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.

Live bait produces on Sarasota fishing charters

While artificial lures catch plenty of fish during Spring Break, live bait is the most reliable producer on my Siesta Key fishing charters, especially with anglers with limited experience.  Live shrimp are purchased and “whitebait” is cast-netted up on the flats.  “Whitebait” is a Florida term for small white or silver bait fish, mostly pilchards and threadfin herring, that migrate into the area in the spring.  A well full of either live shrimp or frisky pilchards practically guarantees success.

Marcel Hamburger lives in Houston, TX and has fished with me for several years now.  He usually brings his two children Morgan and Grant.  Morgan never gets out-fished.  Never.  She has perfected the art of drifting a live bait across the flats.  She casts her bait out and lets it drift behind the boat with the rod tip held low.  When a fish takes the bait, she does not jerk, which is a common mistake.  Instead, she just reels up the slack while slowly raising the rod tip.  Most of the time, the result is a fish in the boat.

Anchoring up on the edge of a grass flat that drops off into deeper water and fishing with live bait can be deadly.  One trip from several years ago comes to mind and it is a story that I have told many times on the boat.  John Brennan from Brookfield, WI visits Siesta Key regularly for Spring Break, and he usually treats his daughters Laura, Cari, and Theresa to a Sarasota fishing charter.  I filled the well with twelve dozen shrimp and loaded up the Brennan clan.

After anchoring up on the edge of a flat near Bird Key, we experienced non-stop action free lining live shrimp.  I believe the final tally was 119 fish landed, not counting the ones that jumped off.  Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, and ladyfish, kept rods bent the entire time.  It was so hectic, poor John barely got the chance to fish!

Fishing Big Sarasota Pass

Big Sarasota Pass lies to the north of Siesta Key.  It is a fish highway that connects Sarasota Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.  March is a prime month for fishing the pass.  The same methods that produce on the flats will also work in the deeper water of the pass.  Jigs bounced on the bottom and free lined live bait will catch pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and loads of ladyfish.

Last March the Manby family, friends of the Brennan’s who also reside in Brookfield, WI had a great morning catching large mackerel in Big Pass.  Maria and Jeff along with their three girls Ashleigh, Julia, and Abigail were my guests that morning.  The tide was low and had just turned to come in and we were free lining live shrimp.   The bite was a little slow, just a couple of ladyfish, when Julia’s rod bent double and the drag started screaming.

I knew right away that it was a big mackerel.  Julia fought the fish like an expert and it was landed and tossed on ice, destined for dinner at Clayton’s that evening.  Several minutes later the same thing was repeated.  Then again.  What the heck?  Four baits in the water, same hook, same rig, but she catches all the fish?

“I jiggle it”, she stated.  And the now-famous “Julia Jiggle” was born.  Any time I am on a charter and the bites are slow in coming, I instruct my clients to “jiggle it”.  Action is sure to soon follow.

There is much more to fishing than just catching fish.  The time a family spends together is priceless.  I humbly feel privileged to be a part of it.  Friendships have been forged and to see the kids grow up each year is exciting.  Experience your own Spring Break, Sarasota style!

Summer Sarasota fishing charters

All three rods were bent deep as I tried to keep the bedlam under control.  Sweat was dripping from my forehead and it was only nine o’clock in the morning.  The heat was one reason, the other was that I was scrambling to keep my client’s hooks emptied of a fish and then re-baited.  It was non-stop action as nearly every pilchard that hit the water was devoured within seconds.  Welcome to summertime fishing Sarasota!

Many anglers are surprised when I tell them that fishing Sarasota in the heat of summer is outstanding.  Some of my best days, especially when it comes to quantity, come in July and August.  The reason for this is the abundance of live bait fish that flood into the bays at first light.  Pilchards and threadfin herring are thick on the shallow grass flats near the Venice Inlet.  A few tosses of the cast net will usually result in a well full of bait.  After that, success is practically guaranteed.  A few handfuls of live chum will bring speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, jacks, and sharks right up to the boat.  Bait fish are easiest to catch at first light, especially on a high tide.  Grass flats near both passes are good spots to load up the well.

While fishing Sarasota can be spectacular in the heat of summer, it does require a few tactical changes.  The prime low-light periods of dawn and dusk will be very productive, as will fishing at night.  Getting up early is a requirement, not an option.  Get out there early, catch bait or take advantage of the early morning low light conditions to cast artificial lures.  On most days the bite winds down by late morning.  By then it is usually just too hot to fish, anyway.

Night fishing in Sarasota

Fishing Sarasota at night is another productive option in July.  Evenings are pleasant, just monitor the weather; thunderstorms are an issue this time of year.  Snook in particular will be caught around the lighted docks and bridges throughout the area.  Speckled trout, redfish, snapper, ladyfish, and even tarpon will also be caught at night.  Plugs, jigs, flies, and live bait will produce around lighted structure.

Successful anglers will quietly approach a likely spot and either anchor or use a trolling motor to work the spot.  Shore bound anglers will score at the area bridges, too.  The prime spot is a cast away on the up-current side just on the fringe of the lighted area.  Outgoing tides are preferred, but as long as the water is moving the fish will bite.

Bass Assassin Sea Shad jigs are productive lures, as are small plugs such as the (08) size Rapala X-Rap.  Live shrimp free lined in the current can also be deadly.  Medium sized shrimp work best on a 1/0 short shank hook for clients fishing Sarasota.  Large hand-picked shrimp don’t look natural and are usually not as effective.    Spinning tackle with a 2’ piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is best for tossing lures and live bait.  Glass minnows are a primary forage around lights and small white flies are effective imitations.  A 7 or 8 weight rod with an intermediate sink tip line and 8 foot piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader works well.

Beach snook fishing in Sarasota

Siesta Key snook fishing

Another productive July technique when fishing Sarasota is beach fishing for snook.  This is a great opportunity for anglers without a boat to experience the thrill and challenge of sight fishing.  Anglers will hit the beach around 8:00 a.m., by then there is enough sunlight to spot the fish.  Walking north will put the sun behind, making it easier to see the snook.  Quite often, they will be right in the surf line, inches from the edge.

Live bait will work but it cumbersome to carry around.  Artificial lures are more convenient and catch plenty of fish.  Small light colored lures are best.  A delicate presentation is required so as not to spook the fish in the shallow water.  A 1/8 ounce white bucktail jig works great, as do small plugs and soft plastic baits.

This is a terrific situation to catch a snook on a fly rod.  White bait fish patterns are productive.  The fly lands very softly in the water and will not spook the snook.  Since the fish are in open water for the most part, the chance of them breaking off is greatly diminished.  A seven or eight weight outfit with a floating line and eight feet of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is the standard rig.

The large schools of tarpon will have broken up but there will still be plenty of fish out there.  Although they don’t “show” as well, they eat better!  Point of Rocks, Grassy Point, and the Venice Pier are good spots to try.  Again, get out there at first light and either cast to rolling fish or drift a pinfish out behind the boat under a float.  Fish until mid-morning, then call it a day.

There are plenty of ways to fish Sarasota and catch fish in July and still beat the summertime heat!

Fall Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Contrary to popular belief, autumn does arrive in Florida, although the changes can be fairly subtle.  While still fairly warm, evening temperatures are a tad lower and the days are a little shorter.  Fish are very much in tune with these changes and it affects their behavior.  In Sarasota where I fish, on the west coast, the arrival of Spanish mackerel and false albacore just off the beaches in the inshore Gulf of Mexico officially signals the fall fishing season.  This is great sport and it does not require a large boat or fancy gear to take advantage of this bonanza.

The reason for this fantastic fall fishing on Siesta Key is simple; bait, and LOTS of it!  As the water and land temperatures drop, the weather pattern changes.  The sea breezes will be gone and high pressure systems will bring northeast winds both during the day and in the evening.  The result will be clear, calm water along the beaches, attracting huge schools of baitfish which in turn attracts the gamefish.  Saltwater fishing can be pretty basic, “Find the groceries; find the fish”.  Other species will also be encountered when fishing “Out on the beach”.  Jack crevelle, bluefish, ladyfish, king mackerel, cobia, sharks, and even tarpon will follow the forage to take advantage of the abundance of forage.

As a full-time fishing guide, I rely on live bait a majority of the time to provide action for my clients who book a Siesta Key fishing charter.  In this application, artificial lures are not only extremely productive but are a lot of fun to fish!  Quite often schools of “breaking” fish will be seen terrorizing the helpless baitfish on the surface.  Opportunistic gulls and terns will be picking at the scraps as well.  This is a sight that will stir any angler’s soul and is the perfect situation to use an artificial lure.  The strikes will be immediate and savage!  Of course, a frisky live baitfish or shrimp will very seldom go unmolested when fall fishing Siesta Key.

Artificial lures catch fish!

My “go to” lure for fishing the inshore Gulf is #8 Rapala X-Rap slashbait.  It perfectly mimics the small pilchards, glass minnows, and threadfin herring that the gamefish are feeding on.  Olive is my favorite color with white being a close second.  The lure is simply cast out into the bait and retrieved back with sharp twitches and a pause in between.  X-Raps can also be trolled along when there is not any surface activity; they are a great “locator” bait.  The venerable jig and grub combo also works well, with the 4” Bass Assassin Sea Shad being my personal favorite.

Silver spoons will also produce plenty of fish for anglers fall fishing Siesta Key.  The same tackle that is used for speckled trout and redfish will work fine in this application.  My preferred rig is a 10 lb spinning outfit with monofilament line, the last 5’ doubled with a Spider Hitch, then 30” of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is added using a double Uni-knot, then the lure or hook completes the rig.

Fly anglers can certainly take advantage of this situation as well.  An 8wt outfit with a weight forward floating line is a good choice.  The leader should be 8’ of 30 lb fluorocarbon and any small white fly will produce well, with D.T. Special and Clouser Minnow patterns being the most popular.  Fly anglers do well fall fishing Siesta Key!

Once rigged up and ready, it is time to go fishing!  Often times the fish will be schooled up just outside the passes, particularly on an outgoing tide.  Any bird or surface activity should be investigated.  Sometimes just a couple of terns diving will clue an angler into the location of a school.  If nothing is happening at the pass, simply cruise down the beach on plane but at as slow a speed as possible in order to completely scan the area.

Spanish mackerel and false albacore off of Siesta Key

Once a school of actively feeding fish is located, determine whether they are mackerel or albacore.  Spanish will generally stay up in the same spot for a longer period of time.  False albacore can be much more difficult to get on, they move fast and change directions constantly.  But, there is no greater sport than catching a big albie on light tackle or fly!

Sarasota fishing charters

In either case, patience will pay off!  Charging into the school on plane will usually shut down the bite.  Instead, cut the motor up-wind of the fish and drift down on them until in casting range or use the electric trolling motor if so equipped.  Trolling the edges will also work well but avoid driving through the middle of the school.  Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program with 3 nice reefs within 2 miles of shore just off Lido Key.  These are a great back-up plan (as is any reef or hard bottom area) in the event that surface activity is absent as they almost always hold bait and fish.

Later in the morning as the sun comes up, particularly if the water is clear, anglers will do well to look for bait balls.  These appear as large dark spots in the water.  NEVER pass up a nice, big ball of bait as there will usually be predator fish on the edges.  Anglers seeking larger game will score consistently on sharks by putting out a chunk of mackerel under a cork on a larger rig with a steel leader.  Free-lining a large live threadfin herring at the edges will also produce some larger fish.  Do not be surprised if a cobia, king mackerel, or even a tarpon are hooked as well fall fishing Siesta Key.

Shore bound anglers can get in on the action as well.  While false albacore seldom venture in close enough to be caught from land, Spanish mackerel, jacks, bluefish, ladyfish, and more will often cruise within casting range while feasting upon the abundance of forage.  The same lures, baits, flies, and techniques that produce for anglers in boats will also allow surf casters to achieve success.

Winter Sarasota fishing charters

The key to angling success is the ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions.  February tactics are unique.  Severe fronts move through on a weekly basis, drastically changing the water temperature and clarity.  Wind will prevent anglers from fishing the open waters in north Sarasota Bay.  Extreme low winter tides will chase fish off the flats.  So, let’s go through a typical winter weather cycle that would be experienced on a fishing charter in the winter.

A severe front has just moved through.  The water temperature has dropped several degrees and there is a blue-bird sky with bright sun and a northeast wind.  The northeast wind will fight the tide, making it even lower than normal.  And it can be downright chilly.  Flats near the passes will be flooded with dirty water from the churned up Gulf of Mexico.  Finding clean, protected water will be a priority when employing February tactics.

The area south of Siesta Drive down to Blackburn Pt. usually stats clearer and offers protection from the north wind.  Oyster bars, canals, and docks will be good places to soak a shrimp for sheepshead, drum, and other species.  On low tide the trout, pompano, and ladyfish will concentrate in deeper water.  This can be the Intracoastal channel or any deep water.  As the tide floods the flats and the day warms up the fish will move out of the holes and onto the nearby flats.  Casting jigs and live shrimp while drifting the flats is the preferred technique.

After a couple of days the wind will shift to the southeast and it will be warm and sunny.  The water in the passes will be clearer and fishing will be good throughout the area.  Both passes will hold pompanp, bluefish, and ladyfish.  Jigs, spoons, and live shrimp will all produce.  Taking advantage of these favorable conditions is an aspect of February tactics.

Surf fishing off of Sarasota beaches

This is the best time to surf fish for whiting, silver trout, pompano, flounder, and more.  The water will be clean and calm with an east wind.  A live shrimp or piece of frozen shrimp fished on the bottom works best.

Any Structure in or near the passes should be thick with sheepshead.  Bottom fishing with live or frozen shrimp will produce the best.  Anchoring a cast away up-current and allowing the bait to drift back to the structure in a natural manner is the best presentation.  A #1 live bait hook on a 2’ piece of 30 lb leader and a bit of weight is the best rig.  Use just enough weight to barely hold the bottom.

Grass flats in four to seven feet of water will be good for speckled trout, silver trout, pompano, bluefish, sea bass, flounder, and ladyfish.  Again, drifting and casting jigs and live shrimp works best.  The flats near the passes are always a goiod place to start but any flat can produce.  The key is to keep moving until fish are located; don’t spend too much time in an unproductive spot.  Gold, rootbeer/gold, olive, and glow are popular colors.  Scented baits such as Gulp! Can make the difference on a tough day.

Hot bite before a weather change

After a couple of days of nice weather, another front will approach.  As this occurs the wind will turn south, then southwest and start to blow fifteen to twenty knots.  Often times the fish will bite like crazy as they sense the weather change coming.  The south wind will flood the bays with water, tides will be higher than normal.  This is a good time to target snook and redfish in shallow water.  Casting gold spoons or jigs will fool them.

Trout will be actively feeding on the deep flats.  The wind will require anglers to find a little protection.  The west side of Sarasota Bay north of New Pass has excellent flats and is protected on a south wind.  Structure in Big Pass on the north end of Siesta is also protected and is a great spot for sheepshead.

Snook move up into the creeks and canals in winter and the high afternoon tides are a good time to target them.  Plugs and jigs cast are to structure and worked back in an erratic manner.  Big jack crevelle will also seek refuge in these areas in the cooler months.As the front moves through the wind will turn northwest and blow hard.  This pretty much shuts down fishing for a day or two.  The wind will shift northeast and the whole process will repeat itself.

Be aware of the effects of local weather patterns and you can be very successful fishing in February.

There are many fine resorts for anglers to stay at when visiting Siesta Key. Fisherman’s Cove on the South end of Siesta Key is the top spot for tourists who place a priority on fishing. Further south in Englewood, Pearl Beach Inn is a great spot for visiting anglers to stay.

In conclusion, this post on fishing charters in Sarasota will help anglers decide if this trip is right for them!

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

Sarasota Fishing Videos

Sarasota Fishing Videos

This page will list my Sarasota fishing videos. Sarasota offers visiting anglers many different species to catch in several different techniques with which to catch them. These videos will give you an idea of what our fishing is all about.

Sarasota is a resort city on the West Coast of Florida. It lies about an hour south of Tampa. It is famous for its world class beaches, shopping, and restaurants. However, Sarasota also offers visitors some excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers can target speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Pompano, and other species on the deep grass flats. Snook and redfish are caught by more experienced anglers along mangrove shorelines. The inshore Gulf of Mexico can have fantastic action on pelagic species and the spring and the fall. Giant tarpon provide the ultimate angling challenge!

Sarasota fishing videos

View Sarasota fishing report

My list of Sarasota fishing videos will give perspective clients an idea of what they can expect on their visit. There are so many different species to catch here, and multiple ways to catch them. Sarasota fishing charters are tailored to the skill level and expectation of the clients. Please enjoy these Sarasota fishing videos!

Fishing in Sarasota Bay for Trout and Snapper

This video shows some fishing action in Sarasota using live bait as chum for trout, snapper, and other species.

Florida Pompano Fishing

This video shows how effective small jigs bounced on the bottom while drifting inlets and passes are for pompano and other species.

Light Tackle Trolling in Saltwater

This video shows the techniques used when trolling the inshore waters of Florida for king and Spanish mackerel.

How to Catch Sheepshead

Sheepshead invade the Sarasota area in the cooler months. Late winter and early spring arethe prime times to target these hard fighting and great eating bottom fish.

Sarasota Trolling Techniques

Trolling is a very effective technique for a variety of game fish. King and Spanish mackerel are particularly prone to hit a lure that is being trolled quickly.

Lido Beach Spanish Mackerel Fishing

Spanish mackerel are a terrific and underrated game fish! They fight hard, are beautiful, and taste great. Mackerel often times are found schooled up and feeding on the surface in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sarasota Fishing Charters, Jig Fishing

Jigs are extremely effective artificial lures. They catch a variety of species in Sarasota Bay and beyond.

Sarasota Fishing Charter Action 2019

Some great action from fishing trips in 2019

Jack Crevalle Fishing

This video shows some awesome action on one of the hardest fighting saltwater fish; jack crevalle. Jacks are aggressive and are found throughout the bays, rivers, creeks, passes, and out on the beaches. They are nomads, roaming around in search of their next meal.

Sarasota family fishing charters

Sarasota family fishing charters is a video that shows that anglers do not need a lot of experience to catch fish. Young anglers are most welcome on Sarasota fishing charters! Capt. Jim enjoys taking children and other novice anglers out for a day of fun. Live bait is often used on these charters as it increases the chances of success.

When taking children and inexperienced anglers out on a Sarasota fishing charter, Capt. Jim generally targets the deep grass flats. Many different species are caught over submerge grass beds in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, ladyfish, bluefish, and more are taken in the spots. Anglers fishing docks catch bottom fish such as snapper along with snook, redfish, and other species.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing shows how incredible the action in the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be when conditions are right. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, cobia, and sharks migrate up and down the coast in the spring and the fall. They are following the huge schools of bait fish that they feed on.

This is very exciting fishing is so much of it is visual. Quite often, large schools of macro and false albacore are seen feeding ferociously on the surface. They have herded up the glass minnows and other bait fish and have them trapped against the surface of the water. Just about any lure, bait, or fly that remotely resembles the forage they are feeding on will get devoured. Sharks will hover around the edge of the feeding fish, picking up the scraps.

Siesta Key snook fishing

Siesta Key snook fishing is a video that shows how fast the action can be when snook are schooled up in one spot. Chumming with live bait is a deadly technique that Capt. Jim uses in the warmer months. Live bait fish are caught and used both as chum and as bait to catch the fish. Handfuls of live, unhooked fish attract the snook and get them in a feeding frenzy.

This technique is extremely effective. It also allows anglers who are not very experienced to have the chance to catch a really nice fish. Since the game fish are excited, they lose a bit of their caution. Along with the snook, redfish, jacks, large trout, and other species will be caught while targeting snook.

Best Sarasota fishing charter

Best Sarasota fishing charter is a video that shows visiting anglers some great action out in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Spanish mackerel were thick just off the beaches that day. These two boys had a great time catch and those along with some small sharks. This type of action is not uncommon in the fall, especially the few weeks coming up on Thanksgiving.

River snook fishing

River snook fishing is a video that shows Capt. Jim catching a nice snook in the Myakka River. In the cooler months, these apex predator game fish move up into area creeks, rivers, and residential canals. They do this to escape the extreme weather changes that can happen on the shallow flats. Water can drop as much is 10° in a couple days on the exposed open flats. The water temperature and rivers and canals is significantly warmer.

This Sarasota fishing charter has a freshwater feel to it. Anglers drift with the current down the river and a 14 foot Alumacraft Jon boat. They cast artificial lures towards likely looking shoreline cover and structure. Most often, shallow diving plugs are used, but soft plastic baits catch plenty of fish as well. This is a trip best suited to more experienced anglers as it is more about a couple quality fish versus numbers of fish.

Siesta Key fishing charters

Siesta Key fishing charters is a video that shows some great action on snook and jack crevelle by anglers using live bait in the fall. These fish are most active in the spring and again in the fall. The east side of Siesta Key in both Roberts Bay and little Sarasota Bay has some great fish holding structure. Oyster bars, docks, creeks, and flats will all produce great catches at one time of the year or another.

Sarasota speckled trout fishing

Sarasota speckled trout fishing shows a couple of anglers as a cast lures and live bait while drifting the deep grass flats. This is a technique that produces a lot of fish for Capt. Jim on Sarasota fishing charters throughout the year. It is also easy for anglers to learn to do quickly.

Most speckled trout in Sarasota are caught over the deep grass flats. These are large areas of submerged grass or vegetation and water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Bait fish and crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs find refuge in the grass. This in turn attracts speckled trout and other game fish.

Sarasota summer fishing charters

Sarasota summer fishing charters is a short little video that shows what happens when you come across schools of “breaking” fish. These are fish that have rounded up a bunch of bait fish and push them to the surface. They are helpless as a are trapped against the top of the water. Ladyfish, jacks, mackerel, bluefish, and other species will be seen doing this throughout the year, but especially in the late summer when bait is plentiful.

Sarasota freshwater fishing

Sarasota freshwater fishing is a video that shows visitors that there are freshwater fishing opportunities in this area. Saltwater fishing gets the vast majority of the coverage and attention in Sarasota. Therefore, the freshwater fishing gets overlooked. Several small lakes along with rivers offer anglers the chance to catch bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, and other species.

The top lakes in the Sarasota area for freshwater fishing are upper Myakka Lake, Lake Manatee, Benderson Lake, and Lake Evers. Each Lake is a bit different and has its good and bad points. Some have horsepower and access limitations. Rivers flowing in and out of the lakes also offer good fishing for freshwater species as well as title species in the river downstream from the dam.

Sarasota false albacore fishing

Sarasota false albacore fishing shows my buddy Tommy Hyser as we work a school of false albacore on the surface. This is a time. Just before Christmas. We are fishing over the submerged artificial reefs that are a couple miles off of Lido Key. These are great spots to find false albacore and other pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel and king mackerel. False albacore can be found anywhere on the beach foraging on the surface.

Sarasota chumming techniques

Sarasota chumming techniques is a video that goes into detail on the tactic of live bait chumming. This is an extremely effective technique when bait fish are plentiful and easy to catch. Using a cast net, Capt. Jim loads up the live well with frisky live baits that are around 2 inches long. He then anchors on a good spot and begins to throw handfuls of the bait fish out behind the boat.

If snook and other game fish are around, it won’t take them long to start feeding on the bait fish. Once the fish are excited and into a feeding mood, hooked baits are tossed back to mixed in with the chum. This is a great opportunity for anglers without a lot of experience to catch a nice snook, redfish, jack, or other species.

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Sarasota tarpon fishing gives anglers a look at what it is like to hook and land a giant tarpon. The video is only a few minutes long, it does not show the hours of patience that it often takes to hook and land one of these behemoths. For the most part, this is a site fishing situation. Anglers sit on the beach a couple hundred yards of shore and look for schools of fish to cast to. This is definitely a Sarasota fishing charter best suited for experienced anglers.

Sarasota snook fishing

Sarasota snook fishing shows a couple of experienced anglers casting artificial lures at first light. Rapala plugs and soft plastic baits on a jig head are cast around docs and the mouse of creeks. Snook were feeding on the outgoing tide, which is the preferred time to fish. This type of fishing is great fun and something that experienced bass anglers would certainly enjoy.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Sarasota sheepshead fishing shows anglers what it is like to target and catch these tasty saltwater pan fish. Sheepshead are members of the Porgy family. They feed around structure and mostly on crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs. Very seldom are they caught by anglers using artificial lures. A fresh shrimp fished around pilings such as in this video, along with bridges, rocks, seawalls, and other structure will produce sheepshead from December through April.

Sarasota snook and jack fishing with Erin

Sarasota snook and jack with Erin is a video showing how a relatively inexperienced angler with rudimentary skills can have a good day of fishing. The key to this is the live bait that we use as both bait and chum. It evens the playing field quite a bit, and gives anglers a great chance to have success.

Plug fishing Sarasota

Plug fishing Sarasota is a video about Capt. Jim and a buddy taking a day off of work to cast plugs on the Myakka River. This is a very relaxing and enjoyable fishing trip. Shallow diving plugs cast towards submerged trees and other structure will produce snook, largemouth bass, jacks, and other species. This type of Sarasota fishing charter is best for anglers with a fair amount of experience.

Sarasota crappie fishing

Sarasota crappie fishing is another video highlighting the excellent freshwater fishing opportunities available to anglers in Sarasota. Crappie have become a very popular fish throughout the United States. The same techniques that produce fish all over work well in Sarasota, too. Trolling with brightly colored jigs and fishing with live minnows produces best.

Sarasota jack crevelle

Sarasota jack crevelle shows how easy and exciting it is to catch a nice Jack on a fly rod and area rivers. Just like to snook, jacks migrate up into these rivers in the cooler months. They can often be seen foraging on the surface as in this video. Jacks are very aggressive and in a mood to feed in this situation. They will hit just about any lore or fly with reckless abandon. This is great fun is so much of the action is visual.

Mixed bag on the Myakka

Mixed bag on the Myakka is a video showing how many different species can be caught by anglers simply fishing a worm on the bottom. This is a technique that is been used for centuries and is still effective to this day. It is an easy and relaxing way to fish and produces both action and variety on the Myakka River and everywhere.

Sarasota river fishing

Sarasota River fishing gives perspective clients an idea of what to expect on a River snook fishing charter. Anglers cast plugs and other lures towards the shoreline is a meander down the stream in a small boat. This is a very relaxing Sarasota fishing charter with great scenery in the chance to catch a really large fish.

Sarasota bass fishing

Sarasota bass fishing is a video that shows Capt. Jim and Capt. Jack taking a day off work to catch a few bass on Upper Myakka Lake. The to cast artificial lures such as spinner baits, plugs, and soft plastics to catch a few chunky bass on light tackle.

Longboat Key fishing charters

Longboat Key fishing charters is a video to show visitors to Longboat Key the angling options that are available to them. This video focuses on family fishing with children and less experienced clients. Capt. Jim will tailor the trip around the clients skill level and expectations to give them the best chance of success. Live bait is generally the most productive method.

In closing, I hope this post showing Sarasota fishing videos gets you excited to go on a Sarasota fishing charter!

Fishing Sarasota Bay, Pro Tips

Fishing Sarasota Bay, tips and techniques

Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay have the opportunity to catch over 20 saltwater fish species. Multiple techniques are effective. Sarasota Bay can fished all season long.

This article will get anglers started fishing in Sarasota Bay. Sarasota Bay is on the West Coast of Florida. It runs northwest to southeast and sits south of Tampa Bay and North of Charlotte Harbor. Sarasota Bay is roughly 10 miles long and 3 miles wide and is fairly shallow. It has many acres of submerge grass beds which hold fish. Other excellent habitat includes mangrove shorelines, creeks, and passes. Sarasota Bay can offer excellent fishing all year long!

fishing Sarasota Bay

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.

View current Sarasota fishing report

This fishery actually extends another 10 miles or so south. Roberts Bay and Little Sarasota Bay are narrower. The character of these bays is a bit different as well. Grass flats are less plentiful while oyster bars are the primary habitat. Docks in both the bays and in residential canals and creeks offer fish sanctuary as well.

Sarasota Bay is home to many inshore saltwater species. Snook, redfish, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jack crevalle, ladyfish, cobia, sharks, tarpon, red and gag grouper, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, Key West grunts, flounder, black drum, whiting, catfish, and black sea bass are some of the more popular species.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Tackle used for anglers fishing Sarasota Bay is pretty basic. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium action spinning rod with a 3000 series reel spooled up with 20 pound braid or 10 pound monofilament line is the best all round rig. Anglers then attach a 24 inch piece of 30 pound fluorocarbon as a shock leader. The lure or hook is then attached to the end of the leader.

Sarasota Bay fishing seasons

Winter

While every year is different, seasonal patterns hold up over time. A cold winter will find fish in the deeper holes as well as in creeks and residential canals. Fish on the grass flats tend to be a bit deeper, in a to 10 feet of water. Several days of warm weather may have them up on the shallower flats.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Residential canals and creeks will hold a lot of fish in cold weather. They also offer anglers some refuge from the wind. Docks in these areas will attract and hold fish. They offer shade, structure, and forage. Anglers fishing live and frozen shrimp under docks will catch sheepshead, black drum, snapper, snook, redfish, and jack crevalle.

Anglers targeting snook in jacks will do well in the upper end of canals as well as several creeks in the area. Phillippi Creek, Hudson Bayou, Whitaker Bayou,Bowlees Creek, in the grand Canal on Siesta Key are but a few of these types of areas. The best approach is to cast a search bait such as a shallow diving plug. Trolling the same plugs can help locate fish.

Spring

As it warms up in the spring, fish will move out of these deeper sanctuary waters and scatter out over the flats. They will be active, aggressive, and in the mood to feed. All of the deeper grass flats in 4 feet of water to 10 feet of water should hold speckled trout, ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, and more.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Snook, redfish, jacks, and large speckled trout will be found on the shallow grass flats, around oyster bars, and along mangrove shorelines. Artificial lures are usually the bait of choice as they allow anglers to cover a lot of water in search of these game fish. Live bait can certainly be used as well.


Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are very productive spots in spring. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay passes will find the sheepshead schooled up heavily on structure. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper will be mixed in with them. They show up in late February and usually stay until April. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish will be caught in the passes themselves.

Summer

Summer offers anglers fishing Sarasota Bay outstanding action! Many visiting anglers are surprised to learn this, as many times fishing slows down in the heat of summer. The key to the summer action in Sarasota is the abundance of live bait. Small forage fish such as scaled sardines and threadfin herring are plentiful on the grass flats near the passes.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Anglers fishing in summer do need to get up early. The best bite is first light and it gets hot awfully fast. The deeper grass flats provide great action on a variety of species during the summer. Anglers can use live bait or artificial lures. Night fishing is another way to catch fish while escaping the heat of the Florida sun.

Snook will migrate into the passes and out along the beaches and summer. Anglers can sight fish snook on all of the Sarasota beaches. Structure in both passes will hold plenty of fish as well. Live bait is usually the best approach for fishing for snook in the passes. Tarpon provide anglers a world class fishing experience!

Fall

Fall is a great time for anglers to be fishing Sarasota Bay. The kids are back in school and the tourist traffic in Sarasota is low. The weather is usually quite reliable in the fall as well. Spanish mackerel will be migrating back south. Fishing the flats will pick up as water temperatures drop.

inshore saltwater fishing

Snook, redfish, and jacks will be found in the same places as they were in the spring time. Shallow flats, mangrove shorelines, docks, and oyster bars are good places to target these fish, particularly in Roberts Bay and Little Sarasota Bay. As fall comes to a close and it gets cold, fish will move back to their winter haunts and the pattern will repeat itself.

Sarasota Bay fishing techniques

Deep grass flats

Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay who seek action and variety will do well to target the deep grass flats. By “deep grass flats”we are reference submerge grass beds that grow in water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep. These grass beds hold bait fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans that the game fish feed on. When the water is clear, these areas are easy to see.

The best approach when fishing the deep grass flats is to drift. These can be large areas without any specific structure. Therefore, fish will roam about on the flats in search of food, anglers drifting cover more water and have a better chance of locating feeding fish. Speckled trout are the primary species targeted on the deep grass flats. However, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and other species are encountered regularly as well.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Both artificial lures and live bait are very productive when drifting the deep grass flats. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay who prefer live bait will do quite well using live shrimp. Shrimp are available at bait shops all season long. A live shrimp under a popping cork has produced a lot of speckled trout over the years. The technique uses a noisy cork or float to attract the fish. Once the noise draw them in, they eat the live shrimp dangling there. On the deeper grass flats, free lining the shrimp often works better.

Live bait

Live bait fish are used on the deep grass flats as well, particularly in the warmer months. A live 3 inch pin fish or grunt floated out behind the boat under a cork will catch some of the larger trout as well as perhaps a stray cobia. Live bait chumming is incredibly effective in the summer. The bait well is loaded up with live baits than they are used to attract game fish behind the boat.

The number one artificial lure for anglers fishing Sarasota Bay is without a doubt the jig and grub combo. It is a simple, cost-effective, and effective lure. It consists of a lead head jig. This is a hook with a piece of lead near the eye. The weight provides both casting distance and action to the lure. One quarter ounce is the best all round size. White, red, and chartreuse are the most popular colors.

fishing Sarasota Bay

Some type of plastic body is then put on the jig hook. These grub bodies come in endless colors, sizes, and styles. They all imitate either a crustacean or a bait fish. Shad tail baits are very popular as a have their own built in action. Paddle tail and shrimp tail baits work as well. 3 inch to 4 inch baits are best for anglers fishing Sarasota Bay.

Jigs in Sarasota Bay

The jig and grub can be worked in a couple different ways. The best approach is usually a “jig and fall” retrieve. The lure is cast out, and allowed to sink several feet in the water column. It is then brought back in by twitching the rod tip sharply then adding some slack. This results in the jig jerking up quickly than falling helplessly back down. This action triggers a lot of strikes. Jigs can also be cast out and reel steadily back to the boat.

Plugs and spoons are also effective lures on the deep grass flats. These lures work very well when “breaking fish” are seen. These are schools of fish that are feeding on helpless bait fish on the surface. They can be seen splashing about as they feed. Bird activity is often a great indication of breaking fish. A fast, erratic retrieve usually works best.

Siesta Key fishing charters

Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay on the deep grass flats can also troll. This technique works well on days when there is little wind to provide a drift for the boat. It is also a good technique for novice anglers and children with perhaps less than ideal patience. Plugs work very well for this. The lure is simply cast out a ways behind the boat and then the boat is idled along until a fish bites.

Shallow flats

Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay in search of snook, redfish, jacks, and gator trout will do well to target the shallow areas. It perplexes some anglers to learn that the largest fish are often caught in the shallowest of water. For the most part, these fish are loners. While the smaller fish are not comfortable in the shallow water the larger fish are.

Tactics are different for anglers targeting fish in shallow water. These fish can be spooky and a quiet, a stealthy approach is required. Anglers that lighten up their tackle will be more successful. Long, accurate casts are often times required. Most anglers choose to use artificial baits in shallow water. Lures are easier to keep out of the grass and are more effective when searching for fish.

Jigs, spoons, and plugs are all effective baits on the shallow flats. Light jig heads in the 1/16 ounce to 1/8 ounce range are best. Anglers can use buck tail jigs as well as a jig head with a soft plastic body. Longer trailer such as a six-inch jerk worm tend to work well. Jigs remain relatively weedless as a rod with the hook up.

Sarasota snook fishing

Weedless spoons are a staple of shallow water anglers all over the country. These lures cast a long way, run shallow, and are fairly weedless. They are particularly effective for redfish. Spoons are great search baits. Gold is the preferred color in 1/2 ounce is the most popular size.

Passes

Passes connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. Pass is just another word for an inlet that they use on this coast. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay can experience excellent action in the passes. Ladyfish are often times thick right in the pass itself. This is great fun for children and novice anglers as the action can be virtually nonstop. Pompano, mackerel, bluefish and other species can be taken in the middle of the passes.

Vertical jigging while drifting the passes works very well. It is also quite simple to do. The angler simply drops the jig down to the bottom, engages the reel, then gives the jig little 1 foot hops as the boat drifts along. Most of the fish in the passes will be feeding on crustaceans on the bottom. This jigging action mimics a fleeing crab or shrimp and is very productive. A jig head with a live shrimp can be used as well.

inshore fishing for sheepshead

Structure in both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass hold fish all year long. In the winter and early spring, sheepshead will school up thick in the passes. A live or frozen shrimp fished on the bottom will catch them, as well as other species such as grouper and snapper. In the summer, snook will school up in the same rocks.

Docks and bridges in Sarasota Bay

Docks and bridges are basically inshore artificial reefs. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay target them for a variety of species all year long. Most anglers use live or frozen bait when fishing docks and bridges. However, artificial lures can be used as well.

The most productive approach when fishing a dock or a bridge is to anchor up current from the structure about a cast or so away. The bait is then cast out towards the pilings and allowed to sit. Live shrimp, frozen shrimp, cut squid, cut bait, and live bait fish can all be used. Sheepshead, snapper, drum, grouper, flounder, snook, redfish, and other species will be taken.

guide to saltwater fishing

Anglers using artificial lures to fish docks have success using both plugs and jigs. Plugs allow anglers to cover a lot of water fairly quickly. A lure that dives down 3 to 4 feet is perfect. 3 inch to 4 inch baits in olive and white match the local forage. Shad tail baits on a 1/4 ounce jig head will produce as well, though they cannot be worked quite as fast.

Fly Fishing Sarasota Bay

Anglers fly fishing Sarasota Bay have several different options.  They can fish the deep grass flats for both action and variety.  Targeting snook and redfish is more challenging.  This will appeal to more experienced fly fishers.

Sarasota offers visiting anglers some exciting fly fishing opportunities.  Clients fly fishing Sarasota Bay catch speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, pompano, and ladyfish on the deep grass flats.  Oyster bars, flats, and mangrove shorelines hold snook, jacks, and redfish.  Anglers fishing the creeks in winter catch some nice snook and jack crevelle.  Spanish mackerel and false albacore are available spring and fall in the inshore Gulf of Mexico.

Action and variety fly fishing Sarasota Bay

We were fly fishing Sarasota Bay and Candice was distracted by several bottlenose dolphin that were playing a hundred feet off to the right.

“You need to start stripping or your line is going to hang up in the grass”, I instructed her.

She gave me a sheepish grin and began to retrieve the fly back in. On the fifth strip the line got tight and shot off to the side. The fish did not leap as of the water as the several previous ladyfish had, making me wonder if perhaps she had hooked a different species. My hunch was confirmed as several moments later a two pound pompano came to the net; an unexpected but most welcome surprise! Ironically, the dolphins were responsible for the catch, their distraction enabled the fly to sink all the way down to the bottom where they typically feed.

fly fishing Sarasota Bay

Candice is an East Sarasota country girl who loves horses, mudding, shooting guns, but most of all fishing. Although fairly experienced with spin fishing, she was intrigued by the idea of fly fishing Sarasota Bay, yet had no idea where to start. After an hour of casting practice and another hour of fishing, she hooked and landed a half-dozen ladyfish and that nice pompano! This article is aimed towards other anglers that are interested in trying fly fishing but are overwhelmed by the prospect.

Sarasota Bay fly fishing tackle

The primary difference between spin fishing and fly fishing is that in spin fishing the lure or bait provides the weight and the line is the connection between the hook and the reel. In the fly fishing the line is cast as the fly weighs next to nothing. Keeping that in mind, the tackle is similar but with some significant differences.

Matching fly tackle is very easy as rods, reels and lines are designated by “weight”. That number appears on rods and lines as the abbreviation “Wt”. It is always best to match the line, rod, and reel with the same weight line. For most inshore saltwater applications, an 8 weight (8wt) outfit is ideal. Fly rods also come in different actions, a “mid-flex” is the most forgiving and is the best choice for a novice angler.  Most of my equipment is Orvis fly tackle.

fly fishing Sarasota Bay

Best fly fishing reels for Sarasota Bay

The reel in fly fishing is not used all that much; it basically just stores the line, unless a larger fish is hooked and the fish starts taking drag. The fly line is manipulated by hand for the most part. The best choice would be a large arbor saltwater reel with a good drag system. Fly reels are “single action”, which means that there is no gear multiplication as with a spinning reel. Also, the reel will spin backwards when a fish runs, so keep your knuckles clear!

Fly lines are an extremely important part of the system and a quality line is well worth the cost. Lines come in weights as rods and reels do, but there are also a variety of types of lines. Basically, they are either floating, intermediate sink tip, or full sinking. Intermediate sink tip lines are the most versatile for fishing the relatively shallow depths on inshore Florida waters. One mistake that visiting freshwater fly anglers make is trying to use full floating lines. They are easier to cast but will not allow the fly to sink down far enough into the water column. Two hundred yards of 20 lb test “backing” is spooled up behind the fly line.

Fly fishing leaders and flies for Sarasota Bay

Fly selection can also be overwhelming and confusing to a beginning fly angler. Much like spin fishing, there are a myriad of choices in color, size, and style. Most flies mimic either a baitfish or crustacean. One of the most popular and effective fly patterns is the Clouser Deep Minnow. It consists of a hook, small weighted lead eyes, and some bucktail or synthetic dressing. Sound familiar? It should, it is basically a bucktail jig, a lure that has proven itself over time. It is a good idea to have unweighted flies as well, and Lefty’s Deceiver is a great choice. White is a good color to start with but using a fly that matches the colors that are locally productive should produce.

fly fishing Sarasota Bay

A leader is used between the end of the fly line and the fly. In freshwater fishing the leader is very important, tapering down which allows the small fly to “turn over” and land softly. Tapered leaders really are not required in saltwater fly fishing. Most saltwater flies have a little weight and will extend the leader out. In most cases, a 6 piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon will be sufficient.

In summary, heading to a local fly shop and purchasing an 8wt rod in a mid-flax action, matching reel spooled with 200 yards of backing, intermediate sink-tip line, a spool of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader, and a small selection of Clouser Minnows and Deceivers (the shop can help with locally productive patterns) will prepare a novice fly angler with the equipment needed to get started.

Sarasota Bay fly fishing techniques

Once the proper equipment is acquired it is time to go fishing. Well, not quite! Before heading out to the water some casting practice will be required. It is best to become a bit comfortable and proficient in casting and managing the line BEFORE heading out to fish. There are many good resources out there but one of the best options is to take a class given by a local shop, guide, or outfitter.

Now that the tackle is in hand and the angler has the ability to cast forty feet, it is time to go fishing! As previously mentioned, the fly is manipulated by hand rather than with the rod and reel. The fly is cast out, allowed to sink to the desired depth and then retrieved back using short “strips” with the rod tip low and pointed at the fly. When a fish takes the fly, the line is pulled taut with the stripping hand and once tension is felt, the rod tip is raised up high.

This is called a “strip set”. Resisting the urge to set the hook or jerk the tip up will result in more hooked fish. Smaller fish can be brought in using smooth strips, coiling the line below the reel. With larger fish, use the stripping hand to feed line back out while manually applying some tension. Once all of the slack line is taken up, the fish is “on the reel” and can be fought using the rod and reel. If no bite occurs, the line is picked up and cast out again.

fly fishing Sarasota Bay

Best approach for novice anglers fly fishing Sarasota Bay

The best approach when starting off is to target species that will provide action and variety, it is better to “practice” on the less challenging species. This will give the novice angler both experience and confidence. The good news is that local knowledge that is already possessed will produce for fly anglers.

Any fish that will hit an artificial lure can be taken on fly. Here in Sarasota that means drifting the deeper grass flats in search of speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species. As with spin fishing, casting in front of a drifting boat can be very productive. It will take some time to learn to manage the line while casting, fishing, and catching, especially when it is a bit breezy. Anglers will also be successful wading and fishing from shore.

Thinking about giving fly fishing Sarasota Bay a try? If so, give it a chance, but be prepared to be “hooked” for life!

More on Sarasota fly fishing tackle

The intention of this chapter is to simplify the tackle and techniques used in fly fishing to encourage anglers to give the “long rod” a chance. Fly fishing can be confusing and overwhelming, but it does not have to be. In spin fishing the lure or bait provides the weight for casting and the line just follows behind. With fly fishing, the line provides the weight, fishing flies weigh practically nothing and would be difficult to cast any distance by themselves. This is the fundamental difference. Of course, this means that the tackle is different, too.

Rods:

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

Lines:

Fly lines also come in “weights” and need to be matched to the rod. Lines come in different varieties; floating, sink tip, and full sinking. The best all-round line is an intermediate sink tip line. This will get the fly down on the deeper grass flats but can still be worked quickly, keeping the fly near the surface. One mistake many freshwater anglers make is using a floating fly line for all applications. Floating lines are easier to pick up and cast, but the fly will not get deep enough when fishing in deeper water.

Fly lines also are not straight, they taper with the forward section being heavier. These are designated “weight forward” or “saltwater taper” and greatly assist the fly angler when casting heavy or bulky flies. Fly lines are generally around 100 feet long. 200 yards of “backing” is spooled under the fly line. This adds diameter and is crucial when fishing for larger fish that make long runs. Fly lines usually have a loop at the casting end to facilitate leader connections.

Reels:

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

Leaders:

Fly line is thick and easily seen, therefore a leader is used between the end of the fly line and the fly. Leaders are “tapered” meaning the butt section (the end of the leader that attaches to the fly line) is thicker than the fly end. This helps the leader extend out, also known as “turning over” and is helpful when using unweighted flies. A “bite tippet” is required in most saltwater applications. This is a 20” piece of florocarbon, usually 20lb to 30lb test. Leaders can be purchased or made individually in sections. Most commercially made leaders have a loop at the butt end, which makes it very easy to attach to the fly line.

Flies:

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

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

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

Complete Outfit:

A 9 foot 8wt medium action fly rod, matching reel with backing, an intermediate sink tip line, several saltwater leaders, and a couple dozen flies ( a mix of #1 Clousers, #1 D.T Specials, and #4 Crystal Minnows in white, chartreuse, and pink ) along with a fly box will provide a novice saltwater with the basic outfit to get out and catch some fish. Local fly shops are the best resource as they will usually spend the extra time with customers and even let them cast a rod or two before the purchase. As in all fishing, purchasing the best equipment that one can afford will make for a more enjoyable experience.

In conclusion, I hope this article on fishing Sarasota Bay helps anglers experience success. Please contact me if you are interested in a Sarasota fishing charter! Anglers can find Florida fishing regulations on the FWC site.

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

Best Sarasota fishing charter

Best Sarasota fishing charter is Adventure Charters!

The best Sarasota fishing charter is Adventure Charters with Capt. Jim Klopfer. Capt. Jim has been guiding in Sarasota full time since 1991. Diversity is what makes Capt. Jim different from all the other fine guides in Sarasota. He will employ multiple tactics using both artificial lures and live bait on a single four hour fishing charter.

Sarasota offers visiting anglers many different species to target and catch and several different techniques with which to do so. This is advantageous as it allows Capt. Jim to tailor the fishing charter to the experience skill level and expectations of the client. Depending on the season, most fishing charters produce 6 to 8 different species. Speckled trout, snook, redfish, Spanish mackerel, blue fish, jack crevelle, flounder, sea bass, grouper, snapper, sheepshead, flounder, black drum, false albacore, sharks, ladyfish, cobia, and even giant tarpon are available throughout the season.

View current fishing report HERE

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.

Tackle used on the best Sarasota fishing charter is very similar to what freshwater anglers are comfortable with up north. A 6 1/2 foot spinning outfit spooled with 10 pound line is used on most charters. Heavier tackle is used when targeting large fish such as snook or when fishing around docks and bridges. Capt. Jim can provide conventional tackle for those anglers who prefer that. Fly fisherman are certainly welcome, Capt. Jim provides Orvis tackle for his clients. A seven wt to 9 wt weight outfit with an intermediate sink tip line is a great all round choice.

Fishing charters in Sarasota

The majority of charters are run on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. The Bay is blessed with large expanses of submerged vegetation and water ranging from ankle-deep to 10 foot. The best action comes on the flats that are between 5 feet and 10 feet deep. This is where the most variety of species will be encountered. Anglers will cast lures or live bait as the boat drifts across the flat.

Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are inlets that connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. Both can be very productive depending on the conditions. Spring and fall are prime times to fish the passes. Pompano, bluefish, mackerel, and ladyfish are commonly caught in the passes. Structure such as docks, bridges, seawalls, and rocks provide prime habitat for several different species. Sheepshead, grouper, snapper, flounder, and snook are all caught around such structure in the passes at one time of year or another.

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Fishing can be fantastic in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the Sarasota beaches.  Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and other species move in to feed on the huge schools of bait fish.  A couple days of east wind will result in calm seas and clear water.  This brings the bait in which in turn attracts the predator fish.  Sharks, king mackerel, cobia, and even tarpon are also landed.  This truly is world class fishing!

Anglers seeking a bit more challenge may opt to target snook, redfish, and jacks. These fish are seldom caught by accident. Mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, docks, and potholes in grass flats throughout the area are prime locations for these game fish. Artificial lures such as plugs, jigs, and spoons are most often used. This type of fishing won’t produce the numbers of fish that the deep grass flats will, but it will produce some real trophies!

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Many anglers going out on Sarasota fishing charters have a specific species that they would like to target.  This is especially true of the “glamour” species.  Snook, redfish, and tarpon are examples.  Below is a list of the most popular fish species available to anglers fishing in Sarasota.

Species caught on the best Sarasota fishing charter.  Check HERE for local regulations.

Snook

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Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida, and are very much sought after by anglers in Sarasota. Snook can be caught in a variety of locations using multiple techniques. Snook are really a lot like largemouth bass; they are ambush predators with a large mouth that can inhale prey easily. They have a big broad powerful tale for quick movements in tight quarters. They feed on just about everything that swims and can be taken on live bait along with a wide variety of artificial lures.

Snook have a very distinct seasonal migration. In the winter, especially if it is cold and the water temperature in Sarasota Bay dips into the upper 50s. Snook will migrate up into creeks and residential canals as the water in these areas is darker deeper and normally significantly warmer than the exposed shallow flats.

Artificial lures are the best approach when targeting snook in these wintertime creeks and canals. Plugs and jigs with a soft plastic body allow anglers to cover a lot of water fairly quickly. It is important in this situation to eliminate unproductive water and lures give anglers the best opportunity to do that. Rapala X-Raps and Bass Assassin baits are proven lures for winter snook and jacks.

As it starts to warm up and spring, snook will move out of their winter haunts and into the backwaters of Sarasota Bay. They will take up residence in ambush spots to feed. These can be mangrove shorelines with cover and a little depth, oyster bars that drop off, holes in grass flats, along with man-made structure such as bridges and docks.

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Current will position the fish where they can sit just out of the flow and ambush prey as it flows past. Generally speaking, outgoing tides are preferred, especially early and late in the day. Anglers fishing at night do well working the lighted docks and bridges with live shrimp and flies.

The most effective technique for catching snook in the warmer months is to catch a bunch of pilchards, (also known as white bait, shiners, greenbacks) and use them to chum the snook into range and into a feeding mood. This requires a cast net, the ability to toss it, in a boat with a large live well and good pump. But in most cases, it is worth the effort!

By the time we get to late May, many of the snook will be out in the passes and down the beach in large numbers. This is a time and place that snook spawn. It is a great time to catch and release a trophy snook. Live bait generally works best in the deeper waters of the passes. The rocks in Big Pass and New Pass hold a lot of fish. Anglers can also sight cast to snook a long area beaches. This is great sport and can be done with fly or light spinning tackle. By late August the pattern begins to reverse itself, and the snook begin moving back into the base.

Redfish

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Redfish are another popular inshore game fish in Sarasota. Redfish are caught using two distinctly different methods. They are sought after on the shallow, expansive flats, primarily in North Sarasota Bay and around docks and other structure in cooler months.

Redfish start to school up in mid-summer and the schools can be quite large. However, these fish can be extremely spooky in water that shallow. Also, angling pressure is high as this is a very popular way to target redfish. Low incoming tides are best as they will concentrate reds on the edges of flats. They will wait for the tide to come up scatter over the bar and feed.

Fishing in very shallow water can be tricky, especially if grass is present. Presenting a lure or live bait effectively requires lures that are either weedless, floats on the surface, or runs very shallow. Weedless spoons are great baits and can be cast a long way, seldom hang up, and cover a lot of water. Plugs can also be effective; either shallow diving plugs in deeper water or top water plugs in very shallow water.

Live bait can be used on the flats as well, particularly a large live shrimp. Reds will stage in potholes. These are depressions in the flats that are a bit deeper than the surrounding grass. Shrimp can be hooked with no weight, a small split shot, or fished under a float.

Redfish are also targeted by anglers fishing with live shrimp under docks. This is really as simple as it sounds, though there are some nuances involved, as in all fishing. Anglers should anchor upwind and up tide a decent cast away from the dock to be finished. The best docks are usually in 4 feet to 10 feet of water. Live bait fish can also be used successfully.

Speckled trout

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Spotted sea trout, known locally as speckled trout, are perhaps the most popular fish along the entire Gulf Coast. Abundant, available year-round, aggressive, and great eating, it is no wonder that they are such a desirable species! While trout are very good to eat it is very important to release the larger female fish these are breeders and crucial to the health of the fishery.

Trout school up in decent numbers on the deep grass flats throughout the area. Submerged grass beds and 4 feet to 10 feet of water will hold bait which in turn attracts the trout and other species. A time proven technique on the best Sarasota fishing charter is to use a shrimp under a popping cork while drifting the flat. This ring has accounted for many trout over the years.

Artificial lures also fool plenty of trout and are very easy to use. There is also no bait to purchase, catch, or keep alive. The most popular lure by far here in Sarasota is the jig and grub combination. A quarter ounce jig head with a 3 inch to 4 inch plastic trailer is deadly on a variety of species but speckled trout in particular. Bass Assassin 4 inch Sea Shad baits in glow, new penny, and red, are extremely effective.

Wind and tide are the major considerations when drifting the deep grass flats for speckled trout. As the boat drifts to call across the grass, anglers cast out lures and flies seeking a school of feeding fish. These are large areas and a little breeze helps to cover the water in a reasonable amount of time. Obviously, too much wind will make it difficult to finish. Generally speaking, 6 foot to 8 foot deep is the target depth. At times, Capt. Jim will anchor the boat on the edge of a grass flat and free line a live bait out.

Spanish mackerel

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Spanish mackerel are a terrific and often overlooked game fish! They fight hard, make blistering runs, are aggressive, and taste great when eaten right away. They readily take live bait lures and flies. What more can an angler ask for?

Spanish mackerel show up in the spring when the water temperature hits the upper 60s in degrees. They will stay around until late fall when it gets cold. They are caught both inshore and in the Gulf of Mexico. Mackerel are often an unexpected surprise for anglers drifting the deep grass flats. Sometimes they can be seen feeding on the surface, but most of the time they will intercept the jig plug, shrimp, or bait fish intended for trout or other species.

Spanish mackerel can be targeted in the spring and the fall and both passes when they move in. Again, at times they will feed on the surface and that makes them easy to locate. Drifting with a shrimp works well, too. Trolling a #8 Rapala X-Rap in white or olive is a good way to search for schools of mackerel.

Anglers targeting Spanish mackerel will do well to fish the inshore Gulf of Mexico. In the spring and fall they will school up in huge numbers and can be seen working on the surface. Anglers can look for birds, feeding fish, and schools of bait. Casting lures and flies to feeding fish is very exciting! Trolling is another productive method in the Gulf of Mexico. It works well on days with a little chop or when the fish are not feeding on the surface.

Pompano

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Pompano are prized among both local and visiting anglers both for their tenacious fight and their incredible flavor on a dinner plate. They are caught in the passes, out on the beaches, and on the grass flats in Sarasota Bay. The best bet for anglers targeting pompano is to drift Big Sarasota Pass using a small pompano jig. This is a basic jig with a round head and a little dressing. Banana style jigs are also effective. Pompano have small mouth and feed on the bottom.

Pompano are caught by anglers casting jigs and live shrimp as they drift the grass flats as well. Sometimes pompano will be seen skipping on the surface as the boat idles by. This is a sure sign that there are more in the area.

Anglers fishing the surf will do well with jigs and shrimp, but the real pompano surf experts will use sand fleas. Sand fleas, also known as mole crabs, are great for pompano. Sand fleas are caught in the surf using special rakes and then hooked on a small number two or number four hook in a little bit of weight.

Mangrove snapper

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Mangrove snapper are another extremely popular species for both their battle and their table fare. Snapper are available all year round near structure such as docks, bridges, submerged rocks, and ledges. Live shrimp fished on the bottom with just enough weight to get down there is the best bet. Smaller hooks and light leaders are often required as snapper can be a bit spooky especially in clear water. The inshore artificial reefs off of Lido Key are great spots to bottom fish when it is calm in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mangrove snapper have been showing up on the grass flats over the last several years and good numbers with some very nice fish mixed in. July, August, and September have been the best months. Chumming with pilchards is the best technique to catch snapper on the grass. Handfuls of live or fresh dead bait is tossed out behind the boat on a deep patch of grass. This will get them excited and fired up behind the boat. Going small on the hook and light on the leader will result in more fish. Of course trout, mackerel, grouper, ladyfish, and other species will be caught as well.

Bluefish

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Bluefish are known to many anglers visiting Sarasota as they range up the entire East Coast of the country. They do not grow as large here, 5 pounds is a very nice bluefish, but since most are caught using light tackle they are great fun to catch. They need to be handled correctly and eaten fresh, but they are underrated as table fare. Like many species here, they are caught by anglers drifting the deep grass flats as well as the passes.

Jigs work very well for bluefish and when they cut you off, which they will, your only out a dollar or so. Plugs work very well but can get expensive and they are also tricky to release with a bunch of trouble hooks. Live bait works well and a long shank hook were reduced cutoffs.

Bluefish will be caught in the passes especially in the cooler months. Jigs bounced on the bottom along with spoons and live bait will work. Sometimes bluefish will be caught by surf anglers on the beach as well.

Sheepshead

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Sheepshead invade Sarasota each year around Christmas and stay around until late spring. These tasty members of the Porgy family are structure oriented and can be found near anything the provides cover and has barnacles. Bridges and docks are prime spots as our seawalls, ledges, submerged rocks, and artificial reefs. Sheepshead are rarely caught on lures, live or frozen bait is required. Shrimp, fiddler crabs, and sand fleas, will work live fresh dead or frozen.

Sheepshead are notorious for being great bait stealers. They bite very lightly and anglers need to be patient and be still an order to catch them. Small hooks rigged up on a short leader with a sliding sinker is the best rate. The sheepshead will be able to pick up the bait and move off without feeling any weight. Sheepshead are great eating but very difficult to clean. The inshore artificial reefs off of Lido Key are great spots to target sheepshead on nice days.

Jack crevalle

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Jack crevalle are a terrific game fish! Jacks are like bluegill on steroids, they turn their broadsides and just pull as hard as they can. Jacks school up and can be voracious at times, devouring anything that moves. They can also be fussy. Jacks are found throughout the area and just about every portion of Sarasota Bay.

In the cooler months jacks are found in backwaters, residential canals, creeks, and area rivers. Live shrimp will work, but fast-moving lures like plugs are more fun and elicit violence strikes. As it warms up, jacks move into the bays to feed. By summer they can be anywhere or nowhere. Anglers land them drifting the deep grass along with other species. The area south of Siesta Drive in Roberts Bay is a good area for jack crevalle. Docks seawalls, canals, and Phillippi Creek are prime spots that attract fish. Jacks will grow to 10 pounds.

Ladyfish

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Ladyfish have saved the day on many charters in Sarasota, despite the fact that they are sometimes disparaged by local anglers. While not good to eat, they are abundant aggressive, hit lures, baits, and flies, leap high out of the water, and fight very hard for their size. In the cooler months they school up in very large numbers and multiple hookups are the norm. They are caught in the passes out on the beach, and on the deep grass flats.

Ladyfish will certainly take live shrimp and pilchards, but they are much more fun to catch on lures. This is a great opportunity to teach kids to use jigs and other lures as a bites are frequent and easy to feel. A jig and grub combo is tough to be and color rarely matters. Fly anglers can have great fun with ladyfish as well. It is a great opportunity for the novice fly angler to get in some practice and build confidence. Ladyfish are excellent cut bait for sharks and other species.

Cobia

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Cobia are normally caught out in the Gulf of Mexico but they do move into Sarasota Bay. They are an incidental catch on the flats and passes and will hit the same lures and baits that produce all of the other inshore species. They are often seen just cruising under the surface and are mistaken for sharks. Prepare for a long battle on trout tackle. They are terrific eating but need to be 33 inches to the fork.

Flounder

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Flounder are a delicious bottom fish that are well known and prized by anglers everywhere. Most of the flounder in Sarasota are southern golf flounder. Though we really don’t have a population large enough to target they are caught occasionally by anglers fishing for other species. Structure such as docks and bridges along with deeper holes in the grass flats are good spots to try for flounder jigs, live bait, and cut bait all produce. Flounder do school up occasionally on the inshore artificial reefs.

Gag grouper

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Gag grouper are arguably the most popular and prized offshore species in Sarasota. Most of the grouper that are caught inshore are juveniles that will migrate out into the Gulf of Mexico, where they will grow to full maturity. Legal grouper are seldom caught in Sarasota Bay, though some anglers target them by trolling large plugs and bottom fishing with heavy tackle and large baits. Area bridges are the top spots for larger grouper. Anglers on a best Sarasota fishing charter may land grouper when Sheepshead fishing in the spring and on the deep grass flats in mid to late summer.

Sharks

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Small sharks are great fun to catch and always a crowd favorite, especially for the young anglers! Most are caught incidentally; they will hit jigs and live bait. In the late summer they can be targeted using cut ladyfish on the flats. They are usually plentiful in the inshore Gulf in the spring and again in the fall as they feed on schools of Spanish mackerel.

Tarpon

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Many anglers consider tarpon to be the ultimate fishing challenge. There are few opportunities to sight cast to fish well over 100 pounds using fairly light spinning tackle. Tarpon fishing is very specialized however, and not for everyone. It is much like deer hunting, there will be a lot of time spent looking and waiting. But, when it all comes together, there is nothing like it! Tarpon show up in schools off of the Sarasota Beaches in early May and stay until mid July. Most tarpon are caught using small live crabs or hand sized bait fish, however large plugs will fool tarpon as will a well-placed fly.

False albacore

best Sarasota fishing charter

False albacore make a run along the Gulf Coast in the spring and again in the fall. They are following the large schools of bait fish upon which they feed. False albacore are caught off of the Sarasota Beaches up to 12 pounds. They put up a tremendous fight and a reel with the quality drag is required to catch them. Most are caught sight fishing as they feed actively on the surface. This adds to the excitement of targeting false albacore as the action can be fast and furious. Small lures such as spoons, plugs, and jigs are most often used, as the bait they are feeding on is quite small, usually glass minnows. This is a great opportunity for a fly angler to experience world-class action!

Sarasota river fishing charters

Capt. Jim offers visiting anglers a unique experience; fishing local area rivers. Adventure charters is the only operation offering such a trip. A smaller 14 foot Alumacraft John boat is used for these charters. Launching areas can be primitive and the water can be very shallow and spots thus the need for a light, shallow draft boat. The venerable John boat is perfect for this!

best Sarasota fishing charter

The Myakka River, Braden River, and Manatee River, all lie a short drive from Sarasota and her beaches. All three are unique and have their pros and cons. The Braden River is the most developed, however offers very consistent fishing for large jack crevelle. Snook, redfish, and other species are caught on most charters. The Myakka River in Venice Florida, offers the best trophy snook fishing. The Myakka River is a wild and scenic river and also has a distinct feel to it. It is almost like being on a South American River! The Manatee River is a bit of a mixture of the two, with some development, but also some very nice stretches. The Manatee River also offers the most variety in terms of species.

River fishing charters are best suited for anglers with a bit more experience. They do not produce as much action as do the inshore bay fishing charters. However, for anglers seeking a bit more challenge, the reward can be a trophy snook of a lifetime! Snook to 40 inches and 20 pounds are not uncommon. It is important to cover as much water as possible, therefore we drift with the current and cast rapidly plugs and other lures to likely looking shoreline cover. Snook, largemouth bass, jack crevelle, redfish, snapper, juvenile tarpon, catfish, gar, and sunshine bass are all available depending on the conditions.

Frequently asked questions

Q:  What is the cost of a Sarasota fishing charter and what does it include?

A:  A four hour fishing charter for up to four anglers is $400.  That cost covers all bait, tackle, licenses, the boat, and capt Jim’s service and experience.  Spinning tackle is used on most charters as it is the best choice for our type of fishing.  Live shrimp and live bait fish are used along with artificial lures.  A cooler with ice is provided for clients to keep their drinks and snacks cold.  More information can be found HERE.

Q:  What do clients going out on a Sarasota fishing charter need to bring?

A:  Clients should bring along whatever they want to eat and drink, hats, sunglasses, and sun screen.  Guests should wear boat or tennis shoes with white soles.  Everything else for the fishing charter is provided.  Anglers may bring along their own tackle if desired, though quality Penn and Shimano tackle is provided.  Fly anglers can use Orvis tackle provided by Capt Jim or certainly provide their own outfits if they prefer.

Q:  Are clients on a Sarasota fishing charter allowed to keep fish to eat?

A:  Yes.  Anglers may keep a few quality fish that are good to eat, in season, and meet the legal size requirements.  Capt Jim will fillet the fish and bag them up at the end of the charter.  Capt Jim does promote catch and release to insure the health of the fishery.  The fishing charter is about having fun and making memories, so keeping fish is a bonus and not the focus of the trip.

Q:  What kind of fish do clients on a Sarasota fishing charter catch?

A:  Sarasota Bay is a diverse fishery, offering anglers the opportunity to catch many different species.  Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, ladyfish, sharks, and other species are caught on the grass flats.  Snook, redfish, and jack crevelle are caught by more experienced anglers along mangrove shore lines.  Structure in the passes as well as docks and bridges hold sheepshead, snapper, grouper, and flounder.  Current species identification and regulations can be found on the FWC site.

Q:  Where will clients meet Capt Jim and at what time?

A:  The time will be determined by the weather, conditions, and tides.  Most fishing charters are run in the morning as that is usually the most reliable fishing.  Afternoons can be better in the winter as it warms up later in the day.  Most charters will leave around 7:30 a.m.  Most charters will leave from Centennial Park in downtown Sarasota, Florida. That ramp is in a very good location for accessing the fishing grounds and eliminating the slow speed zones.

Q:  What is the best time of year to go out on a Sarasota fishing charter?

A:  Fishing is good all year long, depending on conditions.  Summer offers very reliable action, though it is an early bite.  Spring is good as long as the weather is nice, though boat traffic is the heaviest.  Fall is fantastic, great weather and no crowds.  Winter can be very good, but weather fronts are an issue.  Anglers can check out my monthly forecasts to help plan their trip.

Q:  Who offers the best Sarasota fishing charter?

A:  With respect to the other fine fishing guides in Sarasota, nobody works harder than Capt Jim Klopfer for his clients.  He is easy-going and personable, patient with children, and fun.  Capt Jim will use whatever baits and techniques needed to give clients the best chance for success.  He often fishes with several different lures and baits on a single four hour charter.

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

Top 8 Sarasota fish species

Top 8 Sarasota fish species

I have been running Sarasota fishing charters since 1991. We are fortunate to have many different species that we catch in Sarasota Bay. I am going to list my personal top 8 Sarasota fish species. As with all lists, this one is subjective. My criteria are fighting qualities, willingness to take a lure or fly, year long availability, and food value. The first three are obvious choices; snook, trout, and redfish. The others may surprise some anglers.

The top 8 Sarasota fish species are snook, speckled trout, redfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, pompano, bluefish, and mangrove snapper.  These fish species all fight hard, take both live bait and artificial lures, and are available most of the year.  All but jacks are very good eating as well.

guide to inshore saltwater 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.

View current fishing report HERE

This is just a fun list of the top 8 Sarasota fish species. As with anything, opinions vary on “best”. That applies to food value as well, we all have our own tastes.

#1 snook

top Sarasota fishing lures

The mighty snook is without a doubt the premier inshore game fish in Sarasota. It is #1 on my list of top 8 Sarasota fish species. Snook check all the boxes. They put up a great fight, hit lures and flies, and are available year-round. Snook also taste great, but I release them all to live another day.

Snook make a seasonal migration in Sarasota. They winter in creeks, rivers and residential canals. These areas are warmer, deeper, and have forage to feed on. As it warms up, snook move out into the bays and inshore waters to feed. As summer approaches, snook move out into the passes and out on the beaches to spawn. By late summer, they begin to reverse the process.

Sarasota river snook fishing

River snook fishing is one of my favorite Sarasota fishing charters. I use my 14′ Alumacraft Jon boat in the area rivers. Anglers cast Rapala plugs in search of a trophy river snook. The Myakka River, Braden River, and Manatee River all hold snook, as well as other species.

fishing for snook

Snook are really a saltwater version of largemouth bass. They have a large mouth to inhale prey, are structure oriented, and have a broad, powerful tail. Most of the popular snook lures started out as bass lures. Topwater plugs, diving jerk baits, spinnerbaits, and soft plastic baits all fool snook. Fly anglers score using small, white bait fish imitations.

Sarasota game fish species

Live bait works very well for snook. A large shrimp is deadly fished near docks and bridges. Pinfish and grunts will catch some larger specimens. Chumming with scaled sardines (AKA greenbacks, shiners, white bait ) is a deadly, proven technique that guides and recreational anglers use in the warmer months. Anglers can read a comprehensive article on Fishing for Snook to get more information.

#2 Speckled trout

top 8 Sarasota fish species

I am putting speckled trout in the #2 spot on my list of top 8 Sarasota fish species. While trout are not the greatest battlers in the water, they make up for it in terms of numbers, availability, aggression, and table fare. They are also a beautiful fish.

Speckled trout are available all year long. They are abundant on the grass flats from very shallow up to ten feet of water in the warmer months. The majority of speckled trout caught in Sarasota are done so by anglers fishing submerged grass in five feet to ten feet of water. Jigs and live shrimp account for most of the trout caught.

Winter speckled trout fishing tips

In winter they will seek deeper holes, including channels and residential canals if the water temperature gets into the 50’s. Trout will hit a wide variety of artificial baits, with the jig and grub being the most popular artificial bait. Fly anglers will catch them using Clouser Minnow patterns and sink tip lines.

Florida fishing charters

Live bait is also extremely effective for speckled trout. Shrimp are the top bait as they are available at local bait shops all year long. Live bait fish also work well and will produce larger fish. A small 2 inch to 3 inch grunt is a fantastic bait for large trout. Pilchards also work very well. Speckled trout are outstanding table fare! The limit is 15” with one fish over 20”. However, I release all trout over 20”. They are breeder fish, we need them in the water to sustain the fishery.

Sarasota fishing charters

Speckled trout is really a nickname, the correct term is “spotted sea trout”. They are found along the entire Gulf Coast and up the East Coast as far as the mid Atlantic. Anglers can read more about Spotted Sea Trout Fishing in this article.

#3 Redfish

top 8 Sarasota fish species

Redfish are #3 on my list of top 8 Sarasota fish species. Some anglers may be surprised to see trout ahead of redfish on my list. The primary reason is that redfish numbers have been down the last several years. For whatever reason, the fish are spawning, but the juvenile fish are not growing. But, redfish are strong, take lures and live baits, are available all year, and taste great.

In the cooler months, reds are caught under docks and around other structure, including oyster bars, bridges, and rocky shorelines. As the water warms up, the fish move out onto the shallow grass flats. Reds are caught in very shallow water. They are also quite spooky and skittish in this very skinny water. Patience, stealth, and long casts are required.

plug fishing Sarasota

Top artificial lures for fishing for redfish

Gold weedless spoons are a top artificial bait. Soft plastic baits rigged weedless are also very productive. Live bait is difficult to fish in the very shallow water, although fishing potholes with live shrimp works quite well. Chumming with pilchards will also produce fish.

In the late summer, redfish school up into big numbers. They can be easily seen on the shallow flats when the surface is calm. This is the best time of year to target reds. They school up before moving out into the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these fish are “over slot”, meaning larger than the 27” maximum size to keep. Anglers must be patient, these fish are easily spooked!

#4 Spanish mackerel

top 8 Sarasota fish species

Spanish mackerel are #4 on my list of top 8 Sarasota fish species. Spanish mackerel are a very under rated game fish, in my opinion. They are extremely fast and make blistering runs. They take lures and flies with reckless abandon. Mackerel are very good when eaten the day they are caught. The only reason they are this far down is that they are around all year long. If the water is too warm or cool, their numbers decrease.

Spanish mackerel can be caught in a variety of ways. Trolling with spoons and plugs in Sarasota Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico produces a lot of fish. Anglers also do well in the passes and over the flats casting jigs, plugs and spoons. Fly fishers score using white D.T. Special and Clouser Minnow flies. No matter what the lure or fly, a fast retrieve usually works best.

Live bait is very effective as well. Free lined live shrimp do well on the flats and in the passes. Also, while Spanish mackerel can be difficult to locate and catch in the summer, chumming with live bait will get them fired up. It is the only reliable technique for catching them in the warmer months.

Mackerel school up in large numbers in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. They can be seen feeding on bait fish right on the surface. Working “breaking fish” in the Gulf is great fun! Mackerel will instantly take any lure or fly that resembles a small bait fish.

trolling for mackerel

Spanish mackerel are plentiful and great eating when prepared fresh. This makes them an excellent species to pursue when a meal is desired. Fish should be put on ice immediately and eater that night or the next. They are excellent grilled, broiled, baked, or smoked! Anglers can read more about Spanish mackerel fishing in this blog post.

#5 Jack crevalle

top 8 Sarasota fish species

Jack crevalle are #5 on my list of top 8 Sarasota fish species. Jacks are the bull dogs of the bay. They rarely leap, instead using their broad sides and forked tail to pull relentlessly. Jacks take artificial baits and flies viciously. Most of the time jacks are encountered in schools. They are quite aggressive when schooled up and are very competitive. Jacks do not have food value. If they were good to eat, they might be #1 on my list!

Like snook, jack crevalle will congregate in Sarasota canals and creeks in the cooler months. Phillippi Creek, Hudson Bayou, and Whittaker Bayou are good spots, as is the Grand Canal on Siesta Key. Trolling small plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap in the 08 size is a good way to locate fish. I usually catch my largest fish in the winter. The same rivers that hold winter snook also will attract jack crevalle.

Sarasota jack crevalle migrations

As it warms up, jack crevalle move into the bays. They move around a lot and are found around oyster bars, seawalls, bridges, and open flats. They are caught blind casting, but it is much more fun to cast to schools of fish breaking on the surface. Area bridges will also hold some big jack crevalle.

Most of the jacks that are caught by clients on my Sarasota fishing charters hit artificial lures. Rapala plugs fool them in the rivers and creeks. Plenty of jacks, though normally smaller, take jigs while drifting the open flats. Chumming mangrove shorelines with pilchards will attract jacks while snook fishing.

fishing for jack crevalle

The visual aspects of catching jacks makes it very exciting. Schools of jack crevalle are often times seen feeding ferociously on the surface. Just about any lure that remotely resembles the forage will draw a vicious strike! Anglers can read more about Jack Crevalle Fishing in this post.

#6 pompano

 top 8 Sarasota fish species

Pompano are #6 on my list of top 8 Sarasota fish species. Most pompano are caught by anglers using jigs and live shrimp. Pompano pull incredibly hard for their size. Also, they are some of the finest eating there is. Pompano are definitely my favorite fish to eat. Their only failing is that they are not around all year long. Then tend to move through in “runs”.

Top Sarasota species

Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are good spots to target pompano. A small jig with a heavy head will get down quickly in a strong current. The jig is then bounced up in short motions. This vertical jigging is very efficient as the bait stays in the strike zone as the boat drifts. It is a great way to cover a lot of water and locate fish.

Pompano are also encountered on the deep grass flats. Anglers casting jigs catch them while trout fishing. The same jigs that produce trout, mackerel, and other species will fool pompano. Also, anglers specifically targeting pompano can use the same jigs that work well in the passes.

#7 bluefish

top 8 Sarasota fish species

Bluefish are #7 on my list of top 8 Sarasota fish species. North east anglers are very well acquainted with bluefish as they are popular all along the Atlantic coast up to Maine. Our bluefish are smaller, five pounds is a nice one. Blues fight very hard, assault lures and flies, but are only available at certain times of the year. Also, they are only considered fair on the table, though if cared for properly, they are pretty good. Bluefish should be bled out and iced right away, this will make the flesh less dark and strong.

fishing with jigs

Bluefish can be anywhere or nowhere. They are found both in the passes and on the grass flats. Jigs, plugs, spoons, and flies will all elicit strikes from aggressive bluefish. Live shrimp will also fool them, as will any small bait fish. I catch them in the summer chumming the deep flats as well. Anglers can read more about Fishing for Bluefish in this detailed article.

#8 Mangrove snapper

top 8 Sarasota fish species

Mangrove snapper round out my “great eight” list of top 8 Sarasota fish species. Snapper are fantastic eating, pull hard, and are available year round. While clients catch snapper using lures, the majority of fish are taken using live bait. Small Rapala X-Raps and jigs with a Gulp Shrimp catch the majority of snapper that fall for lures.

Mangrove snapper are caught along the mangrove shorelines. However, for the most part, anglers targeting snapper fish man made structure. Bridges, docks, sea walls, and rocky structure all hold snapper. A live shrimp lowered down near and of the above structure can result in a feisty snapper being hooked.

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

In the summer, we catch some very nice snapper chumming the deep grass flats. This really started several years ago. I have no idea why, but they are certainly most welcome! At times the mangrove snapper actually prefer dead bait and chum. Some bait almost always dies and sinks to the bottom of the well. I use this as both chum and bait to attract and catch snapper. At times a switch to smaller hooks and lighter leaders is required.

I hope you enjoyed my list of top 8 inshore species, along with the tips and locations. I have fished 200 days a year for over twenty years now. These are the fish that my clients and I enjoy catching in the inshore waters of Sarasota. Any angler who would like to experience a Sarasota fishing charter can e-mail or call me!

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236