Fall fishing in Sarasota, Florida

By: Capt. Jim Klopfer

Fall is an excellent time to visit Sarasota, Florida for a fishing trip. The weather is usually very mild and the crowds have thinned out. While the changes are subtle, fall does arrive on the West Coast of Florida. The days are shorter, the angle of the sun changes, and temperatures slowly decrease. This triggers both fish activity and game fish migrations along the coast.

Man shows off his catch. Fall is an excellent time to visit Sarasota, Florida for a fishing trip. Here is where to fish and what you can expect to catch. Must Do Visitor Guides
Photo courtesy Capt. Jim Klopfer

Backwater and Back Country Fishing in Sarasota

Snook will be in the backwater areas in both Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay in the fall. After spawning in the passes and on the beaches, snook will have moved back into these areas to feed up in preparation for winter. With water temperatures in the low to mid 70s, these premier came fish will be on the prowl and in a mood to eat.

Anglers targeting snook in the back country areas can choose to use either artificial lures or live bait. Both techniques can be successful. Artificial lures allow anglers to cover a lot more water in search of fish. Live bait works best when fishing a specific spot or when a school of fish has been located.

Photo courtesy Capt. Jim Klopfer

The top two artificial lures when fishing the shallow backwater areas are shallow diving plugs and soft plastic baits. Plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap float on the surface and then dive down several feet upon retrieve. They swim in a very erratic manner that mimics a wounded bait fish and put off vibrations that attract snook and other fish. They are extremely effective baits.

Soft plastic lures such as the Bass Assassin line of baits have a bit more of a subtle presentation. They are worked a little more slowly and closer to the bottom. These baits are generally from 4 inches long to 6 inches long and have some type of a tail that imitates mullet and other bait fish. Soft plastic baits work great on sunny days when fish are a bit less aggressive.

Chumming with live bait fish is an extremely productive technique in the fall. This is something that is used often on Sarasota fishing charters. Small shiny bait fish known as “white bait” are caught using a cast net. Then, these fish are used as chum to attract snook, redfish, and jacks behind the boat. Once excited, these fish are easy to catch on a hooked live bait. Large live shrimp are another very productive bait, especially when fishing docks.

The deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay will provide fast action along with variety. This is a great option for anglers looking to bend the rod on a variety of species. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, ladyfish, sharks, jacks, and other species will be encountered. This is pretty easy fishing as lures and live baits are cast out ahead of the drifting boat. Once a productive area is located, anglers can anchor or re-drift the area again.

The jig and grub combo is the number one artificial lure used when drifting the deep grass flats. It is very effective, easy to cast, economical, and catches a variety of game fish. Jig heads sizes and colors vary, with red one quarter ounce jigs being the most popular. A 3 inch to 4 inch soft plastic tail that resembles either a shrimp or a bait fish is then added to the jig. Shrimp are the number one live bait used in this application.

Man shows off his catch on a charter boat while fall fishing in Sarasota, Florida.
Photo courtesy Capt. Jim Klopfer

Sarasota Shore Fishing 

When conditions are right, action off of the Sarasota and Siesta Key beaches can be nothing short of fantastic! A couple of days of east wind will result in flat seas in clear water close to shore. This will attract huge schools of bait fish such as sardines, glass minnows, and threadfin herring. This abundance of bait will then attract the game fish including Spanish mackerel, false albacore, king mackerel, and sharks.

The most exciting action is to be had when fish are seen “breaking” on the surface. These are game fish that have corralled up a school of bait fish and driven them to the surface. The bait fish are essentially trapped against the surface and the predator fish gorge themselves. Birds get in on the action as well as wounded bait fish are an easy meal.

This type of fishing is great fun as it is very visual in nature. The technique requires anglers to position the boat in front of the feeding fish. Spanish mackerel will often times feed on the surface and stay in one spot for fairly long periods of time. This makes them easy pickings! However, false albacore can be much more finicky. They will often times blowup in one spot and in seconds be gone. Patience is required as anglers stalk these fish in hopes of getting a good opportunity.

Artificial lures are the best choice for this type of fishing. The fish are in a very aggressive mood and just about any artificial lure or fly that remotely resembles the bait fish they are feeding on and is presented in their vicinity will draw a strike. #8 Rapala X-Raps in white or olive are extremely effective. Small white jigs and 1/2 ounce silver spoons are also very productive. Once cast out, the lure is retrieved back very aggressively and erratically.

Man shows off his catch. Fall is an excellent time to visit Sarasota, Florida for a fishing trip. Here is where to fish and what you can expect to catch. Must Do Visitor Guides
Photo courtesy Capt. Jim Klopfer

Trolling and Spanish Mackerel Fishing

There will be days where the fish are not seen feeding on the surface. The best approach under these conditions is to troll. Trolling is simply driving the boat around a bit above idle speed while dragging lures behind the boat. Spoons are the top trolling lure used by anglers fishing in Sarasota. They work best at higher speeds such as 5 to 7 knots and have a very enticing action.

Trolling also accounts for most king mackerel as they are not seen feeding on the surface as often as Spanish mackerel or false albacore. Devices known as “planers” are used to get the lures down in the water column. Diving plugs can also be used effectively. Serious king mackerel anglers will slowly troll very large live baits such as blue runners and threadfin herring to target trophy king mackerel.

Adventure Charters Capt. Jim Klopfer on his boat in Sarasota, Florida fishing guide. Must Do Visitor Guides
Capt. Jim Klopfer

In conclusion, anglers seeking to experience great fall fishing in Sarasota, Florida will have much of the water to themselves. Early October to Christmas is the best time to experience this action!

Here is a list of available all-inclusive guided fishing tripsFish.Travel offers tailored fishing experiences, vetted captains, high-quality equipment, guaranteed catch or refund policy, free cancellation, and an easy booking process! 

Fall Fishing in Sarasota, Florida. 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!