Siesta Key is a world famous vacation destination. Siesta Key Beach was the #1 beach in America for 2011. Great restaurants and accommodations are plentiful. Siesta Key has one other thing to offer its visitors, fantastic angling opportunities! Fishing Siesta Key will be an adventure you will not want to miss out on when in Florida.
At the north end of Siesta Key is Big Sarasota Pass. A veritable fish highway, the pass connects the Gulf of Mexico with Sarasota Bay. Lush grass flats abound in this area, making it a great spot for a multitude of fish species. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, jack crevelle, sharks, grouper, snapper, sea bass, flounder, and silver trout, all caught regularly fishing over the deep grass. The docks and other structure on the north end of Siesta Key attract snook, redfish, sheepshead, drum, snapper, and grouper.
The character of the bay changes south of Siesta Drive down to the Midnight Pass area. Oyster bars are plentiful, attracting snook, redfish, and sheepshead. Residential canals and docks will hold gamefish, particularly in cooler weather. Grass flats are great for speckled trout, pompano, and ladyfish on high tides.
Surf casters do well fishing Siesta Key beaches. Sight-casting to snook is very popular in the summertime. Saltwater panfish such as whiting, trout, sheepshead, and pompano are regularly taken from the shore. Anglers fishing from boats will experience incredible action on Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and false albacore when conditions are right. Point of Rocks on Siesta Key is a world famous tarpon hot-spot. These giants grow to over 200 pounds, this is truly world class sportfishing!
FISHING CHARTER with Captain Jim Klopfer
The best way to experience the fantastic fishing on Siesta Key is to go with a professional guide. Capt Jim Klopfer runs Adventure Charters. A fishing guide since 1991, Capt Jim spends the majority of his time fishing around Siesta Key. He is very much tuned in to the local fish migrations and conditions. That 20 years experience fishing these waters will help you catch more fish. Many visitors to Siesta Key are novices and families with young children, Capt Jim is patient, easy-going, and friendly, ensuring a quality, relaxed angling experience. He can also accommodate seasoned anglers seeking more of a challenge such as snook, redfish, and tarpon. Call Capt Jim at (941) 371-1390
Beat the Heat, Summertime Strategies
All three rods were bent deep as I tried to keep the bedlam under control. Sweat was dripping from my forehead and it was only nine o’clock in the morning. The heat was one reason, the other was that I was scrambling to keep my client’s hooks emptied of a fish and then re-baited. It was non-stop action as nearly every pilchard that hit the water was devoured within seconds. Welcome to summertime fishing in Sarasota!
Many anglers are surprised when I tell them that fishing in the heat of summer is outstanding. Some of my best days, especially when it comes to quantity, come in July and August. The reason for this is the abundance of live bait fish that flood into the bays at first light. Pilchards and threadfin herring are thick on the shallow grass flats near both Big Pass and New Pass. A few tosses of the cast net will usually result in a well full of bait. After that, success is practically guaranteed. A few handfuls of live chum will bring speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, jacks, and sharks right up to the boat. Bait fish are easiest to catch at first light, especially on a high tide. Grass flats near both passes are good spots to load up the well.
While fishing can be spectacular in the heat of summer, it does require a few tactical changes. The prime low-light periods of dawn and dusk will be very productive, as will fishing at night. Getting up early is a requirement, not an option. Get out there early, catch bait or take advantage of the early morning low light conditions to cast artificial lures. On most days the bite winds down by late morning. By then it is usually just too hot to fish, anyway.
Fishing at night is another productive option in July. Evenings are pleasant, just monitor the weather; thunderstorms are an issue this time of year. Snook in particular will be caught around the lighted docks and bridges throughout the area. Speckled trout, redfish, snapper, ladyfish, and even tarpon will also be caught at night. Plugs, jigs, flies, and live bait will produce around lighted structure. Successful anglers will quietly approach a likely spot and either anchor or use a trolling motor to work the spot. Shore bound anglers will score at the area bridges, too. The prime spot is a cast away on the up-current side just on the fringe of the lighted area. Outgoing tides are preferred, but as long as the water is moving the fish will bite.
D.O.A. Shrimp and CAL jigs are productive lures, as are small plugs such as the (08) size Rapala X-Rap. Live shrimp free lined in the current can also be deadly. Medium sized shrimp work best on a 1/0 short shank hook. Large hand-picked shrimp don’t look natural and are usually not as effective. Spinning tackle with a 2’ piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is best for tossing lures and live bait. Glass minnows are a primary forage around lights and small white flies are effective imitations. A 7 or 8 weight rod with an intermediate sink tip line and 8 foot piece of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader works well.
Another productive July technique is beach fishing for snook. This is a great opportunity for anglers without a boat to experience the thrill and challenge of sight fishing. Anglers will hit the beach around 8:00 a.m., by then there is enough sunlight to spot the fish. Walking north will put the sun behind, making it easier to see the snook. Quite often, they will be right in the surf line, inches from the edge. Live bait will work but it cumbersome to carry around. Artificial lures are more convenient and catch plenty of fish. Small light colored lures are best. A delicate presentation is required so as not to spook the fish in the shallow water. A 1/8 ounce white bucktail jig works great, as do small plugs and soft plastic baits.
This is a terrific situation to catch a snook on a fly rod. White bait fish patterns are productive. The fly lands very softly in the water and will not spook the snook. Since the fish are in open water for the most part, the chance of them breaking off is greatly diminished. A seven or eight weight outfit with a floating line and eight feet of 30 lb fluorocarbon leader is the standard rig.
The large schools of tarpon will have broken up but there will still be plenty of fish out there. Although they don’t “show” as well, they eat better! Point of Rocks, Grassy Point, and the Venice Pier are good spots to try. Again, get out there at first light and either cast to rolling fish or drift a pinfish out behind the boat under a float. Fish until mid-morning, then call it a day.
There are plenty of ways to catch fish in July and still beat the summertime heat!
March Madness is a term most recognized throughout the country as the exciting men’s college basketball tournament. But it has a different meaning for businesses along the west coast of Florida and fishing guides are no exception. Sarasota fills to overflowing with visitors from the northern states who come down on their children’s breaks from school. Most enjoy the incredible beaches that we offer but many also choose to fish while they are here. A lot of charters involve anglers with limited experience including kids. Fishing with youngsters is a lot of fun but does require a change in thinking and tactics.
Family fishing is all about one thing; bent rods. Action and variety take precedence over trophy fish or glamour species such as redfish and snook. Nothing beats drifting the passes and nearby deep grass flats when it comes to producing action. Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, silver trout, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, sea bass, and flounder are all daily catches in March. The two primary techniques are working a lead head jig with a soft plastic tail and using live shrimp. Both methods work well in the passes and on the flats.
Both Big Pass and New Pass can be very productive in March. The only time fishing is slow is after a cold front passes through and the water becomes dirty. Otherwise, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, and ladyfish can be counted on for action and a meal or two. Anglers drift with the wind and tide and cast jigs out in front of the boat. The lure is cast out, allowed to sink, and retrieved back in using sharp twitches. In clear water gold is a great color to use. In deeper water the jig can be dropped straight down and jigged vertically as the boat drifts along.
Anglers who choose to use live shrimp will do well “free-lining” their bait. This means simply using a hook and letting the shrimp swim naturally in the current. If the tide is strong a small split shot may be required to get the bait down a bit. A long shank 1/0 hook will help prevent cutoffs from toothy blues and Spanish mackerel. A live shrimp can also be added to a plain jig head and bounced along the bottom. Shore anglers can access Big Pass from Shell Rd on Siesta Key and South Lido Park on Lido Key. New Pass is even more accessible with parks on both sides on the pass.
The deep grass flats surrounding the passes offer outstanding fishing . Patches of grass in four to eight feet of water will be the most productive. In the clear water the darker grassy areas are easily spotted. The jig and grub combo is a very effective lure. A red or white ¼ ounce jig head is a great all-round choice. Tails come in a myriad of colors and styles but they all catch fish. Gold, chartreuse, rootbeer, olive, pearl, and glow are the most popular colors. Scented baits such as Gulp! Shrimp cost a bit more but can make the difference if the bite is slow. Just as in pass fishing, the jig is cast out and retrieved back in. It is important to get the jig down near the top of the grass.
Live shrimp are deadly when fished over the deep flats and will catch just about every fish that swims. In deeper water the shrimp can be free lined but the most popular method is to use a “popping cork”. This simple but deadly rig consists of a 1/0 live bait hook three feet under the cork. The rig is cast out, allowed to settle, and the rod tip jerked sharply causing the cork to “pop”. This imitates feeding fish and attracts game fish to the cork where they then see the helpless shrimp dangling there. More speckled trout have fallen victim to this technique along the Gulf Coats that all other methods combined.
Another productive technique is working docks, bridges, and other structure in the same areas. Sheepshead are thick under docks and around bridge pilings in March. Flounder, black drum, redfish, grouper, and snapper are often caught, too. The rocks at the northern tip of Siesta Key are a great spot as are all the docks and bridges in both passes. This is basic bottom fishing. The rig consists on a stout #1 or #1/0 hook, a 2 foot piece of thirty pound leader and enough weight to hold the bottom. In shallow water or slack current a split shot will be plenty. In deeper water or in heavy current a small egg sinker threaded on the line will be required.
A live shrimp is hooked through the horn and cast out towards the structure. Once the bait settles the slack is reeled up taut and the wait begins. Sheepshead can be a bit tricky to hook; it can be a very subtle bite. The trick is to let the fish peck at it until it picks it up and moves off. Then just reel quickly while raising the rod tip high.