Florida Offshore Fishing Tips

Tips for Offshore Fishing in Florida

This article on Florida offshore fishing tips. The state of Florida offers anglers some incredible offshore fishing opportunities!

There are two distinct techniques that are used when fishing the offshore waters of Florida; trolling and bottom fishing. While some game fish can be caught using both techniques, generally speaking, each technique targets different species. Billfish, wahoo, king and Spanish mackerel, tuna, dolphin, and barracuda are most often caught while trolling. Grouper, snapper, amberjack, triggerfish, grunts, and other species are caught by anglers bottom fishing in Florida.

top Florida game fish

Tackle for offshore fishing in Florida

Offshore fishing tackle can run the gamut. Light spinning tackle is the best choice for yellowtail snapper and other small bottom fish. 80 pound conventional gear is required to winch up a large grouper from a deep water wreck. Trolling for bill fish requires fairly expensive conventional outfits. Therefore, anglers offshore fishing in Florida will need several outfits in order to be successful.

Spinning tackle

The same spinning tackle used to target snook and redfish in the inshore waters will work fine on the shallow reefs and wrecks in water less than 40 feet deep. A 7 foot medium action spinning rod with a 3000 series reel and 20 pound braid or 12 pound monofilament line will work well. The same rig works fine if a school of smaller fish such as Spanish mackerel or peanut dolphin are located working on the surface.

Anglers should also keep a heavier spinning outfit on board. A 7 foot medium heavy spinning rod with a 5000 series reel spooled with 40 pound braid or 20 pound monofilament line is a good all-around rig. It can be used to free lined baits for sailfish and cobia as well as heavier bottom fishing for anglers who prefer spinning tackle. Here is a link to a Penn Battle combo that works well for offshore fishing. Click on the link to shop.

Conventional tackle

Conventional tackle is best suited for most offshore fishing situations. In most offshore fishing, casting is not required. Therefore, the strength of conventional tackle really shines. Conventional reels are basically winches, as opposed to spinning reels where the line turns 90° at the spool. Conventional reels have more power and better drags then do spinning reels. They also hold a lot of line.

trolling with planers

Anglers will need several different conventional outfits to cover the various fishing situations. A light conventional outfit with a 7 foot to 7 1/2 foot rod and matching real works great for light tackle bottom fishing as well as trolling for smaller species such as Spanish mackerel and smaller tuna and dolphin.

Several larger conventional outfits will be required as well. Anglers will find medium conventional rigs in the 40 pound class to be very versatile. They work well when bottom fishing for larger fish in deeper water as well as when trolling large plugs and planers for king mackerel and other species. Finally, a heavier rig in the 6/0 class can be used when targeting larger game fish as well as for trolling large planers. It can also be used for bottom fishing for very large fish. Here are some recommendations for Penn outfits at an affordable price. Clink on the links to shop.


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

Florida offshore fishing tips; bottom fishing

Bottom fishing is a very basic technique, perhaps the first one ever used to catch a fish. In it simplest form, it is baiting a hook and dropping it to the bottom. However, there are many nuances and tactics that spell the difference between success and failure when bottom fishing.

There are several different rigs that are commonly used when bottom fishing in Florida. One of the easiest to use and effective rigs is a sliding sinker rig, also known as a “Carolina rig” in some areas. It consists of an egg shaped sinker with a hole through the center. The running line passes through this hole and then a swivel is attached. A leader is attached to the other end of the swivel followed by the hook.

Leader lengths and strengths vary depending on water depth and species being targeted. Anglers fishing in shallow water will do fine with a 30 pound test fluorocarbon leader of around 3 foot in length. Anglers fishing deep water wrecks and reefs for grouper and snapper will often times use leaders as long as 20 feet and up to 100 pound test fluorocarbon.

Florida bottom fishing rigs

One variation of this rig is called a ”knocker rig”. With this rig the sinker is placed between the swivel and the hook. This allows the weight to ride right on the eye of the hook. It may look a bit odd, but is very effective. The advantages this rig has is that when the weight is on the bottom, the bait is on the bottom. Also, the weight sliding against the hook I can help dislodge it if it gets snagged. This is how it earned its name.

bottom fishing rigs

Another popular and effective rig is called the “spreader rig” or “chicken rig”. It consists of a swivel at the top, a sinker at the bottom, and multiple hooks tied at intervals. This is a great rig to use when drifting in open water. It also has the benefit of presenting multiple baits at various distances off the bottom. A bank sinker is normally used with this rig.

The general rule regarding sinker weight is to use the minimum amount of weight required to return hold bottom. The less weight used the better in most applications. That will result in a more natural presentation as the bait slowly flutters down versus rocketing down to the bottom and making a loud noise.

Bottom fishing hooks

Hooks are the final component in the rig. There are endless choices when it comes to hook sizes and styles. Anglers fishing the Gulf of Mexico are required to use circle hooks. These hooks have been proven to reduce gut hooking and thus mortality in fish that are to be released. While anglers fishing the Atlantic Ocean are not required to use them, many do for the same reason.

Offshore bottom fishing in Sarasota

Hook size should be matched to the size of the bait being used, not the size of the fish being targeted. A very large fish can be caught on a small hook when the drag is set correctly. Anglers fishing for small snapper in shallow water will use a hook a small as a #4. Bottom fishing for large grouper and amberjack require the use of a hook as large as a #10/0.

Florida bottom fishing baits

Baits used when bottom fishing in Florida vary by location and season. Shrimp, either live or frozen, are an excellent bait when fishing shallow water reefs all season long. They produce snapper, grouper, sheepshead, triggerfish, porgy, flounder, and just about every fish that swims. They are easily obtained at just about every Florida bait shop. Live shrimp can be hooked through the horn while frozen shrimp are usually threaded on.

Sarasota fishing excursions

The vast majority of bottom fishing in Florida is done using either live or cut up fish. The reason is simple, big fish feed on little fish. Frozen baits such as Spanish sardines, mullet, false albacore, menhaden, and other fish work well. Again, baits will vary by location. Frozen squid is another universal and effective bait that will catch a variety of species.

Many serious offshore anglers prefer using live baits. Pin fish and grunts can be purchased at some bait shops. Special traps can be used on the shallow grass flats to catch them as well. Many offshore trips begin with the catching of bait at buoys and hard bottom areas close to shore. Anglers use a Sabiki rig (a special rig that uses a half dozen flies) or small baited hooks to fill up the bait well. Cast nets can also be used to procure pilchards on the flats or other bait fish close to shore.

Florida bottom fishing structure

There are several types of structure that will hold bottom fish in Florida. These include natural ledges, artificial reefs, wrecks, and areas of hard bottom. Generally speaking, bottom fish will hold to some type of structure. Rarely will they be found in open water on sandy bottom. While there are many artificial reefs and ledges where the locations are public, putting in time and finding “private”little spots will result in more fish being caught.

fishing Siesta Key

Boat positioning is crucial when it comes to bottom fishing. Most anglers like to place the stern of the boat upwind and up tide of the spot being fished when possible. This results in a natural presentation as the bait eases back towards the structure with the tide. Also, luring the fish out of its structure will result in a better chance of landing versus being cut off on the bottom.

Anchoring techniques

Anchoring correctly is an art that only experience will teach. The general approach is to put the bow of the boat into the wind and tide, drive over the spot, the drop the anchor and drift back. Hopefully, the boat will be in the right position. Once the boat settles on the anchor, it is best to look at the heading on the compass. Unless the current or when changes, this compass heading should work on the next drop.

bottom fishing techniques

GPS trolling motors have revolutionized bottom fishing for anglers using bay boats. When conditions are calm, the angler uses the “anchor” or “spot lock” feature to keep the boat in perfect position. This works extremely well and eliminates the need for heavy anchor equipment.

Once the boat is in the desired location, it is time to fish! Regardless of the depth, the technique is basically the same. Hooks are baited and dropped to the bottom. Rod tips are held low close to the water surface. Some fish will tap the bait several times, while others will simply inhale it. In either event, once a steady weight is felt the angler reels fast and hard to eliminate any slack in the line than the rod tip is lifted up.

Don’t set the hook!

This technique of reeling and lifting works much better when bottom fishing than setting the hook. This is especially important when using circle hooks. A steady pull will result in the hook ending up in the corner of the mouth. The first few seconds of the fight are crucial as the angler tries to get the fish a few feet away from the structure. Once accomplished, the angler can take his time and work the fish to the surface.

offshore fishing in Florida

Many anglers use chum when bottom fishing in Florida. This can be an extremely effective technique to get the bite going. Chum is considered essential when targeting yellowtail snapper. Frozen chum is most often used as it is easy and convenient. A block of chum is placed in a mesh bag either at the surface or can also be lower to the bottom. As the block melts, the chum disperses in the water attracting bait fish and game fish.

It is important not to overdo the chum. The idea is to attract and excite the fish, not to fill them up. Anglers can also cut up small pieces of the same bait being used on hooks to attract fish. Spanish sardines are especially effective. It is a good idea to keep a spinning outfit rigged and ready in the event that fish show up at the surface in the chum. A hook with no weight can be baited and free lined out and will usually draw a strike.

Florida bottom fishing regulations

Anglers bottom fishing in Florida will catch a wide variety of species. Several different species of grouper will be caught including red grouper, gag grouper, black grouper, scamp, goliath grouper, and more. Snappers are just as varied with red snapper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, and mutton snapper being the predominant species. In addition, cobia, triggerfish, porgy, sheepshead, amberjack, and other species will also be taken.

Sarasota bottom fishing

It is very important to be able to identify the species that is landed and to know the current Florida fishing regulations. Seasons, sizes, and bag limits are constantly changing as Florida does its best to manage the resource. It is up to the angler to stay up to date on these regulations which also include tackle requirements and fish releasing procedures. All of this information can be found on the FWC web site.

Offshore fishing tips in Florida, trolling

Trolling is simply driving around while dragging lures or baits behind the boat and waiting for fish to strike. However, as with bottom fishing, it is not nearly that simple. Speed, depth, lures used, and locations all play a part in whether an angler is successful when trolling in Florida.

offshore fishing in Sarasota

Most anglers that troll use artificial lures. Artificial baits can be trolled fairly quickly, allowing anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish. Anglers targeting wahoo often troll as fast as 20 knots! Skirted baits, spoons, and plugs are the most commonly used artificial lures.

Trolling with plugs

Plugs are very effective and productive lures to use when trolling offshore in Florida. Plugs have a lip on them which to a great degree determines the depth that they will dive when being trolled. Other factors such as line diameter and speed will also affect the depth, but the lip on the plug is the primary factor.

Sarasota offshore fishing

This is advantageous in that it allows anglers to cover a certain depth without the use of other devices such as weights and planers. The plug is simply attached to the leader and then it is ready to be deployed. In many applications a 6 foot long 80 pound test fluorocarbon leader works well. Anglers targeting toothy species, particularly king mackerel, will often use a wire leader or a short piece of wire in front of the plug.

Most plug manufacturers will let anglers know the depths that the plugs are designed to run. Often times, these specs can be a tad optimistic. However, they are a good guide. Plugs work very well in open water for king mackerel, cobia, false albacore, blackfin tuna, barracuda, dolphin, and other species.

Trolling with plugs produces grouper

Deep diving plugs are deadly in shallow water when targeting grouper. This is particularly true in the Gulf of Mexico where the water gradually gets deeper the further and angler gets out from shore. The Gulf is littered with rocky ledges and hard bottom areas in depths between 30 feet and 60 feet. The Mann Stretch 30 plug was one of the first lures used for this technique.

In the cooler months gag grouper move into the shallower areas. They are very aggressive and will attack these plugs with gusto. Anglers simply tie the lures on 40 to 50 pound class conventional outfits and troll around at 4 kn or so. This is also a terrific way to locate other bottom fishing spots.

Trolling with spoons

Spoons are very effective lures for anglers trolling in Florida. Trolling spoons are designed a bit differently than casting spoons. They are long and slender and have an outstanding action when pulled through the water. They work best at trolling speeds of 5 kn to 8 kn. Most are silver in color and imitate bait fish. Many come with a brightly colored prism finish to add flash.

As with all artificial lure fishing, the spoon should be matched to the size of the available forage and not the size of the fish being targeted. Spoons come in quite a few different sizes and angler should stock up on all of them in order to “match the hatch”. Generally speaking, smaller spoons do well on Spanish mackerel and false albacore while larger spoons are better for king mackerel.

Trolling spoons are fairly light and do require some device to get them down in the water column. Anglers have two choices in this regard, trolling sinkers and planers. Trolling sinkers are easier but will limit the depth that the spoon will dive. Planers are more involved, however will take a spoon down as deep as 30 feet.

Trolling sinkers

Trolling sinkers are simply weights that are designed to be trolled. The two basic types are keel sinkers and torpedo sinkers. Both work basically the same. The sinker is tied to the end of the running line. Then, a leader, usually around 10 feet long, is tied to the other end of the sinker. A spoon completes the rig. 30 pound test leaders work well with smaller spoons while 50 pound test leaders are better for the larger spoons.

Trolling sinkers are effective but will only get the spoon down in the water column several feet. The good news is that this is often ideal as many pelagic species feed very close to the surface. Once a fish is hooked, it is reeled and until the sinker is a foot or so from the rod tip. Then, the fishes hand lined in the rest of the way.

Planers

Planers are a bit more cumbersome but will get the spoon much deeper in the water column. They allow anglers to troll spoons at a brisk pace. Planers are ingenious devices that use the tension of the water to dive down to a certain depth. They have a sliding ring that once a fish strikes allows the planer to “trip”. This then allows the angler to fight the fish without the drag of the planer.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

Planers come in sizes. The larger the number, the deeper the planer will dive. #1 planers will dive 5 to 7 feet, #2 planers will dive 12 to 15 feet, and #3 planers will dive down to 30 feet. There is a #4 planer, but it puts up such a drag that it is too big for most fishing rods and is used attached to a cleat on the stern of the boat.

The running line is attached to the sliding ring on the planer. A black snack swivel is attached to the rear of the planer, reducing line twist when trolling. Then, a 20 foot long fluorocarbon leader is attached to the snap swivel. The spoon is attached to the other end of the leader.

Planer size, spoon size, rod and reel outfit, and leader strength should be matched together. A #1 planer works well with a 30 pound test leader and a 2 inch to 3 inch spoon on a light 20 pound class conventional outfit. A #2 planer works well with a 50 pound test leader and a 4 inch to 5 inch spoon on a 40 pound outfit. Finally, a #3 planer, which will put up a very strong drag, will require a heavier 80 pound class outfit, a 6 inch or larger spoon on an 80 pound test fluorocarbon leader.

Trolling spreads

Anglers can run multiple lines at once when trolling offshore in Florida. The key is to run the lures at different depths and different lengths out behind the boat. This will allow the boat to make turns without the lines being tangled. Generally speaking, the best approach is to have the deeper lines close to the boat and the shallower lines out further from the boat. It is also best to deploy the shallow, longer lines out first.

fishing report for Sarasota

A good spread for anglers targeting king mackerel, false albacore and other species may go as follows. Counting back is a good technique to use. A shallow diving plug is deployed first, with the line being let out for 25 seconds. A #1 planer rig is then put out, let out for 20 seconds. A #2 planer rig is then deployed, let out for 15 seconds. Lastly, a #3 planer rig is let out for 12 seconds. This is a good all-around spread that will cover the water column effectively.

Anglers can certainly mix-and-match planers and plugs as both are effective when trolled at similar speeds. Optimum speed for plugs and planers is between 4kn and 7 kn. For example, a plug that dives down to 15 feet can replace the #2 planer outfit. A deep diving plug can replace the #3 planer rig. The idea is just to avoid trolling baits at the same depth and especially at the same distance behind the boat. This will almost certainly result in a tangle of lines.

Skirted baits

Skirted baits are productive lures used by anglers offshore fishing in Florida. They are most often used by anglers targeting wahoo, dolphin, and billfish. Unlike plugs and spoons, they can be trolled at much higher speeds, up to 20 kn. These lures stay on the surface and attract fish up from the depths.

Skirted baits can also be used in conjunction with natural baits. Ballyhoo are the most commonly used bait with skirts. They are kind of the best of both worlds as the skirt attracts the fish and the sent and taste of the natural bait will add further enticement. These are often times available as package units at bait and tackle shops.

Trolling with live bait

Trolling with live baits is an incredibly productive technique! It is most effective when fish are located in a certain area. Anglers trolling live baits do so at a much slower speed than when using artificial lures. Often times, the boat is simply bumped into gear and idle along at the slowest possible speed.

Live baits are caught using Sibiki rigs, small hooks and pieces of bait, or cast nets. Live bait fish can sometimes be purchased from bait boats or from bait shops. Most anglers trolling live bait fish use a “stinger rig”. This is a two hook rig where the bait is hooked in the nose with the front hook and a second hook either hangs freely or is inserted into the bait further back. This is deadly on such fish as king mackerel which like to chop the back half of the bait.

offshore chumming

Anglers targeting sailfish will do better using a 60 pound to 80 pound fluorocarbon leader. Slow trolling a live goggle I in the winter months is a deadly technique in Southeast Florida. On breezy days, anglers can simply drift a live baits and Lou of using the motor as propulsion. The key is to achieve the proper speed where the bait moves through the water but does not look unnatural.

Species and structure

Trolling is no different than any other form of fishing and that anglers will target specific areas. While pelagic species generally do not need to relate to structure, bait fish do. Therefore, anglers will generally be more productive when trolling structure such as artificial reefs, wrecks, hard bottom areas, and ledges. In addition, other spots such as temperature changes, watercolor changes, and weed lines can be productive areas.

Anglers trolling off of the Florida coast will catch a variety of species. The four members of the mackerel family includes Cero mackerel, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and wahoo. False albacore, blackfin tuna, and yellowfin tuna are taken by trollers as well. Billfish such as sailfish and marlin are at the top of the game fish. Dolphin may be the most popular of all of the offshore game fish caught by anglers trolling.

South Florida wahoo fishing with Capt Angelia

This article focuses on South Florida wahoo fishing. Wahoo are one of the fastest fish that swims. They are a terrific game fish that is also great table fare.

Wahoo are a prized catch for offshore anglers. These speedsters are found in tropical and subtropical waters throughout the world. In Hawaii, they are known as “ono”. Wahoo are incredibly fast and can reach speeds of 50 knots. In the United States, they are found along the eastern seaboard and in the Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Keys and Bahamas are top spots. They generally travel either alone or in very small packs.

Florida offshore fishing tips

High-speed trolling is the best technique to catch wahoo. Trolling allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of these predators. It is not uncommon to troll as fastest 20 knots for wahoo. Trolling this fast requires special tackle and techniques.

Angelia Coniglio Swanson is an expert when it comes to catching wahoo. She owns Florida Salty Cowgirl in Islamorada, Florida. Her company hand makes and sells her own wahoo lures. She also has her USCG Masters license and runs charters for clients desiring to catch a trophy wahoo. Angelia is generous enough to share her years of experience to help our fishing ladies catching wahoo.

South Florida wahoo locations

While wahoo may be encountered at any time and any place, there are generally areas and times that are more productive. Wahoo can be caught shallow, but most are encountered at depths between 90 feet deep and 400 feet deep. The best times of year to catch them are in fall and winter. Full moons really increase the chance for success!

Wahoo, like most game fish, prefer “edges”. This can be the edge of a current break, a temperature change, or a change in bottom contour. Isolated structure such as a wreck, reef, or drop off may hold wahoo. Weed line edges are famous for holding dolphin, but they will also attract wahoo as well, especially in deeper water.

Tide changes can trigger a wahoo bite as well. An area that did not draw a strike in the morning may produce in the afternoon and vice versa. Catching wahoo consistently requires patience. Persistent anglers who put in their time on the water will be rewarded.

As with any type of offshore fishing, birds working are often an indication of feeding fish. Many offshore anglers associate birds with tuna and dolphin. However, it is not uncommon for a big wahoo or two to be found under birds and other feeding fish.

Wahoo fishing tackle and baits

Tackle and rigging for fishing ladies catching wahoo needs to be in tip top shape. These incredibly fast fish will quickly find any weakness in the line or tackle that is not up to par. Line test on reels can be as light as 30 lb and up to 80 lb. However, the secret is in the leader. Wire leaders that are 4′ to 5′ in length will ensure that the razor shark wahoo teeth don’t slice through the leader, losing both the fish and the rig. Also, pay close attention to the drag. These fish have very soft palates. If the drag is not set loosely,allowing the fish to tire out, the hook will likely pull, releasing the wahoo.

Florida offshore fishing tips

While many artificial lures produce wahoo, Angelia’s to favorite are the diving Rapala and her 5 ounce signature skirts over a rigged ballyhoo. Colors vary, but brightly colored lures have proven to be reliable. These two lures cover the water column well and troll straight and true behind the boat. Other productive wahoo lures are traditional, double hook set wahoo rig tipped with bonita strips or simply running naked ballyhoo. Wahoo anglers can get all of the required LURES from Angelia’s site.

Wahoo trolling spreads

Every successful wahoo angler has his or her favorite “spread”. Spread is the term for the number of lines put out, length that they are put out, and lures that are used. Many a spirited conversation has ensued in the evening at the local watering hole when discussing the “best” wahoo spread!

Angelina prefers a five line spread. Her combination includes two rigged ballyhoo, two diving plugs, and if needed a flat line. She feels that this combination covers water column well while still being relatively easy to manage. Like all fishing, there are nuances that spell the difference between success and going for a boat ride.

South Florida wahoo fishing, setting up the spread

The general rule when trolling multiple lines is for the shallowest lines to be the furthest back. Angelina likes to run the rigged ballyhoo on the outriggers. She places one at 300 feet back on the left rigger and another at 400 feet back on the right rigger. Once these lines are out behind the boat and running well, she deploys the diving plugs.

Rapala makes an excellent series of diving plugs. They are designed to dive down to a fairly specific depth. Of course, the amount of line out, diameter of the line, and speed will affect the depth that which they dive. Angelia puts a 10 foot diving plugs on one corner transom at 600 feet back and then another 20 foot diving plugs on the other transom corner at 800 feet back.

If she feels the need, and Angelia will finish out her spread by putting a flat line down the middle of the spread. This is almost always some type of surface lure. A plastic worm is a great choice. It is put well back, usually about twice the distance of the furthest rigged ballyhoo.

Wahoo trolling techniques

It is very important to set up the spread with those depths and lengths staggered. This accomplishes two things. First, it allows anglers to cover the water column effectively. It also allows the captain to make turns without having the lines tangle. This is very important when surface activity is seen in the boat needs to be redirected.

Many anglers troll for wahoo at 15 knots to 20 knots. While this can be productive and it does allow anglers to cover a lot of water, Angelina prefers to troll at 9 to 10 knots. Trolling at the slightly reduced speed allows anglers to better control the lines without sacrificing strikes. This is particularly true in less than ideal see conditions.

Another advantage of trolling a bit slower as that other species will be taken. While wahoo are the primary targets, very few anglers will turn down the opportunity to put a nice dolphin or yellowfin tuna in the box!

Boat handling is crucial once a wahoo is hooked, particularly if it is a big fish. Like most experienced wahoo trollers, Angelina does not immediately slow down when a fish is hooked. The reason for this is the opportunity to “double up”. Wahoo are known to travel in small packs and often times multiple hookups will ensue.

Wahoo landing procedures

Assuming that only one fish is hooked, we now get all of the other lines reeled in so that the hooked Wahoo will not tangle in the other lines and the angler can concentrate on the hooked fish. We keep all of the Wahoo we are able to due to them being such great table fare, so as long as we have not reached our limit of 2 per person, per day, they all get gaffed and brought on deck.

Sometimes, to keep from being spooled by these fast swimmers, you have to chase them with the boat a bit. One these fish are gaffed and on deck, beware! Their teeth may not look menacing, but are razor sharp and have ruined many a fisherman’s day, so stay clear of their mouths and always wear gloves when removing hooks. Anyone on the boat not actively involved with securing the fish on deck should stay completely out of the way!

While you are one of the most exciting fish that any angler will catch. Very few game fish can match the blistering speed that it angry wahoo attains on its initial run. Any angler that is interested in this challenge can contact one of our fishing ladies catching wahoo, Capt. Angelina at Florida Salty Cowgirl.

In conclusion, this article on offshore fishing in Florida will help anglers understand the techniques and locations use to be successful. What is your favorite fish species and technique?

Fishing Ladies Offshore Fishing Northeast Florida

The subject of this article will be offshore fishing Northeast Florida. While this part of Florida does not receive the attention that Southeast Florida does, it offers anglers some excellent deep water action.

Anglers offshore fishing Northeast Florida has the opportunity to catch quite a few species. Trolling and bottom fishing are the two most commonly used in productive techniques. Anglers trolling offshore will target king mackerel, wahoo, dolphin, tuna, and sailfish. Bottom fishing produces grouper, snapper, porgy, triggerfish, amberjack, and other species.

Tackle used by anglers offshore fishing Northeast Florida is similar to that used in other areas of the state. Conventional tackle in the 20 to 40 pound class will cover most angling situations. Bottom fishing for large grouper and amberjack may require tackle that is a bit stouter. Medium spinning tackle can be used when light tackle bottom fishing in shallower water or casting to breaking fish as well as free lining cut bait into a school of dolphin or tuna.

Anglers offshore fishing Northeast Florida do need to make a longer run then do those in other parts of the state. The Gulfstream is generally about 40 miles offshore of Jacksonville. This requires a longer run to get to the deep water pelagic species. However, there is good bottom fishing much closer than that for a variety of species.

Offshore fishing northeast Florida Fishing Ladies expert Jill

Jill Carter is our fishing ladies Northeast Florida offshore expert. Jill grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. She started fishing offshore about 10 years ago, mainly tournament fishing on a 32 ft Contender every summer & fall on Team Reel Quick, consisting of her husband and father in law.

“Since I was a little girl, I have always had a fishing pole in my hand, whether it be fresh or salt water. It’s not just the thrill, but it’s always a new challenge & I love challenges. The not knowing what you will catch that day…or will you catch a trophy fish…or will you catch a fish at all.

Offshore fishing tips in Florida

“One of my favorite memories of being on the water king fishing was reeling in my biggest kingfish which was a 41 pounder. Then caught a 48 pounder a couple hours later and won Ancient City Tournament in St Augustine in 2014”.

Jill specializes in catching big Kingfish mostly by slow trolling live bait. She shares some of her tips and techniques with us here.

Trolling for king mackerel

Live bait trolling

“There are a few key things that you need to catch the “smoker”. The right rigs, live bait, and a nice spread. Of course there’s more to just those 3. We fish as many as six lines at a time including: 3 on the “T” top, two on down riggers and one other from the transom. I like to troll hard tails (blue runner) which is kingfish candy! Ribbon fish also work, we like to drop those down on the down rigger. You can also slow troll on the surface. Don’t troll too fast, that’s one mistake a lot of anglers make.

“Kingfish are known for biting the tail off the bait to inhibit its ability to swim and escape, then turning back around the eating the rest of the bait, and that’s why most anglers use a double hook or “stinger rig.” I use 25 pound test Diamond Illusion monofilament line to catch kingfish.

“Kingfish are generally pelagic, meaning they swim in the open ocean. They prefer to hang out near offshore structures, such as deep ledges, natural reefs, artificial reefs, shipwrecks, oil rigs, or any other type of structure, as this is where the bait fish will be. Predator species such as king mackerel, along with tuna, wahoo, dolphin, and even bill fish will never be far behind.”

Trolling with lures

Anglers catch plenty of fish trolling artificial lures as well. The three most effective lures to use when trolling offshore are spoons, plugs, and skirted baits. Serious anglers will employ all three and their trolling spread, depending on the number of rods that they can run at one time.

Florida offshore fishing tips

Diving plugs are very easy to use. They come in a myriad of sizes and colors. The lip on the bill will determine the depth the plug will run, as will the speed of the boat. Plugs will produce just about every pelagic species including king mackerel, tuna, wahoo, and sailfish. Grouper anglers use special deep diving plugs to work ledges and structure in shallow water as well.

Spoons are another very effective artificial lure to use when trolling offshore. There are especially effective on king mackerel and Spanish mackerel. Spoons do not weigh very much and some type of device must be used to get them down in the water column. Trolling sinkers and planers are the two most commonly used methods to do so.

Trolling with planers in northeast Florida

Planers are an ingenious device that are like the lip on a plug. They dig down in the water to a certain depth. However, they have a sliding ring which “trips” when a fish takes the spoon. This allows the angler to fight the fish without having the drag of the planer. Most anglers troll between five and 7 knots when using planers and spoons.

Trolling sinkers can also be used to get spoons down in the water column a bit. Trolling sinkers come in a couple different shapes in a variety of weights. These will generally get the spoon down in the water column between five and 10 feet. A 20 foot leader is used between the planer or sinker and the spoon.

Skirted baits are also used for anglers fishing offshore Northeast Florida. These baits run right on the surface and are generally trolled very quickly, up to 10 knots and faster. They are often times accompanied with a natural bait, with ballyhoo being the most popular. These lures are favored by anglers seeking tuna and dolphin.

Offshore fishing northeast Florida, bottom fishing

Anglers bottom fishing off of Northeast Florida do well plying the ledges and artificial reefs from 5 miles to 20 miles offshore. There are quite a few artificial reefs along with areas of good hard bottom and natural ledges. Grouper and snapper are the primary targets, with grunts, cobia, porgy, triggerfish, and other species also being taken.

The most common rig consists of a sliding egg sinker on the main line, a swivel, followed by a fluorocarbon leader in a circle. Leader lengths vary, with 4 foot being a good length in shallow water and 10 foot being better and water over 100 feet deep. Sinker weight will depend on water depth and current. As with most bottom fishing, the best approach is to use just enough weight to hold bottom.

Circle hooks have become very popular among offshore anglers. There is no need to “set the hook”with these; steady pressure is all that is required. Also, fish mortality is reduced as most fish are hooked in the corner of the mouth. When a bite is felt, the angler simply keeps the rod tip low and reels, the fish will hook itself with circle hooks.

Bottom fishing baits and techniques

Bait choice varies by preference. Anglers using frozen baits do well with Spanish sardines, mullet, and squid. Frozen bait often times works better in colder water as fish are less apt to chase down a frisky live bait. Any fresh caught fish cut up into strips or chunks will produce as well.

Live baits are certainly very effective, and are favored by many anglers. Just about any live bait can be used to to catch fish. Pin fish, grunts, and croakers are caught inshore and are terrific bait for grouper, snapper, cobia, and amberjack. Sardines and other silvery bait fish are jig debit markers using speaking rigs. They are great Bates to be used on the bottom as well as being slow trolled.

Boat positioning is crucial when bottom fishing

Anchoring is critical when it comes to bottom fishing. Anchoring properly is as much art as science and experience is the best teacher. The best technique is to try to place the stern of the boat a little up current of the area to be fished. This will result in the baits floating back to the ledge or structure. GPS trolling motors have revolutionized boat positioning on smaller and mid-sized Bay boats. They allow anglers to hover directly over the spot without the hassle of anchoring.

West Palm Beach Fishing

West Palm Beach fishing offers offshore anglers a variety of angling opportunities. The Gulf Stream comes very close to shore at this point. It is only five miles or so offshore, depending on conditions. This is as close to shore as anywhere in the country. The result is an excellent mix of pelagic and bottom species to target and catch.

Larissa is our Fishing Ladies West Palm Beach correspondent. She was born and raised there and knows the fishing quite well. While Larissa mostly fishes offshore, she does hit the back country as well.

“I was born and raised in Florida . I grew up catching fish off the docks of my grandfathers home and my dad took me fishing inshore. Then I found offshore fishing and a whole other level of love for the sport was born! My favorite part is seeing that initial color and see what is on the end of the line. Or, while back country fishing, waiting for the tip to bounce. It makes me so excited!

West Palm Beach Fishing lady Larissa

“Here is my swordfish story. We were fishing a tournament and I just rigged and put out the bait, weight and buoy all by myself for the first time and worked the line. That’s when I saw the the buoy bounce and we decided to pull it in. I took the buoy off and sure enough we were hooked up! We used electric reels so once the fish came up it was harpooned and then dive down 500 feet. So, I ended up having to hand reel the harpoon line which left a blister the size of my palm. After 3 1/2 hr fight we got her on board and she was “banana’d” in the boat! It was my first and I got to keep the bill. We won tournament and beat the record for the tournament!

West Palm Beach fishing; trolling

Trolling is the most effective technique when fishing for pelagic species in the open Atlantic Ocean. Pelagic species (those that constantly are on the move in the upper portion of the water column) require anglers to cover a lot of water. Trolling does just that. Trolling is the technique of driving the boat while dragging artificial lures or live baits behind the boat. It sounds simple, but is in fact quite technical.

Anglers trolling can either present their lures and baits on the surface or down deeper. Many lures are manufactured that are designed to skip on the surface. Some have a concave face that makes a commotion. Others are skirted and skip along the surface. Natural baits, especially rigged ballyhoo, can be fished alone or in conjunction with a skirt.

Trolling deeper

While surface trolling is visually exciting, most fish caught trolling will take baits that are below the surface. There are several techniques that allow anglers to get their offerings down in the water column. Planers, downriggers, and diving plugs all are effective methods to ply the deeper sections.

Planers

These are clever devices that will take a lure down in the water column. Planers come in sizes, with #1, #2, and #3 being used most often. A #4 planer is quite large, some anglers tie them off to the stern. The larger the planer, the deeper the lure will dive. A #1 will go down 5-7 feet. A #2 planer will dive 12-15 feet. A #3 planer can hit 30 feet.

Planers allow anglers to troll fairly fast. This is especially beneficial when targeting king mackerel, which like lures at 5-7 knots. A 20 foot long leader connects the lure and planer. When a fish hits, the planer “trips”. This allows the angler to fight the fish without the drag of the planer. Spoons are most often used with planers. However, plugs with a small lip can be used as well.

Diving plugs

Trolling with diving plugs is an easy and very effective technique. Also, no other hardware is needed. Plugs come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. The proper plug can be chosen based on the available forage. Plugs have a lip on the front. This lip determines the depth that the plug will dive along with the action. Charts provided by the manufacturer can help anglers choose the plug that will dive down to the desired depth.

Downriggers

Downriggers are a bit cumbersome, but are extremely effective at presenting baits at a desired depth. They are like a small rod and reel with a heavy ball. This allows for precise bait presentation. The line is inserted into a clip. When a fish strikes, it pulls the line free of the clip. Anglers are limited to slower trolling speeds, as the ball will swing up at faster speeds. Downriggers are deadly when used with live bait.

Live bait trolling

Slow trolling with a live bait fish is a deadly technique! It allows anglers to cover some water while presenting a struggling bait fish to the predators. Many anglers employ a ‘stinger rig”. This has two hooks. The front hook is used to hook the bait fish, usually through the nose. The second hook either swings free or is inserted into the back of the bait. These are usually wire as king mackerel and wahoo will be targeted. Anglers can use flourocarbon rigs when targeting leader shy species.

Florida fishing regulations are constantly changing. Anglers need to be up to date on the size and bag limits along with the seasons. The FWC website is a great resource for this along with some great fishing information.

West Palm Beach bottom fishing

The lower east coast of Florida offers anglers some excellent bottom fishing opportunities. Reefs, natural ledges, and wrecks are plentiful, providing excellent habitat for predator fish. Grouper and snapper are the most commonly targeted bottom species. However, grunts, triggerfish, amberjack, cobia, and other species will be encountered when dropping a live or cut bait down on a good piece of structure.

While bottom fishing is relatively straight forward, there are nuances that will prove to be the difference between a fair day and a great one. One issue that Palm Beach anglers face is deeper water and strong currents. This makes accurate bait presentation a bit tricky. Boat positioning is crucial. Often times, anchoring is not practical. Therefore, drifting is a great option. The boat is positioned up-tide and up-wind of a likely structure. Then, baits are lowered to the bottom as the boat drifts. Heavy weights are often required to reach the bottom.

Light tackle bottom fishing

Bottom fishing closer to shore in shallow water is very productive as well. Anglers anchor up tide of a patch reef, ledge, or wreck and drop baited hooks to the bottom. The fish are often smaller, but the tackle can be lightened to to match the fish. Cut bait works well for this. There is no need to spend a bunch of time catching and keeping live bait. This style of fishing is great for “family fishing” and for less experienced anglers.

Chumming will kick start the bite. Chum is live or dead fish used to attract fish to the boat. The most simple method is to use blocks of frozen chum. These are blocks of oily fish that are ground up and frozen. The block is placed into a mesh bag and tied off to the stern. As the chum melts, is is dispersed into the water, slowly sinking and drawing bait and predators up in the “slick”. This technique is favored by anglers targeting yellowtail snapper.

Night fishing

Anglers looking to beat the Florida summer heat often fish at night. Most species bite at night, some better than during the day. Snapper are famous for their night time bites around the full moons in summer. Many other species are caught as well. Sharks are plentiful and feed in the dark. Anglers putting out some chum and a chunk of fresh fish will have success. Even small sharks are fun on light tackle.

Fishing Pensacola Florida offshore

Pensacola offers some of the finest big-game fishing and offshore fishing in the world. The key to this great fishing is the fact that the water in the Gulf of Mexico gets deeper, faster here than in any other part of Florida. That puts not only an abundance of structure for bottom fish in range of fishing boats, but also the larger pelagic big-game species as well.

Anglers bottom fishing have multiple species available to them. Grouper and snapper top the list. Red grouper, gag grouper, red snapper, mangrove snapper, are targeted. Triggerfish, amberjack and other species will be taken as well. Bottom fishing offshore is productive all year, but fall is probably the best time to fish.

Pensacola bottom fishing

Boat positioning is crucial when bottom fishing offshore. Anglers can choose to anchor, draft, or motor fish. The method use will be dictated by the wind, waves, and current. It is not practical to anchor in water much over 150 feet deep. Drifting works well on calm days while motor fishing will be required to keep the boat in position on days with a little more breeze.

The basic bottom rigs work fine for anglers fishing Pensacola, Florida. Sliding sinker rigs are used with long leaders. #3/0 to #7/0 circle hooks are used. Circle hooks are required for fishing offshore. Sinker weight will depend on current, wind, and depth. “Chicken” rigs are also popular, especially for snapper. This is a couple of hooks inline, 3-4 feet apart, with the sinker at the bottom.

Both live and frozen baits produce for anglers fishing Pensacola, Florida. Top frozen baits are Spanish sardines and squid. Any fresh or fresh frozen cut fish with catch bottom species. Live shrimp work well. Live bait fish such as pinfish and grunts are often preferred for grouper anglers.

Trolling offshore in Pensacola

Trolling is basically the act of putting some lines out and driving the boat around. But again, there is much more to it than that. Many anglers are surprised at how fast saltwater anglers troll for game fish. For that reason, there are special tools and lures used to troll effectively at those speeds.

Anglers do very well trolling for king mackerel using planers and spoons. Brightly colored spoons such as pink and even chartreuse work well. Trolling spoons are long and slender and are designed be trolled at a brisk pace. They have a very tight wiggle and will not spin. Brittany likes to troll at 5 to 7 knots when targeting king and Spanish mackerel.

Trolling with planers

A planer is a metal device that digs down into the water causing it to dive. Planers come in several sizes, the smaller the number, the smaller the planer. A #1 planer will go down 5 to 7 feet. A #2 planer will go down 12 to 15 feet. A #3 planer will go down 25 feet or so. The larger the planer, the heavier the tackle needs to be as it puts quite a strain on the rod.

A #1 planer with 20 feet of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader and a small spoon is a good combination for Spanish mackerel and for catching hard tails for bait. A #2 planer with 20 feet of 50 pound fluorocarbon leader in a medium king spoon works well for both king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, along with false albacore. A #3 planer 20 feet of 80 pound fluorocarbon leader in a large spoon will catch the big king mackerel and maybe even a wahoo!

The approach that works best when trolling is to have the deepest lines closest to the boat. Therefore, the #3 planer will be put out and counted back 10 to 12 seconds. The #2 planer will be put out 15 to 17 seconds, and the #1 planer put back about 22 to 25 seconds. Separating the distances in depths like this will keep the lines from tangling when the boat makes a turn.

Plugs are very effective lures to use when trolling as well. Plugs have a lip on them which will determine the depth that which they will dive. One effective strategy is to put a plug with a fairly big clip on it right in the prop wash. That means that the plug is running only 20 feet or so behind the boat. Surprisingly, fish will hit at that close. A shallow running plug can be put way back, a little behind the number one planer.

Pensacola offshore species

Patient anglers willing to put in their time offshore trolling can be rewarded with some trophy fish when fishing pensacola Florida. Wahoo, yellowfin tuna, large king mackerel, cobia, dolphin, and even Bill fish such as sailfish and marlin will please offshore anglers. Anglers targeting these species fish water depths from 200 feet and deeper. Anglers should look for bottom contour changes, water color changes, water temperature changes, and as always when offshore fishing, bird activity.

In conclusion, this article on Florida offshore fishing tips should help anglers catch more fish, whether bottom fishing or trolling. Anglers can find all Florida fishing regulations on the FWC site.

Sarasota Offshore Fishing

Sarasota Offshore Fishing Tips

The waters offshore in the Gulf of Mexico offer anglers a wide variety of angling opportunities. Both bottom fishing and trolling produce a wide variety of species. This article on Sarasota offshore fishing will help anglers catch more fish! Many thanks to Marissa for the great pictures and tips!

Sarasota offshore fishing

The Gulf of Mexico on the west coast of Florida near Sarasota slowly and gradually deepens as anglers head west. At ten miles, the water is 60 feet deep, at 30 miles it is 100 feet deep. The bottom is relatively flat, sandy, and featureless. This means that any ledge, coral, hard bottom, wreck, or reef is very likely to be an oasis in the otherwise barren landscape. Just about every species caught in the Gulf of Mexico will relate to some type of structure. Mangrove, red, lane, and yellowtail snapper are caught at these locations. Red, gag, scamp, and black grouper along with huge goliath grouper are found there as well. Triggerfish, porgy, grunts, amberjack, flounder, sea bass, and other species will be caught on these structures.

Pelagic species such as king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, tuna, and even wahoo will be found over structure, particularly larger reefs. The reefs will attract bait fish, which in turn brings in the game fish. Ledges and other hard bottom will also hold kings and other species. Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program. Anglers can find the GPS numbers HERE.

Near shore fishing in Sarasota

Anglers can experience some outstanding fishing quite close to shore in Sarasota when conditions are right. East winds will have the Gulf water smooth and clear. This will attract bait fish, which in turn brings in the game fish. King and Spanish mackerel, false albacore, bluefish, cobia, sharks, and even tarpon are found in the inshore waters off of the Sarasota beaches.

False albacore fishing

The techniques used in shallow water are basically the same as those used by anglers fishing many miles offshore. The tackle is similar, though generally a bit lighter as the fish are smaller. Several artificial reefs are located withing two miles in thirty feet of water. These are fish magnets! Ledges are small, rare, and difficult to locate in the shallow water. However, anglers who do find some good bottom close to shore will experience some excellent bottom fishing!

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Offshore fishing in Sarasota; trolling

Trolling is a great way to locate productive bottom fishing spots, particularly on a calm day. Experienced anglers like to start trolling 5 to 10 miles before reaching the bottom spot that she is heading to. Then, with the lines put out, anglers keep their eyes on the bottom machine. Any bottom irregularity is saved on the GPS. These spots can the be explored later that day or on another trip.

Sarasota offshore fishing

The trolling spread consists of planers, plugs, and flat lines. On a large vessel, six lines can easily be put out. A planer is a device that digs down into the water, taking the lure down into the water column while allowing the boat to be driven fairly fast. Planers have a sliding ring where the planer “trips” when a fish hits. This allows the angler to fight the fish without the resistance of the planer.

trolling with planers

Spoons are very productive offshore fishing lures

Spoons are most often used behind planers. They work well when trolled at higher speeds. Plugs can be used, however if they are too large, they will trip the planer. Trolling at 5-7 knots is effective for most Gulf of Mexico species. Several sizes and colors should be used until a productive pattern emerges.

Planers come in sizes, the smaller the number, the smaller the planer. A #1 planer dives 5-7 feet and is used with a 20′ piece of 30 lb flourocarbon leader and a small spoon. A #2 planer dives 12-15 feet and is used with 20′ of 50 ln leader and a medium spoon. A #3 planer will get down to 30 feet. It is used with 20′ of 80 lb leader and a large spoon. Conventional tackle is used as the planer puts a strain on the rod as it is trolled. A #3 planer requires a stout outfit!

Trolling with plugs

Plugs are also very effective when trolled. Plugs come in many different sizes and colors. The lip on the front of the plug determines the depth that it will dive down to. Most manufacturers have a chart that gives anglers an idea of how deep the plug will run. Rapala and Bomber both make excellent lures for offshore trolling.

Trolling in shallow water with plugs is a very effective technique for anglers targeting gag grouper in the cooler months.

Trolling with skirted lures

Skirted lures are also effective lures for offshore trolling. These are often combined with a ballyhoo or other natural bait. The skirt adds action and color while the bait adds scent and texture. These lures are often fished right on the surface or just below it by our ladies offshore fishing.

Trolling for dolphin

 

The general rule when putting out a trolling spread is that the shallower running baits are put out the farthest behind the boat and are put out first. Marissa likes to put out a skirted ballyhoo on a flat line, way back and right down the middle. Then, she will put out a shallow diving plug, not quite as far back. The 3 planer outfits are then deployed, the #1, first, followed by the #2 and #3, each a little closer to the boat. Finally, a diving plug is put out 20 feet behind the stern, right in the prop wash.

Once the lines are put out, it is time to sit back and enjoy the day. Again, keeping an eye on the bottom machine will help locate other spots, along with bait and fish. Many anglers like to put a fairly small spoon on the #1 planer outfit. This will often result in blue runners and small mackerel being caught, which are excellent baits.

Offshore fishing in Sarasota; bottom fishing

Bottom fishing is extremely popular in the Gulf of Mexico. The primary reasons for this are simple; grouper and snapper! These much-desired bottom species are plentiful on the ledges and reefs offshore of Sarasota. Many other species are landed as well, including amberjack, triggerfish, grunts, porgies, sheepshead, flounder, and more.

Sarasota fishing charters

Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program. This is a boon to anglers. While they are productive, the most successful anglers find their own “private” fishing spots. An isolated ledge or piece of hard bottom that nobody else fishes is an angling gold mine! Once an angler finds a handful of these spots in various depths, there will be very few fish-less days.

It does take time to find these hidden gems. Many of these ledges or “breaks”, as they are termed locally, are small. A two foot rocky ledge in an otherwise barren, sandy area will hold a lot of fish. Trolling on a calm day is an excellent way to locate these spots. Also, there are usually multiple ledges that protrude from the bottom in an area. So, once a piece of bottom is found, that area should be explored to see if other ledges can be located.

Sarasota offshore fishing tips; anchoring

Anchoring properly is crucial to success when bottom fishing offshore. The deeper the water, the more difficult it is. Anglers must take the wind and current into account, then position the boat just up-wind and up-tide of the structure. Many anglers toss out a buoy of some sort to make the spot, providing a visual reference. Experience is the best teacher when it comes to anchoring. Dragging the anchor through a spot and ruining it is a terrible feeling!

Offshore bottom fishing in Sarasota

The best approach is to mark the spot with a buoy. Then, anglers idle around back to the buoy, going straight into the wind. After traveling a short distance (which is determined by the wind and depth), the anchor is lowered and the boat eased back to the spot. Ideally, the boat will rest a short distance up-wind and up-tide of the spot.

Pro tip: once the boat comes to rest, take note of the compass heading. Unless the wind or current changes, this heading should work on the next spot or two if moving is necessary.

Sarasota bottom fishing

Smaller bay boats are now using GPS trolling motors to hold their position, especially on calm days. These powerful electric motors have revolutionized bottom fishing. The motor will hold the boat precisely over a spot. The angler can easily move 10-15 feet and fish another piece of the same structure. Obviously, it needs to be relatively calm to use a bow mounted trolling motor.

Bottom fishing techniques

Once properly positioned, it is time to fish. The first order of business is to put out some chum. Most anglers tie a bag of frozen chum, to the stern. As it thaws, the chum will disperse into the water. This will often times bring fish, especially snapper, up off the bottom. A handful or two of fresh chopped bait will slowly sink down and stimulate the fish.

Sarasota fishing charter

Most anglers opt for basic bottom rigs. A sliding egg sinker is placed on the running line. A swivel it tied on the end of the line. A leader is tied on the other end of the swivel, followed by the hook. Leader lengths vary by preference and depth. A three foot leader is fine in shallow water while a ten foot leader might be better in over a hundred feet. Anglers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use circle hooks. Florida fishing regulations can be found at the FWC site.

Another very simple rig is the “knocker rig”. The angler slides the sinker on the running line, followed by the hook. Not only is this simple and re-rigging very fast, it is very effective as well. The bait will rest right on the bottom, near the sinker. The line will freely move through the sinker without feeling any resistance. Finally, snags are easy to free up as the sinker knocks against the hook. Thus the name, “knocker rig”.

best Sarasota fishing charter

Offshore fishing tackle for Sarasota anglers

Conventional tackle and spinning tackle can be used offshore. Spinning tackle in the 20 lb class works well for snapper, which can be line shy at times. A 7′ to 8′ spinning rod, matching reel, and 20 lb monofilament or braided line is a good outfit. Anglers using braid will need a long flourocarbon leader. The lightest sinker that will reach the bottom is used. A slowly sinking bait will produce on the snapper.

Mangrove snapper will often “rise up” into the surface chum. This is fantastic! The fish can be caught using fairly light tackle as they are so far from the protection of the structure. A hook baited with a piece of bait floated back naturally will get the job done.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

Serious grouper diggers use heavy conventional tackle. This is required to winch and angry grouper up and out of it’s hole. The same is true if amberjack are present. These hard-pulling fish are not called “reef donkeys” for no reason, their nick name is well-earned.

Here are some recommendations for Penn combos that work well at a reasonable price. Click on the link to shop.



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

Sarasota offshore fishing baits

Every offshore anglers has a favorite bait. Marissa has found that as an all-round multi species bait that catches everything, it is hard to beat frozen Spanish sardines. They are available at every tackle shop. Sardines, and other frozen bait, need to be thawed out. It is best to use salt water to thaw out bait. Using fresh water will make the bait mushy. Anglers should thaw out a little at a time, keeping it firm.

Other frozen baits such as squid and mullet work well, too. Any fresh caught legal fish can be cut up and used as bait. Fresh cut bait works very well for grouper and red snapper, along with just about every other species.

Live baits are effective offshore

Live baits are a little more trouble, as in most instances they must be caught, but many anglers find them worth the effort. Pinfish are a terrific bait for grouper, snapper, and amberjack when bottom fishing offshore. Many anglers feel that a large, live shrimp is the best bait for mangrove snapper.

The technique for fishing both live and cut bait is the same. Anglers drop the bait to the bottom, then reel up the slack. They stand ready, with the rot tip down near the surface. When a fish bites, the angler waits until until a steady pull is felt. Then, he or she reefs fast and hard, pulling the fish up away from the structure.

Once the angler gains a few feet, a steady lifting of the rod tip, then reeling down to pick up the slack, will usually result in a landed fish. Setting the hook does NOT work with circle hooks anywhere, especially in deep water.

In conclusion, this article on Sarasota offshore fishing tips should help anglers achieve success out in the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Florida Saltwater Fishing in Winter

Florida Saltwater Fishing in Winter, Species, Strategies, and Tips

This post will focus on Florida saltwater fishing in winter. While Florida is warmer than the rest of the country, we do experience winter. Fish migrations and feeding patterns change as well. Successful anglers understand these patterns and adapt to them. Winter fishing in Florida is about the weather, pure and simple. It is not unusual for it to be 78° with sun and a light breeze one day then cold and windy a couple days later.

Sarasota fishing report

The key to being successful when Florida inshore winter fishing is adapting to the changing conditions and taking what Mother Nature gives us. Florida fish species have both local and seasonal migrations. Anglers that understand these migrations will have more success. Many species are available to Florida anglers all year long. These species would include speckled trout, snook, redfish, jacks, snapper, flounder, bluefish, grouper, ladyfish, and more. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, and cobia are examples of migratory species. Most of these types of fish move through heading north in the spring and then south again in the fall.

Florida inshore winter fishing tackle

Sarasota family fishing charters

Tackle for anglers Florida inshore winter fishing is pretty basic. A 7 foot medium action spinning rod with a 3000 series reel spooled up with 20 pound braid or 10 pound monofilament line will catch all but the largest inshore fish. Most anglers use a shock leader of 24 inches to 30 inches with 30 pound test being a good all-around strength. Both live bait and artificial lures produce in the wintertime. The days of cast netting pilchards and other bait fish on the flats are over.

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

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Live shrimp are by far the most popular and most productive live bait. The lead head jig and grub combination is the most widely used artificial lure. As water temperatures drop, fish metabolisms slow down. Therefore, angler presentations need to be slower and more deliberate as well. For that reason, jigs are extremely productive in the winter. Fish will often stage in holes in channels and other deeper areas. A jig slowly bounced along the bottom is a very natural presentation.

Florida winter weather patterns

Florida experiences cold fronts every week or so in the winter. The cycle is as follows. As the front move through, the wind will blow northwest fairly strongly, usually in the 20 to 30 mile-per-hour range. It is generally not safe to fish during these conditions. Inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean waters will be rough and the water will be turned up in muddy. Flats will also be turned up, especially those near the passes and inlets.

The day following the front, winds will have shifted to the Northeast along with high pressure. This will result in those “blue bird skies”with very few clouds. Fishing can often times be tough under the circumstances. Tides will also be extremely low, as northeast winds will actually blow the water out of the bays. Flats species will drop off of the flats due to the lower water and drop in water temperature. It will be quite chilly in the morning.

Florida saltwater fishing in winter is often best in the afternoon

Often times, afternoons when it warms up a bit and the tide comes in are your best bet. After couple days, the wind will shift east and southeast and temperatures will rise back up into the 70s. The water in the passes and inlets in the bays will settle down in clear up. Fishing is normally good on these days.

Florida pompano fishing

If it stays warm for several days, fish may move back up on the flats. As the next front approaches, the wind will shift out of the south. This is the best time to go fishing in the winter in Florida! Fish sense the change in barometric pressure and will feed up as the front approaches. South winds of 20 to 25 miles an hour can make fishing difficult. However, keeping safety in mind, this is a very productive time to fish. As the front approaches, the wind switches to the northwest and the cycle repeats itself.

Florida inshore winter fishing techniques

Anglers Florida inshore winter fishing will do well to think “deeper and slower”this time of year. Grass flats in 4 feet of water to 6 feet of water that are normally productive may not have fish on them. Speckled trout and other species will move off the flats and seek refuge in deeper holes and channels. Navigational channels that cut through a flat are good spots to find schools of trout and other species in the winter. As the fish drop off the flats, they will school up in bunches in the deeper water. It may take a little while to locate them, but once done, the action can be fast and furious. A jig bounced on the bottom or a live shrimp with a couple of split shot will be productive.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Passes and inlets will hold of lot fish in the winter as well. The water is generally deeper in the spots with an abundance of structure. Anglers bottom fishing with live shrimp will catch sheepshead, mangrove snapper, black drum, grouper, whiting, silver trout, and other species. The best time to bottom fish inlets is during the turn of the tide when the current eases up a bit. It is difficult fishing when the title flow is very strong.

Fishing bridges and docks

Bridges and docks will also produce a lot of fish in the wintertime in Florida. Dock fishing can be a bit overwhelming as there are so many to choose from. The best docks have some current flow and are in water around 10 feet deep. A dock isolated on a point with good current flow and 10 or 15 feet of water would be a prime spot. Bridges are also productive and are fairly easy to fish.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Basic bottom rigs work well when targeting fish around structure in the inlets and passes and under docks and bridges. A sliding sinker rig works well. The main line slides through the hole in an egg sinker, followed by a swivel. A 24 inch 30 pound test leader is used, followed by a live bait hook. The hook should be matched to the size of the bait being used.

A #1 hook is a good all-around size. Anglers can also use a “knocker rig”. In this rig the sinker slides all the way down and rest right on the eye of the hook. It might look odd, but it works really well and results in fewer hangups on the bottom. Another simple way to bottom fish is to simply use a jig head and adorn it with a shrimp.

Winter fishing the Florida flats

The grass flats will produce for anglers Florida inshore winter fishing as well. The key is to catch the flats on the best days. This would be several days after the front move through when the water has warmed up and cleared up a bit. Here in Sarasota where I fish, the deeper grass flats in 8 foot of water to 10 foot of water are the most productive. Redfish and gator trout can be found in potholes on the shallow flats, but this will take patience and persistence in the wintertime.

Sarasota fishing charter

Jigs produce very well for anglers drifting the deep grass flats in the winter. A 1/4 ounce jig casts well and will get down in the water column. I prefer the Bass Assassin line of baits, but there are many other manufacturers whose products produce well. A 3 inch to 4 inch shrimp tail or shad tail bait works well. Root beer, new penny, glow, chartreuse, and pink are all popular ineffective colors.

Live shrimp certainly produce on the deep grass flats as well. Free lining the shrimp with a split shot or two is generally the best approach. Again, most fish will be found on flats in deeper water. This makes fishing a shrimp under a popping cork less effective. Free lining the shrimp out behind the boat as it drifts along is generally very productive.

Winter canal fishing

Creeks, rivers, and residential canals can be wintertime hotspots! Snook in particular will migrate up into these areas to escape the harsh conditions on the open flats. Jack crevalle, redfish, juvenile tarpon, and other species will move into these areas as well. Water temperature is often significantly warmer sometimes as much is six or eight degrees, in these areas. Docks are the primary cover and residential canals. Canals that dead-end and have lots of seawalls are often the best ones to fish.

Sarasota river fishing

Due to the lack of current flow and the concrete, water in the back ends of these canals is often a bit warmer. This will attract the fish. Most canals have fairly uniform depth due to the fact that they are dredged by man. Anglers fishing canals and winter used to different techniques; fishing live shrimp under docks and trolling. Anglers flipping a live shrimp under docks can expect to catch snook, redfish, drum, sheepshead, snapper, and other species. Slow trolling with plugs is a time-tested technique that will produce some trophy snook as well as big jacks, particularly on the East Coast of Florida.

Fishing Florida creeks and rivers in winter

Creeks and rivers are different story. Mother Nature built these and depth will constantly change. Fish will stage in the deeper holes, particularly on the low tide stages. Outside bends in creeks and rivers are prime spots. As anglers move further in land, the water can become brackish. This results in the opportunity for anglers to catch freshwater fish such as largemouth bass, Gar, and catfish. Artificial lures work well when fishing rivers and creeks. They allow anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. Shallow diving jerk baits such as the Rapala X-Raps are excellent search baits. 1/8 ounce jig heads with a 5 inch or 6 inch jerk worm work well to thoroughly fish a deeper hole or once fish are located.

Sarasota river fishing

Sheepshead and black drum fishing

This article will focus on sheepshead and black drum fishing. These two species are very similar in habits and appearance. Therefore, we will tackle both species in the same article.

Sheepshead and black drum are found all along the coast of the United States from Texas around Florida, and north to New York. Both species feed primarily on crustaceans. Shrimp, fiddle crabs, sand fleas, and other crabs are top baits. Sheepshead and black drum are normally found around structure such as oyster bars, bridges, docks, seawalls, and wrecks and artificial reefs. Both species put up a decent tussle and are good eating.

Inshore bays, tidal creeks and rivers, passes, and ledges, reefs, and wrecks in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean all hold fish for anglers sheepshead and black drum fishing. Bottom fishing with live or frozen bait produces the vast majority of drum and sheepshead. Occasionally one will take an artificial lure, but that is the exception to the rule.

Sheepshead and black drum characteristics

Sheepshead average a couple of pounds but grow larger. Anything over 5 pounds is a nice fish. They are very god to eat, but can be difficult to clean. They are members of the porgy family and have large rib bones.

best Sarasota fishing charter

Black drum grow much larger than sheepshead, though most fish are in the two to ten pound range. The world record black drum is 113 pounds! Smaller fish are very good eating. The larger black drum can be wormy, especially when taken in warmer waters. Most anglers release the larger black drum.

Sheepshead are known to be terrific bait-stealers. They have an innate ability to eat the bait without being detected. However, there are a few tips that will help anglers hook these tasty saltwater panfish.

Sheepshead and black drum fishing tackle

RODS AND REELS FOR SHEEPSHEAD FISHING

Most anglers opt for medium spinning tackle when targeting sheepshead. A 7 foot rod with a 3000 series reel is a great all around combination. Braided line will help anglers detect the light baits as well as getting the fish away from structure. 20 pound braid works well. Anglers can certainly use monofilament line if they prefer. Conventional tackle can be used offshore or when targeting very large black drum.

SHEEPSHEAD TERMINAL TACKLE

Most anglers sheepshead and black drum fishing use basic bottom rigs. These consist of a sinker, leader, and a hook. A sliding egg sinker rig is very effective. Anglers also refer to this as a “Carolina Rig”. It allows the fish to pick up the bait without feeling the weight of the sinker. The main line passes through the sinker. A swivel is then tied on. A 24” to 30” piece of 30 lb flourocarbon leader is tied on the swivel. A # 1/0 live bait hook completes the rig.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Sinker weight will depend on several factors. Water depth and current are the two main things that determine sinker size. The rule of thumb is to use just enough weight to reach and hold bottom. This can range from a split shot to several ounces. The leader strength will also vary, with water clarity being the main factor. 30 lb flourocarbon is a great all around choice.

Hooks come in a myriad of sizes and styles. Since sheepshead and drum can be a bit fussy, most anglers opt for smaller live bait hooks. Circle hooks are popular and are required in the Gulf of Mexico. #1 live bait hooks and #2/0 circle hooks will work well in most applications.

Sheepshead and black drum fishing techniques

One mistake many anglers make when sheepshead and black drum fishing is trying to set the hook. Capt Jim recommends the following procedure works well when trying to hook these fish;

“Cast the bait out towards the structure in shallow water or drop it straight down in deeper water. Close the bail and remove all of the slack. Sit as still as possible with the rod tip close to the surface of the water. Most times, the bite starts with a subtle “tap”. It is crucial to keep the bait still when this occurs! Moving the bait will spook the fish. Anglers may feel several “taps”.

Florida saltwater fishing in winter

“At some point, one of two things will happen. The fish will get all of the bait and the ‘taps” will stop. Or, and we hope this is what happens, a steady pull will be felt. At this point the anglers should reel quickly, tightening up the line, and slowly lift the rod tip. This should result in a hooked fish! It does not work all the time, but is the most effective technique for hooking sheepshead.”

Sheepshead and black drum locations

Anglers sheepshead and black drum fishing will find fish in a variety of locations. These fish love oyster bars as crabs are abundant. Tidal creeks and rivers are excellent spots to target these species. Fishing will congregate in holes on low tides and then move up on top of the bar on high tide. Often times, a hook and a split shot or two is all that is required.

Florida saltwater fishing in winter

Bridges are fish magnets. Pilings along with structure at the base attract and hold sheepshead and drum along with other bottom fish. Fender systems are great spots as well. They also provide a break in the current flow. Bridges also allow access for anglers without a boat, where permitted. The best approach generally is to fish the up-tide side of the piling or fender.

Docks hold a lot of fish for anglers sheepshead and black drum fishing. Again, the best approach is to anchor up-tide of the dock and cast the bait back towards the structure. Chumming with a few pieces of bait will sometimes get the bite going, especially if the water is cold.

Sheepshead and drum fishing in inlets and passes

Inlets and passes are great places to go sheepshead and black drum fishing. Most have some sort of rock jetty. These will provide cover, structure, and forage. Current and deeper water will also be present. Anglers can fish from shore or in a boat. It is often times best to fish on the turn of the tide when the flow eases up. It can be difficult, and frustrating, when fishing in a strong current.

Sheepshead can also be found in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Natural ledges, artificial reefs, and wrecks will hold sheepshead and other bottom fish. Anchoring up-tide of the spot and letting the bait drift back works well. A little bit of chum can help get the bite going.

Sarasota fishing report

In conclusion, this article on sheepshead and black drum fishing will help anglers catch more of these fish. They are not glamorous, or even especially attractive. However, they pull hard, are fun to catch, and taste great!

Winter Snook Fishing Tips

This article will share some great winter snook fishing tips. Most of us winterize our boats as soon as the first cold front rolls through, however the fish have not stopped biting. In fact if you fish it right, it’s a great time to catch a new personal best! The key is knowing how, since summer snook fishing and winter snook fishing are two very different things. The first prime key to winter time fishing is finding the targeted species.

Florida saltwater fishing in winter

Since we live in a subtropical paradise, we have mostly subtropical fish which includes the snook. If you live near Florida’s panhandle you have likely never caught one, this is mostly due to the snook’s low tolerance for colder water temperatures. During the winter a prime part of survival for these guys is warmth. After the first full moon of September most of our snook head off the beaches and take cover in local rivers and canals.

Rivers and canals hold warmth due to several factors. These factors include bottom type, structure, and springs. Dark mud holds heat from the sun for long periods of time. Bridges and Docks heat up from the sun above and the heat transfers to the water below. Rocks also hold heat well from the sun, the darker the better. The best source of heat, however, is natural springs which heats the water from the aquifer.

Winter snook fishing tips, trolling

Now we know a general idea of a location, however most of us don’t know where every natural spring is hidden, so there are several effective ways to find and catch snook. My favorite is trolling. Anyone can do it with very minimal experience. To start we need our proper set up. If monster snook is the target, a good sturdy rod and reel is recommended.

fishing for snook

Most rivers and canals are full of docks, pilings, and mangroves, all great areas for snook to wrap around and break you off. A 6000 to 8000 size spinning reel with a heavy power moderate fast action rod is a great roundabout combo. Fill your reel with 40 lb braid and top it off with a 6′ 50 lb fluorocarbon leader. The leader may need to be adjusted depending on the clarity of the water and amount of structure.

Top snook trolling lures

There is an endless supply of lures to troll but select the lure based on the environment. Dark colors work best in dark water while lighter colored lures work better in clear water. Try weedless lures for areas with excessive grass, such as a Live Target mullet. Try noisy flashy lures for wide areas to attract snook from a distance away, such as a rattle trap.

Rapala makes several sturdy trolling plugs for this style of fishing as well. The #10 Rapala X-Rap Slashbaits work very well.  Gold is a great color in the tannin-stained river water. An important factor in choosing the proper lure for trolling is the hook quality. Look for lures labeled with hooks at least 2x strong. You wont regret spending a few extra dollars and getting the lure with better hooks.

Winter snook fishing techniques

Now we have a set up, lets get started planning the perfect time to fish. Prefrontal conditions are the best because fish sense the barometric pressure changing and feed heavier, preparing for the cold weather ahead. We want our lure to look as natural as possible, bait fish tend to swim with the current. Not only will your lure not appear as natural trolling up current but since snook are ambush feeders, they will be waiting behind rocks,pilling, and in drop off facing into the current waiting to strike.Your lure might get missed by the snook looking the other way.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Now we are trolling, and suddenly the rods bends over. This is where the buddy system might save your catch. If the fish is hooked near heavy structure, have a friend take the wheel and continue forward (just bumped into gear is perfect) away from the structure as you fight the fish. Once your fish is boat side carefully net it. A rubber coated net is best for the fish. Pull your monster in and don’t forget a quick picture and measurement! Always support your fish with both hands, and be sure to revive your fish for another day.

Casting for winter snook fishing

Always remember the area in which your snook was caught when trolling, this means it is the ideal environment for survival. Evaluate the surrounding areas, look for docks, mangroves, and any structure nearby. Now find the best bottom in the areas. Deep water or dark bottom make great homes.

Once we’ve got our prime location we can try cast fishing, light gear is usually better suited for this. A 3000 to 4000 size reel with a medium heavy fast action rod works well. Pair this set up with 25 lb braid and 25lb leader. Lighter gear is easier to use for long periods of time but often isn’t heavy enough to pull decent fish off structure. Make sure you use at least a 3000-4000 size reel.

Work your lure under and around the structure. Since the water is cool slower baits work well, these fish want to put in the least amount of effort to eat. Tsunami soft plastic shrimp work great. Bump it off the bottom in a very slow motion.

Snook fishing with live shrimp

Live shrimp work well for snook in the winter time as well as for many other species that will be in the same area. These species include redfish, sheepshead, black drum, and mangrove snapper and will all eat shrimp. With live shrimp use a 1/0 to 2/0 inline circle hook with a #4 split shot. Hook the shrimp through the tail from underneath up. For added scent pinch the end of the tail off.

In conclusion, this article on Florida saltwater fishing in winter will help anglers understand the patterns and techniques that will help them catch more fish. Anglers should always check the FWC website for current fishing regulations.

 

Fishing for Redfish and Speckled Trout

Fishing for redfish and speckled trout, strategies for success!

Speckled trout and redfish are without a doubt two of the most popular inshore saltwater game fish. They inhabit the same waters, being plentiful from Chesapeake Bay to Texas. Anglers fishing for redfish and speckled trout mostly target them on the fertile, shallow flats. Both species feed on a wide variety of bait fish and crustaceans. While many tactics and baits will catch both species, there are some differences in habits. Therefore, they will be covered individually.

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

Fishing for redfish

Sarasota fishing calendar

Redfish are one of the most popular inshore species for inshore saltwater anglers, right up there was snook and speckled trout. Redfish inhabit the entire Southeast part of the United States, from Texas around to Florida and up as far as the mid Atlantic. They are an extremely popular game fish in all these areas.

Redfish are known by several different names depending on the geography. Red drum, channel bass, and puppy drum are several of the more popular ones. Here in Florida we simply call them redfish, or reds for short. They are found on the shallow grass flats where they school up. Redfish are often caught under docks and near other structure as well.

Fishing for redfish on the shallow flats.

Most anglers targeting redfish do so on the shallow grass flats, particularly those up in backwater areas. Tidal creeks are great spots as well. While the deeper grass flats attract speckled trout bluefish, Spanish mackerel and other species, reds prefer the shallower water.

fishing Sarasota Florida

Redfish begin to school up in large numbers in late summer and early fall. They will be found on the flats for a few months before migrating out into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean to spawn. Many of these fish will be “over slot”. Redfish have an 18” minimum and a 27” maximum in most states.

Fishing in water that shallow presents some challenges. Fish are quite spooky when there’s barely enough water to cover their backs! This means that anglers must be stealthy when approaching them. Many shallow draft skiffs are specially designed to be extra quiet on the flats. Waiting is also a great way to sneak up on skittish redfish.

Effect of tides when fishing for redfish on the flats

Tides are critical when targeting redfish. Most anglers prefer a low, incoming tide. This tends to congregate the schools of redfish on the edges of bars and flats. They will also stage in what we call “potholes”. These are slight depressions in the shallow grass flats. The difference can be minimal, but enough to make a difference. A 3 foot depression on a flat that has 10 inches of water can hold an entire school of fish.

Fishing for redfish on a rising tide

As the tide rises, reds will move up onto the flats and scatter out. They are feeding but are also scattered out. This can make them difficult to locate. On the highest stage, of flood, tide, the fish will move way up under the mangroves. So, while it is easier to get the boat up on the flats on the higher stages of the tide, the fish are also much more difficult to locate.

Sarasota fishing charters

Anglers targeting redfish in shallow water can be effective with both artificial lures and live bait. Artificial lures are generally best when prospecting for fish. The reason is simple, lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water much more quickly than they can do with live bait. Live bait can work very well once fish are located in a certain area.

Fishing for redfish with artificial lures

One of the most effective lures for locating redfish on a flat is the weedless spoon. The venerable Johnson Silver Minnow in the half ounce gold color has pulled many redfish over the years. It is a simple bait that can be cast a long way, is extremely weedless, and has a great fish attracting action. It has a large single hook which rides up in a weed guard covering the tip. There are many other manufacturers who produce quality weedless spoons as well. Local tackle shops will have a good selection of the most productive baits. A small black swivel is required when using spoons to help eliminate line twist.

Sarasota fishing charters

Soft plastic baits can also be very effective when searching for redfish. They don’t cover quite as much water as spoons do as the bait is moved a bit more slowly. Soft plastic baits are more effective when the angler has a general idea of where the fish may be. Bass assassin makes a terrific line of soft plastic baits in a myriad of sizes and colors. A 4” to 5” bait is about the right size with both paddle tales and jerk worms style baits being effective.

Rigging soft plastic baits for redfish

Anglers have a choice in how they rigged their soft plastic baits. The most simple technique is to rigged the bait on a 1/16 ounce or 1/8 ounce jig head. The hook will ride up in the bait will generally be snag free, though it will pick up grass on the head.

Another option is a swim bait hook. These can be used to rigged the bait either Texas rigged while some have a weed guard. Both result in a fairly weedless presentation. These hooks also have a weight in the middle of the hook, resulting in the bait having a natural horizontal look.

fishing for edfish and speckled trout

Plugs can also be effective for redfish on the flats. If the water is very shallow, a foot or two deep, anglers will have to use top water plugs. While redfish have an inferior mouth, that means it is behind the nose pointing down. They will take a bait on the surface. Rapala Skitterwalk and Heddon Zara Spook baits are both very effective. Anglers working slightly deeper water or mangrove shorelines can score with a shallow diving plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap slashbait.

Fishing for redfish using live bait

There are situations where live bait can be more effective when fishing the shallow flats. As mentioned earlier, redfish will stage up in potholes on the lower tide stages. A large live shrimp fished in these holes can be deadly. Many anglers remove the tail and insert the hook in that area. This results in the shrimps natural juices dispersing into the pothole. A number one ought live bait hook and a light split shot is all that is required.

There is a technique here in Florida called “live bait chumming”. Anglers use their cast net to catch several hundred lively scaled sardines or threadfin herring. The boat is an anchored in a likely spot and every few minutes a handful of bait fish is tossed out. If redfish are around, they will usually respond to the chum. Plenty of snook are caught using this method as well.

It can be a bit overwhelming searching for reds on the shallow flats. There are just so many places that the fish can be! Many anglers believe that finding schools of mullet on the flats is a key to success. The thought is that the mullet stir up the bottom while swimming along, dislodging crabs and other forage from the weeds. This is a natural chum line that will attract redfish. Birds, bait fish, and other game fish are also signs of a lively redfish flat. Otherwise, it is just a matter of patience and experience.

Florida redfish fishing tips; docks hold reds!

Many redfish are caught by anglers fishing docks. Docks provide both cover and forage for redfish. Areas of Florida can be fairly developed, and this means many miles of residential canals and shorelines with docks. Just like with the flats, trial and error and experience will pay off in the long run.

fishing for reedfish and speckled trout

I have found in my experience that the most productive redfish docks are in between four and 8 feet of water. Anglers who prefer casting artificial lures can use the trolling motor and slowly work a line of docks. A quarter ounce jig with a soft plastic body work well for this type of fishing. One days when the bite is tough, switching to a scented baits such as the Gulp Shrimp can make the difference.

Live bait produces redfish

It is tough to beat a live bait when fishing docks for redfish and other species. It gives anglers the opportunity to thoroughly work a good dock. A large live shrimp is a great year-round bait. They are easily acquired at local bait shops. A #1/0 live bait hook in a split shot or two is a simple and effective rig. An added bonus to this technique is that many other species will be caught as well. Snook, mangrove snapper, flounder, black drum, and other species will intercept a shrimp meant for a red.

Live bait fish can also be used effectively when targeting redfish under docks. The same live bait chumming method is deadly on redfish and snook when implemented around the dock. A 3 inch pin fish or grunt can also be deadly and will usually catch larger fish. The downside to using live bait fish is that anglers in most instances will have to catch their own.

Redfish fishing tackle

Tackle for targeting redfish is pretty straightforward. The same outfits that are used for speckled trout and snook fishing will do fine when pursuing redfish. A 7 foot medium action rod with a 3000 series real spooled with 15 pound monofilament or 20 pound braided line works well. As in other forms of saltwater fishing, a 30 inch piece of 30 pounds fluorocarbon leader is used.

plug fishing Sarasota

Redfish to follow a seasonal pattern. In the winter most reds are caught in canals, creeks, and under docks in the backwater areas. In spring they scatter out onto the flats. Most fish will be in very small pods. By late summer they are schooled up into larger numbers on the flats before moving out into the Gulf. In the fall, reds can be anywhere, flats, Gulf, and backwater spots. Redfish are tightly managed. Anglers can find current regulations HERE.

Speckled trout fishing techniques

This blog post will focus on fishing ladies speckled trout fishing. Speckled trout are arguably the most popular saltwater inshore game fish on the entire Gulf Coast. Speckled trout are aggressive, plentiful, strike hard, and taste great. They are also a very beautiful fish!

Sarasota fishing excursion

Why are speckled trout so popular? Speckled trout are a beautiful and great eating fish. They are caught using a wide variety of baits and fishing techniques. Both artificial lures and live baits are very productive as is fly fishing. Trout are widely distributed and available along the coast line from Texas to Maryland. Speckled trout are normally caught on the grass flats in Sarasota where I fish. They are also caught on shallow oyster bars and holes, especially the larger specimens.

Fishing for speckled trout: Tackle and baits

Spinning tackle is the most popular type of tackle used when targeting speckled trout. Spinning tackle is very versatile, allowing anglers to cast very light lures and baits along with heavier lures such as plugs and spoons. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium action spinning rod with a 3000 series real is a great combination. 10 pound monofilament line or 20 pound braided line fills to school.

One of the oldest and still most productive techniques is a popping cork rig. A popping cork is a float that makes a noisy popping sound when twitched sharply. A live bait or even and artificial lure is then fished 2 feet to 3 feet under the float. This noise simulates the sound that fish make when feeding on the surface. It excites speckled trout and other species, calling them to the bait.

charter fishing Siesta Key

The most commonly used bait under a popping cork is a live shrimp. I would venture to say that more trout were landed using a live shrimp under a popping cork that all other angling methods combined. The reason is simple; it is deadly effective. The float calls the fish in to the bait and suspends the shrimp just above the grass. It also gives anglers a visual aid as the float disappears when a speckled trout takes the shrimp. Popping corks come in a wide variety of designs, colors, and shapes, but they all work the same.

Speckled trout live bait rigs and tackle

A # 1/0 live bait hook works well when fishing live shrimp for trout. If current or wind is present, a small split shot may be required a foot or so above the hook. Shrimp are hooked in the head just under the horn and in front of the brain. This keeps the shrimp alive and kicking, however, hopefully not for very long!

Live bait fish can be used under a popping cork as well. A 2 inch to 3 inch live grunt or live pin fish works very well and will often catch larger trout that shrimp will. The smaller 12 inch to 15 inch trout will not usually take these larger baits. They are also ignored by bait stealers such as pin fish, blowfish, and other undesirable species.

Speckled trout fishing with lures

Lastly, artificial lures are used under these noisy floats as well. Artificial shrimp such as the Gulp Shrimp work well under a popping cork. Gulp Shrimp are heavily scented and fish almost the same as a live shrimp does. Other manufacturers make very lifelike artificial shrimp. A soft plastic shad tail bait on a very light jig head can also be a productive combination.

best Sarasota fishing charter

Speaking of the jig and grub combination, it is without a doubt the most popular artificial lure for anglers targeting speckled trout. Trout love the action of these lures! The lure is cast out and allowed to fall a few feet. It is and jerked up a foot or so and allowed to fall again. Trout and other game fish find this action deadly and in most instances will take the bait as it falls.

Soft plastic baits come in a myriad of sizes and colors. Don’t get overwhelmed, they are all basically the same and are all effective when fished correctly. Jigs come in weights. Most of the trout in my area are caught between 5 and 8 feet deep. This makes a 1/4 ounce jig the best choice. In my opinion, jig head color matters very little. However, white, and chartreuse are the most popular colors. I have caught countless trout using an unpainted jig head.

Speckled trout take jigs and other artificial lures

Three inch paddle tail or shad tail grubs are the most popular. Twister tail baits can be effective, however pin fish will oftentimes dip the tail off. This can be true of shad tail baits as well. Glow, chartreuse, white, pink, olive, root beer, and new penny are the most popular colors. I believe in the “clear water light color and darker lures and darker water” theory. But, presentation and location are the overriding factors.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Plugs catch plenty of speckled trout as well. One downside to using plugs are the multiple trouble hooks. This can make releasing speckled trout a bit more complicated and may damage the fish. Since most of the speckled trout caught will be released this is a factor to consider. Treble hooks can be replaced with single hooks. Suspending plugs such as the MirrOlure MirroDine are the most productive plugs. Top water plugs early and late in the day fished over shallow bars will catch some trophy speckled trout.

Spoons are another productive artificial lure when fishing the grass flats for speckled trout. Anglers fishing the deeper flats normally opt for a half ounce gold or silver spoon with an open treble hooks. Those seeking larger trout in shallow water will do better with a half ounce gold weedless spoon.

Fishing for speckled trout: Techniques

Most anglers in the area that I fish here in Sarasota, Florida choose to drift fish when targeting speckled trout. The reason for this is that the areas we fish are large expanses of open water with grass on the bottom. Drifting is just the most efficient way to cover the water and locate the fish. The best approach is to choose a flat where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same direction. This makes for an efficient drift. Once a productive area is located, anglers can anchor. Most choose to re-drift the area after motoring back around.

fishing Sarasota Bay

As stated earlier, anglers seeking larger fish will do best fishing shallower water. This might sound contradictory, but larger fish are found in shallower water while the schools of smaller to average sized fish are found in the deeper water. The theory is that these larger fish are loners and do not need the protection of the school.

Oyster bars and shallow flats on the higher tide stages are prime areas to catch a larger speckled trout. Top water plugs early in the morning are productive and will produce some explosive strikes. Weedless spoons and light weedless soft plastic baits are also effective. Live bait is difficult to fish in this very shallow water, with the exception being casting live shrimp into open potholes.

More speckled trout techniques

In the wintertime speckled trout may move off of the flats if the water temperature dips down into the low 50s. They will migrate to nearby channels and deeper canals where the water temperature is warmer near the bottom. Fish can be difficult to locate when this happens. However when a school is located the action will be fast and furious. A live shrimp or jig bounced on the bottom will produce.

Lido Key fishing charters

Anglers to catch speckled trout at night as well. The proven technique is to fish lighted docks but especially area bridges. Most bridges have streetlights and the shadow line where the shadow hits the lighted water on the up current side is generally the most productive spot. Anglers can anchor in the spot and cast live shrimp or jigs out. This is a great way to beat the summer heat.

Fly fishing for speckled trout

Speckled trout are great fish to target on fly as well. The best all round outfit is a 7wt combo with an intermediate clear sink tip line. An 8 foot leader with a 20 pound bite tippet works well and is easy to cast. Since most trout will be caught several feet below the surface, weighted flies work best. The venerable Clouser Deep Minnow is a great choice. But, just about any waited pattern will produce.

Fly fishing Sarasota

The technique when fly fishing is pretty much the same as spin fishing. The fly is cast ahead of the drifting boat, then retrieved back and using short strips. The best cast is one that is 45° to the boat and not straight out. This makes it easier for the fly angler to keep up with the slack as the boat drifts towards the fly. Fly fishing also works very well in the lights when night fishing. Speckled trout regulations can be seen HERE.

In closing, this article on speckled trout fishing techniques will help you c

Fishing for redfish and speckled trout in Steinhatchee Florida

This article shares Steinhatchee Florida fishing tips, with Vanessa catching speckled trout and redfish on the shallow flats. The Steinhatchee River empties into the gulf of Mexico in Florida’s Big Bend area. This is a less populated area of Florida that offers fantastic fishing!

fishing for speckled trout

The Steinhatchee River empties into the Gulf of Mexico in a spot known as Deadman’s Bay. This area of Florida does not have beaches and thus gets much less tourist traffic than other parts of the state. That equates to less fishing pressure as well. This area is a sportsman’s paradise, offering fantastic opportunities for fishing, hunting, and scalloping.

Several rivers empty into the Gulf of Mexico in this area, including the Steinhatchee, Suwanee, and St. Mark’s. These rivers bring nutrients to the fertile grass flats. The geography underwater is unique in that it has a very gradual slope. Water depth averages about 1 foot per mile from shore in this area. That means that lush grass flats extend for miles from the shoreline.

Steinhatchee speckled trout and redfish

Speckled trout and redfish are the primary game fish on the flats of Steinhatchee. This is ideal habitat for both species as countless square miles of flats abound. There are also some natural ledges offshore that hold grouper, snapper, and other species. Artificial reefs about 10 miles from shore offer anglers the same opportunities.

fishing for redfish

The flats off of the Steinhatchee River offer anglers the opportunity to catch several other species along with the trout and reds. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, pompano, and ladyfish are just a few of the species that migrate along the Florida coast.

The fertile flats off of Steinhatchee offer the species a great spot to feed on their way north and then again on their way south. While most anglers target trout and redfish, these other species can provide great action as well. Anglers seeking the ultimate challenge can choose to targed the elusive giant tarpon.

Steinhatchee fishing tackle

Tackle requirements for fishing the Steinhatchee area are pretty basic. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot spinning rod with a 3000 series reel spooled up with 10 pound monofilament line or 20 pound braided line will get the job done and catch just about every species available. A 24 inch piece of shock leader should be used as well. 25 pound test is a good all-around size.

Vanessa offers some advice to any angler visiting the Steinhatchee area. Quite simply, it is all about the shrimp! Shrimp are the main forage of every species that lives in her migrate through this area. Anglers using live shrimp or artificial lures that mimic shrimp will experience success.

redfish and trout fishing

No matter where an angler is fishing in Florida, is tough to beat a live shrimp. Steinhatchee is no exception. However, due to the abundance of shallow flats, angling techniques need to be adjusted. When using live shrimp, many anglers fish a shrimp for trout and redfish 2 feet under a noisy cork. The cork makes a “popping” sound which simulates feeding fish. It attracts game fish to the bait. This combination is deadly everywhere in Florida.

Shrimp are the key live bait in Steinhatchee

Vanessa prefers to free line her live shrimp. Using just a hook with no weight, the shrimp is allowed to swim naturally. Anglers must pay attention to the line and keep the shrimp up out of the grass. However, she feels that is it more fun and challenging to present a shrimp in this manner.

Vanessa enjoys casting artificial lures as well. Her favorite lure is the Gulp Shrimp. Since live shrimp are the primary forage of most game fish, it makes sense to use an artificial lure that mimics this forage. She fishes it on an unweighted, weedless #1/0 hook. The lure is cast out, allowed to sink, and slowly worked over the top of the grass.

One mistake many novice anglers make is working the shrimp too fast. Shrimp normally swim around at a fairly slow pace. They do not jerk up and down in three or 4 foot movements. A slower, more subtle approach will generally catch more fish as it is a much more lifelike presentation.

The jig and grub combo works well in Steinhatchee, as it does throughout the entire Gulf Coast. These lures mimic shrimp and other crustaceans that trout and reds feed on. Jig head weights can be matched to the depth of water that is being fished. Light 1/16 and 1/8 ounce jig heads work well in shallow water while ¼ ounce jigs are the best choice on the deeper flats. Color favorites vary, but Vanessa prefers red and white.

Pinfish produce in Steinhatchee, too

Pin fish are the other bait that Vanessa recommends to visiting anglers. Pin fish can be caught relatively quickly with a tiny hook in a piece of shrimp. However, Vanessa prefers to put out a pin fish trap, go fish for a couple hours, then come back and collect the bait. This saves some valuable fishing time.

Vanessa has a secret trick that makes a pinfish irresistible to redfish and speckled trout. She actually bites the tail (yes, using her mouth) of the pinfish off. The now injured bait fish acts erratically and this drastically increased that chance that it gets hit.

Pin fish work very well under a float. Without the float, the pin fish will dive down into the grass and get snagged. Pin fish tend to catch less fish but will generally attract larger specimens. Speckled trout in particular will be attracted to these larger bait fish as they provide more of a meal than a shrimp will.

Plugs that imitate pin fish will catch speckled trout, redfish, and other species. The venerable MirrOlure was invented in the Big Bend area of Florida. It is a slow sinking and suspending bait. When twitched, it jerks forward then hangs there motionless. This action drives fish crazy and triggers the strikes as it realistically imitates a helpless bait fish.

Steinhatchee Florida fishing tips; seasons

Spring and fall are the best times to fish the flats of Steinhatchee. Speckled trout spawn in mid to late spring and are abundant on the grass flats. Redfish will be available, but will be scattered out and not schooled up in big numbers. The deeper edges of the flats will attract bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and other species. Same goes for the offshore artificial reefs, they will hold bait fish which in turn will attract the predator game fish.

Anglers fishing Steinhatchee in the summer need to get up early, for couple of reasons. For one, it is hot! The best bite will usually be in early one, especially on the morning high tide. This is a great time to throw a top water plug for a trophy trout or big redfish. By mid-morning, the bite will slow down in the scallopers will show up. That is the second reason for getting out there early; scallop fishing is very popular in this area. It attracts many visitors which of course means more boat traffic.

Fall fishing in Steinhatchee

Fall fishing and Steinhatchee is nothing short of fantastic! Cooler weather means lower water temperatures which really turns the bite on. The bite is normally best from mid-afternoon until dark. It is also much more comfortable for anglers to be out on the water all day this time of year. It seldom rains in most morning start out a bit cool then warming up nicely throughout the day.

Redfish school up in big numbers in preparation for their spawning run in September and October. It is great sport to sight cast these large schools of fish as they wake across the shallow flats. However, they can be spooky and at times difficult to catch. Anglers who patiently stalk the fish and make long casts will have more success. A gold weedless spoon is an excellent lure for targeting redfish in the shallow water.

River speckled trout

Anglers visiting Steinhatchee in the late fall can experience something that is truly remarkable. Large numbers of big gator trout migrate off of the shallow flats and into the deeper waters of the Steinhatchee River. Vanessa can personally vouch for that! The outside bends in the rivers have deeper holes. This water is quite warmer then the water on the exposed shallow flats. Trout will seek out is warmer water as refuge from winter cold fronts.

The action can be spectacular once a school of these large trout is located. An artificial shrimp, live shrimp, or jig bounced on the bottom should provide great action. It is important to treat these fish with respect! Keeping a fish or two for dinner is fine, but these are breeder fish and are important for the future of the species. Florida fishing regulations can be found at the FWC site.

Winter river trout fishing in Steinhatchee

Winter fishing is all about the weather, pure and simple. Successful anglers will adapt to the ever changing weather conditions. As cold fronts move through, they bring when which will stir up the flats. This results in dirty, muddy water. This results in fishing on the flats being pretty slow, though persistent anglers can sometimes find clean water. Under these conditions, it is best to target fish in the river.

However, after a couple nice days, the water will settle down. As it clears up and warms up, the bite will resume on the grass flats. Oyster bars that drop off into deeper water or the edges of flats and 4 foot of water to 5 feet of water will generally be more productive than the very shallow flats. Fishing can be very good several days after the front as the fish have not fed for a couple days. As the next cold front approaches, the cycle will repeat itself.

This article will feature our ladies fishing inshore Carolina. Speckled trout, flounder, and Red and black drum are four very popular inshore saltwater species. They are found on the East Coast of the United States from Maryland down to Florida. They are also popular along the entire Gulf Coast. These fish are prized along the coastal Carolinas.

Fishing for redfish and speckled trout in Carolina

Both red and black drum are similar in habits, though they do have their differences. Both have an “inferior mouth”which basically means the nose protrudes past the mouth. This is a great indication of the way that drum feed. They scour the bottom in search of crustaceans, but also feed on bait fish as well.

fishing in Carolina

Speckled trout love oyster bars as well. They feed on the same shrimp, crabs, and bait fishing as do the other species. They are also found over flats and along channel edges. Grass flats, where occurring, will hold speckled trout as well.

Flounder are a bottom species that are highly prized for their snow-white fillets. They bury in the mud and ambush their prey as the current brings it past. They prefer sand and mud bottoms right off the edge of oyster bars and other structures. Flounder also are found in inlets, channels, and around bridges and docks. They prefer areas that have increased current flow.

Sierra has spent a lot of time fishing the inshore waters of North Carolina and knows them well. She loves the shallow water fishing environment in which drum, trout, and flounder live and thrive in. Sierra is sharing her experience and enjoys helping other anglers achieve success.

Differences in the two drums

Red drum are known by several other names throughout the United States. Smaller red drum are known as “puppy drum”. These are found at many local restaurants that offer fresh caught seafood. Larger red drum are known as “channel bass”. In Florida and along the Gulf Coast red drums are simply called “reds” or “redfish”. They are all the same species and can be caught using the same methods.

fishing for speckled trout

While red drum to have an inferior mouth, they can be quite aggressive. Many are taken by anglers casting artificial lures, even top water plugs. Depending on the season and location, red drum can be caught in large schools or as singles. Red drum are very good to eat, especially fish in the 18 inch to 24 inch range. Late summer is the best time to catch a large red drum.

Black drum are a bit less aggressive than red drum. Most black drum are caught by anglers using natural bait as opposed to artificial lures. Crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs are the top baits. However, they can be caught on minnows and cut bait as well. They can be induced to take and artificial lure, though not as readily as a red drum. Smaller black drum are delicious, however the larger specimens can get wormy.

Fishing in Carolina, tackle

The same tackle that most anglers use for their general inshore saltwater fishing will be fine for targeting red and black drum. Sierra’s favorite outfit is a 7 foot medium action Fenwick HMG rod with a 3000 series Penn Battle or Shimano Stradic reel. She spools the real up with 10 pound test power Pro rated line and a 20 pound test fluorocarbon leader.

Both red drum and black drum along with speckled trout and flounder are caught in the same basic locations. Oyster bars are prime spots as there is plentiful forage such as shrimp, crabs and bait fish. Flats in 2 feet to 4 feet of water with oyster bars and stumps are prime locations. All four species can also be caught around deeper structure such as docks and bridges. Fish will school up along rock jetties at the inlets as well.

Fishing inshore Carolina, artificial baits

Sierra prefers to target trout, flounder, and drum in shallow water. She prefers casting artificial lures in this environment is better suited for that technique. The Johnson Silver Minnow has been catching red drum for decades. Sierra prefers the 1/8th ounce size in Nickel blue and gold. Paddle tail jigs are another of her favorite baits. She likes the D.O.A CAL Shad Tail baits in rootbeer/chartreuse and Electric Chicken colors. Both baits put out a lot a vibration which draw the fish to the lure.

Artificial baits have one primary advantage over live baits; they allow anglers to Cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. The Johnson spoon in particular is a very effective search bait. Anglers can cast a long way and cover a lot of water, eliminating unproductive areas quickly. Once fish are located, it can be great fun to catch them on a top water plug. This is particularly true on a high tide.

The jig and grub combo has been a favorite bait of inshore anglers for a long time. It is a proven bait that catches a wide variety of species. Sierra likes the D.O.A Premium jig head jig in the 1/8 ounce sizes. It is paired with pearl, white, or glow Gulp Swimming Mullet. The best retrieve is one where the jig is bounced along the bottom in short “hops”.

Fishing for redfish and trout in Carolina with live bait

Live bait certainly accounts for a lot of fish for anglers fishing the inshore waters of the Carolinas. Live shrimp are the number one bait followed by mud mullets. These baits can be fished under a popping cork, with a Carolina rig, or even free lined. Current strength and water depth will determine the best rig to use.

A live shrimp under a popping cork is deadly for just about every inshore species. The cork is placed 2 feet above a #1/0 live bait hook. The rig is cast out and allowed to settle. The rod tip is then twitched sharply a couple of times. The noise the cork makes simulates feeding fish and will draw game fish to the bait. Popping corks work best and water shallower than 6 feet deep.

A Carolina rigs consist of the weight with a hole in it, a swivel, a 30 inch piece of 20lb-30lb leader, and a #/1/0 live bait hook. The line slides through the sinker than the swivel is attached. The leader with the hook on it is tied to the other end of the swivel. This rig allows the fish to pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling the resistance of the weight. This rig is very effective for flounder and both red and black drum along with other species. Both live bait and cut bait work well using this technique.

Importance of tides when fishing inshore Carolina

Tides are very important when fishing inshore. Incoming tides have the fish moving up on oyster bars and flats in search of forage. On the high tide, fish will be scattered all over the flats. As the tide begins to fall, fish will stage in strategic spots where they can ambush prey. By the low tide, they will have moved to the deeper holes and channels. Successful anglers understand how tides affect fish movements and adjust accordingly.

In closing, this article on our ladies fishing inshore Carolina should help anglers understand the techniques and baits that will help anglers catch more fish!

Fishing for Snook, a Complete Guide

Fishing for Snook, a Complete Guide

Snook are the most popular saltwater inshore game fish in Florida. Anglers fishing for snook will find this guide very helpful. Tackle, lures and baits, techniques, seasonal migrations and more will be covered in this article.

Snook are very similar in habits to largemouth bass. In fact, many of the most effective snook fishing lures originated as bass baits. They are ambush predators that prefer to be close to structure of some sort. Snook have a large mouth that is used to inhale prey. They also have huge, powerful tails which allow for quick bursts of speed. Snook are found in the southern half of Florida as well as the very southern coast of Texas. This is a fish species that has it all! They attack lures, grow large, fight hard, are are fantastic eating.

fishing for snook

Snook locations and habitats

Snook are a sub tropical species. They can not tolerate water that is cooler than 58 degrees for long periods of time. Therefore, they are found in the warmer parts of the country. Anglers fishing for snook will find them in Florida, from a bit north of Orlando or so south and along the very southern coast of Texas. Snook are also found in various tropical countries such as Costa Rica and Panama.

Snook are very much structure oriented. They will be found in open water on occasion. However, snook are more often located near structure. Docks, piers, mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, sea walls, and submerged rocks and ledges will all hold snook.

Seasonal snook migrations

Snook have a very distinct seasonal migration pattern. They spend the winter in backwater areas, especially creeks, rivers, and residential canals. These areas are often deeper and significantly warmer. This provides refuge from harsh winter conditions on the flats. As it warms up, the fish move out of these areas and onto the flats to feed. By summer, snook will be staging in the passes and inlets as well as being out on the beaches.

Snook spawn on the beaches and inshore open waters. They can be sight fished during summer, which is great sport! By September, most fish have moved back inside the bays, though there will still be plenty of snook in the passes and inlets. As it cools off, they move further into the backwater areas. Eventually, after a couple of severe fronts, they will once again migrate up into creeks and rivers.

Sarasota fishing articles

Snook are found in freshwater as well!

Snook are a bit unusual in that they can tolerate water that is completely fresh as well as very salty. While several species do this when spawning, snook are one of the few fish species that migrate from salt to fresh water for seasons other than spawning. As mentioned earlier, they do this to escape cold water on the open, exposed flats.

Many a bass angler has been surprised when a large snook inhaled a lure meant for a bass! It floods in the summer in Florida quite often. Snook will move to inland lakes via the flooded rivers. They will then get trapped in lakes and ponds. Fortunately, they thrive in this environment as long as the water is deep enough to keep them warm in winter.

Fishing for snook; tackle

In this section, tackle required for snook fishing will be covered. Rods, reels, lines, lures, baits, rigs, and leaders will be thoroughly discussed. Fortunately, the saltwater fishing tackle owned by most anglers will work fine. Capt Jim wrote a very detailed article on snook fishing tackle and lures, anglers can click on the highlighted text or HERE to get more information and SHOP.

Spinning rods and reels for snook fishing

Snook can grow fairly large. They are also found near structure in most cases. Therefore, stout tackle is required for most anglers fishing for snook. Most opt for spinning tackle, due to it’s versatility. Spinning tackle can be used to cast an unweighted live shrimp or other light lure, while still providing enough backbone to handle a large fish.

fishing for snook

A 7′ medium-heavy rod with a “fast” action is a good all-round and versatile choice for anglers fishing for snook. “Fast” action means that the rod has a stout butt along with a limber tip. This allows for long casts with light lures while providing the necessary power. A 3000 series reel is a good match to that size rod. 20 lb braided line works well as snook are often hooked near line-cutting structure. Monofilament line can certainly be used as well. It really is just a matter of preference.

Baitcasting tackle for snook

Baitcasting tackle can certainly be used by anglers targeting snook as well. It is a bit more difficult to use for novice anglers than spinning tackle. However, in skilled hands, baitcasting outfits work very well. They are especially effective when casting heavier lures such as plugs. These outfits provide a lot of power. They are also a great choice when using larger live baits near structure such as bridges. The same tackle used by largemouth bass anglers will work fine when fishing for snook.

Lido Key fishing charters

Rigging up for snook fishing

Snook do not have teeth. However, they do have a sharp gill plate and raspy lips. This requires a “shock leader” of some sort. This is basically a short piece of stronger line that is attached between the main line and the lure or hook. There is a trade-off, though. This stronger leader is more visible to the fish. For most snook fishing, a 24″ piece of 30 lb to 40 lb flourocarbon leader is a good choice. Anglers fishing for large snook near structure may need to bump it up to 50 lb or higher leader. The leader will often become frayed after a couple of fish and will need to be re-tied.

fishing for snook

The leader can be attached to the running line a couple of different ways. The easiest method to accomplish this is to use a swivel. This works well when using live bait. However, it can affect the action when using artificial lures. The approach most anglers use is a line-to-line knot such as a double uni-knot. It is best to double the main line with a spider hitch or Bimini Twist when using a line to line knot.

Once the leader is tied, the lure or hook is added to finish off the rig. There are many different knots that are used effectively. Every angler has his or her favorite. Most work well when tied correctly. As a fishing guide in Florida, I personally like the Uni-knot. It is easy to tie quickly and is plenty strong. The clinch knot is another proven favorite.

Fishing for snook with artificial lures

Artificial lures can be very effective when fishing for snook. Lures actually have several advantages over live bait. Snook can be very aggressive and lures can trigger strikes from these fish as well as just exciting or angering a fish into biting. Artificial lures also allow anglers to cover a lot more water than anglers fishing with live bait. Finally, fishing with lures is fun!

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

There are several categories of lures. These include hard plastic or wood lures, generally termed “plugs”. Jigs and soft plastic baits are very effective and versatile. Spoons are excellent lures for use on the shallow flats. Again, most of these lures are just converted largemouth bass baits.

Snook fishing with plugs

Plugs are excellent snook lures! They come in a myriad of colors, shapes, sizes, and actions. Diving plugs float on the surface and come with lips that cause them to dive to a certain depth. Lipless plugs vibrate tantalizingly when retrieved steadily. Topwater plugs float on the surface and trigger exciting strikes. Plugs are expensive and sport a pair of treble hooks, caution must be used when fishing with plugs!

Best topwater plugs for snook fishing

There are several varieties of topwater plugs. “Walk the dog” baits are baits that have no real built in action. With the rod tip low, the angler works the lure back and forth in a tantalizing manner. Zara Spook, MirroLure Top Dogs, and Rapala Skiter Walk are all examples of these types of lures. Some of these plugs have propellers on the front, rear, or both. These put up a lot of commotion. Rapala Skitter prop and the Devil’s Horse are examples.

fishing for snook

Poppers are another type of topwater lure. They have a concave face which produces a loud noise and splash when twitched. Poppers are easier for novice anglers as they have more of a built in action. Rapala Skitter Pop and Chug Bug are examples of poppers.

All topwater plugs are worked in a similar fashion. They are cast out close to some type of cover or shoreline. The lure is allowed to settle, then twitched sharply. Poppers and prop baits are worked several times, then retrieved in and cast back out. Most bites will occur on the first few movements. Walk the dog baits can be worked back steadily back in. With all topwater plugs, it is important to wait until the weight of the fish is felt before setting the hook!

fishing with plugs

Diving plugs are very effective when fishing for snook

While topwater fishing is great fun, most snook will be caught in the water column below the surface. Diving plugs work very well for this application. These lures float on the surface and then dive down and wiggle erratically when retrieved. The size of the lip will determine the depth that the lure will work. Plugs that dive down 2′ to 6 feet work best in most instances. Rapala X-Rap and Yozuri Crystal Minnow baits are two of the many effective sub-surface plugs. These are known as “crankbaits” and “jerkbaits” by freshwater anglers.

These lures are fairly easy to use. The plug is cast out to a likely spot, then retrieved back in using sharp twitches followed by a pause. Often times, the strike occurs as the bait sits there motionless, seemingly helpless. The plug used should match the local forage in both size and color. However, an erratic lure that is larger may draw a strike from a snook.

Lipless plugs for snook

Lipless plugs are effective and very easy to use. They sink when cast out and are simply retrieved back in using a steady pace. The angler can feel the vibration through the rod. They are also effective for trolling in rivers and canals. The venerable Bill Norman RattleTrap is the top lipless bait. Chrome with a blue back is a great all around color.

Some lipless plugs sink slowly and suspend when twitched. They do not vibrate when reeled in. These can be very effective on snook when they are a bit finicky. The best example of this type of plug is the MirroLure MirroDine.

Snook fishing with jigs and soft plastic baits

Soft plastic lures are deadly on snook, as well as just about every fish that swims in both fresh and salt water! They come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, and actions. They can imitate crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs along with bait fish. Some resemble neither but still catch fish. Soft plastic lures can be fished on a hook, a weighted hook, and on a jig head.

Sarasota fishing charters

The jig and grub combination is perhaps the most often used soft plastic bait for snook fishing. Jigs come in a variety of weights and hook sizes. This allows anglers to adapt their baits to the depth needed. Heavier jig heads can be used in deeper water or when tides are swift. Conversely, lighter jig heads work well in shallow water. Both bait fish and shrimp tails work well when fished on a jig head.

Special rigging hooks for soft plastic baits

Soft plastic baits can also be used on special hooks. Once again, these were developed by bass anglers. They have a wide gap and can be rigged weedless. Some are weighted as well. The weight is on the bend, resulting in a lifelike horizontal presentation. This rig works great in shallow grass.

There are countless manufacturers who design and sell quality baits. Popular lures vary by region. There really are too many to list. When presented correctly, all will catch fish. There are scented soft plastic baits as well. By far the most effective is the Gulp line of baits. They cost a bit more, but they can make a difference on a tough day.

Snook on a jig

Catching snook on jigs

Anglers can fish for snook with jigs that have a permanent dressing. Bucktail jigs have been around a very long time and still catch fish. While is a very popular color as it mimics a bait fish. Hair jigs are less versatile as the color can not be easily changed. They are also a bit more expensive. However, some anglers swear by them.

Using spoons when fishing for snook

Spoons are a very effective snook lure as well. They are heavy, curved pieces of metal. They can be cast a long way and wobble in an enticing manner.  Weedless spoons such as the Johnson Silver Minnow, another great bass lure, work very well when searching for snook on shallow flats. They can be worked in water as shallow as a foot deep. These spoons have a single hook which rides up in the water, as well as a weed guard.

fishing charter Sarasota Florida

Spoons can be used on the beaches, in passes and inlets, and over deeper flats as well. Silver is the most popular finish and is used in clear water. Silver spoons work great when snook are feeding on the surface. Small spoons can be effective fishing the lighted docks and bridges at night. Most have an open treble hook.

Snook fishing with live bait

Live bait catches a lot of snook. Shrimp are available all year long at most Florida bait shops. A large, live shrimp is a terrific snook bait, especially in winter. Live bait fish such as pinfish, grunts, croakers, mullet, threadfin herring, and scaled sardines are all effective live baits for snook.

Sarasota fishing excursions

Live bait fishing hooks and rigs

There are many different styles and sizes of hooks. Hook size should be matched to the size of the bait, not the size of the snook being targeted. 1/0 is a good all around hook size. Short shank live bait hooks such as the Eagle Claw work well. Many anglers prefer using circle hooks which usually result in the fish being hooked in the corner of the mouth. When using circle hooks, anglers must not set the hook. Instead, they just reel up the slack and gently raise the rod tip.

Free lining a bait works very well in light current and fairly shallow water. It results in a very natural presentation with both shrimp and bait fish. A split shot can be used to add casting weight and to get the bait down in the water column if needed. This works great around shallow docks and along mangrove shorelines.

Weights and floats for snook fishing with live bait

While free lining a live bait can be very effective, there are situations that require either weight or floats to present a live bait naturally. Anglers fishing in deeper water or where current is present will often times need to add weight to get the bait down in the water column. Conversely, anglers will at times need to suspend a live bait up off the bottom. This is done using a float or bobber.

Using weights when snook fishing with live bait

There are several methods that anglers use to get a live bait down deeper when fishing for snook. This can be as simple as a couple of pinch on split shot. this method works well when fishing structure that is fairly shallow or when current is light.

chumming with live bait

Anglers snook fishing in deeper water or and heavier current will need to add more weight. The most common approach is to use a sliding egg sinker on the main line above a swivel. A 2 foot to 3 foot section of fluorocarbon leader is then added between the swivel and a hook. the rule of thumb when bottom fishing is to use the least amount of weight required to hold the bottom. Successful anglers constantly adjust the weight to the ever-changing strength of the current flow.

Using floats when snook fishing with live bait

Floats, also known as “corks” or “bobbers” can be a very effective tool to use when fishing live bait for snook and other species. Floats are most often used in shallow water. They have several functions. Floats add casting weight, suspend the bait at the desired depth above the bottom, and provide a visual reference for a strike.

Floats come in several different styles. However, they all basically work the same. The general idea is to suspend the bait just above the bottom, which is often times grass. Left to its own devices, some bait fish will quickly dive down into the grass. The float prevents this from happening. Floats also let an angler know exactly where the bait is in relation to the cover being fished. Finally, the float quickly disappearing from sight is a clear indication that a strike has occurred!

Live bait chumming

Live bait chumming is an incredibly effective technique that is used in the warmer months when snook fishing in Florida. Using cast nets, anglers load the bait well with hundreds of live baits. Small silvery fish such as threadfin herring and scaled sardines are most commonly used as they can be caught in large numbers quickly and easily. Once the bait is acquired, the fishing can start.

The boat is anchored up wind and up tide of a likely snook holding spot. Then, a dozen or so live baits are tossed out behind the boat. This is repeated a few minutes later. Anglers will sometimes squeeze the bait fish, crippling them. This results in the bait fish swimming very erratically on the surface. In most instances, if snook are present they will start eating the chum. Once this happens, hooked live baits are tossed out and a hook up generally ensues.

Snook fishing techniques

One great thing about snook fishing is that there are many different ways to catch them. Snook can be caught along the mangrove shorelines on the shallow flats for much of the year. They are found in the passes and inlets as well is out on the beaches in the warmer months. Anglers fishing for snook in creeks and rivers do well in the cooler months. Fishing lighted docks and bridges can be effective all year long.

Snook fishing on the flats and inshore waters

Fishing for snook in the bays and backwater areas is quite similar to freshwater fishing for bass. Many opt for artificial lures as they allow the angler to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. Live bait can certainly be effective, especially when a group of snook is found holding in a certain location.

Plugs, spoons, and soft plastic baits are all effective lures for snook fishing in the bays. Topwater plugs are an excellent choice early and late in the day or when cloud cover is present. Shallow diving plugs work best when the sun is up. Soft plastic baits fished on a jig head or rigging hook will produce snook at any time. Weedless spoons are a great choice when searching for snook on large expansive grass flats.

Snook are ambush predators and will set up feeding stations in certain areas. Any point or piece of structure such as a dock, rocky outcropping, bridge, or oyster bar with a little bit of depth and current flow is a likely spot to catch a fish. Current flow is crucial as it will position the fish on a piece of structure. Fish will often times position themselves in the spot where the structure breaks the current flow. This is a perfect ambush position.

Snook fishing in passes and inlets

Anglers seeking a trophy snook will do well to target them in the passes and inlets in the warmer months. Snook will school up in very large numbers at this time of year in preparation to spawn. Several of the Florida East Coast inlets are famous for their fantastic summer snook fishing! passes along the south west coast of Florida are very productive as well.

Siesta Key snook fishing

While artificial lures can be used around structure such as jetties, docks, and riprap, live bait is often the best choice when snook fishing and inlets and passes. This is especially true on the East Coast of Florida where the water is deep and the currents are swift. Anglers use heavy tackle and quite a bit of weight to present a live pin fish, grunt, croaker, or mullet on the bottom. This is a very effective technique which produces some of the largest fish of the year.

The best time to fish the inlets and passes for snook is on the outgoing tide. As the water flushes out of the bays it brings the bait fish and crustaceans to the waiting game fish. If these tides occur early or late in the day, so much the better. Anglers also do well fishing the passes and inlets at night, though care is required. Free lined live shrimp work very well at night around structure on an outgoing tide.

Snook fishing on the beaches

There is some great sport to be had by anglers fishing for snook off of the Florida beaches. The best part is, no boat is required! When conditions are right, snook can actually be site fished by anglers as a are seen cruising the surf line. This is a great opportunity for anglers who like to fly fish as well as light tackle spin fishing. in most cases, there are few obstructions for the snook to break an angler off on. This allows them to use fairly light tackle.

Siesta Key snook fishing

This truly is world-class sight fishing. There are really not that many opportunities in the world were anglers can cast to a fish that weighs 20 pounds are more with fairly light tackle while not requiring a boat. Most anglers simply walk the beach while scanning the surf for fish. Once spotted, the lure or fly is cast out in front of them. Due to the fact that anglers are walking, most choose to use artificial lures for this type of fishing. Small white buck tail jigs, soft plastic baits, small plugs, and small Silver spoons are all effective baits.

Live bait can be effective when snook fishing off the beach as well. This is particularly true when fishing some type of structure or when the surf is rough and visibility is poor. Any live bait fish, particularly one that can be caught in the surf itself, can be productive. Live shrimp will produce fish as well. Anglers can simply cast the bait out in the first trough or towards some type of structure such as a dock or submerged rocks.

Fly fishing for beach snook

fishing for snook

Fly anglers can enjoy some fantastic fishing off the beach when targeting snook in the summer time! The opportunity to catch a large snook on a fly rod while sight casting is definitely an attraction. An 8 wt or 9 wt outfit with an intermediate sink tip line works best. A 9 foot tapered leader with a 30 lb bite tippet is a good all-around choice, especially if the water is clear. Any proven snook fly can be productive, with white being the favorite color. White D.T Specials, Crystal Minnows, and Clouser Minnows tied on a #1 or #1/0 hook are all good choices.

Snook fishing and rivers, creeks, and canals

Snook migrate up into creeks, canals, and rivers when the water gets cold. In a snook’s world, anything below 58° is cold. Water in residential canals, creeks, and rivers is almost always warmer, sometimes up to 10°. River and creek waters are often tannin stained and dark, which absorbs the warmth from the sun. Many rivers also have holes that are quite deep which offer refuge to snook as the water gets cold. Residential canals are often usually fairly deep with a lot of concrete seawalls that absorb winter warmth.

fishing for snook

The two primary snook fishing techniques in these areas are trolling and casting artificial lures. While live bait can produce, in most cases it is best to cover as much water as possible. Shallow diving plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap work very well in this application. these lures can be both cast and trolled effectively. Casting plugs and lures works best in rivers and creeks as there are often spots that are too shallow to troll. Trolling is very effective in the deeper residential canals which are lined with docks.

River snook fishing charters offer anglers a unique experience. These areas are full of natural scenery and wildlife. It is a very cool environment to target fish in. This is generally not a numbers game but more a “quality over quantity” situation. Anglers can read a more detailed article on river snook fishing by clicking on the link.

Night snook fishing

While many snook are caught during the day, snook are nocturnal feeders, they do most of their eating in the dark. Most anglers targeting snook at night fish lighted docks and bridges. The lights attract plankton along with bait fish and shrimp. The forage, along with the structure, result in a fantastic fish holding environment. Bridges are most often built on narrow sections of waterways. This results and even stronger current flows in most instances. Outgoing tides are preferred. Areas in and near passes and inlets are often the top spots to fish.

Anglers fishing for snook at night do well using both artificial lures and fly as well as live live bait. Small lures and flies that imitate bait fish and shrimp will do well. This includes plastic shrimp, soft plastic lures, and plugs. In most cases, shrimp are the best live bait. However, anglers seeking a trophy snook will use heavy tackle and fish a larger live bait such as a mullet or pin fish down deep near the structure. This can pay off in the fish of a lifetime!

The best approach when night snook fishing is to anchor the boat a cast away from the lighted dock or bridge fender either perpendicular to or a bit up current of the structure. The lure or bait is then cast into the dark area above the shadow line created by the light. This results in a very natural presentation as the tide sweeps the bait down into the light. Warning; night snook can be notoriously fussy! There will be nights where fish are seen stacked up and the light but are difficult to get to bite.

Snook fishing seasons

Snook have a predictable migration pattern. This holds true throughout the entire state of Florida and in the small portion of Texas. There will be a slight variance as temperatures do lag a bit and South Florida versus the middle part of the state. However, this calendar of snook fishing seasons will hold true for the most part.

Fishing for snook in winter

Snook will be found in creeks, rivers, and residential canals in the winter unless it has been unseasonably warm. The best natural creeks and rivers are winding with many turns and holes with deeper water. The spots will concentrate fish. The back ends of creeks and residential canals will often times hold schools of snook. casting shallow diving plugs and soft plastic jerk baits towards likely fish holding structure is the best technique.

Sarasota river fishing charters

Many residential canals are long and straight without many turns and lined with docks. Therefore, trolling is often the best approach. Anglers will use fairly heavy tackle and trolling large or plugs along the edges of the docks. This allows them to cover a lot of water in search of a big snook. Large Jack crevalle will often times be caught using this technique is well, which is a nice added bonus.

Fishing for snook in spring

Spring is a great time to go snook fishing! Fish will be moving out of their winter hunts and will be in the mood to feed. Flats and backwater areas that are close to larger creeks, rivers, and canals will be the best spots in early spring. As it warms up, snook will scatter out while moving towards the passes and inlets. Anglers targeting mangrove shorelines on the higher tide stages will do well. Docs, points, and other structure that breakup a shoreline are prime feeding spots on an outgoing tide. Bridges and docs will produce at night.

fly fishing Sarasota rivers

Anglers fishing for snook in the spring can choose from a variety of techniques. Shallow diving plugs and soft plastic baits are great choices when probing a long shoreline. Colors and sizes should match the forage that is in the area. 1/2 ounce gold weedless spoons work very well when covering large shallow grass flats with potholes. Live shrimp and bait fish are good choices for fishing docks and other structures that hold snook.

Fishing for snook in summer

Summer is a great time for an angler to catch a trophy snook. They will stack up in large schools and inlets and passes as well is moving out onto the local area beaches. Passes and inlets with abundant structure are the best spots to try. Beaches close to inlets and passes as well as those with some type of structure such as rocks, docks, or other structures  will generally hold the most fish.

fishing for snook

Anglers fishing for snook in summer will do well fishing with live bait near structure in the deeper parts of the passes and inlets. Pin fish, grunts, croakers, sardines, herring, and mullet will all produce as will a live shrimp and crabs. Fairly heavy tackle will be required to land a large fish in heavy current. Lures cast a long jetties will fool snook early and late in the day. Anglers can also choose to sight fish for snook along the beaches.

Fishing for snook in fall

Fall is a glorious time to be fishing in Florida! The weather is normally beautiful and the crowds are gone. Snook will be moving out of the passes and inlets and into the backwater areas. The same spots and techniques that produced in the spring will produce again in the fall. Chumming with live bait fish is very popular and productive as the bait is usually easy to catch this time of year. Shorter days and cooling water temperatures have the fish in a mood to feed.

Fishing Marco Island: With Six Chuter Charters!

Sarasota River Fishing Charters

My Rapala X-Rap landed a foot away from the tree branch and dove down as I began an erratic retrieve.  It did not get more than a couple of feet before it just stopped.  My initial thought was that I had hung up on the submerged tree, but then the “snag” began to move off.  I set the hook and tried to get the fish out of the heavy cover.  We had landed a dozen snook that morning, but this felt different.

A bulldog battle ensued with the mystery fish making short runs, determined to get back to the safety of the branches.  It finally tired and surfaced and I caught a glimpse of green.  A bass?  If so, it was a nice one.  A couple of minutes later that fact was confirmed; it was a beautiful, fat, healthy five pound largemouth!  This is what Sarasota river fishing is all about.

Sarasota river fishing

Florida tidal rivers are unmatched when it comes to natural beauty.  They also offer a unique angling experience; the chance to catch both Florida’s premier inshore saltwater and freshwater game fish in one location; snook and largemouth bass.  In late fall the water levels drop and the rivers become brackish and tidally influenced.

This, along with cooling water temperatures, results in a migration of saltwater species such as snook, redfish, jack crevalle, and even tarpon up into the rivers where they co-exist with the resident population of bass, catfish, and other freshwater fish.  They will stay there until it starts to warm up, usually mid-March.  These same techniques also apply to the numerous creeks and residential canals throughout the area.

Sarasota river fishing

Sarasota river fishing is a unique experience

Most of my days as a professional guide are done in Sarasota Bay.  However, I am one of only a couple guides offering fishing charters on local area rivers.  This is a specialized type of fishing, best suited to more experienced anglers.  Success is less certain than inshore fishing, but the scenery alone makes it worth the trip.

My favorite angling technique is casting artificial lures while drifting with the current.  An outgoing tide is favorable, though this can be tricky.  There are no tide tables to reference this far up most rivers, so an adjustment is made for the closest location.  Experience will help determine the correction factor, but two to three hours is generally a good place to start.  The direction of the current will determine fish location and lure presentation.  Game fish will position themselves on the down current side of cover, ready to ambush unsuspecting prey.  Lures should be cast to the up-current side and worked back with the flow of water.  This results in a natural presentation and triggers the most strikes.

Best lures for river fishing

Soft plastic baits on a light jig head or weighted worm hooks and shallow diving plugs have proven to be the most consistent producers when Sarasota river fishing.  Bass Assassin shad tail and 4” jerk baits in dark colors such as “golden bream” and “red shad” on a 1/16 ounce jig head are deadly when twitched along the bottom.  If constant hang-ups become an issue, switching to a weighted worm hook and rigging the bait weedless will greatly reduce snags.  These lures are a good choice when fish are located or when low water concentrates them in the deeper holes.

Rapala X-Raps in gold/black and firetiger mimic the bluegill and tilapia that are the primary forage for larger fish.  Both the slender “slashbait” and wider profile “shallow” plugs in sizes (08) and (10) are very good for both bass and snook.  Tossing plugs allows anglers to cover water fairly quickly and produces exciting strikes.  The multiple treble hooks also result in a good ratio of hook-ups to bites.  Suspending baits such as the Twitchin’ Rap and MirroLure can be very effective when fish are finicky.  Trolling plugs in creeks and rivers is a technique that has been catching snook for many years.  Since all of these waters require motoring at slow speeds, pulling a couple of plugs behind the boat makes sense.

Sarasota river fishing

Other effective river fishing lures

Spinnerbaits are also excellent lures in tidal rivers.  They have the benefits of both plugs and soft plastics.  They are also very easy to use and are a great choice for novice anglers.  Basically, the lure is cast out, allowed to sink for a few seconds, and reeled back in with a slow, steady retrieve.  ¼ ounce baits with a gold blade with either a chartreuse or golden bream shad tail grub will catch plenty of fish for anglers Sarasota river fishing.

Fly fishing on these rivers is challenging, but also very rewarding.  A 9 weight rod with an intermediate sink tip line is the best all-round choice.  An eight foot 30 lb fluorocarbon leader finishes off the rig.  Short casts are the norm, but be prepared for a fair amount of snags.  This is a “quality over quantity” situation.  Fly anglers won’t normally catch large numbers of fish, but every cast offers the opportunity to hook a ten pound plus snook!  Wide profile bait fish patterns such as a Puglisi fly along with traditional snook flies such as the “Crystal Minnow” are good choices.

Additional river species

While bass, snook, and other saltwater species get most of the attention, Suncoast brackish rivers offer excellent fishing for catfish, bream, and tilapia.  Catfish are abundant and anglers seeking a fish dinner will be successful on most outings by targeting these bottom-dwellers.  Catching them is as simple as dropping a nightcrawler or worm down to the bottom on an outside bend with cover.  In fact, just about every species that inhabits rivers will fall for a nice fat worm.  Shrimp and cut bait will also work.  A two pound catfish on an ultra-light spinning outfit is great fun!  And great eating!

Sarasota jack crevelle

Bream are another species that are relatively ignored on rivers.  While their numbers are not great, they are generally above average in size.  10” bluegill are frequently caught.  Bream fishing usually improves the farther upstream anglers venture.  Live worms catch plenty of fish, but so do artificial lures and flies.  I only use two lures when targeting bream; a black 1/16 ounce Beetle spin and a 1/16 ounce jig with a chartreuse curly tail grub.  Fly fishermen will be successful using a 3 or 4 weight outfit with a floating line.  Best flies are a #10 black spider on the surface and a #8 bait fish pattern for fishing below the surface.  Gold with a chartreuse tail and white are good colors to try.

These tidal rivers are quite shallow in spots this time of year and a shallow draft boat is required.  Most are also “Slow speed zones”, so fast boats and big motors offer no advantage.   Jon boats with small outboard and electric motors along with canoes and kayaks are the best choices for fishing.  Anglers with bass and flats boats should use caution both at the ramp and on the river, particularly at low tide.  Most anglers choose to fish the brackish sections for snook and bass, but the shallow portions up-river all offer excellent freshwater fishing for bream and bass.  These areas can be difficult to access due to low water, but they also get very little pressure and offer terrific scenery.

Fishing license requirements

Fishing license requirements can be tricky.  From the FWC,

“The license required is not dependent on where you fish, but rather what you are targeting. There is no freshwater/saltwater line in most estuaries and bays. Tide and rain (salinity) determines the distribution of species in these areas. If you are targeting saltwater species, using saltwater baits and lures, unless exempt, you need a saltwater fishing license. If you accidentally catch a freshwater species, as long as you release it immediately, you are okay.

Anglers targeting freshwater species, using freshwater baits and lures, unless exempt, need a freshwater fishing license. If you accidentally catch a saltwater species, as long as you release it immediately, you are okay. If you are targeting both saltwater and freshwater species, using baits and lures that take both, unless exempt, you should have both licenses.”

Manatee River

The Manatee River from around Ft. Hamer upriver to Rye Rd is the most productive stretch of water.  The Lake Manatee Dam is another five miles upriver from Rye Rd. and offers excellent fishing for bream and bass.  The two best access points are the ramp at Ft Hamer 1605 Fort Hamer Road, Parrish, FL and Ray’s Canoe Hideaway 1247 Hagle Park Rd. Bradenton, FL.  Anglers can purchase bait, tackle, ice, and snacks at Rays, along with canoe rentals and boat launch services.  They are closed on Wednesdays.  Mark suggests calling him at (941) 747-3909 before coming out to check on the current conditions.

Braden River

The Braden River feeds the Manatee River just below I-75 and offers excellent fishing from the mouth up to the dam at Lake Ward for snook, redfish, and jacks in the winter.  Boats can launch at the ramps at the SR 64 Bridge.

Myakka River

The Myakka River is designated a “Wild and Scenic River”, one of only two in the state.   As such, access and development have been limited.  The area from I-75 south to El Jobean is best for anglers targeting snook.  Both bass and snook are plentiful between Border Rd. and Tamiami Trail.  Adventurous paddlers and boaters can go upriver to a dam just below Lower Myakka Lake.  Ramps for power boats on the Myakka River are at Snook Haven 5000 East Venice Avenue, Venice, FL, Marina Park 7030 Chancellor Blvd, North Port, FL and El Jobean Park 4333 Kerrigan Circle, El Jobean, FL.  Anglers who prefer to fish out of kayaks and canoes can also use the launches at either Border Rd or Laurel Rd.

Peace River

The Peace River is over 100 miles long and offers anglers a wide variety of angling opportunities depending on the season and water levels.  Unlike the other rivers, it is relatively unregulated.  The best access to fish for snook is at Lettuce Lake,8801 SW Reese St, Arcadia, FL.  Desoto Park Boat Ramp in Arcadia at SR 70 is a convenient and very nice park located at 2195 NW American Legion Drive, Arcadia, FL.  Jon Bragg works at Canoe Outpost Peace River, located at 2816 NW County Road 661, Arcadai, FL.  They offer canoe rentals and many other services.  Jon shares a few tips,

“Serious anglers will do better fishing on weekdays.  There is a fair amount of boat traffic, including airboats, on the weekends.  Snook bite best after some rain when the water levels are up a bit and are caught as far up river as Zolfo Springs.  Early fall can be terrific when the tilapia run down river.  Bass fishing is good all year long.  The best time for bream is in the winter when the water is low and clear on the section up river from Desoto Park.

River lures

Don’t let jig sizes, colors, and styles confuse you, they all either imitate shrimp or baitfish and are for the most part fished in the same manner.  Cast the jig out, allow a few seconds for the it to sink and twitch the rod tip sharply.  Let the lure fall on a tight line, most strikes occur as the bait is falling, the helpless look triggers the bite.  Keeping the rod tip at ten o’clock and allowing the jig to fall on a tight line will allow anglers to feel more bites.  Grubs with a shad tail or curly tail that mimic baitfish can be worked with a steady retrieve.  Scented soft plastics such as Trigger-X and Gulp! baits are more expensive but can make a difference on days when the fish are a little fussy.

Plugs are another great choice for anglers who prefer to cast artificial lures.  Rapala X-Raps in the (08) size are my personal favorite.  They cast well and have great action.  Cast the lure our and retrieve it back to the boat with sharp twitches followed by a short pause.  As in all lure fishing, vary the retrieve until one is found that produces strikes.

In conclusion, this article, “Fishing for Snook, a Complete guide” will help anglers understand the seasonal migrations inhabits of snook, resulting in more success!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing for Bluefish, Tips and Techniques

Fishing for Bluefish, tips and techniques for anglers to succeed

This blog post will focus on fishing for bluefish. Bluefish are an aggressive, hard fighting fish species. They are unusual in that they are the only fish in the family Pomatomidae. Bluefish widely distributed throughout the temperate and subtropical parts of the world, excluding the northern Pacific Ocean. This includes the Caribbean, Coast of Gulf of Mexico, and up the eastern seaboard to the mid Atlantic. They are known by other names in Africa and Australia.

Bluefish are very powerful, using their broad bodies and large, broad tails to put up a terrific fight. They are generally found in fairly large schools, and this adds to the aggressiveness. Competition forms within the group to see who can catch and devour the prey. This makes them a fantastic game fish!

fishing Siesta Key

Fishing for bluefish, baits and techniques

One technique that we use here in Sarasota quite often is drifting the deep grass flats. We simply drift over the submerge grass with the wind and tide while casting out lures in search of game fish. Jacks will oftentimes be found in such locations, even when surface activity is not present. As with bluefish fishing everywhere, they usually school up and are quite aggressive.

The jig and grub combo is a great all round saltwater bait. It is a great choice when targeting bluefish, and really any other inshore species. A quarter ounce jig head with a 3 inch- 4 inch shad tail trailer is a good all-around combo. Color doesn’t matter that much, though when possible it is best to match the clarity of the water. Light-colored baits work best in clear water while darker colored baits work better and water that is stained.

Drift fishing for bluefish

Drifting with either lures, live bait, and cut bait produces plenty of bluefish all over the world. In deeper water with swift currents, heavy jigs and jigging spoons work well. They mimic wounded bait fish and stay in the strike zone the entire time. As with all lure fishing, the baits should match the size of the available forage.

fishing for bluefish

Anglers drifting with chunks or strips of fresh or frozen cut bait catch many bluefish as well. Squid is a top frozen bait. Where possible, most anglers prefer to use fresh caught cut bait. Pogies, spot, sardines, and any other oily fish make great cut baits. These can be fished right on the bottom or drifted higher up in the water column.

Fishing for bluefish with artificial lures

Anglers casting plugs enjoy some terrific light tackle action on bluefish. They will draw some ferocious strikes! Top water plugs are fun and exciting, however shallow diving plugs are generally more productive. Anglers can blind cast likely looking spots such as mangrove shorelines, seawalls, docks, and other structure. Casting plugs into breaking fish is obviously great fun. Two drawbacks to using plugs are the initial cost and having to deal with a pair of treble hooks. Some manufacturers are now offering plugs with a pair of single hooks.

Florida bluefish

Spoons are very effective lures for bluefish as well. They cast the mile, can be worked back aggressively, and closely mimic most bait fish that are in the water. They are reasonably priced and anglers can easily replace the trouble hook with a single J hook.

Fly anglers will do well with any bait fish imitations. An all white or chartreuse over white Clouser Minnow on a number one hook is a great all round choice. One of the few times that blues can be fussy is when they are feeding on tiny glass minnows. This is a circumstance where the fly fisherman can shine, as it is easier to match the hats with a small fly than it is with a heavy artificial lure.

Surface feeding bluefish

Most anglers agree that the most enjoyable bluefish fishing is had when they are feeding on the surface. This is termed “breaking fish” or “busting fish”. However, whatever you call it, it is great fun! Bluefish will herd bait fish to the top, trapping then against the surface of the water. The bluefish will chase the helpless bait out of the water! This can be sen from quite a distance away on a calm day. Diving birds are a great indication of feeding fish.

Florida bluefish

This type of fishing is relatively straightforward. Fish are seen on the surface, and the boat is placed in front of them. Anglers cast lures out in front of the fish, and a strike almost always occurs as they are in an aggressive mood. This can happen close to shore for anglers surf fishing as well. Spoons, plugs, and jigs will all produce fish when they are breaking on the surface.

Trolling for bluefish

Trolling is an excellent technique that many anglers use to locate bluefish, especially when they are not found feeding on the surface. This technique allows anglers to cover a lot of water in a short time. Also, lures can be presented at several different depths to cover the water column as well. Spoons and plugs are the top trolling lures, though jigs will work, too, especially at slower speeds.

Tackle requirements can get complicated for anglers that troll. In most cases, heavier conventional tackle works best. Also, anglers will often use wire line, planers, heavy weights, and downriggers to get the baits down in deeper water. However, in shallow water, it can be as simple as trolling a lipped plug or two out behind the boat.

Tackle for bluefish fishing

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

fishing for bluefish

The tackle an angler uses when targeting bluefish depends on the size of the jacks that may be encountered. After all, the world record is almost 32 pounds! In Sarasota where I fish, most bluefish are in the to to 3 pound range with the occasional fish reaching 6 pounds. For this fishing, the same light to medium spinning tackle that is used for other inshore species works fine.

In Florida and other places where the water is clear, many anglers use flourocarbon leaders. A 30 pound to 40 pound piece of fluorocarbon leader is used between the running line and the lure to help reduce cutoffs. You notice I said “reduce”! Anglers using flourocarbon leaders will lose some tackle. Wires leaders will eliminate cutoffs and many anglers use them, especially in water that has some color or when bluefish are feeding aggressively.

Anglers who fish on the East Coast may need to beef the tackle up a bit. Schools of large bluefish are notorious for tearing up tackle from North Carolina to Maine. Light conventional tackle may be a better choice, especially when drift fishing or trolling.

Surf fishing for bluefish

Surf fishing for bluefish is very popular all along the east coast. Hatteras is a world renowned surf fishing destination. There are also many spots in New England as well as almost all of the mid-Atlantic beaches.  Surf fishing does require more patience as anglers are limited as to where they can fish. They will chase fish up and down the beach should a “bluefish blitz” occur.

surf fishing

Anglers can use both artificial lures and cut bait. Many take a two pronged approach. They will put out a chunk or strip of cut bait on a fairly heavy rod using a “fish finder” rig. This allows for the bait to float around naturally. While waiting for a fish to find the bait, anglers can cast lures out in search of a feeding fish. This works well and keeps the angler busy!

Fly fishing for bluefish

The same decision holds true for fly anglers. While an eight weight outfit is perfect for the Sarasota area, anglers on the East Coast or in the Caribbean might be better off with a 10 weight outfit. With either selection an intermediate sink tip line is the best all round choice. An 8 foot to 10 foot paper leader with a 30 pound bite tippet finishes off the rig.

Florida bluefish

As a fishing guide in Sarasota, I’m on the water around 200 days a year. Rarely do I actually target bluefish. In most instances they are a happy interruption as we target other species on the flats and in the passes. I treat them as a target of opportunity, never turning down a chance when I see a school of bluefish foraging on the surface.

Live bait chumming, Tips to succeed!

Live bait chumming is a very effective fishing technique for many species, including bluefish. It does require some specialized equipment. Extra effort is also needed. But it pays off, big time!

Chumming is a technique anglers have been using ever since they’ve been fishing. This is simply the act of dispersing some type of food in the water to attract fish. Most anglers chum with oily bait fish that have been ground up and frozen. This does work well. Live bait chumming takes us to a whole another level.

fishing for bluefish

It is easy to see why this technique is so productive. Imagining sitting on your favorite lounge chair and then someone walks by with a plate full of warm brownies fresh out of the oven. You’re going to eat one, whether you’re hungry or not! Chumming will get fish excited and bring them up behind the boat where they can be caught fairly easily.

The technique is fairly simple, but does require some specialized equipment. The first point of order is a cast net. Live bait chumming requires a lot of bait. Catching them with a hook and line is just not practical. However, an angler can put several hundred frisky live baits in the well in short order.

Live bait chumming, cast nets

Cast nets come in different sizes and also mesh sizes. An 8 foot cast net is 8 feet long, which is the radius. That equates to a circumference of around 50 feet. That will catch a lot of bait. Obviously, a larger net will catch more bait. However, it is more difficult to cast and to unload.

inshore saltwater fishing

At this point, it just becomes a matter of angler preference. I personally prefer to throw a smaller net such as the 8 foot net four or five times as opposed to a 12 foot net twice. Again, it is just a matter of personal preference, there is no wrong choice. I would consider a 6 foot net to be the smallest that will practically catch enough bait required for this technique.

Mesh size is crucial! The mesh size needs to be geared to both the size of the bait being targeted and the depth of the water being fished. A net with a small mesh will catch smaller bait fish. It will also sinks lower due to the resistance of the net.

Small mesh cast nets work well in shallow water

Here in Florida where I fish, I find a 1/4 inch mesh to be perfect. It will catch both small and large bait fish. And, since I rarely catch bait in water deeper than 3 feet, a slowly sinking that does not hinder my efforts. Anglers who cast a net with a large mass over bait that is a little too small will “gill”the baits.

This means that they will get caught in the middle of the mesh. This will kill the baits and the angler will spend a lot of time removing these fish that are stuck in the net. This is another reason to go with a smaller mesh. Anglers who are forced to catch bait in deeper water will have no choice but to use a larger diameter net with a larger mesh.

Other live bait chumming factors

The final factor in a cast net are the weights on the circumference of the net. Obviously, more weight per foot will cause the net to sink faster. Generally speaking, that’s are designed with the proper amount of weight. Manufacturers realize that a smaller diameter net with small mesh will be used in shallow water. This will not require as much weight. Conversely, a large diameter net with larger mesh will have heavier weights.

chumming with live bait

Once the net is procured, the angler will need to learn to cast. There are many good resources for this, so I will not go into it in depth here. There are several different methods in which to cast a net. I prefer putting the net in my teeth, but not everyone does. This is a good one on YouTube.

Live bait chumming requires a large bait well

The other specialized piece of equipment required for live bait chumming is a large recirculating live well with rounded corners. Putting a lot of bait fish in a confined area requires that freshwater be added constantly. A high-volume pump pushes the water in and a spray nozzle aerator. A drain then allows the old water to be removed. This constant changing of the water and adding oxygen will keep the bait alive and active.

Bait wells need to have rounded corners. Otherwise, the bait fish will swim nose first into a corner and die. The bait fish need to be constantly moving. Most boats these days have these type of wells built in. This is especially true on saltwater fishing boats. These types of systems are easily purchased for anglers fishing on boats that do not have these types of wells already installed.

Live bait chumming, catching bait

Now, let’s go catch some bait! It seems like the bait is either very easy to catch or very difficult to catch. Here in Florida, bait fish are fairly abundant in the summer time. I normally start catching bait in late spring and quit around Thanksgiving. Live bait chumming is the most effective in the summer time when the water is warm.

The best spot to catch live bait for chumming is on the shallow grass flats and bars. Spots such as this close to the passes are particularly effective. The bait fish tend to migrate in from the passes and inlets, especially on an incoming tide. Bridges and markers are also good places to cast net for bait.

The bait fish can often times be seen “dimpling”on the surface. This makes catching them easier. The angler can either drift up on the school of bait or use the trolling motor to get in position. The net is then cast over the bait, allowed to sink, and the net with bait pulled in and emptied into the well. If the sun is up, the bait can often times be seen flashing along the bottom. When conditions are calm, bait can be thick right on the beaches. Anglers just need to use caution in the shallow water.

Chum for the chum

There are times when the angler will need to chum. Yes, we need to chum for the chum! Every angler has his or her “secret”chum mixture. My personal favorite is a mixture of canned mackerel and wheat bread. I use about one third of a loaf of wheat bread for a 16 ounce can of mackerel. This is cheap and very effective. Anglers also use dry commercial fish food successfully. It is easier to store and not as messy.

bluefish on a jig

The approach when chumming for bait fish is to anchor up tied of the area to be finished. Small amounts of chum are then tossed over the stern. If the bait fish are around, it won’t take them long to start eating the chum. Once that happens, a larger piece of chum, about the size of a golf ball, is tossed out. Give it a few seconds, then cast the net over the bait.

As mentioned earlier, this technique requires special equipment and some extra effort. The good news is that catching the bait is the hard part. Once a well full of frisky baits is acquired, fishing is usually pretty easy.

Live bait chumming techniques

Live bait chumming is effective on a wide variety of species in addition to jack crevalle. In the summer time it is used on the deeper grass flats here in Sarasota. Anglers on a fishing charter will also catch speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mangrove snapper, sharks, jacks, gag grouper, and tons of ladyfish using this technique.

This method is simple and will allow anglers with very little experience to catch a lot of fish. The boat is anchored upwind and up tied of a likely flat with a grassy bottom in 6 to 8 feet of water. Bait fish are tossed out behind the boat, about a dozen at a time. I will often times squeeze the bait, injuring it. Crippled bait fish swimming helplessly on the surface will attract the game fish in short order.

Once the jack crevalle and other species are seen feeding on the “freebies”, hooked baits are tossed out into the mix. It usually does not take long before a fish is hooked. Chumming gets the fish in an aggressive and active mood and catching them is relatively easy. Anglers can find all Florida fishing regulations at the FWC website.

18 awesome bluefish fishing tips

Bluefish put up a great fight on light tackle! Bluefish are aggressive, leap often when hooked, and pull incredibly hard. I also think they are underrated eating when properly handled. Here are 18 awesome bluefish fishing tips.

fishing for bluefish

Bluefish are well known to anglers all along the East Coast of the United States. They are a staple in the New England area. Our bluefish down here in Florida do not grow quite as large. However, when targeted using light tackle, they are great fun. Bluefish are available year-round but are more plentiful in the cooler months.

Most Florida bluefish are probably caught by anglers targeting other species. Here in Sarasota where I fish, we often encounter them on the deep grass flats. Clients on Sarasota fishing charters drift submerge grass beds and 6 to 10 feet of water. Jigs, plugs, and other lures along with live bait are used.

Bluefish Tips

1)  Jigs catch most of the bluefish for my anglers. Jigs are very effective when the water is a bit cooler, under 70°. This is the time that we normally run into bluefish on the deep flats. Often times, the bluefish will be out an 8 to 10 feet of water. Jigs are more effective as a can get down in the water column where the bluefish are feeding. Jigs are also easy to cast and have a great action.

2)  While bucktail jigs and synthetic care jigs can be used, the jig and grub combo is a better choice. There are several reasons for this. The primary reason is a practical one; bluefish will destroy an expensive buck tail jig after a fish or two. However, with the jig and grub combo, the body is relatively inexpensive and is easily replaced.

best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

3)  1/4 ounce jig heads are the best choice for fishing water of this depth. Anglers fishing deeper water or waters with stronger current may need to bump it up to 1/2 ounce or even a 1 ounce jig head. I don’t find that jig head color makes much of a difference. I often use unpainted jig heads with good success.

4)  In my opinion the shad tail grub is the most effective for Florida bluefish and other species. These tales have a great built in action that mimics bait fish. Paddle tails also work well, though they are more reliant on the angler to impart the action. I have found twister tale baits to be too fragile for saltwater fishing. They draw strikes, but the tales just do not remain intact for very long. Small bait fish can easily remove them.

Fishing for bluefish with plugs and spoons

5)  Plugs are another effective artificial lure for catching bluefish. This is especially true when the fish are working on the surface. We call these “breaking”fish. Shallow diving plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap Slashbait work very well. Often times the trouble hooks will become damaged after a few fish. I do just as well by removing both trouble hooks and adding a single “J” hook on the rear. The bait remains effective and handling and releasing fish is easier and safer.

6)  Spoons also catch a lot of bluefish. A spoon is a very simple lure. It is basically a piece of shiny metal formed in the shape of a teardrop. A half ounce silver spoon is the perfect size here in Sarasota. These lures cast a long way. This can be important on days when the fish are breaking and moving around a lot.

7)  All three of these lures are worked in a similar fashion. Bluefish for the most part are very aggressive. The jig and spoon are cast out and allowed to sink for several seconds. Most plugs float on the surface at rest. Then, the lures are retrieved back in using an aggressive twitch. The slack is then reeled up and the lure twitched again. Often times the bite will occur during that pause.

8)  When bluefish are very active, a fast steady retrieve will often produce. When fish are busting and they are in a feeding frenzy, it rarely matters what you cast at them. As long as the lure remotely resembles the size and shape of the bait fish that they are feeding on, they will generally strike it.

Catching bluefish on live bait

9)  While artificial lures catch many Florida bluefish, live bait produces as well. The number one live bait on the West Coast of Florida is the shrimp. Shrimp are available year-round at all local bait shops. The best approach when using live shrimp is to free line the bait out behind the boat and let it drift with the tide. A small split shot can be used to get the bait down on breezy days or if the current is strong.

10)  Live bait fish can be used successfully as well when targeting bluefish. The number one Florida live bait is the scaled sardine, also known as a pilchard. These bait fish are usually around from June until November. Anglers cast net them on the shallow grass flats. Anglers on the East Coast do well with pogies and finger mullet. Using a long shank hook will help anglers reduce cutoffs when using live bait.

Bluefish leaders

11)  The water is clear and Florida most of the time. While wire leader’s can be used, strikes will be significantly reduced. Most anglers choose to use a ”shock leader”. This is a 30 inch piece of heavier monofilament. 30 pound test to 40 pound test works well. Hooks and lures will still be lost to the sharp teeth of bluefish. However anglers will get more strikes, so it is a trade-off.Northern anglers fishing in stained water for larger fish often opt for wire leaders.

12)  The same rig is used with both live bait and artificial bait. I double the last 3 feet of my running line, whether it is monofilament or braided line. Then, I attach a 30 inch piece of 30 pound test to 40 pound test fluorocarbon leader using a Double Uni Knot. I then attach the lure or hook to the tag end of the leader.

Bluefish locations

13)  Bluefish are found in the bays, passes and inlets, in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. They are seldom encountered very far offshore. As mentioned earlier, grass flats and 5 feet of water to 10 feet of water are prime spots. Anglers drift over the flats casting lures or live baits until the fish are located. Anglers can also choose to “run and gun”in search of breaking fish.

14)  Passes and inlets are great spots to catch bluefish. These are fish highways that connect the inshore bays to the open Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic ocean. Many of these passes and inlets offer access to anglers without a boat. Rocky jetties and peers that line these inlets and passes can be terrific spots. Anglers can drift the passes both casting lures and drifting live baits. Often times the fish will be right out in the middle. Casting to shoreline structure can also be effective. Anglers need to be careful of swift currents and boat traffic when fishing passes and inlets.

Surf fishing for bluefish

15)  Many bluefish are caught by anglers fishing right off the beach as well. This is more of an East Coast technique. While anglers on the West Coast of Florida to catch bluefish off the beach, it is less frequent than on the Atlantic Ocean side.

16)  Anglers surf fishing off the Atlantic Ocean beaches use specialized tackle. Long rods are used, between 10 and 13 feet long. They are matched with large reels and high-capacity spools. These long rods are used to achieve both casting distance and to keep the line up above the crashing waves.

17)  Most angler surf fishing for bluefish use cut bait. Artificial lures can certainly be used, especially on calm days when fish are seen breaking on the surface. Just about any freshly caught legal fish will work. Fresh mullet is tough to beat. The bait fish is either cut into strips or chunks and fished on the bottom. Strips of squid can also be effective.

Fly fishing

18)  Fly anglers love catching Florida bluefish! A 3 pound bluefish puts up an incredible fight on a fly rod. An 8wt outfit is a good all-around choice. Intermediate sink tip or sinking lines work best as bluefish are often found in slightly deeper water. The leader is a 9 foot tapered leader with a short 30 pound bite tippet. Just about any bait fish pattern will produce, with in all white Clouser Minnow being my number one all round choice

As mentioned in the beginning, I think bluefish get a bad rap when it comes to eating. However, they do require a bit more care. The meat is a little darker and the fish is a bit bloody. Bleeding the fish when it’s caught really improves the quality of the meat. While the fishes alive, the gills or cut and the fish pumps all the blood out of its body. This is best done in the bait well. The bluefish send needs to be put on ice immediately and eaten that they are the next. I find small bluefish and the to pound to 3 pound range to be very good eating.

In conclusion, this article on fishing for bluefish will help anglers catch more of these hard-fighting fish!

Prowler Trolling Motor Review

 Prowler Trolling Motor Review

This post is a Bass Pro Shops Prowler trolling motor review. My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I have been a fishing guide in Florida since 1991. I have had several of both the bow mounted and transom mounted versions. I am going to give my personal opinion and share experiences that I have had with these products that I have used on my Sarasota fishing charters.

Both versions of the Bass Pro Shops Prowler trolling motors are 12 volt. This is one of the main reasons I chose them. I use trolling motors to work shorelines and adjust my drift. Rarely do I run it long enough or hard enough to drain the battery. These motors are made for Bass Pro Shops by Motor Guide, that is fairly obvious. The primary advantage of the Prowler trolling motors is simple; they cost less.

Bass Pro Shops Prowler TSW55/36B Transom Mount Saltwater Trolling Motor Review

I have owned several of the Bass Pro Shops Prowler 55/36 trolling motor. It has 55 pounds of thrust. The shaft is 36″ long. It is a 12 volt motor. I currently use it on my 14′ Alumacraft Jon boat for my river fishing charters for snook, jacks, and bass. It works fine and the battery will last all morning or afternoon.

Prowler trolling motor review

I also had this motor mounted on the transom of my previous bay boat. It was a 20′ Key West Bay Reef. Surprisingly, it did quite well on such a heavy boat. I mainly used it to correct the boat position as I drifted with the wind or current. However, I also used it out on the beach tarpon fishing, and it moved the boat well enough. It also has a volt meter, which is a handy feature.

Things I liked about the Bass Pro Shops Prowler transom mount trolling motor

Overall, I found this motor to be a decent unit for the price. I had a Motor Guide transom mount trolling motor and prefer the Prowler to it. It was relatively durable and reliable.  I like the tilting mechanism better than the Motor Guide. The battery meter and extending handle are convenient. I give it 3.3 stars out of 5. This is just OK, however this is as good or better than the other saltwater trolling motors from Minn Kota and Motor Guide that I have used.

Things I did not like about the Bass Pro Shops Prowler transom mount trolling motor

Prowler trolling motor review

There are a few downsides to this motor. Some of the hardware and bolts with rust. It is important to rinse it well in fresh water and lubricate the bolts and hardware. This is especially true with the large mounting screws. They will rust and seize up if that is not done. Also, the collar that adjusts the depth does not slide as smoothy as it could. Also, the bushing kinda of “walk” out of the shaft bore. No big deal, just a nuisance to slide them back in.

Click on the image to purchase a Bass Pro Shops Prowler

TSW55/36B transom mount trolling motor.

Bass Pro Shops Prowler SWB55/50B Bow Mount Saltwater Trolling Motor Review

I have had several of the Bass Pro Shops 55/50 bow mounted Prowler trolling motors. I had it on two bay boats; a 20 foot Key West and my current 22′ Stott Craft. The Key West was heavier. It is a 12 volt motor with 55 pounds of thrust and a 50″ shaft. I give this trolling motor a 3.75 out of 5, mostly for the value. It is a decent unit at a very good price.

Things I liked about the Bass Pro Shops Prowler bow mount trolling motor

Prowler trolling motor review

The first thing, obviously, was the price. At less that $500, it is a bargain for a saltwater trolling motor. It was sufficient for my needs, but again, I do not use trolling motors extensively. Anglers who run it all day into wind and current will need a 24 volt of 36 volt unit. It deploys well and I found it to be reliable. I liked the volt meter and extending handle. The breakaway bracket worked very well and is adjustable. I like the “latch and door” on the front which makes taking the motor off of the boat very easy.

Things I did not like about the Bass Pro Shops Prowler transom mount trolling motor

The brackets, hardware, and shaft showed signs of corrosion sooner than I thought it should. Anglers should constantly loosen and lubricate the bolts that adjust the breakaway bracket as well as the “latch and door. Also, the shaft length is borderline on boats with some free board. Perhaps they factor in that a 55 pound thrust motor is not going to be used on a larger boat.

Click on the image to purchase a Bass Pro Shops Prowler ow mounted

SWB55/50B trolling motor.

In conclusion, this post of my Bass Pro Shops Prowler trolling motor review should help anglers decide if this is a good choice for their boat!

Top 27 Freshwater Game fish Species

Top 27 Freshwater Game fish species

The topic of this article is freshwater fishing for the top 27 freshwater game fish species. The majority of fishing done in North America is done in freshwater, as these bodies of water are much more accessible than saltwater coastal areas. There are many different freshwater game fish they can be caught by anglers.

top freshwater game fish

The fish species outlined in this list of the top 25 freshwater game fish species will be in no particular order. However, we will start off with the most plentiful, and therefore most popular, freshwater fish species. Much of the popularity is dependent on how widely fish are distributed, and is really no reflection on its attributes as a game fish.

Top Freshwater game fish species; Panfish

Panfish are probably the most targeted freshwater fish species in North America. That is why they lead off our list of the top 27 freshwater game fish species. They are widely distributed, prolific, easily caught using a wide variety of angling techniques, attractive, and most are very good to eat. Most anglers target panfish using ultralight spinning tackle. However, there are also caught by anglers fly fishing, ice fishing, and even using a simple cane pole.

1) Crappie

top freshwater species

Crappie are the largest fish in the panfish group. They are an extremely popular and widely distributed freshwater fish species. Crappie are a schooling fish, and once located, the action can be fast. Crappie tournaments are becoming more numerous as these fish continue to gain in popularity. They are beautiful fish that put up a decent tussle and are terrific eating.

There are two varieties of crappies; white crappie and black crappie. While there are subtle differences in color patterns and fish habits, for the purposes of this article they will be treated the same.

While crappie can be caught using a variety of lures and baits, the vast majority of crappie are landed by anglers either using live minnows or jigs. Both are extremely effective for crappie fishing. Crappie are generally caught in shallow water in the spring and around structure in deeper water the rest of the year. Trolling with jigs and live minnows is a very effective technique to help locate schools of crappie. Ice fishermen catch them as well.

2) Bluegill

Freshwater fish species

Bluegill are a widely distributed freshwater panfish. They average 6 inches to 8 inches, with 10 inches being a very nice fish. Bluegill are aggressive and prolific. They spawn on the full moons in summer, and this is the time of year many anglers target them. The bite often peaks  on the full moons in June, July, and August. However, they are caught all year long, including through the ice.

Bluegill will readily take artificial lures such as tiny jigs, spinners, and flies. Bluegill are predators that are aggressive for their size. Roostertail spinners, Beetlespins, and small curly tail grubs and marabou jigs are top producing lures. Live baits are also very effective, with worms and crickets being the top choices.

3) Redear sunfish

freswater fishing

Redear sunfish are another very popular member of the panfish family. “Shellcracker” is another name for readier sunfish. They generally grow larger than bluegill. While redear sunfish are native to the southeast portion of the United States, they have been introduced to other parts of the country where they flourish and thrive.

Redear sunfish can be caught using artificial lures, however the majority of them are landed by anglers using live and natural bait. They earned their nickname “shellcracker” due to their affinity to snails and other freshwater mollusks. Earthworms are an excellent choice as a live bait for readears. They often times prefer water slightly deeper than bluegill and other panfish.

4) Yellow perch

yellow perch fishing

Yellow perch are a very tasty panfish that are found in cooler water in the northern states. The Great Lakes area is pretty much the center of their inhabited area. Yellow perch average around ten inches. They school up heavily and eat minnows, crustaceans, and just about everything else. They are a favorite of anglers ice fishing. Yellow perch are one of the best eating fish the swims!

Other panfish species

There are numerous other panfish species available to anglers in North America. They include but are not limited to rock bass, green sunfish, pumpkinseed, red breast sunfish, longear sunfish, war mouth, and spotted sunfish. Most of these species are caught using the same baits and techniques as other sunfish.

Top Freshwater game fish species; BASS

The term “bass” can be a bit confusing. Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are incredibly popular species in North America. However, they are not really bass, they are sunfish. Striped bass, white bass, and yellow bass are members of the true Bass family. However, since most anglers except largemouth and smallmouth as bass, we will refer to them as such in this discussion.

5) Largemouth bass

Bass fishing

Largemouth bass need no introduction to freshwater anglers. It would be easy to make the argument that they are number one in the list of top 25 freshwater game fish. While originally from the East and Southeast, largemouth bass have been introduced all over North America, and all over the world!

Largemouth bass adapt well to a large variety of environments. This certainly has been a key to their success. They can be caught in large lakes and impoundments as well as farm ponds and small creeks and rivers. Generally speaking, they prefer a slower moving water than do some other fish species. They can also tolerate a wide range of water temperature. This is another factor that has made them so successful.

Largemouth bass average a couple pounds but grow to over 20 pounds. The world record currently is 22 lbs. 4 oz. Largemouth bass can be caught in large schools or also as solitary fish. They are ambush predators with a huge mouth and a broad tail. Largemouth bass will actively chase bait in open water. Often times, bass simply flare there gills and inhale their prey.

Bass tournament influence

Tournaments targeting largemouth bass began in the 60s, and this is a major component in their popularity. Bass fishing tournaments till this day help develop and refine techniques to catch these fish. These tournaments are also often times given credit for the beginning of the “catch and release” philosophy. Anglers quickly learn that catching and killing so many fish was detrimental to the species.

list of top freshwater species

Largemouth bass spawn in the spring. Spring is a relative term, depending on what part of the country they are in. Bass spawn in January and February and the deep South and as late as June up north. Often times, the largest fish are caught during this time of year as the big females are up shallow on the beds. However, largemouth bass of all sizes can be taken year-round.

While some anglers catch largemouth bass using live bait, the vast majority are landed by anglers casting artificial lures. Soft plastic baits, plugs, spinner baits, spoons, and just about any other lure will produce largemouth bass when presented properly. Top live baits include various live minnows and nightcrawlers.

6) Smallmouth bass

smallmouth bass fishing

Smallmouth bass are quite different in habits than their cousins the largemouth bass. “Smallies” are kind of like a mix between largemouth bass and trout. They prefer cooler, clear water and will often be found in flowing rivers and streams. They have a beautiful brown color, earning them the nickname “bronzebacks”.

Smallmouth bass are native to the Midwest, especially the areas in and around the Great Lakes. However, they have been successfully introduced to many parts of the country. They are not as widely distributed as largemouth bass. Smallmouth bass cannot tolerate the heat of southern waters, and are not very common in the western states.

smallmouth bass baits

Anglers targeting smallmouth bass do so using both artificial lures and live bait. Smallmouth bass love rocks and crayfish are one of their favorite foods. Crawfish are very high in protein and are often found around rocks and gravel. Many of the artificial lures use to catch smallmouth bass imitate crayfish.

Smallmouth bass also feed on small minnows that are available in the environments that they live. Small plugs, spinners, and spoons work well. Top live baits would include crayfish, minnows, leeches, and nightcrawlers.

7) Striped bass

freshwater species

Striped bass are a saltwater fish species that migrates up into freshwater to spawn. Stripers can’t tolerate absolute freshwater. They were introduced into larger lakes and have become a huge freshwater success story. Many of the larger lakes in the United States were created in the 60s and 70s. They offered fantastic fishing for largemouth bass at that time. However, as much of the flooded timber rotted and deteriorated, there was less cover for the largemouth bass.

Striped bass are an open water fish and were introduced into many larger lakes and river systems. Fish biologist then added forage fish, primarily shad, for the striped bass to feed on. So now, striped bass have huge lakes to swim in along with a great forage base. This has resulted an excellent striped bass fishing and many lakes and the southern half of the United States, from coast to coast.

In most of these lakes, striped bass are unable to spawn naturally. They do so in freshwater rivers, and often times dams block their access. Therefore, states continue to stock striped bass into lakes as the need arises.

Trolling for striped bass

top freshwater fish species

Trolling is a very effective technique used to catch striped bass. They are often times found in deeper water on channel edges and around other structure. Trolling is a great way to get the lures or baits down deep while covering a lot of water in search of a school of fish. Stripers school up and once fish are found the action can be hot.

Anglers can catch striped bass by casting lures as well. This is particularly true when stripers heard bait fish to the surface and feed on them aggressively. Just about any lure that remotely resembles the shad they are feeding on should produce a strike. They can also be caught in shallower water and in some rivers in the cooler months.

Top artificial lures are jigs, spoons, and plugs. Larger lures tend to catch larger fish. However, the lure should be matched to the size of the available forage. The top live baits by far our live shad and herring. Catching these baits and keeping them alive can be tricky. Anglers slow trolling them do very well.

8) White bass and striper hybrids

striped bass hybrid

White bass are smaller versions of striped bass. They are fairly aggressive fish that school up in large numbers. Hybrids average around a foot or so and feed on small baitfish, worms, and crustaceans. They are widely distributed across the United States centering on the Midwest.

Striped bass and white bass hybrids are another fish management success story. These fish grow very quickly and to a decent size, averaging 3 to 5 pounds and growing as large as 10 pounds. Hybrids are also universally known as “wipers”. Hybrids have been introduced into many of the same lakes as have been striped bass. They are very similar in habits.

Hybrids are infertile, they do not spawn. Therefore, as fish die off and are harvested, they must be replenished. One of the things that makes them such a great fish is the fact that they grow quite quickly. Hybrids are good eating and anglers can keep them with a clear conscience, as they cannot reproduce.

Top Freshwater game fish species; Catfish

There are three species of catfish that stand out above the others; blue catfish yellow or flathead catfish, and channel catfish. There are many other species of bull heads and the like, but these three catfish species are most targeted by anglers. Channel catfish are the smallest averaging 5 pounds are so, with 20 pounds being a very nice fish. Blue catfish and flathead catfish can both reach in excess of 100 pounds! Catfish are prominently listed on our top 27 freshwater game fish.

All three catfish species have a fairly wide range, with channel cats being the most abundant across North America. Catfish inhabit just about any type of water including streams, rivers, ponds, and large lakes. Flathead catfish tend to prefer slow-moving rivers. Blue catfish have become very popular and are being introduced into more and more large lakes to offer anglers the chance to catch a trophy fish.

9) Channel catfish

fishing for freshwater catfish

Channel cats can be caught just about anywhere in the country, though they are less common west of the Rockies. They are the most numerous of the three catfish species. Channel catfish are predators and actually prefer live or fresh baits. They get a bad rap as “bottom feeders”. While they are opportunistic and will eat just about anything, live or fresh cut baits work best. Channel cats occasionally hit artificial lures, but the vast majority are caught by anglers using live, cut, or commercially prepared baits.

Like most catfish, channel catfish have an extremely keen sense of smell. Therefore, they can be caught in very murky water. Channel catfish prefer moving water where possible. They spawn by laying their eggs in the crevices of rocks in rivers and streams. While considered a “warm water” fish, catfish thrive in the northern states. In fact, the Red River runs between North Dakota and Minnesota and into Canada. It is considered the best trophy catfish water in North America.

10) Blue catfish

top freshwater species

Blue catfish grow very large, reaching 150 pounds! They are apex predators that can and will dominate the waters that they inhabit. Their native range is the Mississippi River and it’s tributaries. However, they have been introduced into many other waters, especially large lakes. This offers anglers a true trophy fishery, as blue catfish average 20 pounds and grow much larger. While they prefer fresh water, blue cats can tolerate a bit of salinity. They are becoming abundant in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Virginia considers them a problem as they may displace native species.

Blue catfish eat a lot, grow large, and have few natural predators. Like most catfish, they are opportunistic and will feed on almost anything. However, they prefer large, live bait fish. Most blue cats are caught by anglers using stout tackle and fresh cut bait such as mullet, shad, herring, and suckers. Fairly heavy conventional tackle is used by anglers who target these large fish.

11) Flathead catfish

fishing for catfish

Flathead catfish are the most predatory of the three species. They definitely prefer large, live fish to eat. Flathead cats were originally found in the middle of the country, from the lower Great Lakes to Texas. However, they have been introduced to many other areas of the country. Flathead catfish are considered invasive in some areas. They are also know as “yellow catfish” and “shovelhead catfish.” They average around 20 pounds but grow over 100 pounds.

Flathead catfish prefer live prey, especially fish. Anglers targeting flathead cats use live bluegill, sucker, shad, and other fish that are local forage for these fish. They are often caught at night in very shallow water as they cruise for food. Like the blue catfish, flathead catfish require patience and stout tackle. Slow moving rivers and large lakes are the top spots to target these big catfish species.

The “pike” family

12) Walleye

walleye pike fishing

Walleye are an extremely popular game fish in the northern states and Canada. While they are fun to catch, the reason that they are so prized is for their value on a dinner plate. Walleye are fantastic eating! They do put up a decent tussle, but will not be confused with other game fish.

The Great Lakes and upper Midwest are the center of walleye native populations. They have been introduced into many lakes that are cool enough to support them. Walleye average around 15”, but grow to over ten pounds. Lake Erie in particular is a terrific walleye fishery.

Walleye feed near the bottom, and that is where most fish are hooked. One look at their eyes will tell anglers that they are also nocturnal feeders. Walleye feed on small bait fish along with crustaceans. They are caught by anglers using live baits such as nightcrawlers, minnows, and leeches. They readily take artificial lures, especially jigs and crank baits.

Trolling is a popular and very effective method for taking walleye. Anglers troll both artificial lures and live baits. Slow trolling with live bait is very effective. Anglers use nightcrawlers on harness rigs to slow troll for walleye. Plugs and spoons are used behind downriggers, planer boards, and on flat lines.

13) Sauger

top freshwater game fish species

Sauger are a close, but smaller relative of the walleye. They are similar in appearance and are also very good to eat. Many anglers consider them to be a “river fish”. Sauger are very migratory and will extend their ranges. Dams that interrupt their travels are causing issues with the species, as has over harvest.

14) Northern pike

pike fishing

Northern pike or “Northerns” as they are often called, are terrific game fish! They are found in cooler waters in the northern states and some of the top pike waters in the world are located in Canada. Pike are ambush predators that blend in with weeds and attack their prey. Pike are considered good to eat by many anglers, though they are difficult to clean.

Northern pike are found in streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes of all sizes. They prefer live prey. Larger fish will go after some big baits. Many northern pike are caught by anglers casting lures in and around weed beds in fairly shallow water. Spoons, large plugs, and inline spinners are top baits. Large live baits such as suckers and minnows also produce pike.

While a lot of pike are caught in shallow water, anglers seeking larger pike target drop-offs and other structure in slightly deeper water. Ice fishing is also very productive and popular. Pike are caught through the ice by anglers using lures such as jigs and spoons and on live minnows.

15) Musekellunge

top freshwater game fish

Muskellunge, better known as “Musky”, is considered by many anglers to be the ultimate freshwater angling challenge. Given the moniker, “The fish of ten thousand casts”, in most situations, musky are difficult to hook. They are apex predators, growing to over 60 pounds. Therefore, there are not a lot of them.

Musky are originally from the Great Lakes area, but their range has been extended. They are caught as far south as Tennessee. Most anglers recognize their value as a game fish and release them. While live baits fool some musky, most are caught by anglers using artificial lures.

Trolling and casting are the two most effective methods for catching musky. Anglers use fairly heavy tackle and wire leaders to cast large lures in search of a trophy. Spoons, plugs, and inline spinners are top baits. Weed beds, points, and back bays are prime spots. Anglers also troll lures and live baits along weed edges to catch musky. Musky are caught through the ice as well.

16) Chain pickerel

top freshwater fish list

Chain pickerel are smaller versions of northern pike. They are similar in shape with a “chain link” design on their body. Three pounds is a nice fish. They are widely distributed, being found as far south as Florida. Most are caught by accident by anglers fishing for other species.

Top Freshwater game fish species; Trout

trout fishing

There are several different trout species that are found in North America. While there are actually quite a few strains of trout, the species that are most widely distributed and targeted by anglers are rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout, and lake trout.

Trout generally prefer clean, cold water. Most trout were originally caught in the northern states and Canada, but they have been successfully stocked in southern states including Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, and Arizona. This is especially true for rainbow and brown trout, as they are more tolerant of warmer water temperatures.

Trout forage

Trout have a diverse diet. As young fish, they feed heavily on insects and larva. As they grow bigger, trout switch to eating larger prey such as small fish and crayfish. Many anglers fly fish for them, in fact, that is pretty much how the sport originated. Many books have been written on the subject.

Anglers using spinning tackle certainly catch a lot of fish as well. Spinners and spoons are very effective lures in streams and lakes. Small plugs will catch fewer fish, but will catch larger ones. Trolling is very effective in deep, large lakes such as the Great Lakes.

17) Rainbow trout

fishing for rainbow trout

Rainbow trout are one of the most recognizable and popular game fish in North America and all over the world. They are a gorgeous fish, with a bright red “rainbow” on the side. Trophy rainbow trout can be caught all over the United States. Some of the best spots are pretty far south, such as Lee’s Ferry in Arizona, the White River in Arkansas, and the private streams in north Georgia.

Of course, when rainbow trout are mentioned, most anglers thing of a fast flowing stream or small river. Waters throughout the northern half of the country hold rainbow trout.

Steelhead trout are rainbow trout that leave streams for open water. They take on a silvery gray color, thus the name. On the Pacific coast, they go out into the ocean then return several years later to spawn. In the Midwest, they use the Great Lakes as “oceans”, returning to streams. Unlike salmon, they do not die. They are terrific game fish as they have grown very strong out in deeper water.

18) Brown trout

trout fishing

Brown trout are perhaps the most widely distributed trout species as they can tolerate the warmest water. They also grow the largest of the “river” trout. Brown trout were introduced to America from Germany in the late 1800s. Many anglers refer to them as “German Browns” for this reason.

While brown trout eat insects, they switch over to larger prey at a fairly early age. Anglers trolling plugs and spoons in large lakes catch some very large brown trout. They are also plentiful in lakes and rivers throughout North America. Fly anglers catch a lot of trout as well. Brown trout can be caught in live bait such as worms, minnows, and fish eggs.

19) Brook trout

trout list

Brook trout are a beautiful fish. They have a bright orange belly with a white outline on the fins. They are originally from the northeast United States, but have been successfully transplanted across the US and Canada. Brook trout are often found in the tiniest of streams, thus the name. Brookies do not grow nearly as large, with six inches being average.

While brook trout are small, many anglers enjoy the challenge of hiking up into the mountains and fooling them on very light tackle. “Native” brookies in particular are highly valued by fly anglers. Some waters in Canada do offer fishing for brook trout to five pounds.

20) Cutthroat trout

top trout species

Cutthroat trout are found in the northwest part of the United States. They are an excellent game fish that are most often caught by anglers fly fishing in streams and rivers. They are generally caught from Montana west to the coast.

21) Lake trout

lake trout fishing tips

Lake trout are a bit different than any trout species. In reality, they are in the “char” family. Lake trout are normally caught in deep, clear, cold lakes in the northern states and in Canada. However, they are caught in streams and rivers occasionally, especially in early spring when they spawn. Most lake trout are caught by anglers trolling large spoons which mimic the herring and other bait fish that lakers feed on.

Top Freshwater game fish species; Salmon

Salmon are terrific game fish! They are only this far down on the list because of their lack of availability and limited range. Chinook (also know as “King”) salmon, Coho (silver) salmon, Atlantic salmon, and pink salmon are the top salmon species targeted by anglers. Salmon are caught by anglers fly fishing, casting lures and live and cut baits, and by trolling.

22) Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic salmon are incredible fighters and considered a top game fish in the world. However, their numbers are really down from years past. Their delicious flesh is one issue, as are habitat loss and fishing pressure.

23) Chinook salmon

top freshwater fish species

Chinook salmon, or “king” salmon are found on the west coast of the United States and Canada up to Alaska. Kings have also been successfully stocked in the Great Lakes as well. They are a fantastic game fish that grow quite large. Anglers do well in the spring and fall. They are taken by trolling and drifting with lures and egg sacks, as well as cut fish.

24) Coho salmon

salmon fishing

Coho, or silver, salmon are plentiful in the Great Lakes and are the back bone of the fishery. They are available to anglers year-round and are caught using the same methods as other salmon. They do not grow as large as chinook salmon, but they make up for it in numbers and availability.

25) Pink salmon

top almon fish species

Pink salmon, or pinks, are the smallest, but most abundant of the Pacific salmon. They range from the Sacramento River north. Like king salmon, they have been successfully introduced into the Great Lakes. They can be difficult to catch once they move into rivers to spawn.

26) Carp

fishing for carp

Carp were once considered “trash” fish and were undesirable, mostly because they are not considered good to eat. However, anglers of late have grown to appreciate them as a game fish. They grow large, are widely distributed, and put a a very good fight. Some guides actually sight fish for them using fly rods, earning them the nickname, “Midwest bonefish”. They are very challenging in shallow water. Most carp are caught by anglers using natural baits suck as worms, corn, and dough balls.

27) Sturgeon

top fish species

We saved the biggest fish for the end of the list. Sturgeon grow very large, over 12 feet in North America. There are several different sturgeon species, with the largest fish being caught in the Pacific northwest, especially the Columbia River. Sturgeon are prehistoric looking and almost all of them are caught by anglers using cut bait on the bottom.

In conclusion, this is the list of the top 27 freshwater game fish species. What is your favorite species?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing Charters in Sarasota

Fishing Charters in Sarasota with Capt Jim Klopfer

Many visiting anglers are interested in going fishing while in Sarasota.  There are many fishing charters in Sarasota to choose from.  Capt Jim Klopfer has been taking clients out fishing in Sarasota since 1991.

Sarasota offers anglers a wide variety of fishing opportunities to visitors.  Capt Jim Klopfer is very versatile and will cater the fishing charter to the experience and expectations of his clients.  Anglers with very little experience can achieve success, much of the fishing is not overly challenging.  There are a number of productive techniques that will produce fish.  Live bait is perhaps the easiest to use and a good choice for children.  Artificial lures are easy to use and are very productive.

Sarasota fishing calendar

View current Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing charter options

There are multiple angling techniques that are productive on fishing charters in Sarasota.  Drifting the deep grass flats produces great action.  Both passes hold a lot of fish.  Bottom fishing is an easy and productive technique.  Experienced anglers may choose to target snook and redfish in the back water areas.  Fishing for mackerel and false albacore can be fantastic in the inshore Gulf of Mexico.

Fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay

Anglers seeking action and variety will do well fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay.  Deep grass flats are patches of submerged vegetation in water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep.  This attracts forage such as shrimp, crabs, and bait fish.  This is what the game fish feed on.  Speckled trout, pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, snapper, grouper, ladyfish, catfish, sharks, cobia, and flounder are the primary species caught fishing the deep flats.

Drifting is usually the best approach when targeting fish on the deep flats.  These are large areas.  Drifting with the wind and tide allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish.  Once a productive area in located, the boat can be anchored.  Both live bait and artificial lures are productive.  Flats near the passes are usually very reliable.

Jigs are the top artificial lure for fishing the deep grass flats.  They cast well and are easy to use.  Anglers cast them out ahead of the drifting boat and work it back it.  Live shrimp are either free lined out behind the boat or fished under a float.  Chumming with live bait fish is a deadly technique that is used in the summer time.

inshore saltwater fishing

Fishing the Sarasota passes

Passes are channels that connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico.  They are basically “inlets”, just termed differently.  The two passes in Sarasota are Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass.  Both can provide excellent fishing throughout the year.

Sarasota family fishing charters

The two techniques used in the passes are drifting with jigs or bait and bottom fishing.  Anglers drifting with the current bounce jigs off the bottom or free line live shrimp.  Both produce pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and loads of hard fighting ladyfish.  This is very easy fishing as casting is really not required.  The current does all of the work!

Bottom fishing is another easy and productive technique.  A hook is baited with a shrimp and lowered to the bottom.  There is a lot of structure in the passes, particularly in Big Pass on the north side of Siesta Key.  Deep water, structure, and current flow make this a great fishing spot!  Sheepshead are prime targets in winter.  Mangrove snapper, grouper, drum, jacks, snook, and more are taken all year long.

Snook fishing in Sarasota

Snook are the top game fish in Florida.  They are quite similar to largemouth bass in habits.  Snook have large mouths, are found near structure, and ambush their prey.  In fact, most of the top snook lures are just converted bass baits.  Anglers targeting snook along mangrove shorelines, under docks, around seawalls, and along oyster bars catch jacks, redfish, and other species as well.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

Artificial lures are often used on fishing charters in Sarasota when snook are the target.  Lures allow anglers to cover quite a bit of shoreline cover.  They also will elicit strikes from fish that are not actively feeding.  This type of fishing does require some decent casting skills.  Therefore, this is best for more experienced anglers.

Live bait certainly produces a lot of snook as well.  In the cooler months, a large, live shrimp is a terrific bait.  In the warmer months, live bait chumming is used successfully.  Capt Jim will use his cast net and load the well up with live baits.  These are then used to attract and excite the fish.  Handfuls of bait are tossed out behind the boat.  If snook and other game fish are around, it won’t be long until they start popping on the free baits.  This is a great way for an inexperienced angler to catch a big fish1

Fishing off of the Sarasota beaches

The inshore Gulf of Mexico can provide fantastic action when conditions are right.  East winds will result in the water close to shore being calm and clear.  Bait fish will be plentiful.  Spanish mackerel, false albacore, king mackerel, sharks, cobia, and other species will move in to feed on the bait.  This can be very exciting fishing as much of the activity takes place on the surface.

Anglers cruise the beaches searching for signs of fish.  Birds are a great indication of feeding game fish.  Spanish mackerel will stay up on the surface for quite a while.  This makes it easy to get the boat into a good casting position.  False albacore are a bit fussier.  They will often pop up, feed ferociously, then be gone in a few seconds.

Sarasota fishing videos

Small artificial lures work very well for this type of fishing.  The fish are feeding on small bait fish, so lures that imitate them work best.  Also, sometimes a bit of casting distance is required.  For these reasons, lures work better than live bait in most instances.  Small plugs, silver spoons, and 3″ soft plastic baits on a jig head are the top lures.

Fishing charters in Sarasota, trolling for success

There will be days when the fish are not showing on the surface.  Trolling is an excellent technique under these circumstances.  This allows anglers to cover a lot of water while presenting several lures at different depths.  Again, this is a very easy way for kids and inexperienced anglers to catch some really nice fish.

There are three artificial reefs just off of Lido Key.  These hold fish during much of the year.  The reefs are prime spots to troll for king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore.  Bait fish are attracted to the structure in large numbers.  They can be seen hovering on the surface over the submerged structure.  These are great spots to troll for kings, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore.

Species caught on Sarasota fishing charters

One of the great aspects of taking a fishing charter in Sarasota is the wide variety of fish species that are available.  Some fish such as snook, redfish, speckled trout, ladyfish, jack crevalle, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, and bluefish are caught all year long.  Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, pompano, cobia, and sharks are most often encountered in the spring and fall.  Black drum and sheepshead are winter fish.  Tarpon are caught in the summer.  Anglers can find current regulations on the FWC site.

Snook

Siesta Key snook fishing

Snook are the top inshore game fish in Florida.  They are large, fight hard, leap high out of the water, and are caught on both lures and live bait.  Snook have a distinct seasonal migration pattern.  In winter, snook are found in creeks, rivers, and canals.  As it warms up, they move into Sarasota Bay and Robert’s Bay.  Snook are found out on the beaches and in the passes in the summertime.

Snook are structure oriented.  They are almost always found near some type of cover.  Docks, bridges, oyster bars, mangrove shorelines, and seawalls all hold snook.  If bait is present, so much the better!  Anglers catch snook using artificial lures and live bait.  Lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water.  Live bait works best when fish are located.

Speckled trout

Gator trout Sarasota

Speckled trout are an extremely popular for anglers taking out fishing charters in Sarasota.  They are a beautiful fish, aggressive, plentiful year round, and are fantastic eating.  Speckled trout school up and once located, a bunch can be caught in short order.  Most of the trout caught in Sarasota are found on the submerged grass beds in Sarasota Bay.

A live shrimp is a great bait for catching speckled trout.  Shrimp can be fished under a popping cork or free lined out behind the boat.  Live pilchards work very well in the warmer months.  Artificial lures catch plenty of speckled trout as well.  The top lure in Sarasota is the jig and grub.  This is a versatile lure that can imitate bait fish and crustaceans.  They work very well on trout and other species.

Redfish

Florida fishing charters

Redfish are another very popular inshore species.  In Sarasota, most reds are caught under docks and on shallow grass flats.  Redfish school up in large numbers in late summer.  Anglers sight fish for them as they can easily be seen “waking” across a flat.  Docks and other structure hold reds all year long.

Redfish feed primarily on crustaceans.  They are built to root on the bottom for crabs and shrimp.  They will take like bait fish as well.  A large, live shrimp is tough to beat when targeting redfish.  They work very well when fishing docks.  Lures such as jigs and weedless spoons imitate the forage and are productive as well.

Spanish mackerel

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Spanish mackerel are a terrific game fish!  Anglers who take out fishing charters in Sarasota target them often.  Mackerel are very fast, aggressive, beautiful, and taste great when prepared fresh.  Spanish mackerel are often found in large schools.  This is particularly true in the Gulf of Mexico.  Spanish mackerel feed mostly on small bait fish.  Live shrimp will certainly produce, too.

Shiny, fast moving lures are effective when targeting Spanish mackerel.  Mackerel are very fast and will track down a fast moving lure that has an erratic action.  Plugs and silver spoons are top artificial lures.  They can be cast or trolled effectively.  Anglers fishing with live scaled sardines and shrimp will catch plenty of mackerel as well.

Pompano

Florida pompano fishing

Pompano are a prized inshore game fish in Sarasota, Florida.  While they put up a great fight, the reason for their popularity is that they are fantastic eating!  Pompano have a delicious flavor and interesting texture.  They are most often found in the surf, in the passes, and on the flats close to the passes.  Pompano cruise around in small schools, feeding on the bottom.

One look at the mouth of a pompano indicated it’s feeding behavior.  Pompano feed on crustaceans on the bottom.  Crabs, sand fleas, and shrimp are the primary forage.  Small jigs bounced on the bottom are the top artificial lure.  Dedicated surf anglers catch sand fleas (mole crabs) and use them for bait.  Live shrimp worked well for pompano as well.

Bluefish

Florida bluefish

Bluefish are well-know to anglers from the northeastern states.  The bluefish we catch in Sarasota are smaller, averaging around three pounds.  Bluefish are aggressive and most often are found in schools.  They are a very aggressive species.  Blues can be found in the bays, passes, and inshore Gulf of Mexico.

Jigs are good lures for catching bluefish.  They work well on the deeper grass flats where bluefish are often found.  They move move erratically and attract the attention of the blues.  Spoons and plugs are effective as well.  Bluefish can often be seen feeding on the surface.  Live bait fish and shrimp will catch them as well.

Jack crevalle

Sarasota fishing report

Jack crevalle are another terrific inshore game fish found in Sarasota.  They grow fairly large, being caught to 15 pounds in this area.  Jacks school up and are often seen feeding aggressively on the surface.  They are found all over the place in the warmer months.  They are easier to locate in the cooler months as they move up into creeks and canals.  Jack crevalle are not considered good to eat.

While jacks are caught on live bait, artificial lures are so much fun to use.  Jacks are very aggressive and strike lures with ferocity.  Plugs and jigs are the top artificial lures.  They need to have stout hooks as jacks are incredibly strong.

Sheepshead

Sarasota fishing calendar

Sheepshead move into the Sarasota area in December and stay around until April.  They are a staple for anglers taking out fishing charters in Sarasota in the cooler months.  They school up heavily in the passes and out on the inshore artificial reefs.  Sheepshead feed on crustaceans and are rarely taken on artificial lures.  Most sheepshead are caught by anglers bottom fishing near structure with live or frozen shrimp.  They fight hard, are fun to catch, and are excellent table fare.

Mangrove snapper

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

Mangrove snapper are found near structure similar to the spots where sheepshead are caught.  They are caught all year long.  Also, mangrove snapper are caught on the deep grass flats in the summer time.  Most mangrove snapper are caught by anglers using live bait.  However, they will hit small plugs and jigs as well.  Snapper put up a good fight and are fantastic on a dinner plate.

Gag grouper

Sarasota bottom fishing

Gag grouper are mostly caught in the offshore waters.  However, juvenile grouper and the occasional larger fish are caught in the inshore waters.  Grouper are almost always found near structure.  However, they are caught on the open grass flats for a month or so in summer when they are migrating through.  Most grouper are caught by accident by anglers bottom fishing for other species.

Tarpon

Sarasota fishing calendar

Tarpon are the largest fish that anglers can target in Sarasota.  The move through from May to August on their annual spawning run.  Tarpon are caught just off of the area beaches in the Gulf of Mexico.  Live crabs and bait fish are cast in front of the cruising fish.  This is truly big game fishing and is best for more experienced anglers.  There is a lot of waiting and stalking, so patience is required.

False albacore

Sarasota fishing calendar

False albacore, known locally as “bonita”, are a terrific game fish that are found in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  They rarely come into the bays.  False albacore are usually sight fished as they often feed on the surface.  The key is to position the boat in front of the feeding fish.  They can be fussy at times and challenging to catch.  However, that is part of the fun!  Small lures and flies that mimic the bait fish work best.

King mackerel

fishing report for Sarasota

King mackerel are often found offshore but do move in close to shore when conditions are right.  Trolling is the most effective way to catch them as it allows anglers to cover a lot of water.  The inshore reefs off of Lido Key are always a good place to start.  Easter and Thanksgiving are usually the prime times to catch king mackerel off of the Sarasota beaches.

Black drum

fishing charters in Sarasota

Black drum are often found in the same locations and time of year as are sheepshead.  Generally, cooler months are best.  Drum rarely hit artificial lures, most are caught by anglers using live or frozen shrimp.  Black drum are good eating.  They can grow quite large as well, to over 30 pounds.

Flounder

best Sarasota fishing charter

Flounder are another species that clients on fishing charters in Sarasota catch when fishing for other species.  They are not abundant, but are more of an occasional catch.  They are caught by anglers bouncing jigs on the bottom and by anglers fishing with live bait.  Surf fishing can be productive for flounder, too.

Cobia

fishing charters in Sarasota

Cobia are a large fish that are most often found in the Gulf of Mexico.  However, some fish do wander into Sarasota Bay.  Anglers fortunate enough to hook one will have their hands full on a light spinning rod!  Cobia are curious and will hit just about any lure or live bait.

Meeting spot for a Sarasota fishing charter

There are several spots that Capt Jim meets his clients at.  The meeting spot will depend on client location, current weather conditions, and fish activity.  Most anglers going out on fishing charters in Sarasota will meet at the public boat ramp at Centennial Park in downtown Sarasota.

Another convenient meet spot on Sarasota fishing charters is the North Bridge Park on Siesta Key.  This spot is often used on breezy days and by Siesta Key visitors.

The last meeting spot used by Capt Jim is the boat ramp on Ken Thompson Island.  This is convenient for anglers staying on Longboat Key or north in Bradenton.

In conclusion, this post on fishing charters in Sarasota will help anglers get an idea of the options available to them.

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarasota Fishing Articles

Sarasota Fishing Articles written by Capt Jim Klopfer

This post will list my Sarasota fishing articles. Fishing Lido Key has over 45 posts and articles written to help anglers catch more fish in Sarasota and in Florida. Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota since 1991. The articles are all 2000 words or more and full of great fishing pictures and techniques. Click on the title to link to the full article.

View current Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing articles

Fishing Charters in Sarasota

This post covers the techniques, seasons, and species that anglers will encounter on fishing charters in Sarasota.

Inshore Saltwater Fishing

This is a VERY long, comprehensive post on fishing the inshore saltwater from Texas to Maine. It covers the tackle, species, techniques, and locations that will help anglers be successful.

Sarasota snook fishing

Siesta Key snook fishing

Fishing for Snook, a Complete Guide

Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Sarasota. They are a terrific game fish that grows large and will hit lures and live baits. These articles outlines the seasonal movements of snook along with the techniques, baits, and lures used to catch these apex predators.

Sarasota jig fishing

Jigs are a simple yet extremely effective fishing lure. The lead head jig with a grub body is the most popular lure in Florida. They catch a wide variety of species and are deadly on speckled trout and other fish found on the deep grass flats. This post thoroughly covers the different types of jigs and techniques used to be successful.

Sarasota trolling techniques

Trolling is a very effective technique, especially for Spanish and king mackerel. While it is simply moving along at a slow speed while dragging lures behind, there is much more to it than that. Learn how to do it in this article.

Sarasota inshore Gulf fishing

The inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico off of the Sarasota beaches can provide world class fishing when conditions are optimum. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, cobia, tarpon, and sharks are all available in spring and fall. This article covers the baits and techniques needed to be successful.

Sarasota summer fishing charters

This article highlights the excellent fishing that clients experience in the summer. It is hot, but the action can even be hotter. The key to this action is the abundance of live bait. Anglers reading this article will get all the information they need to experience great success when fishing in Sarasota in the summer time.

Top 8 Sarasota fish species

This article focuses on the top 8 inshore species available to Sarasota anglers. Snook, speckled trout, redfish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, jack crevalle, bluefish, and mangrove snapper are the top species. Learn the lures and baits along with seasons and techniques used when targeting these species.

35 best Sarasota fishing spots

This article is a list of Capt Jim’s top fishing spots in Sarasota. It includes maps with details on species, baits, and seasons. These are the spots that he fishes on a daily basis.

Best Sarasota fishing charter

This post outlines all of the available options to clients who are thinking about going out on a Sarasota fishing charter. It includes the species available along with the best seasons and techniques used to target them.

Sarasota river fishing

There are several rivers that are a short drive from Sarasota. The Myakka River, Manatee River, and Braden River all offer anglers the chance for trophy snook and jack crevalle, along with other species. Cooler months are the time to fish Sarasota area rivers.

Fly fishing Sarasota rivers

This article shares tips, techniques, and seasons for anglers to be successful fly fishing for snook, jacks, bass, and other species in Sarasota area rivers. Most of this action takes place in the cooler months.

Plug fishing Sarasota

Plugs are very effective and versatile artificial lures. They mostly imitate bait fish. They can be cast as well as trolled. Most game fish can be taken by anglers using plugs including snook, jacks, trout, mackerel, bluefish, and more. This article covers the different types of plugs in the techniques used to employ them.

Best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

Artificial lures catch a lot of fish. Lures can actually catch more fish and live bait under certain conditions. They can aggravate and excite fish into biting when they are not hungry. This article outlines the best six lures to use in Sarasota for a variety of species.

Sarasota red tide fishing

Red tide is a naturally occurring algae bloom that happens occasionally in Sarasota waters. If it is bad enough, it will kill fish. However, fishing can still be productive, it just requires a change in tactics and locations. This article will help anglers adapt to red tide and catch more fish.

Fly fishing Sarasota Bay

Anglers can catch a wide variety of species when fly fishing in Sarasota. Speckled trout, mackerel, and bluefish will be caught on the deep flats. Snook and jack crevalle can be caught in creeks and rivers in the winter. This article outlines the tackle, flies, and tactics used to be successful.

Sarasota freshwater fishing

Most anglers visiting Sarasota think of saltwater fishing, and for good reason. However several small lakes and rivers in this area offer good freshwater fishing as well. Crappie, bream, bass, catfish, and other species are plentiful. This article outlines the bodies of water that are productive and the techniques used to catch freshwater fish in Sarasota.

Longboat Key fishing charters

Longboat Key is a barrier island on the north end of Sarasota. It is a bit quieter than Siesta Key and Lido Key. The nearby flats and inshore Gulf of Mexico provide excellent fishing for guests visiting Longboat Key. This post will outline the options for anglers contemplating a fishing charter.

Sarasota speckled trout fishing

Speckled trout are an extremely popular inshore game fish in Sarasota and the Southeast United States. They are plentiful, pretty, aggressive, easy to catch, and taste great. Speckled trout can be caught using a variety of techniques and this article outlines the methods used along with the locations to catch speckled trout.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Spanish mackerel are a terrific and underrated game fish. They are usually plentiful off the Sarasota beaches in the spring and again in the fall. They can often time be seen feeding ferociously on the surface. This article goes into detail on the baits, lures, techniques, seasons, and locations used to catch Spanish mackerel.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

Mangrove snapper are a much desired fish species for anglers fishing in Sarasota. They are feisty fish that school up in large numbers. While they can be taking using artificial lures, most are caught on live bait. Snapper are usually found around structure. They are one of the finest eating fish caught anywhere.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Sheepshead are a member of the Porgy family. They show up in Sarasota waters around Christmas and stay until Easter. They are staple for charter boat captains in the winter as they are plentiful in fairly reliable. Sheepshead are a structure oriented bottom fish that feed mostly on crustaceans. They are great eating but difficult to clean. This article shares the tips and techniques required to catch sheepshead.

Florida pompano fishing

Pompano are an extremely desirable species in Sarasota and throughout all of Florida. While small, they put up a terrific fight for their size. They are caught in the bays, passes and inlets, and off the beaches. Many pompano are caught using live bait, but just as many are caught by anglers using jigs. Pompano are fantastic eating! Learn the tips and techniques used to catch them here.

Sarasota crappie fishing

Many northern anglers are very familiar with this popular freshwater panfish. Florida has excellent populations of crappie. Several local Sarasota lakes offer visiting anglers the opportunity to catch crappie. Late fall and winter are the best times. Read this article to learn the baits, techniques, seasons, and locations that will help anglers catch more crappie.

Florida bluefish

Anglers from the Northeast part of the United States are very familiar with bluefish. While the bluefish we have in Sarasota and other parts of Florida don’t get as large, they are great fun especially on the light tackle that we use. Most bluefish are caught by anglers casting jigs and other artificial lures. This post will run through the lures, baits, and techniques used to catch bluefish.

Sarasota fishing report

This post is updated every week or two by Capt. Jim. It gives honest information on the current conditions along with a recent fishing report. The Sarasota fishing report includes species caught, locations that help fish, and lures and baits that were productive.

Sarasota fishing forecast

Sarasota fishing calendar

The Sarasota fishing forecast and Sarasota fishing calendar are posts that will help visiting anglers plan their trip to Sarasota. While every year is different, seasonal patterns have emerged. Capt. Jim has been guiding since 1991 and shares his experiences over those years in these posts to help anglers get an idea of what species are available at certain times of the year.

Sarasota false albacore fishing

False albacore, also known as Bonito, are tremendous game fish! They do not come into the bays but are caught in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico off of the Sarasota beaches. Spring and fall are the best times to find them. Much of this is sight fishing as the fish feed voraciously on the surface. This article will run through the lures and techniques used to catch false albacore.

Jack crevelle fishing

Jack crevalle are a very hard fighting game fish. They are very wide with deeply Fort tales and they use these attributes to pull incredibly hard. Jacks school up and are usually very aggressive once found. They are often times seen feeding on the surface. The largest jacks of the year are found in the cooler months in creeks, rivers, and residential canals. This article covers all aspects of fishing for jack crevalle in Sarasota.

Sarasota family fishing charters

One great aspect of being a charter boat captain in Sarasota is that it does not take experience or great skill to have success when fishing in Sarasota. Many of the species are caught on the bottom or in open water, eliminating the need for great casting skill. Also, many Sarasota saltwater species are fairly aggressive and easy to hook. This post goes through all the options that client seeking a family fishing charter can choose from.

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Tarpon are considered by many to be the ultimate game fish. They grow to over 200 pounds and the experience of hooking one is amazing. Tarpon show up in Sarasota off of the beaches in early May and stay until late July. This article covers all the basics of tarpon fishing including baits, tackle, seasons, and techniques.

Sarasota bass fishing

Sarasota is not known for its freshwater fishing, or its bass fishing. However local area rivers, lakes, and ponds offer visiting anglers the opportunity to catch bass all year long. Sarasota does not have a trophy bass fishery, it is more about action and numbers. This article goes through the options anglers targeting largemouth bass in Sarasota have.

River snook fishing

Snook migrate up into area rivers in the winter. They do this to escape the harsh conditions on the shallow grass flats. Snook cannot tolerate water temperature below 60° for very long. Anglers casting artificial lures to shoreline cover catch some trophy fish. This type of fishing is best suited for more experienced anglers. This article covers the lures, locations, season, and techniques to catch river snook.

Siesta Key fishing charters

Siesta Key is famous for its world-class beaches and powdery white sand. However, visiting anglers enjoy some excellent fishing as well. Options abound for clients of all ages and skill levels. This article goes through the species, seasons, and techniques used to catch the many different species available for anglers interested in going out on Siesta Key fishing charters.

Sarasota chumming techniques

Chumming is the act of putting food into the water to attract fish. It is an age-old technique that is still effective to this day. Like other forms of fishing, there are nuances and techniques that will produce more fish. This article goes in-depth into these techniques.

Sarasota redfish

Redfish are an extremely popular game fish all along the coastline of the Southeast United States. Most redfish are caught on the shallow flats and around oyster bars, docks, and other structure. They will hit a variety of artificial lures and live baits. This article covers catching redfish in Sarasota and other locations.

Best 11 Sarasota fishing reefs

Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program. This article covers the best 11 fishing reefs in the inshore waters of Sarasota. Included are GPS numbers for the locations as well as seasons, species available, and techniques used to catch a variety of game fish on the Sarasota artificial reefs.

Sarasota bottom fishing

Bottom fishing is as simple as it gets. Hooks are baited with shrimp or other live or frozen bait and then drop to the bottom on or around structure. However, there are tips and techniques which will help anglers be more successful. This article covers the rigs, tackle, baits, and tactics use to be successful when bottom fishing in Sarasota.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Sarasota fishing excursion

These comprehensive posts will answer any questions a visiting angler who is contemplating a fishing charter while in Sarasota, Florida. It covers the seasons, techniques, fishing options, and much more.

Fishing Sarasota Bay

Fishing Sarasota Florida

Sarasota Bay offers anglers the opportunity to catch over 20 different species throughout the year. These articles covers those species along with the locations that they are found and baits and lures used to catch them.

Sarasota fishing videos

This post simply lists the videos that Capt. Jim has made for his YouTube channel. The short videos are informative and cover a wide range of angling opportunities in Sarasota.

Fishing Siesta Key

This very long and comprehensive post covers all of the inshore and nearshore angling opportunities for those visiting Siesta Key who might be thinking about doing some fishing. There’s a ton of great information on fish species, locations, seasons, baits and lures, and techniques used that will help anglers be successful.

Fly fishing for jack crevelle

Jacks are terrific game fish, and are a great challenge for anglers casting a fly. A large Jack will put up a great fight on fly tackle. This article covers the tackle, flies, techniques, and locations used to catch jacks on fly.

In conclusion, this list of Sarasota fishing articles has a ton of great information that will help anglers catch more fish!