Sarasota Fishing Articles

Sarasota Fishing Articles written by Capt Jim Klopfer

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

View current Sarasota fishing report

Sarasota fishing articles

Fishing Charters in Sarasota

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

Inshore Saltwater Fishing

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

Sarasota snook fishing

Siesta Key snook fishing

Fishing for Snook, a Complete Guide

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

Sarasota jig fishing

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

Sarasota trolling techniques

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

Sarasota inshore Gulf fishing

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

Sarasota summer fishing charters

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

Top 8 Sarasota fish species

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

35 best Sarasota fishing spots

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

Best Sarasota fishing charter

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

Sarasota river fishing

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

Fly fishing Sarasota rivers

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

Plug fishing Sarasota

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

Best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

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

Sarasota red tide fishing

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

Fly fishing Sarasota Bay

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

Sarasota freshwater fishing

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

Longboat Key fishing charters

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

Sarasota speckled trout fishing

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

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

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

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

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

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

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

Florida pompano fishing

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

Sarasota crappie fishing

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

Florida bluefish

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

Sarasota fishing report

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

Sarasota fishing forecast

Sarasota fishing calendar

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

Sarasota false albacore fishing

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

Jack crevelle fishing

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

Sarasota family fishing charters

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

Sarasota tarpon fishing

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

Sarasota bass fishing

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

River snook fishing

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

Siesta Key fishing charters

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

Sarasota chumming techniques

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

Sarasota redfish

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

Best 11 Sarasota fishing reefs

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

Sarasota bottom fishing

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

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Sarasota fishing excursion

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

Fishing Sarasota Bay

Fishing Sarasota Florida

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

Sarasota fishing videos

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

Fishing Siesta Key

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

Fly fishing for jack crevelle

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

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

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.

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

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 crevelle, ladyfish, cobia, sharks, tarpon, red and gag grouper, mangrove snapper, sheepshead, Key West grunts, flounder, black drum, whiting, catfish, and black sea bass are some of the more popular species.

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

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

Fall

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

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, ineffective lure. It consists of a lead head jig. This is a hook with a piece of lead near the eye. The weight provides both casting distance in action to the lure. One quarter ounce is the best all round size. White, red, and chartreuse are the most popular colors.

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 Lord 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, 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 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 lower that dives down 3 to 4 feet is perfect. 3 inch to 4 inch baits in olive and white match the local forage. Shad tail baits on a 1/4 ounce jig head will produce as well, though they cannot be worked quite as fast.

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

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Sarasota Florida fishing charters with Capt. Jim Klopfer

Captain Jim Klopfer offers Sarasota Florida fishing charters to visiting anglers. He has been guiding full time since 1991. His knowledge of Sarasota Bay and its fish species will help you catch more fish. Capt. Jim runs his charters on a 22” Stott Craft bay boat.

Sarasota is a great place for anglers to come visit and go fishing. Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico hold many different species. On most Sarasota Florida fishing charters, anglers catch 6 to 8 species. However, it is not uncommon to catch 10 species are more on a four hour fishing charter. Anglers use a variety of techniques to catch speckled trout, snook, redfish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, snapper, grouper, sheepshead, flounder, drum, sea bass, cobia, sharks, and more.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

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 HERE

Capt. Jim provides all the tackle, bait, and licenses on his Sarasota Florida fishing charters. Spinning tackle is used the vast majority of the time. It is the best choice for most anglers, and is easy for novices to learn to use. Fly tackle will be provided upon request. A cooler with ice is kept on board for drinks and snacks.

Many different fishing techniques are used on charters as well. This is advantageous as the trip can then be catered to the angler skill level and experience. Bottom fishing with live shrimp is simple and easy I can be very productive. Drifting live shrimp or live bait fish over the flats produces a lot a fish as well. Both of these techniques can be learned in short order even by the most novice angler.

More advanced fishermen may choose to cast artificial lures as the boat drifts along. Jigs are the primary lure that is used on Sarasota Florida fishing charters. It is simple but effective, and catches a lot of fish! Anglers seeking even more of a challenge can cast jigs and plugs along mangrove shorelines in search of snook, redfish, and jacks.

The inshore Gulf of Mexico can provide fantastic action as well. When conditions are right, which means calm seas in clear water, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, sharks, cobia, and a wide assortment of bottom fish are all available within a couple miles of shore. Several area rivers provide advanced anglers the opportunity to catch a trophy snook in the wintertime.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters; seasons

Winter Sarasota fishing charters

Winter fishing is all about the weather. Weather in the winter can vary from gorgeous to downright nasty. On pleasant days, anglers can drift the flats for speckled trout, bluefish, pompano, and ladyfish. Jigs are a great bait as the fish are active in the cooler water. A live shrimp drifting behind the boat will certainly produce as well.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Bottom fishing with live shrimp under docks, bridges and around structure is very popular on winter Sarasota Florida fishing charters. This is a great option on breezy days as many of the docks are in protected canals. Big pass is on the lee side of Siesta Key on a hard south wind. Sheepshead, snapper, grouper, flounder, and black drum will take a live or frozen shrimp fished on the bottom near some type of structure.

Snook and jack crevelle will migrate up into residential canals, creeks, and area rivers. This results in the fish being concentrated in a relatively small area, and thus are easier to locate and catch. Capt. Jim offers River fishing charters to the Myakka River, Manatee River, and Braden River. He is the only one offering these types of Sarasota Florida fishing charters. This trip is best for experienced anglers.

Spring Sarasota fishing charters

Like most fisheries, spring is an excellent time to go fishing. Rising water temperatures have the fish moving out of deep water and up onto the flats to feed. Many fish spawn in spring and feed heavily before they do so. Spring also brings migratory species such as Spanish mackerel, false albacore, cobia, and Pompano to the area.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

The deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay will be very productive in the spring. Lush submerged vegetation will hold shrimp and bait fish, which in turn will attract the game fish. Speckled trout fishing is at its peak in late spring. Live shrimp and jigs are equally productive. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Pompano, ladyfish, jacks, cobia, and other species will be taken on the grass flats as well.

The two passes connecting Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico can be teeming with fish and spring. These passes are migration routes for fish moving in and out of Sarasota Bay. Ladyfish are generally very plentiful in the passes. Pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and other species are caught as well. A jig bounced along the bottom from a drifting boat is very productive.

Snook, redfish, and jacks will be targeted by experienced anglers on the shallow flats. Grass flats, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines and water from 2 feet deep to 5 feet deep will hold these game fish. Jigs and live shrimp work best for redfish. Plugs are a great artificial lure to use to locate snook and jacks on a large flat.

Summer Sarasota fishing charters

Summer is a great time to fish in Sarasota! Anglers are often surprised to find out that summer offers the fastest action of the year in terms of number and variety. The key to this great summer fishing on Sarasota Florida fishing charters is the abundance of live bait. Hordes of small shiny baitfish cover the shallow flats, especially those near the passes.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Charter boat captains use a special technique this time of year called “live bait chumming”. It requires a lot of live bait. A cast net is used to procure 500 or so frisky live baits. They are put in a large well with a recirculating pump. The boat is then anchored on a likely flat and a few handfuls of live bait fish are tossed off the stern.

If game fish are around, it won’t be long before there taking advantage of the free meal. Hooked baits are then cast in and it is “game on”! However, it is very hot so this is an early-morning game. Clients meet at the docket first light and are usually back home by late morning.

Sarasota tarpon fishing charters

Summer also offers visiting anglers a special thrill, the chance to catch a giant tarpon! These fish move into the area in mid May and stay until mid July. Tarpon average 75 pounds and fish to 150 pounds are not uncommon. This is big-game fishing and is an unpredictable. There will be days when no fish are hooked. This is definitely a charter for more experienced hunters and fishermen.

Snook will school up in the passes and out on the beaches in the summer as well. The rocks in Big Sarasota Pass on the north end of Siesta Key are a particularly good summer time snook spot. Live bait works best in this situation. However, artificial lures and flies are the baits of choice when site fishing for snuck on the area beaches.

Fall Sarasota fishing charters

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Fall is a great time to visit Sarasota, Florida. By mid October it has started to cool off a bit. Shorter days and falling water temperatures get the fish moving as a are transitioning into their fall and winter patterns. By this time, chances for a tropical storm are low in the weather is usually very reliable. Also, tourist traffic is light, which means hotels and restaurants are not crowded.

When conditions are right and the bite is on, I spent a lot of time in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and the fall. Site casting to schools of breaking false albacore is fantastic sport on light spinning tackle or on fly. These diminutive tuna fish make long, fast runs and will test the tackle. Spanish mackerel, sharks, cobia and other species are mixed in as well.

Sarasota Bay offers visiting anglers excellent action and the fall as well. Snook have moved from the beaches in the passes back inside. They are found in the normal spots, docks, mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, and flats. Outgoing tides early and late in the day our prime times to catch them. Jacks and redfish will be taken as well.

Both the passes and deep grass flats should provide steady action for clients on Sarasota Florida fishing charters as well. Grass flats in from 6 feet of water to 10 feet of water will hold the majority of species. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, Pompano, ladyfish and other species will be taken. Pompano are targeted in the passes on the outgoing tides in the fall.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters; techniques and locations

Sarasota deep grass flats

The majority of fish caught on Sarasota Florida fishing charters are taken on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. These are submerged weed beds in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. These are fertile environments which hold bait fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans. The abundance of forage attracts the game fish.

The deep grass flats are fished in two ways; drifting in anchoring. Drifting is the preferred technique when anglers are searching for schools of fish. Jigs are cast ahead of the drifting boat while a live shrimp or bait fish is free lined behind the boat. Often times, both methods are employed at once. This is a very effective strategy.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Once fish are located, the boat can be anchored. Anglers can then thoroughly work the area, maximizing the bite. Once the bite slows, the anchor is picked up and the drift is resumed. Another option is to continue the drift then motor back around slowly and re-drift the productive area again.

Anchoring can also be very effective on the deep grass flats. This is done when live bait chumming and also when anchoring on the edge of a flat. Chumming will draw the fish up behind the boat so there is no need to drift. Fish often relate to edges. Therefore, anchoring on the edge of a flat where it drops off into deeper water can be very productive. For the most part, anglers anchoring on the grass flats will use live bait.

Sarasota shallow flats

Anglers fishing the shallow grass flats will often catch the largest fish. This may seem backwards, however, the larger fish are loners and will often be found in water that is to feet deep to 4 feet deep. Redfish school up in these shallow waters. Large speckled trout will take up residence along and oyster bar or in the deeper hole. Snook will be found along the edges of bars and mangrove shorelines.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

For the most part, anglers fishing the shallow flats are giving up numbers in search of quality. Patience is required as there is often a lot of water to be covered in order to find the fish. Many times the fish are loners or scattered out as opposed to encountering schools. Artificial lures are usually chosen as they allow anglers to cover the water effectively. Plugs, spoons, and jigs are all good choices.

fishing Sarasota passes

As mentioned earlier, passes connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. A pass is an inlet, it is just the term used in the Gulf of Mexico as opposed to the Atlantic Ocean. Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are the two passes in Sarasota. Longboat Pass to the north separates Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Big Pass is a great fishing spot that will hold fish all year long. There is a plethora of structure on the entire north side of Siesta Key in Big Pass. Concrete seawalls, riprap, docks, and submerged rocks and ledges hold large numbers of sheepshead in the late winter and spring. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper can be found all year long. Snook will hold in the structure in the summer time as well. The key to the spot is the abundance of structure along with the deeper water, up to 25 feet deep.

Plenty of fish will be caught in the pass itself, particularly ladyfish. These hard fighting rascals are great fun on light tackle and are a perfect fish for novice anglers to practice up on. They are very cooperative and aggressive. They leap high up out of the air when hooked. Pompano, bluefish, jacks, and Spanish mackerel will also be taken regularly.

Vertically jigging from a drifting boat is an excellent technique when fishing the passes. It is also very simple and easy for novice anglers to do. The jig is simply let down to the bottom, then the bail on the reel is closed. As the boat drifts along, the jig is hopped sharply up off the bottom a foot or so. Then, is allowed to fall back to the bottom. This action closely mimics a fleeing crab or shrimp and is very effective. Anglers can drift with live bait as well.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Breaking fish will often be seen in the passes. Bird activity will often give their location away. Once the angler gets closer, it is easy to see the fish feeding aggressively on the surface. This is great fun as just about lure or bait that remotely resembles the prey will get eaten. Jigs, spoons, and plugs are all productive lures.

fishing Sarasota docks and bridges

Docks and bridges are fish magnets. They provide shade, structure, and hold forage. These are all the things a fish needs. There are many docks in the area, and not all will be productive. Capt. Jim has learned which once produce on his Sarasota Florida fishing charters.

Live bait is most often used when targeting fish under docks and around bridges. Live shrimp are used most of the year and are an extremely effective bait for a variety of species. In the summer time, a switch to live bait fish is more productive. Pin fish can be sick in the summer time and are a nuisance, nibbling the shrimp off of the hook.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Anglers can also fish docks using artificial lures. Plugs are a great choice as I don’t hang up on the bottom and allow anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. These plugs will fool snook, jacks, redfish, snapper, and more.

Fishing lighted docks and bridges at night is a very productive technique for catching snook. The lights attract plankton which then attracts small a bait fish and shrimp. The snook and other game fish are then attracted to the bait. Anglers fish the shadowy area where the light turns to dark. An outgoing tide is considered best. This is a great way to beat the heat in summer time. Trout, snapper, bluefish, and ladyfish will be caught as well.

fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico

Clients fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico can experience some world-class fishing in the spring and again in the fall. Pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and false albacore migrate up the coast in the spring and back down the coast in the fall. They migrate with the schools of glass minnows and other bait fish. They are often seen aggressively foraging on the surface. We call this “breaking fish”and it is very exciting! Jigs, spoons, small plugs, and flies are all very effective. Live bait will work, but there generally is no need to use them with lures being so effective.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Most of this action will take place from several hundred yards offshore to 2 miles or so. Anglers simply cruise around looking for signs of fish. There are three artificial reefs right off of Lido Key. On days when surface activity is difficult the fine, these can be excellent backup spots.

Those artificial reefs also offer anglers excellent bottom fishing all year long. Large sheepshead will be caught in late spring. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper are present all year long. Flounder are taken sometimes in the winter. Grunts can provide action at any time. Live or cut bait fish on the bottom will produce the bottom species for anglers looking for a fresh fish dinner.

Trolling can be a very effective technique in the inshore Gulf of Mexico as well as in Sarasota Bay. Trolling is very well suited for the open Gulf. While casting to breaking fish is preferred, there are times when the fish just do not show. This is when trolling can save the day as it takes the lures down to where the fish are.

Trolling also allows Capt. Jim to cover a lot of water in a short amount of time on his Sarasota Florida fishing charters. Trolling works very well for Spanish mackerel and king mackerel in particular, but will catch false albacore and other species as well.

Fly fishing in Sarasota

Fly fishing is something many visiting anglers enjoy. Saltwater fly fishing is a bit different from fishing in freshwater trout streams. The primary difference is that saltwater fly anglers need to be able to cast about 40 feet or so in order to regularly catch fish. However, this is fairly easy to do with modern fly equipment.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Any fish that will take a jig or other artificial lure can be caught on fly. The number one fly in this area, as it is in many other areas, is the Clouser Minnow. This fly will sink down on the deeper flats and closely resembles a shrimp or small bait fish. Speckled trout, ladyfish, bluefish, mackerel, jacks, and more are caught on the deep flats.

Spanish mackerel and false albacore will most certainly take a fly out on the beach. When these fish are actively feeding, they will readily take a well presented fly. On some days, flies will actually out produce lures. False albacore in particular can be very fussy when they’re focused on tiny glass minnows. A fly is a better invitation for these than any lure.

River snook fishing charters

Anglers seeking a different experience may like a River snook trip. Snook migrate up into residential canals, creeks, but most of all area rivers in the winter. They do this to escape the extreme temperature changes on the shallow flats. The Manatee River, Braden River, and Myakka River all hold good populations of snook in the winter. Jack crevelle, redfish, juvenile tarpon, and other species will be caught in these locations as well.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

These are brackish rivers. This means that they are tidally influenced but have a low salinity level. Largemouth bass, catfish, and other freshwater species will inhabit the same areas as the snook will. The combination of the scenery, species available, and the opportunity to land a trophy snook make this a unique angling experience.

Rapala plugs are used on the vast majority of river charters. These lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water while inducing reaction strikes. This results in the fish coming out of the cover to attack the bait, giving anglers a better chance to land the fish. Strikes are often times ferocious and sometimes right at the boat! This trip does require patience and decent casting skills. It is best for experienced anglers.

Sarasota fishing charters species

Sarasota snook

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida. Sarasota has a decent population of snook. They are basically a saltwater version of the largemouth bass. Snook are ambush predators. They have a largemouth in a wide, broad tail. They are built for short bursts of speed to either attack a bait or elude a predator.

Snook have a distinct seasonal migration. They winter in creeks, canals and rivers. As it warms up, they move out to the open flats and scatter out and feed. By summer time they have moved into the passes and out on the beaches to spawn. As fall arrives, the migration pattern reverses itself in the fish move back into Sarasota Bay and eventually back into the creeks and canals by winter.

Snook can be taken by just about every angling technique. Live bait such as shrimp, pin fish, grunts, and pilchards are extremely productive. Snook will also take artificial lures such as plugs, jigs, spoons, and flies. Snook are nocturnal and anglers seeking fast action will fish the lighted docs and bridges at night. Anglers can view current fishing regulations on the FWC site.

Sarasota speckled trout

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Speckled trout are probably the most popular inshore game species in Sarasota and the entire Gulf Coast. Speckled trout are numerous, aggressive, take lures and live baits, and taste great. They are the perfect charter fish! While not the greatest fighters in the sea, they put up a decent tussle on light tackle.

Anglers seeking numbers of fish will do well to target the deep grass flats. Submerge grass beds and 4 feet of water to 10 feet of water will hold good numbers of speckled trout. Fish generally school up by size. Once anglers start catching fish, most of them will be of a similar size. If a school of smaller fish is located, it is best to move on. At some point, patient anglers will find some decent sized fish.

It would be easy to argue that a live shrimp under a popping cork has resulted in more speckled trout being caught than all other live baits and lures combined. It is an extremely effective technique for catching trout and other species. A special cork is used. It has a concave face on the top. When twitched, it causes a “popping”noise. This simulates feeding fish and will draw trout and other species to the helpless shrimp. Bait fish and artificial shrimp can be used under a popping cork as well.

The jig and grub combo has resulted and many speckled trout for Sarasota anglers. Capt. Jim uses the jig and grub combo extensively on his Sarasota Florida fishing charters. They are very effective and it is an easy bait for novice anglers to learn to use. The jig casts well in the Shad tail has a good built in action. Jigs worked over the deep grass flats will produce ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, Pompano, grouper, snapper, and other species.

Sarasota redfish

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Redfish are extremely popular all along the southeast part of the United States. Fishing tournaments that target redfish occur in all southern states. While Sarasota Bay does have some redfish, the numbers aren’t as great as Tampa Bay to the north and Charlotte Harbor to the south. Both of those areas have much larger areas of expansive shallow grass flats.

Redfish in Sarasota are caught two different ways, under docks and on the shallow flats. Many redfish are caught by accident by anglers targeting other species using live shrimp under docks and along mangrove shorelines. This is especially true in the cooler months. Redfish will be caught in the same locations as sheepshead, black drum, snook, and other species.

Many anglers prefer the challenge of site casting to redfish in shallow water. This requires stealth, patience, and determination. Redfish in shallow water are very spooky. It can be quite frustrating to cast over and over to fish that will not take the bait. But, as that is part of the challenge, it is also part of the reward when a fish is caught. Most anglers use artificial lures such as we list spoons and soft plastic baits. They allow anglers to cover a lot of water in search of redfish.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Spanish mackerel are a terrific and underrated game fish! Mackerel fight hard, make blistering runs, hit artificial lures, flies, and live baits with reckless abandon, and when eaten fresh are terrific eating. Some years Spanish mackerel can be caught all season long. But, generally speaking, spring and fall are the best times to catch them.

Spanish mackerel will be caught and both passes and on the deeper grass flats near those passes. Mackerel will oftentimes be encountered in water slightly deeper than trout and other species. Grass flats and 8 foot to 10 or 12 foot of water are prime spots. Spanish mackerel will often be seen working on the surface. This is true on both the flats and in the passes.

The best Spanish mackerel action in Sarasota usually occurs in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Clients on Sarasota Florida fishing charters experience fantastic action when conditions are right. When the water is calm and clear, bait fish will be thick several hundred yards off the beaches. This in turn will attract Spanish mackerel, false albacore, ladyfish, and other species. Anglers casting lures, flies, and baits into the schools of bait or to schools of breaking fish will have success. Trolling works well on days when the fish are not seen on the surface.

Sarasota pompano

Siesta Key fishing charters

Pompano are a hard fighting and very desirable little fish that resembles the permit. Pompano are found in Sarasota Bay, though they are an intermittent catch. They put up a tremendous fight for their size, however they are prized for their delicious flesh. Pompano are one of the finest eating fish that swims.

Pompano are caught in the passes, on the deep flats, and off the beaches. Anglers targeting pompano use special jigs called “pompano jigs”. These are small, compact little lures that mimic the small crabs that Pompano feed on. They have a smaller hook and shorter dressing than the larger jigs used for trout on the deep flats. Anglers cast them while drifting over the grass flats or vertically jig them while drifting in the passes. Surf anglers catch them casting jigs and using live shrimp and sand fleas.

Sarasota jack crevalle

Sarasota jack crevelle

Jack crevalle, or “jacks” for short are one of the hardest fighting fish in Sarasota. Jacks are the bar room brawlers of inshore fishing. They are mean and nasty! Jacks user broadsides and large Fort tails to pull incredibly hard. Jacks readily take artificial lures and flies along with live bait. They are not good to eat.

Jacks oftentimes school up in large numbers. This is a factor in their aggressiveness, as competition among the other fish takes hold. Jacks will be seen foraging on the surface. Anglers will sometimes find them milling just below the surface as well. Anglers blind casting for snook regularly hook jack crevelle.

Capt. Jim loves throwing plugs when targeting jacks. The take can almost jerked the rod out of the anglers hand! Shallow diving plugs work very well when targeting jacks and rivers and canals. The jig and grub combo falls plenty of jacks on the open flats as well is when they feeding aggressively on the surface. Some of the largest jacks caught on Sarasota Florida fishing charters are done so on River snook trips.

Sarasota bluefish

best Sarasota fishing charter

Northern anglers are quite familiar with bluefish. They inhabit the entire East Coast from Maine down to Florida and around to Texas. The bluefish that we have in Sarasota Bay average 2 pounds and a 5 pound bluefish is a nice one. However, they are great sport on light tackle. Blues are very aggressive and pull extremely hard for their size. Smaller ones are decent eating when bled out, immediately put on ice, and eaten that day.

Most of the bluefish caught by Sarasota anglers are done so accidentally while targeting other species. Like pompano, bluefish tend to favor the deeper grass flats. Submerge grass and 10 feet of water is ideal. Jigs are effective bait for catching bluefish as a can be cast a long way and will sink down in that depth of water. Most bluefish are taken by anglers casting artificial lures, though they will certainly take a live bait as well. The deep flats near the passes and the passes themselves are the prime spots.

Sarasota ladyfish

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Ladyfish are disparaged by some anglers because they are not good to eat. This is a shame, as ladyfish put up a great fight on light tackle. They are aggressive, pretty, take lures flies and baits, and leap high into the air when hooked. Ladyfish are often targeted on Sarasota Florida fishing charters when children and novice anglers are on board.

Ladyfish school up, often times in huge numbers. It is not uncommon when encountering a school of ladyfish to have every angler hooked up at once. It gets a bit exciting when for anglers are fighting for fish at the same time! The deep grass flats throughout Sarasota Bay along with both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are prime spots. Ladyfish will often be found schooling out on the beach as well.

Sarasota sheepshead

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Sheepshead are a member of the porgy family. They are a structure oriented species that is found under docks, on rocky bottom, around seawalls, and on oyster bars. They are rarely taken on artificial lures. Sheepshead are crustacean feeders and are caught by anglers using live shrimp, fiddler crabs, oyster crabs, and sand fleas. These saltwater panfish are very good eating but the large rib cage can make them difficult to clean.

Sheepshead show up in Sarasota Bay around Thanksgiving. However, their numbers increased dramatically around the end of January, when they begin their spawning run. They are generally sick in the passes, on the inshore artificial reefs, and around docs and bridges near the passes until late March.

Sheepshead are great fun and provide both action and meals for clients on Sarasota Florida fishing charters. One great aspect of this fishery is that anglers do not need to be great casters in order to achieve success. This is particularly true when they are schooled up in the passes. A hook baited with a shrimp and drop to the bottom will fool them.

Sarasota mangrove snapper

Sarasota mangrove snapper fishing

Mangrove snapper are often considered and offshore species. However, they are plentiful in Sarasota Bay and on the inshore artificial reefs. Snapper are taken all year long. Mangrove snapper are delicious eating and are prized by both local and visiting anglers. Most the snapper are taken by anglers using live bait or frozen bait. However, anglers fishing with Capt. Jim have caught many snappers casting artificial lures as well.

Mangrove snapper are caught around structure in Sarasota Bay all year long docs, bridges, oyster bars, and other structures will attract and hold them. Mangrove snapper also school up on the deep grass flats in the summer. They respond well to live bait chumming. Some of the snapper caught on the open flats are very nice ones, up to 18 inches. July and August are the top times to catch the flats snappers.

Ledges and areas of hard bottom in the inshore Gulf of Mexico hold a lot a snappers as well. This includes the artificial reefs just off of Lido Key. There is an area of coral bottom to miles off of old Midnight Pass as well. Anglers using light tackle, light leaders, lightweights, and small hooks will have more success is mangrove snapper can oftentimes be line shy.

Sarasota grouper

Sarasota bottom fishing

Grouper are another species most anglers associate with offshore fishing. However, quite a few gag grouper are caught inshore as well. Red grouper are less common inshore. Gag grouper are caught in the cooler months by anglers fishing for sheepshead. It is not unusual to hook a large grouper that the angler cannot control. Structure such as seawalls, docks, and bridges will hold gag grouper inshore. Most grouper in the cooler months are caught by anglers using live bait.

Gag grouper are caught on the open grass flats as well in the late summer. This is part of an annual migration as grouper in the 10 inch to 16 inch range migrate into the Gulf of Mexico. These fish can be caught quite plentiful on the grass flats near the passes. They are caught on live bait but will readily take a jig and grub as well as other artificial lures.

Sarasota tarpon

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Tarpon, also known as the Silver King, are the ultimate game fish. Anglers have very few opportunities in the entire world to sight cast to fish of 150 pounds using spinning tackle or fly rods. Most fish of that size are caught by anglers trolling or bottom fishing with heavy tackle. Experienced anglers are best to target tarpon on Sarasota Florida fishing charters.

The run of giant tarpon begins in Sarasota in early May and peaks in mid June. Tarpon will be around until late July, though angling pressure thins out dramatically after the Fourth of July weekend. By that point it is also awfully hot. The week before the full moon in May and the full moon in June are the peak times to target tarpon.

This is not a game for the faint of heart. Tarpon will test both the tackle and the angler. Anglers sit several hundred yards off the beach and scan the water for signs of fish. Tarpon will be seen in groups rolling and milling about on the surface. The direction and speed of the fish are judged and hopefully the boat is put in position for an opportunity. This is as much hunting as it is fishing. It is not easy as everything must come together.

Sarasota false albacore

Sarasota fishing charters

False albacore are a pelagic species that are found off of the Sarasota beaches in the spring and again in the fall. They are a terrific game fish! They are basically small tuna fish and are extremely fast. False albacore will make a long initial run. Often times, anglers will need to fire the boat up and chase it down.

One of the most exciting aspects of false albacore fishing is that so often it is visual. The fish are targeted as they forage aggressively on the surface. Small plugs, jigs, and flies cast into the melee will fool them. False albacore can be fussy at times, patience is required. They are not considered good to eat.

Sarasota cobia

Cobia Sarasota Bay

Cobia are a migratory species that cruise the coast lines. Anglers can often sight fish them in clear, calm water. They will also congregate over artificial reefs and ledges. Cobia to come into Sarasota Bay and will put up a great fish on light tackle. Cobia grow very large, up to 100 pounds. They are fantastic eating.

Most cobia landed in Sarasota Bay are accidental catches. Jigs produce plenty of cobia, but they will certainly take a live shrimp or bait fish. Pinfish in particular are great baits. Anglers targeting them in the inshore Gulf catch them trolling and bottom fishing with live bait.

Sarasota flounder

best Sarasota fishing charter

Flounder are in incidental catch for most anglers on Sarasota Florida fishing charters. They are caught near structure such as docks, bridges, bars, and ledges. In these locations, most fish are caught by anglers using live bait. Flounder are caught on jigs when drifting the flats as well. Flounder are fantastic eating!

in conclusion, anglers thinking about taking out Sarasota Florida fishing charters can expect action, variety, and a great day out on the water with Capt Jim Klopfer.

Sarasota fishing reports

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

Sarasota Tarpon Fishing

Sarasota Tarpon Fishing

Many saltwater anglers consider tarpon to be the ultimate challenge. Sarasota tarpon fishing offers guests the opportunity to sight cast to tarpon that average 75 pounds and go up as high as 200 pounds. They do so using spinning tackle in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Anglers taking out a Sarasota fishing charter choose to target these fish in May and June.

Tarpon show up off the Sarasota beaches in early to mid May. They normally stick around until late July. In the early part of the season, they are usually bunched up in larger schools. This is particularly true as we come up on the full moon. Tarpon school up on the moon and then move offshore to spawn.

By early July these larger schools have broken up. The fish also don’t surface quite as well and there will be a lot of singles and doubles seen. However, these late-season fish bite better than do the early-season larger schools. I suppose it is because they have completed their spawning run and are more focused on feeding.

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Tarpon fishing can be incredibly exciting! Standing on the bow the boat with your finger on the line in the bail open while waiting for the tarpon the surface can be nerve-racking. Then, the fish surface and the crab is tossed out just ahead of the school. The line gets tight, the fish leaps up out of the water, and it is fish on! However, there can be hours and hours in between when this happens.

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Tarpon fishing is not for everyone. It is as much fish hunting as it is fishing. Anglers get out on the beach just before first light. They sit patiently, 100 yards or so offshore. Then everybody just looks. Schools of tarpon can be seen moving through the area. They can also be seen milling or “daisy chaining”on the surface.

Once the tarpon are sighted, the guide must determine the best approach in stock the fish. Using an electric trolling motor, the boat is eased into casting range. There is a lot that goes into this. The guide must determine the direction the fish are moving in the speed at which their doing so. Also, the interval between their surfacing is a huge component.

When everything goes right, the boat will be in a position where when the fish surface the anglers can get baits in front of the fish. The optimum opportunity would be a very slow moving school that is just easing along and staying up near the surface. This will allow the guide to put the boat in the proper position, resulting in an easy cast for the angler.

Tarpon bites can be surprisingly subtle, given the size of the fish. This is particularly true when casting to milling fish. Often times, the slightest tick or bump is all that will be felt. It is actually a lot like largemouth bass taking a plastic worm. The bite is easier to feel with fish that are moving as normally the line just gets tight and moves off to the side.

We don’t set the hook when of tarpon takes the bait. This is difficult for many anglers to not do. The technique when employee when a tarpon takes the bait is to keep the rod tip low and just real as fast as possible. Once a line gets tight and the fish is taking drag, the rod tip is raised.

Now comes the hard part! There is a saying, “bow to the Silver King”. When the tarpon jumps in the line is tight it will often throw the hook. So, the angler must be ready, and as soon as the fish clears the water he or she takes the rod tip and points it right at the fish. This will result in the fish jumping on a slack line. This is something that only comes with experience.

Sarasota tarpon fishing tackle

Spinning tackle is used on the majority of Sarasota tarpon fishing trips. The reason for this is the need to make a cast. It is simply difficult to cast a 3 inch crab or small bait fish using heavy can conventional tackle. These spinning outfits are quite beefy, though.

7 foot to 8 foot spinning rods mass with 6000 series and larger reels are the preferred outfits. Reels need to have smooth drags, large handles, and substantial line capacity. If there are any weak spots in the tackle, tarpon will find them. These fish put an incredible strain on the line, knots, and tackle, so it all needs to be in tip top shape.

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Terminal rigging varies by preference as every angler has their favorite. The first choice is whether to use braided line or monofilament line. Most anglers have now switch to braided line. Braided line can last all season and not twist up like monofilament line. It is also thinner, resulting in longer casts. However, it does not have the stretch, which can sometimes be a good thing with a tarpon on.

A leader of some sort is used when Sarasota tarpon fishing. When using monofilament line, I like to double about 6 feet of the running line using a spider hitch. Then, I attach a 30 inch piece of 80 pound fluorocarbon leader and a hook. No weight is used, with the exception of times when the crabs are really small. A pinch on weight may be required in this circumstance.

Rigging for Sarasota tarpon fishing

Just like everything, hooked choices vary depending on opinion. Tarpon are large, in a large hook is required. However, just like in all fishing, it is best to match the hook to the size of the bait and not the size of the fish being pursued. A #4/0 octopus live bait hook is a good all-around choice. Many anglers prefer circle hooks, in which case a #8/0 works well.

I still prefer the use of the conventional “J” hooks when tarpon fishing. I have not seen my hookup ratio chains with the use of circle hooks. Also, circle hooks are much meatier and sometimes putting one through a crab will kill it. Circle hooks are great choice when fishing larger live baits or cut bait on the bottom.

Sarasota tarpon fishing

Anglers using braided line will need a longer leader, generally 6 to 8 foot. They can then attach the leader to the braided line using a double Uni knot or not of choice. Since there is very little stretch when using braided line, the drag setting is critical. If it is a bit too tight, the line will break almost immediately.

Not all anglers use spinning outfits, however. Some guides in anglers prefer to anchor and put a spread of baits out behind the boat. These anglers normally choose to use conventional tackle as there really is no need to make long cast with light baits.

While it is not quite as exciting as stalking the fish, it has several advantages. Several lines can be placed out at once, some on the bottom and other suspended under floats. This obviously ups the chances for a bite. Also, the heavier tackle allows the angler to put more pressure on the fish, subduing it in a shorter amount of time. This is better for both the fish and the angler.

There are several different approaches when using this technique. Some guides in anglers just choose a spot, anchor up, and sit there all morning. Others will employee the same site fishing method mentioned above. However, they try to get way ahead of the fish and anchor. They then deploy the spread and wait for the fish to come to them.

Tarpon fishing Sarasota; baits

Anglers can use live and cut bait using this approach. Some anglers go to the trouble of catching a lot of bait. They keep some of the bait alive, but most of it will be used is chum. Then, once anchored up they put a couple live baits out and a couple chunks of the dead fresh bait on the bottom. Then, a lot of the bait is cut up in the small pieces and tossed out into the water as chum to attract the tarpon and get them in a mood to feed.

A 3 inch blue crab is undoubtedly the top tarpon bait in Sarasota. These little critters are in high demand in May and June and can cost up to five dollars a piece. However, they cast very well, and live a long time. Most importantly, tarpon love them. The hook is carefully inserted near one of the tips of the crab.

Live bait fish account for many anglers Sarasota tarpon fishing. The number one live bait fish is probably a threadfin herring. These, along with cigar minnows, pin fish, and blue runners are caught using a Sikibi rig while out on the beach searching for tarpon. Live bait fish can be either free lined or fished under a cork. Corked bait fish are a great option when the fish are not showing on the surface very well.

Most of the fish will be moving from north to south. This is especially true early in the year. After the full moon in June, more fish will be seen heading northbound. It seems as if they are heading to the mouth of Tampa Bay to feed.

Tampa Bay tarpon

Speaking of Tampa Bay, an interesting fishery has developed over the last few years. Huge schools of tarpon seem to be congregating there at the mouth of Tampa Bay just off of Been Point. Locals call this “Boca Grande North”in deference to the famous spot about 50 miles south of Sarasota well-known for its tarpon fishing.

This type of fishing is not for the faint of heart! Local tarpon anglers, especially some of the guides, will be quick to let you know that you are in their way. There are a lot of boats in a small area and it can get crazy when multiple fish are hooked at once. Novice anglers will do best to sit back a bit and watch and see how the other boats interact before jumping into the fray.

There is a neat bite that happens occasionally, called “Hill tides”. These are strong afternoon outgoing tides that occur several times a month. A small purplish crab called a “pass crab” gets caught up in the strong current. Tarpon feet heavily on these crabs as they are easy prey.

The technique is fairly simple. Anglers use a debt net and scoop up a dozen crabs or two for bait. Then, either look for feeding fish or just set up a drift and free line the baits out behind the boat. When the bite is on, the fishing can be incredible. Anglers do need to be careful of the afternoon thunderstorms. This is big open water and it can get nasty quickly.  Current Florida tarpon fishing regulations can be found HERE.

Sarasota tarpon fishing etiquette

Tarpon fishing is very competitive. Unfortunately, there can be confrontations out there. There are some rules of etiquette that most of us follow. Some anglers don’t know these or can get caught up in the heat of the moment as it is very exciting. Here are a few rules that we all try to follow.

  1. there is a slot that the fish usually swim in, from 100 feet out from the beach to about a half a mile from the beach. Whenever possible, try not to run at high speed on plane in this area. This is especially true early in the morning. Boats running over top of the fish will put them down and they won’t show or eat.
  2. Most fish will be moving from north to south. If you see fish coming in there are no boats between you and the fish, just sit there and let the fish come to you. This usually works better than charging up on them.
  3. If another boat or boats is working a school, give them room. It is okay to stay where you are and if the fish come to you take a shot. But don’t drive in on a school that other anglers are working. The exception to this is when they waive you in.
  4. Some anglers choose to fly fish for tarpon. This is very difficult as they need to get fairly close and need the right kind of fish. Give anglers flyfishing a school a very wide berth or better yet leave them alone to work the school.
  5. Do not cast your line over top of tarpon that are moving away from you. This never works, all it does a spook the fish. If they get past you, give them time to put some distance between you and the boat. Then, idle around in front of them giving them a wide berth and set up again.
  6. Once a tarpon is hooked, try to get it out of the school as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is difficult. But, the quicker the the fish can be pulled out of the school, the better chance anglers down the beach have of hooking a fish.

Best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

Best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

It comes as a surprise to many visiting anglers that artificial lures can, at times, out fish live baits. As a full-time fishing guide in Sarasota, being flexible in adapting to conditions is critical to success. I use artificial lures very often on my charters, especially in the cooler months. Here is my list of the best 6 Sarasota fishing lures.

My 6 best Sarasota fishing lures are as follows; Bass Assassin jig and grub, Rapala X-Rap, Gulp Shrimp, Johnson spoon, MirrOlure Mirrodine, and Key Largo pompano jig.  These are all lures that have proven themselves over the years for my clients on my Sarasota fishing charters.  These lures cover the entire water column, from the surface to the bottom.  They can also be fished as shallow as a foot up to the deepest water in Big Pass.

View current fishing report HERE

Artificial lures are effective for a number of reasons. While live bait primarily produces when fish are hungry, lures will elicit strikes under other conditions. Fish will hit lures out of anger, competitiveness, excitement, or curiosity. A lure can be used to aggravate efficient abiding that is something a live bait won’t do. This makes artificial lures effective when fish are both actively feeding and in a more challenging mood.

Artificial baits allow anglers to cover a lot more water than live baits.  This is crucial to success when fish are scattered over a large area.  Many of the best deep grass flats are large areas. Lures are usually the best option to eliminate unproductive water as quickly and efficiently as possible. Artificial lures are also a lot of fun to fish.  They are a bit more interactive and many anglers get more satisfaction out of fooling a fish on “fake” baits.

4″ Bass Assassin Sea Shad on a 1/4 ounce jig head

best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

The most popular and effective artificial lure on the West Coast of Florida, and really the entire Gulf Coast, is the jig and grub combo. Jigs are inexpensive, easy to use, and effective on a wide variety of species. They can be set up to mimic bait fish or crustaceans. The single hook on a jig also allows for a less invasive release of the fish.

My personal favorite soft plastic bait is the Bass Assassin line of baits. They offer jig heads in several different styles with long shank hooks, wide gap hooks, and different head sizes and colors. The 4 inch Sea Shad tail works very well for me here in Sarasota. Colors are endless, with my favorites being Red Gold Shiner, New Penny, and glow chartreuse.

Jig heads come in a wide variety of sizes styles and colors. Despite that, they are all basically the same. A jig head is basically a hook with a lead weight at the front near the eye. This design allows for some weight to be cast out easily. It also gives the jig a seductive, erratic motion in the water. The most widely used jig size here in Sarasota is a 1/4 ounce. Anglers fishing shallow water will need to go down to a 1/8 or even a 1/16 ounce jig head. Conversely, anglers fishing deeper water or in heavier current may need to bump up the jig weight to 3/8 ounce or even a 1/2 ounce in extreme conditions.

Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits are very easy to use. They can be cast out and retrieved at a steady pace. But, the more effective retrieve is a jig and fall retrieve. The jig is cast out, allowed to sink several seconds, then the rod tip twitched sharply. The jig is then allowed to fall, seemingly helpless. This is the action that triggers most strikes, therefore most strikes occur on the fall. They are effective in almost every angling application. The deep grass flats, passes, backwaters for snook and redfish, and inshore Gulf of Mexico when fish are breaking are all situations in which the Bass assassin 4 inch see Shad is an effective bait.

#8 Rapala X-Rap Slash bait

best 6 Sarasota fishing lures

Plugs have been around freshwater and saltwater fishing for a long time. In freshwater, they are used to mimic a variety of different types of prey. Here in Florida, the primary use is to imitate a wounded bait fish. They do that very effectively! Plugs can be cast a long way and are great to cover a lot of water in a reasonable amount of time. They also elicit some very exciting strikes. One negative of fishing with plugs is the treble hooks. However, several manufacturers, including Rapala, are offering plugs with a single wide gap hook.

My favorite plug is the Rapala X-Rap Slash bait in the number eight size. This slender bait is several inches long and mimics the size, shape, and color of the bait fish that are prevalent in the area. Olive is a very good producer in water that has a little color to it. Ghost is a fantastic color in very clear water and out in the inshore Gulf of Mexico.  Rapala X-Raps work very well trolled out in the Gulf of Mexico as well as in Sarasota Bay.

These small plugs have produced many nice catches for clients on my Sarasota fishing charters. They are fairly easy to use, with a great built in action. They float on the surface, then dive down a couple feet when retrieved. X-Raps have a great erratic action that triggers some vicious strikes.

Rapala plugs are effective in a wide range of angling applications. I use them a lot when targeting snook, redfish, and jacks around oyster bars, mangrove shorelines, and docks. They work very well when trolled in rivers, creeks, and residential canals in the winter. Rapala X-Raps are great fun whenever fish are breaking on the surface. This definitely includes inshore Gulf of Mexico action for Spanish mackerel and false albacore. They are also extremely effective when cast over shallow grass flats that have bait working on them.

The best retrieve when using these plugs is a twitch and pause. The lure is cast out, retrieve quickly for a few feet, then allowed to pause. Short twitches of the rod tip will impart a darting action. Often times, the strike occurs as the bait sits there motionless. Care does need to be taken when using plugs, especially with multiple anglers on the boat. Treble hooks can be dangerous both when casting and releasing fish.

3″ Gulp Shrimp

There are times when the bite can be slow, and this is when I switch to scented grubs. The best one by far, in my opinion, is the Gulp line of baits. Gulp Shrimp in the 3 inch size work very well, in some cases better than a live shrimp. These baits can be extremely productive, especially for speckled trout when conditions are a bit tough.

The formula that was created for the gulp shrimp is very effective. It is more than just a soft plastic immersed in a scent. The scent is actually built into the bait itself. In all honesty, color matters very little, in my opinion. It is all about the scent! As with other baits, they come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. The 3 inch shrimp is the most effective size here in Sarasota. Glow, root beer, and new penny are the top colors.

Gulp Shrimp can be used just like any other soft plastic, rigged on a quarter ounce jig head. Anglers will usually have a bit more success with the Gulp Shrimp working them a bit slower. As stated, the sent is the primary attraction, so the bait should be work just above the grass or bottom in a subtle hopping motion.  They can even be brought back in using a steady retrieve, just above the grass.

Another popular way to use a Gulp Shrimp is under a noisy cork. This is very popular in Louisiana and Texas. Noisy floats such as the Cajun Thunder have a concave face which gives off a distinct popping sound when twitched. A 2 foot to 3 foot leader is tied to the bottom of the cork, followed by a 1/8 ounce jig head. The gulp shrimp is then added to the jig head hook. The rig is cast out, allowed the settle, and worked back in a series of aggressive twitches. In most cases, the more noise the better! This is just like using a live shrimp under a popping cork, and can be just as effective.

1/2 ounce gold Johnson weedless spoon

Johnson spoons have been around a long time, originating as a freshwater bass lure. The spoon was designed to work through lily pads and other freshwater vegetation without hanging up.

The 1/2 ounce gold weedless Johnson spoon is a mainstay of redfish anglers all over the country. They can be cast a very long way and worked through shallow grass without snagging the bottom. They have a single hook which rides upper right allowing for good hook sets without catching on the grass.

There are two attributes of the Johnson weedless spoon that make it so effective. They have the ability to run very shallow while still given off a wobbling, seductive action and the ability to cover a lot of water in a short amount of time. Redfish and snook will scatter over the shallow grass flats and stage in potholes and other areas. The Johnson spoon cast very far and this allows anglers to eliminate unproductive water efficiently. They do come in silver as well, but gold is a more effective color in the slightly stained waters where redfish and snook generally live.

17MR-808 MirrOlure Mirrodine

the 17 MR 808 MirrOlure Mirrodine is an absolutely perfect replica of one of our top baits; the scaled sardine. Also known as shiners, white bait, pilchard, and greenback, it is a primary forage of many game fish in Sarasota and throughout the entire Southeast United States. The number 18 color, green back with a white belly, is a very popular color pattern. As with all manufacturers, MirrOlure offers many different sizes and colors, but this particular pattern works extremely well here in Sarasota.

The MirrOlure Mirrodine is a suspending twitch bait. It does not have a bill as do many plugs. It has a more subtle action which at times is extremely effective. The lure sinks very slowly and is retrieved back using short twitches with a pause in between. The bait suspends, hanging there motionless, an action which drives fish crazy. This bait is most effective and water 5 feet deep or less.  It is deadly when fished over bars on a high tide.

1/4 ounce Key Largo pompano jig

Pompano jigs are very plain looking. This belies the fact that they are very effective artificial baits. Pompano jigs have a round fairly heavy head with a short, smallish hook and some dressing. This dressing is usually nylon and extends just beyond the bend of the hook. The 1/4 ounce Key Largo pompano jig works very well, and is quite economical. Chartreuse and white are the two most popular colors.

Pompano jigs are simple and easy to use. They are extremely effective in the passes where they are fished vertically. The angler simply drops the jig down to the bottom and is hopped as the boat drifts along. These baits imitate small crabs and shrimp that live near the bottom. Each time the jig is lifted and falls it kicks up a little puff of sand. This is very natural and will fool pompano, ladyfish, and other species in the passes.

The Key Largo pompano jig can also be used effectively on the deep grass flats. There will be some days where the fish actually prefer the smaller profile especially in the cooler weather. It is especially effective over flats that have a mottled bottom with areas of sand interspersed with the grass. These jigs generally will not catch as many speckled trout as the jig and grub combo well, however it catches everything else and will catch more Pompano.

Pompano jigs work very well for anglers fishing off of the beach.  Anglers can “tip the jig” by adding a small piece of shrimp to the hook.  This is an effective method used to catch whiting, silver trout, and other species out of the surf, especially in the cooler months.

I hope the list of my best 6 Sarasota fishing lures was informative and helps anglers catch more fish!

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390

captklopfer@comcast.net

1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236

 

Sarasota fishing

Sarasota fishing strategies for success

Anglers doing some Sarasota fishing can expect action and variety on the deep grass flats.  Summer is a great time of year to fish here on the west coast of Florida.

Many different species are landed by anglers Sarasota fishing, especially in the warmer months.  Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, jack crevelle, bluefish, pompano, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, cobia, ladyfish, and sharks are taken on the deep flats.  Snook and redfish are available in the passes and nearby flats.  Summer is a great time to do some fishing in Sarasota!

SSarasota speckled trout fishing

View current fishing report HERE

Sarasota Fishing Charters

The morning dawned clear with a light southeast wind.  Perfect conditions for summertime fishing!  I met my clients at the ramp at Centennial Park in downtown Sarasota.  Pilchards are abundant and easy to net first thing in the morning.  In short order the live well was full of frisky bait.  After another short run, I anchored up on the edge of a shallow grass flat near Big Pass.  For the next three hours we experienced non-stop action on speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, a cobia, bluefish, ladyfish, sail cats, and small sharks.

The west coast of Florida is famous for great fishing.  Glamour species such as snook, redfish, and the mighty tarpon get a lot of attention from anglers, and for good reason.  However, many of my charters include novice anglers who really just want to bend the rod and catch a bunch of fish.  The deep grass flats in Sarasota are a great place to do just that. 

Sarasota fishing charters

Best Sarasota fishing flats

I find the flats adjacent to the passes to be the most consistent summertime spots.  Bird Key, which is across the channel from Lido Key, produces a lot of fish on my charters.  It is an area that has seen a lot of dredging resulting in flats that drop off sharply into deep water.  The combination of depth change, current, and abundant bait attracts and holds game fish. The Radio Tower and Middlegrounds flats are close to new Pass and are also excellent spots to fish.  Early morning is usually the best time to fish, especially on a high tide.   

Rigging is very basic on my Sarasota fishing charters.  Use a spider hitch to double 3’ of the running line and use a double uni-knot to attach 24” of 30 lb leader.  If this seems a bit much, simply tie a small black swivel to your running line then tie on the 30 lb leader to the swivel.  Attach a hook or artificial bait onto the end of the leader and you are ready to fish! This system works very well no matter what lure or bait is being used.

Sarasota fishing charters

Sarasota Fishing With Live Bait

Live bait is tough to beat for both action and variety.  A live shrimp fished under a popping cork in four to six feet of water over a grassy bottom is a tried and true method to catch a bunch of speckled trout, along with just about every other species in Sarasota Bay.  Tie a 1/0 live bait hook onto the leader then attach a “popping cork” on the line three feet above the hook.  When drifting in water deeper than six feet, I prefer to just free line a bait out behind the boat.  Shrimp are the most popular live bait.  They are available at most local bait shops, are easy to keep alive, and everything eats them!

Live bait fish are extremely effective in the summertime for anglers on fishing charters.  Pinfish, grunts, and whitebait, (pilchards and threadfins) are the predominant bait fish in our area.  A cast net is required for the whitebait.  Cast over visible schools of bait or anchor and use chum consisting of jack mackerel and wheat bread to lure the bait within range.  Pinfish and grunts can be caught with either a hook and line or a cast net.  Catching and keeping bait fish alive is more time consuming, but can pay off big time. 

One very popular technique is “live bait chumming”.  This requires a LOT of whitebait, but practically guarantees success.  Simply anchor up tide of a likely flat and toss out handfuls of bait at five minute intervals.  I usually squeeze the bait before throwing them in, this causes the bait to swim erratically on the surface.  Game fish will be drawn in and the action will be non-stop!

Sarasota fishing charter

Fishing With Artificial Lures in Sarasota

A jig/grub combo is by far the most popular artificial lure on the west coast of Florida.  A ¼ ounce jig head with a plastic grub is a deadly bait when fished over the grass flats.  I prefer Bass Assassin baits; gold in clear water and rootbeer or olive in darker water.  Don’t let the myriad of colors and styles confuse you, they all either imitate shrimp or baitfish and are for the most part fished in the same manner.  Cast the jig out, allow a few seconds for the it to sink and twitch the rod tip sharply.  Let the lure fall on a tight line, most strikes occur as the bait is falling, the helpless look triggers the bite. 

fishing on Siesta Key

Keeping the rod tip at ten o’clock and allowing the jig to fall on a tight line will allow anglers to feel more bites.  Grubs with a shad tail or curly tail that mimic baitfish can be worked with a steady retrieve.  Scented soft plastics such as Gulp! baits are more expensive but can make a difference on days when the fish are a little fussy.

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

Sarasota fishing

I was unhooking and releasing a small trout for Jesse when I saw Lily bowed up and heard the drag squeal in protest as a decent fish made a couple of short runs.

Sarasota fishing forecast

“I thought it was a tiddler”, she said, (I learned just that morning that “tiddler” was British slang for something small), “but then it got a lot bigger!”

The mystery was solved shortly as a huge speckled trout came into view. Riding on the line was a hand-sized pinfish. Obviously, the pinny hit the pilchard and the big trout ate it. Lily fought the fish gently and with patience and I slid the net under it, hoisted it up for a quick photo, then released it to live and breed, those big trout are the future of the fishery.

I get asked a lot of questions while performing my duties as a fishing guide, and none more often than,

“What is the best time of year to come to fish in Sarasota?”

Summer is a great time to go fishing in Sarasota

For anglers seeking fast action and variety, the answer is easy, and to some a bit surprising; summertime! I have fished with the Derry family from the UK several times, and like many of my clients this time of year, they do not fish a lot at home. I need to be able to put them on a bite that is both productive and easy for novice anglers. Chumming the deep grass flats meets both of those goals when Sarasota summer fishing.

In many fishing situations, the heat of summer can be a tough time to go at it, but not so here in Sarasota, Florida where I guide.  Despite water temperatures in the upper eighties, action on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay is usually fast and furious. The reason for this bonanza is simple; bait, and lots of it! Speckled trout are probably the most commonly caught species in Sarasota Bay, but Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mangrove snapper, jack crevelle, juvenile gag grouper, flounder, sea bass, ladyfish, sharks, and more will respond to this technique.

Lido Key fishing charters

Each year is different, but generally speaking, by the first part of June the baitfish show up in big numbers. They are small at first, but grow quite rapidly. Large baits are not needed, or even preferred, for this type of fishing. As long as they are large enough to cast, the gamefish will readily devour them. Smaller baits also make good chum as the fish won’t get filled up as quickly. Just about every shallow grass flat and bar near either Big Pass or New Pass will have schools of bait. Scaled sardines, AKA “pilchards” are the preferred bait, being a bit hardier, but threadfin herring can also be abundant as well and are extremely productive on Lido Key fishing charters.

Chumming is a productive fishing technique in Sarasota

The technique of chumming with live bait over the deep grass flats is relatively simple and straight-forward and will work just about any place where large quantities of baitfish can be easily acquired and kept alive. The most important requirements are a large livewell with a good pump and the ability to throw a cast net. There are a lot of videos available online that can teach the art of casting a net, so I won’t get into it here. Once the well is full of frisky baits, angling success is virtually guaranteed for clients!

The best time to catch bait is in the morning on an incoming tide. The current tends to position the bait on the up-tide edge of a flat or bar. Often times they can be seen dimpling on the surface. When this occurs, the boat is eased up to them and then the net is cast over them. On cloudy or breezy days, the bait can be more difficult to locate. A chum mixture of cat food, canned mackerel and bread, or even tropical fish food can be used to lure the bait into range and get them knotted up in a bunch.

Sarasota fishing articles

Bait will be thick on the beach at times, but boat handling can make catching them a tricky proposition, so be careful when taking that approach. I prefer an 8’ net with ¼” mesh. The mesh size is very important since our baitfish are fairly small. Using a larger mesh will result in a lot of bait getting “gilled”; in other words stuck in the net. Be careful not to over load the well, particularly when the water temperature is high.

Once the well is loaded, or “blacked out” as we say here, it is time to go fishing. Tackle requirements are very basic. A 6 ½’ or 7’ spinning rod with 10 lb line is an ideal outfit. I prefer monofilament line when using live bait; I believe that the stretch in the line is actually beneficial. A 24” piece of 30 lb. fluorocarbon leader is attached to the running line using either a #10 black swivel or using a double uni-knot. A #1 or #1/0 short shank live bait hook finishes off the rig. Anglers may choose a small circle hook as well. A long shank hook will help prevent cut-offs in the event that Spanish mackerel or bluefish show up in the chum.

Sarasota fishing locations

The next decision an angler must make is where to fish. Choosing a flat where the wind and tide are moving in the same direction will generally be the most effective situation. Find such a flat that has good signs such as birds working, fish breaking, or schools of bait on the surface and chances of success will be very high. If no visual signs of fish are found, simply choose a flat that has been productive in the past. In my area in the summer, I look for clear water and lush grass in 6’ to 8’ of water.  Anglers can see a map with great fishing spots.

There are some nuances to chumming; it is not as simple as shoveling bait out behind the boat. The idea is to attract fish and get them excited, not to fill them up. Start with just a dozen or so baits and see how the fish respond. Squeezing the baits slightly will injure the bait, making them even more attractive. The less chum that can be used to keep them behind the boat, the better.

Strong currents will require more chum, slack tides less chum. Some days they just “want” a lot to keep them wound up. Some species such as mackerel and ladyfish like more aggressive chumming than trout do. Don’t overlook the baits that die in the well, mangrove snapper often times respond well to it.

Casting topwater plugs for snook and tossing crabs at rolling tarpon is challenging and very exciting. But, there are times when the goal is just to go out and catch a bunch of fish. Chumming with live bait is a deadly technique that is guaranteed to put smiles on the faces of anglers!  Get out there and enjoy some great Sarasota summer fishing!