In Sarasota, everyone in search of an excellent fishing destination will be rather satisfied. Whether you are a seasoned fisherman or a first timer, the destinations below have got you covered. With a climate that supports a diversified habitat, several barrier islands close by, and lovely beaches, the top six fishing destinations of Sarasota have everything needed for enjoying a fun-filled fishing trip.
Fishing in Sarasota is only a challenge when one needs to pick the perfect fishing spot, as there are so many. We have picked six destinations that meet all the standards set for fishing; however, fishing in these waters requires specific permits. These permits depend on the type of fishing you wish to do. Also, both visitors and locals need to get these permits to obtain clearance for fishing.
Top 6 Fishing Spots
Sarasota is a big fishing and boating community. It is no secret that there are way too many fishing spots to count, so we have selected just 6 of the best spots we believe will satisfy every type of anger out there.
Tony Saprito Pier
The Tony Saprito Pier (also known as the Sarasota pier) is located at the northern side of the Ringling Bridge. While anglers fish from the pier, tourists and sightseers often prefer to stay at the bridge where they can enjoy serene views. Fish that are common to the Saprito Pier include: Crevalle Jack, Redfish, Snook, and Spanish Mackerel. Once in a while, sharks up to 11 feet long can be sighted, although shark fishing isn’t encouraged.
Big Sarasota Pass
The Big Sarasota Pass connects Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. This pass is deep and relatively wide beyond Sarasota point but is shallow at its outer confluence with the Gulf of Mexico. This part of the pass is subject to regular changes. To the northwest is Lido Key, the beach noted for its sunset cruises, deep-sea fishing, and dolphin watching, as well as sailing.
Fish use these passes to migrate from one body of water to the other. In the pass, the most common species are Crevalle jack, Tarpon and Common Snook, but you can also find Snappers, Groupers, Sheepshead, Flounder, and Drum. All in all, Big Sarasota Pass, as well as New Pass, rank among the best fishing spots in Sarasota.
New Pass holds a lot of fish, especially during spring and fall when the fish count is at its highest. In summer, you will find Snook in abundance because that is the time of year during which they gather. Just like Big Sarasota Pass, New Pass also connects the Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. For folks without a boat, there is a park on the northern part of the bridge that is great for fishing.
Popular fish species for New Pass include Mackerel, Ladyfish, Blues, and Pompano, along with Snappers and Sheepsheads that like to congregate near the bridge and docks.
Stephens Point is situated along the eastern part of Sarasota Bay. It is an area that holds large numbers of Bluefish, Pompano, Snook, and Spotted Seatrout. Bluefish, Pompano and Spanish Mackerel can be found in large numbers in the fall and winter seasons. Also, in winter, you can look out for Silver Trout in the Stephens Point basin. Silver Trout are related to the Spotted Seatrout; although they are smaller than their relative, they are actually tastier.
Because Stephen’s Point is so close to a residential area, it is advisable to avoid littering and making too much noise. Especially if you are fishing early in the day or during late hours.
Pop Jantzen Reef in Sarasota Bay
Pop Jantzen Reef can be found north of the Ringling Causeway, in the southern part of a sizable grassy, flat area. There lies an intense channel south of the reef, and while the Pop Jantzen Reef is made up of FPL insulators, concrete, and reef balls, it is an ideal spot to catch Mangrove Snapper.
The reef is artificial and was constructed in Sarasota County to boost recreational fishing and help balance the marine habitat damaged by the development of the coast. Other species found in the reef include Bluefish, Flounder, and Sheepshead.
Myakka River provides for exciting freshwater fishing that will immerse you into a wildlife kingdom. The area surrounding the river is not over developed, which provides a fantastic habitat for all kinds of fish, birds, and some of the largest gators in the state. This river is home to Snook, Largemouth Bass, Redfish and Bluegill. Seasoned anglers know that Bluegill will give you a run for your money! The river does not offer much in the way of large boat fishing but just about any small boat, canoe or kayak can launch from several locations along the river.
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Top Catches in Sarasota
The top fish species you can catch in Sarasota are rated for their food value, availability all through the year, and their tendency to take a bait. These species are abundant and a fishing trip or session is sure to land you one of these.
This species is the number one catch in Sarasota. They take bait quickly, taste great, and can be caught all through the year; however, Snook make seasonal migrations. Be informed that they spend the winter in warmer areas like rivers, residential canals, and creeks. These areas provide them with the right temperature and forage all through the winter.
As the temperature rises, they move out into the coastal waters and bays to feed. By the time summer rolls around, Snook move off to spawn on the beaches as well as in the passes. They then reverse their migration pattern at the end of summer.
While you might end up needing a fishing charter to catch some types of Grouper, it is worth the effort. The species are available throughout the year and have high food value. To capture the Gag Grouper, move to the mangroves and flats. Moving further offshore will yield the Black and Red Grouper. Grouper are found mainly on the Gulf Coast, with the exception of Gag Groupers, who like to roam a lot.
Smaller Tarpon can be found throughout the year but the best time to catch this little fighter is between May and August. During these months, you will most likely find them in brackish waters. Being a resilient fish though, it survives in freshwater as well as saltwater. The great thing about Tarpon? It has a firm bite!
Four types of Snapper can be found in Sarasota: Yellowtail Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Red Snapper, and Mangrove Snapper. The Yellowtail Snapper is one of the most common and is delicious. It can weigh up to five pounds or more and though it has secret spots where it hides, catching it is worth the effort.
Mangrove Snapper like the hide in the deep grass flats. This Snapper prefers chum and dead bait, and at certain times you have to use lighter leaders and smaller hooks to catch it. The Mangrove Snapper is also the most abundant of the Snapper types in the whole area.
At the offshore reefs, bottom fishing yields Red Snappers.
Other Inshore Fish
Fishing inshore yields Redfish and Spotted Seatrout more than the various other seaside fish types. You can also find Flounder, Cobia, and Tripletail on the near front while fish like Jack Crevalle, Permit, Sheepshead, and Pompano are found everywhere. Finally, in the spring and fall, you will discover King and Spanish Mackerel due to their migration through the coastal area at these times of the year.
While you have to make the extra effort of traveling further to find better fishing spots, the reward is more than worth the effort. Sharks, Wahoo, Tuna, Marlin, Pelagics, and even Swordfish are up for grabs. Bottom fishing will produce Triggerfish, Barracuda, Hogfish, and Jacks.
Rules and Regulations
As much as fishing is fun and an essential aspect of the state of Florida, it is vital to remember some rules and regulations guide this activity. First, anyone who wants to hit the water has to obtain a fishing license. You will either need a Reef Fish Permit, Saltwater License, Freshwater License, and/or Shore Fishing License.
Also, there are daily bag limits for the various species, and species like Red Snapper can only be caught within strictly regulated seasons. Another vital point to note; there are some species who are strictly catch and release, well into 2021.
Finally, having a charter takes care of all the licenses, and your guide will not only provide them, but he/she will also keep you updated on the regulations and how they might change.
When fishing for the first time, you will need a professional to give guidance so you can quickly locate the right fishing spots. So, choosing a charter is important and an excellent idea.
Also, fishing in these areas isn’t about hitting the water only; you can have your fun while fishing from the bridge and pier. An example of a dock that supports this type of fishing is the Tony Saprito Pier. To try the bridges, you can use the Bird Key Park located at the Ringling Bridge’s end.
Another type of fishing that is even more relaxing is Surf Fishing. All you need is good weather, bait, and necessary spinning gear. It best to do this between April to August, but you should do your fishing very early in the morning as the temperatures tend to rise during the day.