Sarasota Bay Fishing Guide for Beginners

Sarasota is often listed as one of the top tourist destinations in Florida because it’s perfect for anglers, people who want to party, and those who just want to relax. Fishers fishing in Sarasota can enjoy many different fishing opportunities. Sarasota Bay, which is on the west coast of Florida, is an hour south of Tampa. The bay is about 10 miles long and 3 miles wide. The water of Sarasota Bay is very shallow and only ten feet deep. Fishing at Sarasota Bay offers anglers plenty of oyster bars, grass flats, and mangrove shorelines. In this detailed Sarasota Bay Fishing Guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about angling at Sarasota Bay.

What Fish Are Biting In Sarasota Bay?

Fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay provides a variety of fish, including blues, Snook, and Spanish mackerel. In the month of October, schools of redfish will begin to break up and move over shallow flats. There should be good action with Snook and big trout in shallow water too.

How Do You Catch Fish In Sarasota Bay?

You can use a boat to explore the nearshore reefs, mangrove-lined flats in Sarasota Bay, as well as the deep waters off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, which are famous for their large trophy fish. With a fishery that big and abundant in terms of species options, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are so many ways to enjoy fishing in Sarasota Bay. Whether you want to fish from the beach, the pier, or from a kayak, there is something in Sarasota Bay that’ll meet your specific needs. 

Here are some ways you could catch fish in Sarasota Bay:

1. Kayak Fishing

Anglers who also enjoy being outdoors are often attracted to kayak fishing because it’s a fantastic way to combine their love of sailing and fishing. There are plenty of places to launch your kayak in Sarasota, Florida, and catch any type of fish you’d like to eat. Myakka River State Park is one of those boundless places to enjoy a great day on the water while you wait for a fish to bite. 

Buttonwood Harbor is very popular with angling yakkers because it offers excellent fishing for big fish like Redfish, Snook, Trout, and many more species. One of the best options is the launch site at Turtle Beach, which is close to the Jim Neville Nature Preserve. This is a gem that’s worth exploring for the great fishing and the many beautiful birds that you can see while you’re fishing.

Kayak fishing

2. Surf Fishing

One of the calmest and most relaxing ways to enjoy fishing in Sarasota Bay is by using the surf. You don’t need so much to be successful in this sport – just some basic bait, good spinning gear, and good weather. In addition, the fact that most beaches in Sarasota are open to the public is a huge advantage. It’s best to go to the beach during the spring and summer (April–August) because of the high temperatures. 

Surf fishing

3. Bridge and Pier Fishing

One day you could be surfing in the warm water, and the next day you’re catching fish with your friends or family while sitting on a pier. Sarasota Bay is the perfect place to try different types of fishing options; if you want to do both, you’ll have plenty of fun! 

There are countless fishing piers in the Sarasota area; you only need to find the one that is closest to you. Piers like the one at Whitaker Gateway Park and Tony Saporito Park are the favorite haunts of experienced anglers. If you want to try your luck fishing from a bridge, then go to Bird Key Park, which is located at the end of the Ringling Bridge. This is the perfect destination for good fishing, and you’ll admire the beautiful views of Sarasota while you wait for that big fish to bite.

Bridge fishing

4. Charter Fishing

One of the most popular ways that anglers who are not locals enjoy fishing is to fish with the charters out of Sarasota. If it’s your first time fishing in Sarasota, you’ll want a fishing guide on board who knows all that you need to know. You won’t waste time looking for the right fishing spots, and you will end up catching more fish. Even though there are lots of fishing charter boat options to choose from, the most important factors to consider are location and how long you want to fish. 

While offshore trips are usually reserved for experienced anglers who target big games, inshore trips are more convenient for families and small groups of holidaymakers. Many local excursions are convenient for people of all ages, and the water in Sarasota is suitable for everyone.

Charter fishing

What Fish Are In Season In Sarasota Bay?

Picking the best catch in all of Sarasota is easier said than done. There are dozens of different species of fish available in the area, and you’d have to spend a lifetime angling to catch them all. Some of the fish species to target include:

1. The Tarpon

Sarasota Bay fishing is a great way to catch the ultimate gamefish in the Florida water bodies – the Tarpon. It fights well and is fantastic to see how big they can get. There are no other vigorous fish fights in Sarasota Bay like the Tarpon. 

In addition, no other fish can move as swiftly as the Tarpon, which is why anglers love them so much. When you consider how big some of the larger fish are, fishing with a big fish like the Silver King is a real challenge.

You can target the Tarpon practically all year round as it’s a very small and attractive residential fish. That means that anglers are likely to land the definitive gamefish when the migration of small fish is frequent. It is best to fish for Tarpon between the months of May and August. 

Smaller tarpons are very fun to catch and easily caught with a 20 lb. line, but some tarpons are massive and can reach well into the three digits. Tarpons migrate to the Sarasota waters during this time, and they are really big. 

A tarpon can weigh up to 200 pounds, and fighting you on a 20 lb. line for several minutes is enough to get any angler’s blood pumping. As the tarpon population decreases along the beaches, they head deeper into the water and school around bridges or roll down deep grass flats. 

They will also feed on schools of ladyfish that are swimming in shallow waters or eating in shallow lakes. You should find Tarpon weighing between 10 and 30 pounds in turning basins, creeks, and canals.


2. Flounder

Although some flounder species can be caught all year long, they are more concentrated and easier to catch or play with during the fall and winter months. Beginning in September, running a rod and reel from that time on will allow you to catch this species of fish in abundance well into the colder winter months. Your catch will largely depend on the weather and how cold it gets.

Several lures will work well for fishing the Flounder in Sarasota bay, such as savage shrimp, Berkley Gulp, or DOA Shrimp. Nothing beats feeding on a couple of nice-sized bull minnows on a Carolina rig for bait. If the water is very deep, you can use a lead bait such as a 1/2 oz., 1 oz. Or 2 oz. Lead. Founders are somewhat lazy, and you can catch them in the same area several times before moving on to another fishery.


3. Snook

Sometimes the harvesting of Snook and redfish are banned in certain Florida regions, such as the south of State Rd 64 in Manatee County on the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. You’ll be allowed to only catch and release Snook when the waters are clear, which is until September 1, 2022. Spotted Seatrout fishing has reopened in that zone with a 3-fish per person and 6-fish limit per boat.

You’ll find the Snook in the flats and in the bays when the water is still warm, and when it gets hot, they start moving to the beaches. Snooks are very popular for fishing at the beach because they are very small. You can hook a fish that is just a few feet long. It’s great to go fishing in the winter for these tough fish. You can go fishing on several nearby rivers, such as the Manatee, Braden, and Myakka.

Fishing for the Snook comfortably from bridges and piers in Salt Lake City will be a blast because you’ll find plenty of this species in the area. It’s best to tailor your bait to the fish you’re attempting to catch (or the size of the fish you’re targeting). It’s best to use big shrimp – and greenbacks are also very effective during the summer in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you’re targeting a huge Snook fish, pinfish are your best bet. Whatever type of bait you choose – it’ll be fun – and you’ll come back for more!


4. Grouper

Bottom fishing in Sarasota Bay is very popular among anglers who want to catch the Grouper. It is very well known because of the many Grouper species found in the area. Fishing for groupers is fun in both the offshore waters and nearshore, which is good news for all anglers, no matter the experience level. You can come any time of the year and try to catch some of these bottom dwellers.

Gag groupers are usually the big fish because they can be caught almost anywhere. They are always hungry and like to roam the ocean floor. It’s normal for them to show up in the shallower waters during the spring and winter. Interestingly, they’re great to catch because they are fierce. Although they’re tough, Groupers are very delicious when served. 

If you want to try your luck with giant groupers, head out to the offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico. If you cast your line in the water that goes deeper than 200 feet, you could find large black and red groupers, especially when the weather is good.


5. Snapper

Going in search of Snapper in Sarasota Bay is always a good idea. They are plentiful all year, so you should be prepared to battle them. They will fight you so hard with all that they have. Snappers are found in almost every type of fish, including mangrove fish, redfish, and yellowtail.

Snappers that live in the mangroves are among the most abundant fish in the ocean and provide some of the best seafood you’ll find. Snappers congregate around underwater structures such as rocks and bridges, so they can easily hide. For really big fish, head to the reefs offshore. You’ll catch some truly unique bottom fish. 

People love pursuing Snappers because they’re easy to catch and are great for anglers of all ages and levels. If you spend half-day fishing with your kids, you’ll have plenty of good fish fillets for a few good meals. If you’re looking for some more serious fish, try fishing the offshore reefs. Offshore reefs hold large fish and are the favorite feeding spots for the big game.


What is the Best Time to Go Fishing in Sarasota, Florida?

Here is a yearly overview of the best time to consider going fishing in Sarasota Bay:

January: Although this is one of the hotter months of the year, plenty of options are available this month. It is very easy to catch good Tarpon and Snook early on docks or bridges, then fish the flats for redfish, trout, and more. 

Depending on the conditions, anglers can find good fish like trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and pompano in shallow grass flats. When it is low in the tide, look for reds often found in shallow grass or the reds, trout, and more in potholes or around docks. When the tide is high, fish shallow grass flats in the afternoon on sunny days. When it is high, look for deep grass flats on sunny days. Simply limit the amount of fish you kill without necessarily depleting your limit.

February isn’t the best time of year to fish because of the cold water and many fronts affecting the water. When it is extremely cold and frontal, fish are generally in a feeding mood. If you pick good tides and fish in calm water, you should be successful in catching trout and redfish, which are easy to find in shallow water this month. Some anglers may find Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, and Flounder fishing in shallow water or grassy flats. Look for small fish like redfish, sheepshead, and more near docks.

March: In skinny water, Snook, redfish, and trout are very good for catching in March, as more baitfish become available. Fishing for Snook on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) will be good this month after sunset.

April:  Bluefish and Spanish mackerel may be found on deep grass flats. Tarpon, Spanish mackerel, cobia, and tripletail may also be spotted in the backcountry and on the gulf coast late in the month. It’s also a good month to hunt Snook, trout, and reds in warm, shallow waters because of an increase in baitfish.

May: Snook are moving into passes, and the redfish and trout will be feeding heavily on shallow flats as more baitfish increases in May. Spanish mackerel Tarpon, false albacore, tripletail, and cobia are all over beaches and in the Gulf.

June: Tarpons are expected to be plentiful in the Gulf waters during the month of June as huge schools of fish shift along the beaches. Additionally, look for tripletail, cobia, and false albacore (which are very small fish) in the Gulf.

July: There are different fish species to catch in July, including the Tarpon and Snook for night fishing or fishing in very shallow waters for reds or big trout.

August: It’s easy to find reds schooling on shallow flats and the trout species prowling the same waters at dawn. You can also easily catch trout, pompano, and Spanish mackerel on deep grass flats.

September: Take advantage of the fishing dock lights at Sarasota Bay at dawn if you target Snook. Juvenile Tarpon and reds are also often attracted to the dock lights, especially in September. You can rest assured of finding plenty of trout, blues, and Spanish mackerel on the deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay at this time of the year.

October: Shallow flats are full of reds this month as they break up and scatter. The same waters will also give you good action for trout, Spanish mackerel, Tarpon, and Snook. 

November: You’ll get good fishing in the Gulf because it is a seasonal fishery, and it is going to end when it is cooler. You will also be able to catch a variety of fish on the grass flats in Sarasota Bay.

December: This is a good month to fish for Snook that can be caught and released from docks. There is good action on the gulf coast catching big schools of false albacore (tiny Tuna), Spanish mackerel, Tarpon, and tripletail, depending on the conditions.

Wrapping Up

Regardless of your angling experience, it’s crucial that you employ the right fishing techniques and tackles and use the appropriate equipment that is suitable for the target fish species. It’s better to go fishing very early in the morning to catch the best fish. One of the best tips for anglers is to wait until you see fish in the water, and that can take a while. You can target many different fish species in Sarasota Bay– including Bluefish, Snook, Grouper, Flounder, Redfish, Spanish, and Mackerel.

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