them very easy. They are simply tied to a cleat at the start of the boat. As the chum melts, it is dispersed behind the boat. Chum blocks are available at just about every saltwater bait shop.
Fresh dead chum can also be extremely effective. This can be as simple as cutting up a few pieces of shrimp and tossing him in the water. This can work very well in the cooler months for fish species such as sheepshead and snapper. Anglers bottom fishing offshore will often caught up a fish they have caught, using it as chum.
One of the most effective Sarasota chumming techniques is the use of live bait fish as chum. This is a bit of a specialized method. It does require a lot of bait fish. Anglers catch scaled sardines (AKA pilchards), threadfin herring, and small Spanish sardines using a cast net. The baits are then put in a large, recirculating live well. Keeping a lot a baits alive and frisky is very important. The live bait is then tossed out behind the boat in hopes of attracting game fish.
Sarasota chumming techniques
The technique when using chum, no matter what kind, is basically the same. The angler is usually stationary, but it can be done from a drifting boat as well. This is primarily done offshore in very deep water where anchoring is not practical. Whether from an anchored boat or a dock, bridge, or pier, the chum is dispersed into the water. The current will take the chum away from the boat or structure and draw in the game fish.
Strategy comes into play when using Sarasota chumming techniques. Tide is the most important factor. Anglers will want to anchor the boat up tide of the area that is to be fished. This is true whether anglers are chumming inshore or offshore. The stronger the current, and the deeper the water, the further up current the angler will need to position the boat.
Chumming has been a mainstay of offshore anglers for decades. Those fishing wrecks, artificial reefs, and areas of hard bottom use chum to excite the resident fish. Chum can be dispersed both on the surface and on the bottom surface. Chum will attract species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, tuna, and other species. Bottom fish such as grouper, snapper, grunts, and other species will respond to chum on the bottom.
Chumming the water column
Chum deployed on the surface can attract bottom fish as well. This is true if the angler is fishing and water that isn’t that deep or if the current isn’t very strong. Surface chum can also be used to pull fish up off the bottom. It is very cool when a school of mangrove snapper rises up off the bottom and starts feeding on chum right at the surface!
Anglers will oftentimes use both methods of chumming. A frozen chum block can be lower to the bottom while another is tied off the stern. Sometimes the surface chum will attract bait fish, which in turn will attract the game fish. Once the fish are in the chum “slick”, it is time to go fishing!
Every angler has his or her favorite rig for offshore fishing. It is basically a running line, a leader, a hook, and if required, some weight. If fish are seen right at the surface in the chum, free lining bait back to them can be extremely productive. A piece of bait with no weight floating back looks very natural. In fact, the desired effect is to have it looked exactly like the other chum floating back.
Rigging for chumming
Anglers bottom fishing will obviously need to add some weight. I prefer the “knocker rig”where the egg sinker lies right on the eye of the hook. Many anglers prefer to put the sinker on the running line then a swivel and a leader and hook. Both work fine, it’s just a matter of preference. With both bottom fishing and surface fishing, water clarity will be a determining factor in leader size.
Just a quick note; here in Sarasota in the Gulf of Mexico, anglers are required to use circle hooks when fishing offshore. Florida fishing regulations have become a bit strict. There are close seasons on grouper and snapper. The consensus is that circle hooks reduce the mortality rate of released fish.
Chumming can be effective from a drifting boat as well. This is something that is done more often in very deep water where anchoring is not practical. The chum is just dispersed over the side of the boat as it drifts with the current and wind. As in all forms of chumming, the hope is that it will draw game fish to the angler.
Inshore chumming tactics
While many anglers think of chumming as in offshore technique, it is used quite often when fishing inshore as well. As a full-time fishing guide in Sarasota, I use every trick that I know to help my clients catch fish. I use Sarasota chumming techniques on a regular basis to achieve this goal on a Sarasota fishing charter.
We experience a strong run of sheepshead starting around the first of the year. These tasty saltwater panfish stick around until early April or so. The water can get quite chilly this time of year. The number one bait for catching sheepshead on my Sarasota fishing charters is shrimp. Both live shrimp and frozen shrimp are effective.
On those days when the water is chilly, chumming with small pieces of shrimp can be the difference between success and failure. The sheepshead and snapper are a bit lethargic in this cold water. A couple shrimp diced up into tiny bits and tossed back into the current will oftentimes stimulate the fish.
Live bait chumming
Chumming with live bait fish is a deadly technique! This is something I do all summer long and into the fall until the water temperature hits around 70°. When baitfish are plentiful, it is a simple matter to cast net up a bunch of pilchards (scaled sardines) or threadies (threadfin herring) to use. Local anglers call this “white bait”or “shiners”.
Using live bait is one of the Sarasota chumming techniques that I use all summer long. I mostly do this on the deep grass flats. These are submerge grass beds in between 6 feet of water and 10 feet of water. This deeper water is cooler than the shallower water is. Anglers seeking action and variety target the deep grass flats in the summer time.
I anchor the boat up current and upwind of the flat that I want to chum. Then, I simply toss out a few handfuls of live bait as chum. If the game fish are around, it won’t take them long to find the chum. Often times fish will be seen “popping”the bait behind the boat. Hooked baits are then tossed out and hookups are soon to follow.
I will also use this technique to catch snook, redfish, and jacks in the spring and the fall. The bait fish needs to be a bit larger to attract the snook. However, not as many bait fish are required. The procedure is similar to fishing the deep grass flats. The boat is anchored up current of the area to be fished. Docks, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines are all productive spots.
Once in position, a few pieces of bait are tossed out behind the boat. Less chum is used in this situation. We want to excite and attract the fish, not fill them up. Too much bait in the water will result in the snook losing interest. Again, this is a great way for less experienced anglers to have a chance to catch a big fish.
Sarasota chumming techniques are used extensively in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. In the spring and again in the fall, Spanish and king mackerel along with false albacore, sharks, cobia, and other species migrate along the beaches. They are following the migrating schools of bait fish. All of the species respond well to frozen and live chum.
Chum works especially well for anglers targeting Spanish mackerel. These fish are very fast, school up in big numbers, and are aggressive. There are three artificial reefs within 2 miles of Lido Key. These reefs are fish magnets and attract mackerel, false albacore, and other species.
The best technique is to anchor up current of the artificial reef. The chum can then be dispersed out behind the boat to attract the game fish. Frozen chum blocks work fine for this type of fishing. However, anglers live bait chumming can really get the fish fired up! When the fish get feeding heavily, it can sound like hand grenades going off in the water.
Using the proper amount of chum is extremely important. This is something that an angler will only learn by experience. Also, every day is different. This is especially true with live bait chumming. Some days just several baits every five minutes will be plenty. On other days, it will take a lot of chum to keep them behind the boat and excited.
The goal when chumming is to attract the fish, and get them excited, but without filling them up. If too much chum is used, the fish will remain back in the slick, but will become difficult to catch. The best bet is to use chum sparingly in the beginning then step it up if the bite is a bit slow. It is always better to start slow like this than to chum too much in the beginning.
Anglers will sometimes find that fish are hitting the chum bait but will not take a baited hook. This tends to occur more often when the water is very clear. The solution is to go lighter with the leader and use a smaller hook. Also, wherever possible use little or no weight. Anglers can view current Florida regulations here.
Chumming for sharks
One of the other Sarasota chumming techniques I use is to cut up fish for small sharks. In the summer time, black tip and bonnet head sharks move in from the Gulf of Mexico and scatter out on the flats to feed. The flats closest to the passes are generally the most productive. The sharks are often caught in water as shallow as 3 feet deep. They are a really fun size, averaging between 15 pounds and 40 pounds.
I most often do this at the end of a Sarasota fishing charter. I will save a few ladyfish and jacks to use for bait and chum. Both of these fish are oily and are good shark baits. I will fillet the fish and cut a couple nice chunks of that fillet for bait. I’ll take the rest of the fillet and chop it up into pieces. This I will use for chum. I also take the fish carcasses, tie them together, and put them in the water for chum as well.
In closing, using these Sarasota chumming techniques will help you catch more fish. After all, isn’t it easier to have the fish come to you than the other way around?
Capt. Jim Klopfer offers Siesta Key fishing charters to visiting anglers. Siesta Key is a barrier island near Sarasota, Florida. Siesta Key is world famous for its white sand beaches. However, it offers excellent fishing as well.
Siesta Key fishing charters offers visiting anglers a variety of fishing opportunities. Six to eight species are landed on most trips. Speckled trout, snook, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, and many other species are targeted. The deep grass flats, passes, back country bays, and inshore Gulf of Mexico all produce year-round.
One of the advantages of Siesta Key fishing charters is a wide variety of available fishing opportunities. We have over two dozen species that are available at one time of year or another. On most trips, anglers catch 6 to 8 different species. Anglers of all ages and experience levels can take advantage of this.
Many of my clients over the course of the year are very casual anglers. These include families with children. Quite a few of our fish species are fairly easy to catch. This makes them great targets for these types of clients. More experienced anglers may enjoy targeting more challenging fish such as snook, redfish, or even tarpon.
I use a 22 foot bay boat on my Siesta Key fishing charters. It is very stable and roomy, with plenty of storage. I provide everything the angler needs for the day of fishing. Tackle, bait, licenses, and a cooler with ice all come with the trip. Anglers need only bring comfortable clothing, drinks and snacks, and hats and sunglasses.
Siesta Key fishing charters
I tailor my charters to the current conditions and angler expectations and experience. I always like to speak to my clients the afternoon before. This way I can get as much information as I can and have everything rigged and ready on the boat in the morning. I am very flexible as far as the time and location that we will be leaving.
There are many different species to target on Siesta Key fishing charters. There are also several different techniques to employ. I would say that the majority of the fish caught with me by clients are done so using two different methods. Fishing the passes and drifting the deep grass flats produce a lot of fish for my customers.
Florida is flat. Therefore, the geography underwater is similar to that on land. Sarasota Bay is only about 10 feet deep maximum. There are acres and acres of submerge grass beds. We call these grass flats. These grass beds that exist in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep are extremely productive for a variety of species
Fishing charters in Siesta Key
Speckled trout are caught on these deep grass flats all year long. They are plentiful, aggressive, beautiful, and not overly challenging for the novice angler. There also very good to eat for those clients who want to keep a couple fish for dinner. I drift the deep grass flats and use either live bait or artificial bait. Many other species are caught doing this as well.
Spanish mackerel, pompano, jack crevelle, gag grouper, bluefish, mangrove snapper, flounder, ladyfish, catfish, sharks, cobia, and sea bass are just some of the other species that anglers will catch will targeting speckled trout on the deep grass flats. The variety of species caught is definitely one of the high points of the charter.
Fishing Siesta Key
There are two passes in Sarasota. They are Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass. These passes connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. On the West Coast of Florida they are called passes, but they are basically inlets. They are veritable fish highways. Fish use them to migrate between the Bay and the Gulf.
Big Pass lies at the north end of Siesta Key and has fish in it all year long. There are two types of fishing we do in Big Pass; bottom fishing and drifting. The entire north shore of Siesta Key is covered with structure such as submerged rocks, docks, and seawalls. These hold bottom fish such as sheepshead, mangrove snapper, Key West grunts, grouper, drum, and pompano.
Bottom fishing is as basic as it gets. Anglers take a baited hook and just drop it straight to the bottom, no casting is even required. Anglers with no experience can catch fish using this method right away. Live or frozen shrimp is the preferred bait. Sheepshead are thick in the passes December through April. Snook are plentiful in the summer. Snapper are present all year long.
Clients also catch a lot of fish drifting in the passes. This is another fairly easy fishing technique that can be learned in short order. There is usually current present in the pass. Anglers bounce jigs along the bottom or free line a shrimp out behind the boat as it drifts along with the current. This drifting covers a lot of water and helps anglers find the fish.
Ladyfish school up thick in Big Pass. These are great fish for anglers to practice on. They hit hard and almost always jump several feet up out of the water. It gives children and novice anglers a chance to fight a fish that takes drag. However, there is no pressure to land it as they are not good to eat and are usually plenty of them. Mackerel, bluefish, and pompano are also commonly caught drifting the passes.
Siesta Key fishing charters using live bait
I use live bait on many of my Siesta Key fishing charters, especially with small children on board. Using live bait is easier for them and increases the odds of success. Live shrimp are the number one live bait in Sarasota. They are available all year round and catch just about everything that swims. Dead or frozen shrimp works well for many bottom species.
I also use my cast net to catch small bait fish. This is mostly done in the warmer months, especially in the heat of summer. Scaled sardines and thread fin herring along with pin fish and grunts are most commonly caught. Live bait fish can be fantastic baits and will often catch larger fish then shrimp will. They also don’t get harassed by the little bait stealers.
In the summer time I do a lot of live bait chumming. This is an incredibly productive technique! It is also another great method for children and inexperienced anglers. Once I load the bait well up with minnows, I anchor the boat. Next, I throw a few handfuls of the live bait out behind the boat. It usually doesn’t take long before these freebies attract the game fish.
When the tide is right in the bait is easy, this method is deadly. I have had many Siesta Key fishing charters that produced over 100 fish for three anglers in a morning. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, bluefish, grouper, and loads of ladyfish respond to the live chum. We also use this technique along mangrove shorelines to catch snook and redfish.
Artificial lures on Siesta Key fishing charters
I use artificial lures on a lot of my Siesta Key fishing charters. Clients are often surprised to learn that on many days, lures will actually out fish live bait. This is especially true in the cooler months when fish are more active in eight is less plentiful. In this situation, fish are more apt to chase down a lure.
The number one artificial bait on the West Coast of Florida by far is the lead head jig and grub combo. A jig is a hook with the weight at the front of it. This weight provides casting distance as well is giving the bait a specific action. The jig hops and falls as its retrieved through the water. That is how it gets its name!
The jig hook is then adorned with some type of plastic trailer. For the most part, these are made to mimic either shrimp or bait fish. The two most popular are paddle tails and shad tails. Both are very effective. I prefer lighter colors in clear water and darker colors and stained water. I also believe that presentation is much more important than color.
Fishing with jigs and plugs
This is an easy lure to use. I have converted many live bait anglers! The jig is cast out, and allowed to sink several feet. It is then retrieved in using sharp hops with a pause in between. Most strikes occur as the jig is falling. I’m sure it looks like a wounded and helpless shrimp or bait fish as it slowly blotters down.
The other artificial lure that I use quite often is a plug. This is basically a plastic imitation of a bait fish. I generally use these with more experienced anglers. Plugs come with a pair of treble hooks. That, along with and inexperienced angler, is not a great combination.
I use plugs to work shorelines for snook, jacks, and redfish. Plugs allow anglers to cover a lot of water fairly quickly and they draw some exciting strikes. Mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, and docks in the backwater areas produce for anglers casting plugs. They are also effective trolled on the deep flats and off the beaches.
I choose plugs most of the time for anglers who want to target snook and other species. These lures closely mimics the finger mullet and other bait fish that the game fish feed on. They float at rest and dive several feet down when sharply twitched. This also results in less snags then when using jigs.
Fishing just off the beaches and the Gulf of Mexico can be fantastic when conditions are right. In the spring and the fall huge bait fish migrations occur along the entire coast. Of course, the game fish are right on their heels. Spanish mackerel and false albacore are the primary species. However, sharks, cobia, tarpon and other species can be hooked as well on Sarasota fishing charters.
After a day or two of east wind, it will be calm along the coast. These are the conditions that we are looking for. Not only do I want my clients to be comfortable, but it needs to be calm in order to see the bait fish and feeding game fish. One of the most exciting aspects of this is that often times fish will be feeding right on the surface. We call these ”breaking fish”. It is always fun finding this situation as just about any lure or bait get instantly attacked.
Trolling is a great way to catch fish in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Once again, it is an extremely easy technique for inexperienced anglers. I simply draw the boat around while dragging a lure behind and waiting for fish to eat it. The fish takes, the rod bends, and the fish is hooked. The angler only has to reel it in, no casting required.
Experienced anglers will enjoy the fun of casting to these breaking fish. I position the boat upwind of a school of feeding fish, whether they be mackerel or false albacore. The angler then cast into the school and begins a fast, erratic retrieve. These fish are in a feeding frenzy and are very aggressive and will eat just about anything shiny that’s moving. I use jigs, plugs, and spoons effectively in this situation.
There are several artificial reefs a couple miles off the beach. These are fish magnets in the otherwise barren Gulf floor. Bottom fish such as sheepshead, grouper, snapper, and flounder will be found there most of the year. Spanish mackerel will be thick on these reefs in the spring and the fall. They provide great fishing when the seas are calm.
River fishing charters
I also provide anglers a unique experience, one that no other guide offers in this area. I take clients on river snook fishing charters. There are several rivers that are a short drive from Siesta Key beaches. In the wintertime, snook migrate up into these rivers. Using my 14 foot John boat, anglers drift the rivers casting plugs towards the shoreline in hopes of fooling a trophy snook.
This charter is best suited for experienced anglers. It produces less in terms of numbers than the bay fishing trips usually do. However, there is always the chance to land a true trophy fish. Snook 225 inches are caught on most trips. 30 inch fish are common and 40 inch snook are landed every season.
The scenery is part of the attraction to this charter as well. It has a “freshwater”feel to it. In fact, this water is brackish and largemouth bass are commonly caught. This is “Old Florida”and has a kind of Amazon like feel to it. It is a great experience and one that is less than an hour away from Siesta Key. I run out of Snook Haven on the Myakka River.
Siesta Key fishing charters species
Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida. They are ambush predators. These fish will usually be found near structure of some sort such as bridges, docks, mangroves, and oyster bars. Snook take artificial and live baits. They grow to 40 pounds are put up a terrific battle!
Snook have a local, seasonal migration. They are found in creeks, rivers, and canals in the winter. In spring and fall they are found throughout the flats in Sarasota Bay and Robert’s Bay. They spend their summer in the passes and out on the beaches.
Speckled trout may be the most popular inshore species along the entire Gulf Coast. Trout are beautiful fish, school up in decent numbers, are fairly plentiful, and taste great. The vast majority of speckled trout in Sarasota are caught on the submerged grass beds in 5′ to 10′ of water.
Speckled trout are caught by anglers using live shrimp and small bait fish. Shrimp are available year round while bait fish work better in the warmer months. Artificial lures such as jigs and plugs work well, too.
Redfish are another very popular fish species. They are found individually or in small bunches for most of the year. They are caught under docks and on the shallow flats. In late summer, they school up into large schools. Reds are targeted this time of year on the shallow grass flats in north Sarasota Bay. Jigs, plugs, and live shrimp account for most of the redfish caught.
Spanish mackerel are a pelagic species that migrate through the area. Prime times to target Spanish mackerel are spring and fall. However, they can be found all year with the exception of cold water, below 65 degrees. Mackerel are very fast fish. Spanish mackerel love fast-moving lures. They will also take live bait. They taste great when eater fresh but do not freeze well.
Bluefish are a hard-fighting fish species that are found in Sarasota in the cooler months. Blues are most often caught by anglers casting lures for trout and other species. They prefer slightly deeper water and are found over grass flats and in the passes. They school up and are very aggressive. Bluefish are oily, but the small ones are decent to eat when fresh.
Pompano put up a great fight for their size. However, their real value is on the dinner plate. Pompano are perhaps the finest eating fish that Sarasota offers. The swim around in schools of varying size. They feed on the bottom, mostly eating crustaceans. Small jigs and shrimp fished in the passes and on the flats produce most of the pompano caught. Surf anglers catch them using jigs, shrimp, and sand fleas.
Sheepshead are a bottom dwelling saltwater panfish. They are members of the porgy family are are very good eating. Sheepshead move in to spawn around structure in winter. They are found in good numbers in Sarasota from January through April. Sheepshead are rarely caught on lures. Shrimp are the most popular bait, but sand fleas and fiddler crabs work well.
Mangrove snapper are available all year long in Sarasota. While small, they are plentiful and feisty. They are also superb eating, right there with pompano. Most snapper are caught by anglers using live shrimp and small bait fish. Snapper will take small lures as well. They are found near docks, bridges, underwater ledges, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines.
Jack crevelle are one of the hardest fighting fish that we have in Sarasota. They have broad sides and large tails. Jacks are aggressive and very powerful. Jacks also are a school fish and that feeds into their aggressiveness. While live bait works, jack crevelle are much more fun to catch on lures such as jigs and plugs. Jacks are not considered good to eat.
Ladyfish are great fun! Locals disparage them as they are not good to eat. However, they provide great action on Siesta Key fishing charters. They are numerous, school up, are aggressive, and leap high up out of the water. Ladyfish are great for novice anglers and children looking for a bent rod. They bite year round and readily take lures and live bait.
False albacore are found in the inshore Gulf of Mexico in the spring and fall. They migrate along with the bait fish that they feed on. Conditions need to be right to catch them. It needs to be calm with clear water. When it all comes together, the action can be fantastic! They are not good to eat.
Small sharks are always a crowd pleaser, especially with kids. They are caught randomly on charters. Summer and early fall are the best times to target them. Sharks will usually be found near schools of mackerel in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Blacktip and bonnethead sharks are the species most often caught.
So in closing, if you are visiting our area and enjoy fishing, I hope that you will book one of my Siesta Key fishing charters. I work hard and will do everything I can to make the trip enjoyable and productive!
Spring Siesta Key fishing charters
Siesta Key Beach is world famous and attracts many visitors in March. In fact, it just won the prestigious award for ” Best Beach”. Young ladies flock to the famous white sand beaches during Spring Break to soak up the sun. But many come to fish, too. This time of year, families make up the majority of my charters and most of these trips include at least one female angler. Sarasota offers great family-friendly fishing for a variety of species. Vast experience is not required, just basic skills and the desire to have a good time.
Deep grass flats are very productive, offering reliable spring time fishing. Speckled trout, silver trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, jack crevelle, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, cobia, sea bass, and flounder are all regular catches. Both anchoring up and drifting are equally productive, depending on the tide and wind.
The most popular artificial lure in this area is the jig/grub combo. This is a lead head jig with a plastic tail which imitates a shrimp or bait fish. Bass Assassin manufactures a full line of effective products; my personal favorite is the red/gold shad tail on a ¼ ounce jig head. The lure is cast out in front of the boat as it drifts across the flat. It is allowed to sink several seconds then is retrieved back with a twitching motion. Most strikes come as the bait falls.
Live bait produces on Siesta Key fishing charters
While artificial lures catch plenty of fish during Spring Break, live bait is the most reliable producer on my Siesta Key fishing charters, especially with anglers with limited experience. Live shrimp are purchased and “whitebait” is cast-netted up on the flats. “Whitebait” is a Florida term for small white or silver bait fish, mostly pilchards and threadfin herring, that migrate into the area in the spring. A well full of either live shrimp or frisky pilchards practically guarantees success.
Marcel Hamburger lives in Houston, TX and has fished with me for several years now. He usually brings his two children Morgan and Grant. Morgan never gets out-fished. Never. She has perfected the art of drifting a live bait across the flats. She casts her bait out and lets it drift behind the boat with the rod tip held low. When a fish takes the bait, she does not jerk, which is a common mistake. Instead, she just reels up the slack while slowly raising the rod tip. Most of the time, the result is a fish in the boat.
Anchoring up on the edge of a grass flat that drops off into deeper water and fishing with live bait can be deadly. One trip from several years ago comes to mind and it is a story that I have told many times on the boat. John Brennan from Brookfield, WI visits Siesta Key regularly for Spring Break, and he usually treats his daughters Laura, Cari, and Theresa to a Sarasota fishing charter. I filled the well with twelve dozen shrimp and loaded up the Brennan clan.
After anchoring up on the edge of a flat near Bird Key, we experienced non-stop action free lining live shrimp. I believe the final tally was 119 fish landed, not counting the ones that jumped off. Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, and ladyfish, kept rods bent the entire time. It was so hectic, poor John barely got the chance to fish!
Big Sarasota Pass fishing
Big Sarasota Pass lies to the north of Siesta Key. It is a fish highway that connects Sarasota Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. March is a prime month for fishing the pass. The same methods that produce on the flats will also work in the deeper water of the pass. Jigs bounced on the bottom and free lined live bait will catch pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and loads of ladyfish.
Last March the Manby family, friends of the Brennan’s who also reside in Brookfield, WI had a great morning catching large mackerel in Big Pass. Maria and Jeff along with their three girls Ashleigh, Julia, and Abigail were my guests that morning. The tide was low and had just turned to come in and we were free lining live shrimp. The bite was a little slow, just a couple of ladyfish, when Julia’s rod bent double and the drag started screaming.
I knew right away that it was a big mackerel. Julia fought the fish like an expert and it was landed and tossed on ice, destined for dinner at Clayton’s that evening. Several minutes later the same thing was repeated. Then again. What the heck? Four baits in the water, same hook, same rig, but she catches all the fish?
“I jiggle it”, she stated. And the now-famous “Julia Jiggle” was born. Any time I am on a charter and the bites are slow in coming, I instruct my clients to “jiggle it”. Action is sure to soon follow.
There is much more to fishing than just catching fish. The time a family spends together is priceless. I humbly feel privileged to be a part of it. Friendships have been forged and to see the kids grow up each year is exciting. Experience your own Spring Break, Sarasota style!
Summer Siesta Key fishing charters
All three rods were bent deep as I tried to keep the bedlam under control. Sweat was dripping from my forehead and it was only nine o’clock in the morning. The heat was one reason, the other was that I was scrambling to keep my client’s hooks emptied of a fish and then re-baited. It was non-stop action as nearly every pilchard that hit the water was devoured within seconds. Welcome to summertime fishing Sarasota!
Many anglers are surprised when I tell them that fishing Sarasota in the heat of summer is outstanding. Some of my best days, especially when it comes to quantity, come in July and August. The reason for this is the abundance of live bait fish that flood into the bays at first light. Pilchards and threadfin herring are thick on the shallow grass flats near the Venice Inlet. A few tosses of the cast net will usually result in a well full of bait. After that, success is practically guaranteed. A few handfuls of live chum will bring speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, jacks, and sharks right up to the boat. Bait fish are easiest to catch at first light, especially on a high tide. Grass flats near both passes are good spots to load up the well.
While fishing Sarasota can be spectacular in the heat of summer, it does require a few tactical changes. The prime low-light periods of dawn and dusk will be very productive, as will fishing at night. Getting up early is a requirement, not an option. Get out there early, catch bait or take advantage of the early morning low light conditions to cast artificial lures. On most days the bite winds down by late morning. By then it is usually just too hot to fish, anyway.
Siesta Key night fishing
Fishing Sarasota at night is another productive option in July. Evenings are pleasant, just monitor the weather; thunderstorms are an issue this time of year. Snook in particular will be caught around the lighted docks and bridges throughout the area. Speckled trout, redfish, snapper, ladyfish, and even tarpon will also be caught at night. Plugs, jigs, flies, and live bait will produce around lighted structure.
Successful anglers will quietly approach a likely spot and either anchor or use a trolling motor to work the spot. Shore bound anglers will score at the area bridges, too. The prime spot is a cast away on the up-current side just on the fringe of the lighted area. Outgoing tides are preferred, but as long as the water is moving the fish will bite.
Bass Assassin Sea Shad jigs are productive lures, as are small plugs such as the (08) size Rapala X-Rap. Live shrimp free lined in the current can also be deadly. Medium sized shrimp work best on a 1/0 short shank hook for clients fishing Sarasota. Large hand-picked shrimp don’t look natural and are usually not as effective. Spinning tackle with a 2’ piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is best for tossing lures and live bait. Glass minnows are a primary forage around lights and small white flies are effective imitations. A 7 or 8 weight rod with an intermediate sink tip line and 8 foot piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader works well.
Siesta Key Beach snook fishing
Another productive July technique when fishing Sarasota is beach fishing for snook. This is a great opportunity for anglers without a boat to experience the thrill and challenge of sight fishing. Anglers will hit the beach around 8:00 a.m., by then there is enough sunlight to spot the fish. Walking north will put the sun behind, making it easier to see the snook. Quite often, they will be right in the surf line, inches from the edge.
Live bait will work but it cumbersome to carry around. Artificial lures are more convenient and catch plenty of fish. Small light colored lures are best. A delicate presentation is required so as not to spook the fish in the shallow water. A 1/8 ounce white bucktail jig works great, as do small plugs and soft plastic baits.
This is a terrific situation to catch a snook on a fly rod. White bait fish patterns are productive. The fly lands very softly in the water and will not spook the snook. Since the fish are in open water for the most part, the chance of them breaking off is greatly diminished. A seven or eight weight outfit with a floating line and eight feet of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is the standard rig.
The large schools of tarpon will have broken up but there will still be plenty of fish out there. Although they don’t “show” as well, they eat better! Point of Rocks, Grassy Point, and the Venice Pier are good spots to try. Again, get out there at first light and either cast to rolling fish or drift a pinfish out behind the boat under a float. Fish until mid-morning, then call it a day.
There are plenty of ways to fish Sarasota and catch fish in July and still beat the summertime heat!
Fall Siesta Key fishing charters
Contrary to popular belief, autumn does arrive in Florida, although the changes can be fairly subtle. While still fairly warm, evening temperatures are a tad lower and the days are a little shorter. Fish are very much in tune with these changes and it affects their behavior. In Sarasota where I fish, on the west coast, the arrival of Spanish mackerel and false albacore just off the beaches in the inshore Gulf of Mexico officially signals the fall fishing season. This is great sport and it does not require a large boat or fancy gear to take advantage of this bonanza.
The reason for this fantastic fall fishing on Siesta Key is simple; bait, and LOTS of it! As the water and land temperatures drop, the weather pattern changes. The sea breezes will be gone and high pressure systems will bring northeast winds both during the day and in the evening. The result will be clear, calm water along the beaches, attracting huge schools of baitfish which in turn attracts the gamefish. Saltwater fishing can be pretty basic, “Find the groceries; find the fish”. Other species will also be encountered when fishing “Out on the beach”. Jack crevelle, bluefish, ladyfish, king mackerel, cobia, sharks, and even tarpon will follow the forage to take advantage of the abundance of forage.
As a full-time fishing guide, I rely on live bait a majority of the time to provide action for my clients who book a Siesta Key fishing charter. In this application, artificial lures are not only extremely productive but are a lot of fun to fish! Quite often schools of “breaking” fish will be seen terrorizing the helpless baitfish on the surface. Opportunistic gulls and terns will be picking at the scraps as well. This is a sight that will stir any angler’s soul and is the perfect situation to use an artificial lure. The strikes will be immediate and savage! Of course, a frisky live baitfish or shrimp will very seldom go unmolested when fall fishing Siesta Key.
Artificial lures catch fish on Siesta Key fishing charters
My “go to” lure for fishing the inshore Gulf is #8 Rapala X-Rap slashbait. It perfectly mimics the small pilchards, glass minnows, and threadfin herring that the gamefish are feeding on. Olive is my favorite color with white being a close second. The lure is simply cast out into the bait and retrieved back with sharp twitches and a pause in between. X-Raps can also be trolled along when there is not any surface activity; they are a great “locator” bait. The venerable jig and grub combo also works well, with the 4” Bass Assassin Sea Shad being my personal favorite.
Silver spoons will also produce plenty of fish for anglers fall fishing Siesta Key. The same tackle that is used for speckled trout and redfish will work fine in this application. My preferred rig is a 10 lb spinning outfit with monofilament line, the last 5’ doubled with a Spider Hitch, then 30” of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is added using a double Uni-knot, then the lure or hook completes the rig.
Fly anglers can certainly take advantage of this situation as well. An 8wt outfit with a weight forward floating line is a good choice. The leader should be 8’ of 30 lb fluorocarbon and any small white fly will produce well, with D.T. Special and Clouser Minnow patterns being the most popular. Fly anglers do well fall fishing Siesta Key!
Once rigged up and ready, it is time to go fishing! Often times the fish will be schooled up just outside the passes, particularly on an outgoing tide. Any bird or surface activity should be investigated. Sometimes just a couple of terns diving will clue an angler into the location of a school. If nothing is happening at the pass, simply cruise down the beach on plane but at as slow a speed as possible in order to completely scan the area.
Spanish mackerel and false albacore off of Siesta Key
Once a school of actively feeding fish is located, determine whether they are mackerel or albacore. Spanish will generally stay up in the same spot for a longer period of time. False albacore can be much more difficult to get on, they move fast and change directions constantly. But, there is no greater sport than catching a big albie on light tackle or fly!
In either case, patience will pay off! Charging into the school on plane will usually shut down the bite. Instead, cut the motor up-wind of the fish and drift down on them until in casting range or use the electric trolling motor if so equipped. Trolling the edges will also work well but avoid driving through the middle of the school. Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program with 3 nice reefs within 2 miles of shore just off Lido Key. These are a great back-up plan (as is any reef or hard bottom area) in the event that surface activity is absent as they almost always hold bait and fish.
Later in the morning as the sun comes up, particularly if the water is clear, anglers will do well to look for bait balls. These appear as large dark spots in the water. NEVER pass up a nice, big ball of bait as there will usually be predator fish on the edges. Anglers seeking larger game will score consistently on sharks by putting out a chunk of mackerel under a cork on a larger rig with a steel leader. Free-lining a large live threadfin herring at the edges will also produce some larger fish. Do not be surprised if a cobia, king mackerel, or even a tarpon are hooked as well fall fishing Siesta Key.
Shore bound anglers can get in on the action as well. While false albacore seldom venture in close enough to be caught from land, Spanish mackerel, jacks, bluefish, ladyfish, and more will often cruise within casting range while feasting upon the abundance of forage. The same lures, baits, flies, and techniques that produce for anglers in boats will also allow surf casters to achieve success.
Winter Siesta Key fishing charters
The key to angling success is the ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions. February tactics are unique. Severe fronts move through on a weekly basis, drastically changing the water temperature and clarity. Wind will prevent anglers from fishing the open waters in north Sarasota Bay. Extreme low winter tides will chase fish off the flats. So, let’s go through a typical winter weather cycle that would be experienced on a fishing charter in the winter.
A severe front has just moved through. The water temperature has dropped several degrees and there is a blue-bird sky with bright sun and a northeast wind. The northeast wind will fight the tide, making it even lower than normal. And it can be downright chilly. Flats near the passes will be flooded with dirty water from the churned up Gulf of Mexico. Finding clean, protected water will be a priority when employing February tactics.
The area south of Siesta Drive down to Blackburn Pt. usually stats clearer and offers protection from the north wind. Oyster bars, canals, and docks will be good places to soak a shrimp for sheepshead, drum, and other species. On low tide the trout, pompano, and ladyfish will concentrate in deeper water. This can be the Intracoastal channel or any deep water. As the tide floods the flats and the day warms up the fish will move out of the holes and onto the nearby flats. Casting jigs and live shrimp while drifting the flats is the preferred technique.
After a couple of days the wind will shift to the southeast and it will be warm and sunny. The water in the passes will be clearer and fishing will be good throughout the area. Both passes will hold pompanp, bluefish, and ladyfish. Jigs, spoons, and live shrimp will all produce. Taking advantage of these favorable conditions is an aspect of February tactics.
Surf fishing off of Siesta Key beaches
This is the best time to surf fish for whiting, silver trout, pompano, flounder, and more. The water will be clean and calm with an east wind. A live shrimp or piece of frozen shrimp fished on the bottom works best.
Any Structure in or near the passes should be thick with sheepshead. Bottom fishing with live or frozen shrimp will produce the best. Anchoring a cast away up-current and allowing the bait to drift back to the structure in a natural manner is the best presentation. A #1 live bait hook on a 2’ piece of 30 lb leader and a bit of weight is the best rig. Use just enough weight to barely hold the bottom.
Grass flats in four to seven feet of water will be good for speckled trout, silver trout, pompano, bluefish, sea bass, flounder, and ladyfish. Again, drifting and casting jigs and live shrimp works best. The flats near the passes are always a goiod place to start but any flat can produce. The key is to keep moving until fish are located; don’t spend too much time in an unproductive spot. Gold, rootbeer/gold, olive, and glow are popular colors. Scented baits such as Gulp! Can make the difference on a tough day.
Hot bite before a weather change
After a couple of days of nice weather, another front will approach. As this occurs the wind will turn south, then southwest and start to blow fifteen to twenty knots. Often times the fish will bite like crazy as they sense the weather change coming. The south wind will flood the bays with water, tides will be higher than normal. This is a good time to target snook and reds in shallow water. Casting gold spoons or jigs will fool them.
Trout will be actively feeding on the deep flats. The wind will require anglers to find a little protection. The west side of Sarasota Bay north of New Pass has excellent flats and is protected on a south wind. Structure in Big Pass on the north end of Siesta is also protected and is a great spot for sheepshead.
Snook move up into the creeks and canals in winter and the high afternoon tides are a good time to target them. Plugs and jigs cast are to structure and worked back in an erratic manner. Big jack crevelle will also seek refuge in these areas in the cooler months.As the front moves through the wind will turn northwest and blow hard. This pretty much shuts down fishing for a day or two. The wind will shift northeast and the whole process will repeat itself.
Be aware of the effects of local weather patterns and you can be very successful fishing in February.
There are many fine resorts for anglers to stay at when visiting Siesta Key. Fisherman’s Cove on the South end of Siesta Key is the top spot for tourists who place a priority on fishing. Further south in Englewood, Pearl Beach Inn is a great spot for visiting anglers to stay.
In conclusion, this post on Siesta Key fishing charters will help anglers decide if this trip is right for them!
Anglers seeking the chance to catch a trophy snook in a unique environment with awesome scenery my choose to do a river snook fishing charter. Several area rivers offer anglers this opportunity. The Myakka River and Manatee River experience snook migrations in the winter. Anglers can catch trophy snook along with largemouth bass in a very cool setting.
Snook are the premier inshore gamefish in Florida. They are a saltwater version of largemouth bass. Snook are ambush predators with a huge mouth and big, broad tail. They are very powerful! Snook are found from about Orlando, Florida south along both coasts and in central America. The Florida record snook is 44 pounds, but they grow to over 50 pounds. Clients on these river snook charters catch fish of 25″ on most trips. 30″ snook are not uncommon and fish to 40″ are hooked every year. That truly is a trophy on medium spinning tackle!
Seasonal snook migrations
Snook have a very distinct seasonal migration. They spend spring, summer, and fall our in the inshore bays, passes and inlets, and open Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. They spawn out in open water. Snook spend their winters in creeks, rivers, and residential canals. They do this to escape the temperature extremes that can occur on the open flats. Shallow water can change temperature quickly. The water temperature on the flats can drop ten degrees in a couple of days.
Snook are a sub-tropical species that can not tolerate water below 55 degrees for very long. For this reason, they migrate up into creeks, rivers, and canals. River waters are dark and stained. They also have deeper holes. For these reasons, snok move nto these areas to survive a harsh Florida winter. River waters are generally significantly warmer than the open bays. Many fish species migrate up into freshwater streams and rivers. However, snook are one of the few fish species that do this for reasons other than to spawn. Snook can live and thrive in both pure fresh and pure salt water.
There are three rivers near Sarasota that experience these migrations. They are the Myakka River, Manatee River, and Braden River. All three offer good snook fishing. They are similar but each has it’s own character and advantages. The Myakka is the prettiest, the Manatee has the most variety, and the Braden is the most convenient. Let’s go through the three of them.
The Myakka River
The Myakka River is one of the two rivers in Florida designated a “Wild and scenic river”. That means that there is limited access and development. The Myakka River flows 70 miles from a small stream in Manatee County to Charlotte Harbor. It flows through Myakka River State Park. There is a dam that creates Lower Myakka Lake. The water below the dam is the tidally influenced portion of the river that holds snook.
The best place to access the Myakka River is at Snook Haven. It is right in the center of the best river snook fishing. There is a brand new ramp with ample parking. The river does get shallow in spots. The entire river is a “No Wake” zone, idle speed only. There are canoe and kayak launches at Myakka River Park in Laurel and Sleeping Turtles Reserve in Venice.
As mentioned earlier, the scenery is awesome on the Myakka! It has an “Amazon River” like feel to it. Bird life is prolific and other wildlife will normally be seen. There are some large gators! The Myakka River offers anglers the best chance for trophy snook. Largemouth bass are present in decent numbers as well. Juvenile tarpon, jacks, catfish, and gar are occasional catches.
The Manatee River
The Manatee River flows west from Manatee County 20 miles easy of I-75. A dam created Lake Manatee, which provides drinking water for Sarasota and Manatee Counties. The river below the dam runs for 10 miles or so and empties into Tampa Bay. There is more development on the Manatee River, but it is still pretty, especially upriver from Rye Road Bridge. This area of the river has some shallow bars and can be difficult to navigate during periods of low water.
I like to fish the stretch between Ft. Hamer and Rye Road. I usually launch at Ray’s Canoe Hideaway, a place that time kind of forgot! The ramp is narrow and a 16′ boat is about the limit. There is parking and facilities, along with a little store. They offer canoe and kayak rentals. There is a very nice ramp with facilities and parking at the new Ft. Hamer Bridge. This ramp is much better suited for larger boats. The best river snook fishing is usually up-river.
The Manatee River offers anglers the opportunity to catch multiple species along with trophy snook on a river fishing charter. Snook, jack crevelle, redfish, juvenile tarpon, snapper, and ladyfish are saltwater species that are taken there. Freshwater fish are plentiful, especially the further up-river and angler goes. I think that during the summer floods fish get washed over the dam. Bass, bluegill, catfish, sunshine bass, and crappie are all available.
The Braden River
The Braden River is located in Bradenton west of I-75. It again is a stream with a dam, creating a lake. The stretch below the dam is about five miles long before emptying into the Manatee River. The water is quite salty, due to the short length. Therefore, it really does not offer the opportunity to catch freshwater fish. The Braden River is fairly developed and the scenery does not match the other two rivers. It is very convenient, especially to the Bradenton beaches. That is the trade off. Snook fishing can be very good, though.
Anglers access the Braden River at the ramp at the State Road 64 Bridge. The ramp is decent, with parking and a clean Porta Potti. In the cooler months the best fishing is up-river. Anglers do well in spring and fall right at the mouth of the Braden River.
River snook fishing lures
I use artificial lures when river snook fishing. There are several reasons for this. The primary reason is that lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. Lures will elicit reaction strikes from fish that may not be in a feeding mood. Finally, I just think it is more fun feeling the strike when working artificial baits. They also fool other species such as largemouth bass and jack crevelle.
My favorite lure for catching river snook is a shallow diving plug. There are many fine plug manufacturers out there. My personal preference is the Rapala line of baits. The three plugs that I most often use are the #10 Rapala X-Rap slash bait, #10 Rapala BX Minnow, and the Rapala Jointed BX MInnow. Gold and Firetiger have been the most productive colors for me and my clients. These lures also run at the perfect depth. They go deep enough yet run above much of the submerged cover.
River fishing with plugs
These lures cast well, are easy to use, and produce some exciting strikes! The plug is cast out towards some shoreline cover. It is then retrieved back in using sharp twitches followed by a short pause. Many strikes occur on the pause. No hook set is required when a fish takes the plug. Anglers should just come tight and sweep the rod smoothly off to the side. Care must be taken when plug fishing as they have multiple treble hooks! Angler need to fish the bait all the way back in. Strikes occur regularly right at the boat.
Soft plastic baits can produce as well, especially in cooler water when snook are not as active. They are also effective to thoroughly work an area once fish are located. Bass Assassin baits are my preference. They come in many different sizes and colors. I like darker colors with Golden Bream being my favorite. The Die Dapper on a 1/8 ounce Pro Elite jig head works well. These baits will hang up more often that plugs. The hook-up ratio is lower as well as the bite can be more subtle.
River snook fishing techniques
Fishing these rivers is relatively uncomplicated. Anglers drift with the current and cast lures towards structure along the shoreline. Even if cover is not visible, chances are there is a ledge or come submerged cover that may hold a fish. The best areas of the river are those that twist and wind. Outside bends and corners in the river tend to be deeper. Current flow gouges out a hole in the bends. Snook and other fish will concentrate in these spots.
Long straight sections of a river tend to be less productive. I will usually move a little quicker through these stretches. Anglers will still give each trell or piece of brush a cast or two, but we will move faster and concentrate on the more high percentage spots.
Drift with the current
I have found that it is much more productive to drift in the direction of the current. Trying to fish while going against the current results in a “bow” in the line. This is especially true when fly fishing. I either case, this causes the lure or fly to be presented in a less than natural manner. The slack created makes hooking the more difficult as well. The angler must remove the extra line before coming tight on the fish. So, fewer bites, less hooked fish equals; drifting with the current and not against it!
River current is caused by both the natural flow and by the tidal influence. This can be a bit confusing. There can be a swift down stream current from rain and then an incoming tide, causing the water to rise. This is another reason that falling tides are preferred. However, tides are tricky. There are no charts for anglers fishing this far up-river. I use the closest tide tables and add an hour or two. However, only experience and time on the water will give an anglers the tide variables.
Tackle for river snook
Medium spinning tackle is most often used for river snook fishing. It is versatile and perfect for the size of the lures being cast. It works well for the size of the fish being targeted. A7′ medium/heavy action rod with a fast action works best. A “fast” action rod is stout at the butt with a limber tip. This allows lures to be cast but backbone for fighting fish.
Experienced anglers, especially bass fishermen, may opt for bait casting tackle. That is perfectly fine, as the lures are heady enough for that tackle. Bait casting reels are great for casting plugs towards the shoreline. They also provide a bit more power than spinning reels do.
Braided line is a must for fishing in this environment, in my opinion. Snags and cover are plentiful. It is important to be able to stop a big fish. Also, the line will often rub up against cover when fighting a fish. 20 pound braid works well with spinning outfits. 40 pound braid is a good choice with conventional rigs. A 30″ piece of 40 pound flourocarbon shock leader is attached to the braid.
Fly fishing for river snook
Fly anglers can certainly target river snook as well. A stout 9wt outfit is required in the heavy cover. An intermediate sink tip line works best to get the fly down in the water column. The leader need not be long, 6′ to 8′ is fine with a 40 pound bite tippet. Fly selection would include bait fish patterns in white, chartreuse, and gold/black. Clouser Minnow and Puglisi patterns have been productive for my clients. The fly should be cast out and allowed to sink. It is then retrieved back in using sharp strips.
River snook fishing is not for every angler. It requires patience and some casting skill. The river fishing angler is there as much for the experience as the fish. Quality is the goal, not quantity. However, every angler goes knowing that each cast can produce a 30″ snook. Come out with me on a river snook fishing charter and experience the “Old Florida” on these rivers! For other Florida fishing reports, click HERE.
In conclusion, this post on river snook fishing charters will excite anglers into taking a trip!
Many saltwater anglers consider tarpon to be the ultimate challenge. Sarasota tarpon fishing offers guests the opportunity to sight cast to tarpon that average 75 pounds and go up as high as 200 pounds. They do so using spinning tackle in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Anglers taking out a Sarasota fishing charter choose to target these fish in May and June.
Tarpon show up off the Sarasota beaches in early to mid May. They normally stick around until late July. In the early part of the season, they are usually bunched up in larger schools. This is particularly true as we come up on the full moon. Tarpon school up on the moon and then move offshore to spawn.
By early July these larger schools have broken up. The fish also don’t surface quite as well and there will be a lot of singles and doubles seen. However, these late-season fish bite better than do the early-season larger schools. I suppose it is because they have completed their spawning run and are more focused on feeding.
Tarpon fishing can be incredibly exciting! Standing on the bow the boat with your finger on the line in the bail open while waiting for the tarpon the surface can be nerve-racking. Then, the fish surface and the crab is tossed out just ahead of the school. The line gets tight, the fish leaps up out of the water, and it is fish on! However, there can be hours and hours in between when this happens.
Sarasota tarpon fishing
Tarpon fishing is not for everyone. It is as much fish hunting as it is fishing. Anglers get out on the beach just before first light. They sit patiently, 100 yards or so offshore. Then everybody just looks. Schools of tarpon can be seen moving through the area. They can also be seen milling or “daisy chaining”on the surface.
Once the tarpon are sighted, the guide must determine the best approach in stock the fish. Using an electric trolling motor, the boat is eased into casting range. There is a lot that goes into this. The guide must determine the direction the fish are moving in the speed at which their doing so. Also, the interval between their surfacing is a huge component.
When everything goes right, the boat will be in a position where when the fish surface the anglers can get baits in front of the fish. The optimum opportunity would be a very slow moving school that is just easing along and staying up near the surface. This will allow the guide to put the boat in the proper position, resulting in an easy cast for the angler.
Tarpon bites can be surprisingly subtle, given the size of the fish. This is particularly true when casting to milling fish. Often times, the slightest tick or bump is all that will be felt. It is actually a lot like largemouth bass taking a plastic worm. The bite is easier to feel with fish that are moving as normally the line just gets tight and moves off to the side.
We don’t set the hook when of tarpon takes the bait. This is difficult for many anglers to not do. The technique when employee when a tarpon takes the bait is to keep the rod tip low and just real as fast as possible. Once a line gets tight and the fish is taking drag, the rod tip is raised.
Now comes the hard part! There is a saying, “bow to the Silver King”. When the tarpon jumps in the line is tight it will often throw the hook. So, the angler must be ready, and as soon as the fish clears the water he or she takes the rod tip and points it right at the fish. This will result in the fish jumping on a slack line. This is something that only comes with experience.
Sarasota tarpon fishing tackle
Spinning tackle is used on the majority of Sarasota tarpon fishing trips. The reason for this is the need to make a cast. It is simply difficult to cast a 3 inch crab or small bait fish using heavy can conventional tackle. These spinning outfits are quite beefy, though.
7 foot to 8 foot spinning rods mass with 6000 series and larger reels are the preferred outfits. Reels need to have smooth drags, large handles, and substantial line capacity. If there are any weak spots in the tackle, tarpon will find them. These fish put an incredible strain on the line, knots, and tackle, so it all needs to be in tip top shape.
Terminal rigging varies by preference as every angler has their favorite. The first choice is whether to use braided line or monofilament line. Most anglers have now switch to braided line. Braided line can last all season and not twist up like monofilament line. It is also thinner, resulting in longer casts. However, it does not have the stretch, which can sometimes be a good thing with a tarpon on.
A leader of some sort is used when Sarasota tarpon fishing. When using monofilament line, I like to double about 6 feet of the running line using a spider hitch. Then, I attach a 30 inch piece of 80 pound fluorocarbon leader and a hook. No weight is used, with the exception of times when the crabs are really small. A pinch on weight may be required in this circumstance.
Rigging for Sarasota tarpon fishing
Just like everything, hooked choices vary depending on opinion. Tarpon are large, in a large hook is required. However, just like in all fishing, it is best to match the hook to the size of the bait and not the size of the fish being pursued. A #4/0 octopus live bait hook is a good all-around choice. Many anglers prefer circle hooks, in which case a #8/0 works well.
I still prefer the use of the conventional “J” hooks when tarpon fishing. I have not seen my hookup ratio chains with the use of circle hooks. Also, circle hooks are much meatier and sometimes putting one through a crab will kill it. Circle hooks are great choice when fishing larger live baits or cut bait on the bottom.
Anglers using braided line will need a longer leader, generally 6 to 8 foot. They can then attach the leader to the braided line using a double Uni knot or not of choice. Since there is very little stretch when using braided line, the drag setting is critical. If it is a bit too tight, the line will break almost immediately.
Not all anglers use spinning outfits, however. Some guides in anglers prefer to anchor and put a spread of baits out behind the boat. These anglers normally choose to use conventional tackle as there really is no need to make long cast with light baits.
While it is not quite as exciting as stalking the fish, it has several advantages. Several lines can be placed out at once, some on the bottom and other suspended under floats. This obviously ups the chances for a bite. Also, the heavier tackle allows the angler to put more pressure on the fish, subduing it in a shorter amount of time. This is better for both the fish and the angler.
There are several different approaches when using this technique. Some guides in anglers just choose a spot, anchor up, and sit there all morning. Others will employee the same site fishing method mentioned above. However, they try to get way ahead of the fish and anchor. They then deploy the spread and wait for the fish to come to them.
Tarpon fishing Sarasota; baits
Anglers can use live and cut bait using this approach. Some anglers go to the trouble of catching a lot of bait. They keep some of the bait alive, but most of it will be used is chum. Then, once anchored up they put a couple live baits out and a couple chunks of the dead fresh bait on the bottom. Then, a lot of the bait is cut up in the small pieces and tossed out into the water as chum to attract the tarpon and get them in a mood to feed.
A 3 inch blue crab is undoubtedly the top tarpon bait in Sarasota. These little critters are in high demand in May and June and can cost up to five dollars a piece. However, they cast very well, and live a long time. Most importantly, tarpon love them. The hook is carefully inserted near one of the tips of the crab.
Live bait fish account for many anglers Sarasota tarpon fishing. The number one live bait fish is probably a threadfin herring. These, along with cigar minnows, pin fish, and blue runners are caught using a Sikibi rig while out on the beach searching for tarpon. Live bait fish can be either free lined or fished under a cork. Corked bait fish are a great option when the fish are not showing on the surface very well.
Most of the fish will be moving from north to south. This is especially true early in the year. After the full moon in June, more fish will be seen heading northbound. It seems as if they are heading to the mouth of Tampa Bay to feed.
Tampa Bay tarpon
Speaking of Tampa Bay, an interesting fishery has developed over the last few years. Huge schools of tarpon seem to be congregating there at the mouth of Tampa Bay just off of Been Point. Locals call this “Boca Grande North”in deference to the famous spot about 50 miles south of Sarasota well-known for its tarpon fishing.
This type of fishing is not for the faint of heart! Local tarpon anglers, especially some of the guides, will be quick to let you know that you are in their way. There are a lot of boats in a small area and it can get crazy when multiple fish are hooked at once. Novice anglers will do best to sit back a bit and watch and see how the other boats interact before jumping into the fray.
There is a neat bite that happens occasionally, called “Hill tides”. These are strong afternoon outgoing tides that occur several times a month. A small purplish crab called a “pass crab” gets caught up in the strong current. Tarpon feet heavily on these crabs as they are easy prey.
The technique is fairly simple. Anglers use a debt net and scoop up a dozen crabs or two for bait. Then, either look for feeding fish or just set up a drift and free line the baits out behind the boat. When the bite is on, the fishing can be incredible. Anglers do need to be careful of the afternoon thunderstorms. This is big open water and it can get nasty quickly. Current Florida tarpon fishing regulations can be found HERE.
Sarasota tarpon fishing etiquette
Tarpon fishing is very competitive. Unfortunately, there can be confrontations out there. There are some rules of etiquette that most of us follow. Some anglers don’t know these or can get caught up in the heat of the moment as it is very exciting. Here are a few rules that we all try to follow.
there is a slot that the fish usually swim in, from 100 feet out from the beach to about a half a mile from the beach. Whenever possible, try not to run at high speed on plane in this area. This is especially true early in the morning. Boats running over top of the fish will put them down and they won’t show or eat.
Most fish will be moving from north to south. If you see fish coming in there are no boats between you and the fish, just sit there and let the fish come to you. This usually works better than charging up on them.
If another boat or boats is working a school, give them room. It is okay to stay where you are and if the fish come to you take a shot. But don’t drive in on a school that other anglers are working. The exception to this is when they waive you in.
Some anglers choose to fly fish for tarpon. This is very difficult as they need to get fairly close and need the right kind of fish. Give anglers flyfishing a school a very wide berth or better yet leave them alone to work the school.
Do not cast your line over top of tarpon that are moving away from you. This never works, all it does a spook the fish. If they get past you, give them time to put some distance between you and the boat. Then, idle around in front of them giving them a wide berth and set up again.
Once a tarpon is hooked, try to get it out of the school as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is difficult. But, the quicker the the fish can be pulled out of the school, the better chance anglers down the beach have of hooking a fish.