A Quick Guide to Fishing in Sarasota, Florida

By: Capt. Jim Klopfer

Many visitors come to Sarasota, Florida for the world-class beaches. There are so many great activities that can be enjoyed by the entire family. One of those activities is fishing! Sarasota offers visiting anglers a wide variety of fishing opportunities.  

A Quick Guide to Fishing in Sarasota, Florida. Sarasota anglers have a wide variety of fishing opportunities. Get the basics of where to fish, bait, license, types of fish available, fishing guides and charters. | Must Do Visitor Guides

What to Expect When Fishing From Shore

The easiest way for anglers to sample the fishing in Sarasota is to simply fish off of the beach. All of the Siesta Key and Lido Key beaches can be productive. It is important to stay away from the public swimming areas during the late morning to mid afternoon hours. Like most places, the best fishing is often early and late in the day. Non resident anglers who are sixteen years old or older do need to a purchase a fishing license.

Surf fishing on the west coast of Florida is a bit different than it is in the Atlantic Ocean. Heavy tackle and long casts are not required. Most of the fish will be in the first “trough”, maybe 15-20 feet from shore. That is where the bait is and that is where the game fish feed.

A live or frozen shrimp fished on a #2 hook and a 1/4 ounce sinker will catch plenty of fish off of the Sarasota beaches. One great aspect of fishing in Sarasota is the wide variety of species that are available. Anglers regularly catch whiting, sheepshead, trout, snook, redfish, drum, pompano, flounder, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish from the surf throughout the year.  Silver spoons, jigs, and plugs are the top artificial lures.  

Woman holding up a spanish mackerel fish caught fishing at the beach Sarasota, Florida.
Photo credit Capt. Jim Klopfer

Docks and bridges are productive fishing spots as well. The structure attracts many different fish species. Live bait is the best way to go when fishing from a stationary location. Live shrimp are the top bait and are easily obtainable at local bait shops. The best approach is to drift the shrimp naturally in the current. A bit of weight may be required if the tide is swiftly running.

Sarasota Inshore and Offshore Fishing

Anglers are certainly not restricted to fishing from shore! The two options are to rent a boat or go out on a fishing charter. There are several boat rentals in Sarasota that visitors can choose from. This can be a fun way to explore the area and catch a few fish. Fishing charters are plentiful and it can really pay off to go out with an experienced captain.

Sarasota Fishing Charters Capt. Jim Klopfer on his boat in Sarasota Bay, offers guided fishing tours in Sarasota, Florida
Capt. Jim Klopfer

The easiest method to go out and catch fish in Sarasota Bay is to drift the deep grass flats. Submerged grass beds in water that is four feet deep to ten feet deep hold shrimp, crabs, and bait fish. This in turn attracts the predator fish. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, pompano, jacks, and other species are often taken on the deep flats.

Fisherman holds up a Jack Crevelle caught on a Sarasota, Florida fishing charter
Photo credit Capt. Jim Klopfer

Drifting works well in these areas. It allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish. Anglers cast jigs with a soft plastic grub or a live shrimp as the boat drifts across the flat. The key is to keep moving until a good concentration of fish in located.

Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are great spots to fish. Jigging while drifting with the tide produces a ton of ladyfish along with a few bluefish, mackerel, and pompano. Bottom fishing with shrimp near structure in the passes is very productive. Sheepshead school up heavily in winter and snapper are caught all year long.

Happy smiling kids hold up a fish caught on a guided fishing trip in Sarasota, Florida.
Photo credit Capt. Jim Klopfer

Should I Hire a Fishing Guide or Fishing Charter?

Anglers seeking a memorable experience often take out a Sarasota fishing charter. It is usually about the same price as renting a boat and purchasing licenses and bait. Anglers fishing with a professional fishing guide do not need to purchase a Florida fishing license. All bait, tackle, a cooler with ice, and the boat is provided. 

Best of all, anglers benefit from the years of experience fishing in Sarasota that the captain possesses. Fishing charter captains are out on the water almost every day. They stay on top of the fish migration patterns and the current water conditions. There is no substitute for this experience!

In conclusion, anglers fishing in Sarasota, Florida can experience some terrific action while visiting Sarasota’s fantastic beaches!

A Quick Guide to Fishing in Sarasota, Florida. Sarasota anglers have a wide variety of fishing opportunities. Get the basics of where to fish, bait, license, types of fish available, fishing guides and charters. | Must Do Visitor Guides

Written by: Capt. Jim Klopfer | Author Website

Capt. Jim Klopfer was born in Washington D.C. and cut his teeth fishing in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. He moved to Sarasota, Florida in 1986 and began running fishing charters in 1991. Capt. Jim caters his trips to his clients experience level and expectations. Families with children are welcome!

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