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Top 25 Saltwater Game Fish Species

top XX saltwater game fish specxies

Top 25 Saltwater Game Fish Species

This post will list the top 25 saltwater game fish species. They will be listed in no particular order, other than the more widely available species will be listed higher up.

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I run fishing charters in Sarasota, Florida. This “fun” post lists my favorite saltwater game fish species, featuring some of the best, and REAL, female saltwater anglers!

Siesta Key false albacore

Top 25 saltwater game fish species

Here is my list of the top 25 saltwater game fish species. I will include my own insights on each species, along with some tips, locations, and techniques. I have personally caught most of these species, with the exception of billfish.

  • Striped bass

  • Bluefish

  • Cobia

  • Redfish (red drum)

  • Flounder and fluke

  • Pompano

  • Sharks

  • Spotted sea trout (speckled trout)

  • Permit

  • Spanish mackerel

  • Snook

  • False albacore and bonito

  • Dolphin (mahi-mahi)

  • Jack crevalle

  • Tarpon

  • Bonefish

  • King mackerel

  • Wahoo

  • Sailfish

  • Tuna

  • Marlin

  • Grouper

  • Snapper

  • Amberjack

  • Sheepshead

This list covers my favorite saltwater game fish, most of which are found throughout the world, with am emphasis on the most abundant species in North America.

1) Striped bass

saltwater game fish

Striped bass are the top inshore saltwater game fish in the northeast portion of the United States, by far, earning the top spot on the list of top 25 saltwater game fish species. They range from the Carolinas to Canada. The majority of striped bass spawn in the Cheasapeake Bay ecosystem. The myriad of creeks and rivers along with the brackish water make for ideal conditions. Some fish spawn in the Hudson River and other rivers as well.

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

Striped bass are caught by anglers casting lures and baits, trolling, bottom fishing, and chumming. The techniques used vary by region. Trolling is a very efficient way to locate and catch striped bass. Anglers also anchor and fish with live or cut bait, often chumming as they do so. Surf casters toss lures and cut bait. Drifting a white bucktail jig will catch many as well. Striped bass grow very large, the small to medium sized fish are excellent to eat.

2) Bluefish

fishing Sarasota grass flats

Bluefish are popular in the northeast as well. They also range much further south, being caught along the Gulf Coast, though these Gulf bluefish are smaller. Bluefish are very aggressive feeders! Once located, they are usually easy to catch. Many anglers target them using lures such as spoons, jigs, and plugs to take advantage of their aggressive nature. Cut bait certainly works as well.

Anglers catch bluefish by trolling, casting, drifting, and surf fishing. They grow large, with fish approaching 20 pounds being commonly caught. Some anglers targeting other species actually consider bluefish to be a nuisance. However, they are a terrific game fish! The meat is strong and they are not considered to be the best table fare, though smaller fish are decent when eaten fresh.

3) Cobia

Siesta Key fishing report

Cobia are a pelagic game fish species. This means that they migrate and are found high in the water column. Anglers can often sight fish to them as they cruise the surface. Navigation buoys and towers will attract them as well. Anglers catch them using lures, but live baits including eels and crabs are more productive. They will be found in schools over structure, too.

4) Redfish (red drum)

live bait fishing Siesta Key

Redfish, also known as red drum, puppy drum, and channel bass, are a very popular inshore saltwater species, especially along the Gulf Coast. They do range up to Chesapeake Bay. Anglers surf fish for them along the Atlantic coast. Redfish will take a variety of lures and live baits.

Here in Florida where I fish, redfish are caught on the shallow grass flats and around docks and other structure. Venice, Louisiana is considered to be the best place on the planet to catch big redfish. Live shrimp, jigs, and spoons are top baits. Crabs fished on the bottom catch big redfish as well. Redfish pull hard and are fine eating. They are certainly on of the top 25 saltwater game fish species!

5) Flounder and fluke

Sarasota flounder fishing

Flounder and fluke are next on the list of top saltwater game fish. While they certainly put up a respectable battle, these members of the flatfish family are highly prized for their incredible fillets! They are terrific to ear. Both species lie in the sand, waiting to ambush prey. They relate to structure, but are found in the nearby sand. Bottom fishing with bait fish, cut bait, and jigs will put them in the boat. Flounder and fluke are available all along the eastern and Gulf coasts.

6) Pompano

pompano fishing on Siesta Key

Pompano do not grow large, but they definitely deserve to be on the list of the top 25 saltwater game fish species! These smaller cousins to the permit fight very hard and are fantastic eating. They are my personal favorite fish to eat, fresh or salt. They feed on crustaceans on the bottom. Jigs are the top lure while shrimp and sand fleas are the best live baits. Anglers surf fishing catch a lot of pompano as well.

7) Sharks

saltwater game fish

Sharks are top game fish throughout the world. There are way too many species to list, but mako, blacktip, spinner, blue, thresher, lemon, and bull sharks are prized by anglers. Sharks are terrific fighters when the tackle matches the size of the shark. Most sharks are caught using cut bait. Sharks can be caught from shore, piers, and boats. Most are good to eat, but anglers need to check local regulations and be conservative in the harvest.

8) Spotted sea trout (speckled trout)

speckled trout fishing

Speckled trout, also called spotted sea trout, are a premier inshore saltwater game fish species. They are plentiful all along the Gulf Coast and are caught up to Chesapeake Bay. While not the strongest battler, they are aggressive, beautiful, and delicious. They take a wide variety of lures and live baits. Jigs, plugs, and spoons along with live shrimp and bait fish are top producers. Large trout should be released, those are the breeder fish needed to continue the species.

9) Permit


Permit are a terrific saltwater game fish species! The only negative is that they are not as widely available in the United States, being found in more temperate and tropical waters. Permit are the ultimate prize for anglers fishing shallow water, especially on fly. Most permit are caught by anglers using crabs. While very good to eat, most anglers release permit to please others.

10) Spanish mackerel

fishing Sarasota grass flats

Spanish mackerel are a very widely distributed saltwater game fish species. They are found in good numbers throughout the world. In the United States, they are caught from New York south to Texas. Spanish mackerel are fast and aggressive and are found in large schools. They feed primarily on bait fish. Fast moving flashy lures such as spoons work well. Live and cut bait will fool them as well. Spanish mackerel are good to eat when prepared fresh, but do not freeze well.

11) Snook

fishing Sarasota Florida

Snook are the top inshore game fish in Florida. They are also found throughout the Carribbean. Very similar in habits to largemouth bass, snook are ambush predators that will take just about any lure or live bait when properly presented. They are fantastic eating, but regulations are strict as the stocks are fragile.

12) False albacore and bonito

false albacore fishing in Sarasota

False albacore and bonito are different species, but both are similar in looks and habits. They are my favorite fish to catch on fly! False albacore and bonito school up in big numbers and can be seen feeding aggressively on the surface. Both species are found throughout the world. Most are caught by anglers sight fishing with lures and flies, but bait will certainly fool them as well.

13) Dolphin (mahi-mahi)

top 25 saltwater game fish

Dolphin fish (not the mammal) are also known as mahi mahi. They are a deep water fish that are caught all over the world. In the States, they are found from the mid-Atlantic south. They school up and once located they can be caught in bunches. Dolphin are beautiful and fantastic to eat. They are among the fastest fish that swims. Most are caught trolling with lures and rigged ballyhoo, but they can be chummed up as well.

14) Jack crevalle

monthly fishing forecast

Jack crevalle are terrific saltwater game fish! They are the brawlers on the inshore waters, using their broad bodies to pull incredibly hard. Jacks are usually found in big schools. They are aggressive and readily take lures, flies, and live bait. Jack crevalle are found in tropical and temperate waters all over the world. They are not considered good to eat.

15) Tarpon


Tarpon are arguably the top inshore saltwater game fish species. They are found in tropical waters for the most part. Tarpon grow large, well over 200 pounds are are caught on relatively light tackle, considering their size. They take crabs and live bait fish as well as lures. Fly fishing the flats for tarpon is the ultimate challenge. Very few tarpon are killed for either food or mounts.

16) Bonefish


Bonefish are found throughout the world in tropical waters. They are mostly targeted on the shallow flats where anglers can sight fish for them. They are beautiful fish and incredibly fast! Bonefish are certainly one of the top 25 saltwater game fish species. Many anglers cast flies for them, but they readily take crabs and shrimp. Bonefish are not kept to eat.

17) King mackerel

Siesta Key fishing report

King mackerel are a terrific saltwater game fish species! They grow quite large and are incredible fast! Kings are found all over the world. In the United States, they are caught from the mid Atlantic south. Most king mackerel are caught by anglers trolling the open waters of oceans. The largest fish are caught slow trolling large live bait fish. Spoons and plugs will catch numbers of fish. They are a bit oily, but still very good to eat, especially when smoked.

18) Wahoo


Wahoo are the largest member of the mackerel family. They are among the fastest fish that swims and are incredibly good to eat. Most wahoo are caught by anglers trolling very fast with lures. Wahoo are not as widely distributed as kings. They are a prized offshore saltwater game fish species!

19) Sailfish

top 25 saltwater game fish

Sailfish are one of the most recognizable saltwater game fish. They are found in tropical waters for the most part. Stuart, Florida and south to the Keys are the best spots in the United States to catch them. Sailfish are plentiful in Mexico and other Caribbean countries. Most are caught trolling or drifting live bait fish. While good to eat, very few sailfish are killed these days.

20) Tuna


There are several tuna species, and all are terrific saltwater game fish! Bluefin tuna grow the largest, over 1000 pounds. Yellowfin tuna are the most plentiful and are the fish most often found in sushi restaurants. Tuna are caught throughout the world. In the United States, tuna are caught along both the east and west coasts. Southern California has a good tuna fishery. They are caught trolling and free lining baits. Chumming is often used to bring them to the boat.

21) Marlin

There is no doubt that marlin belong on the list of top 25 saltwater game fish species. The only reason they are this far down is that marlin are not as accessible to anglers as other species. It is an expensive game to play. Most marlin are caught trolling in very deep water. There are several species, blue, black, white, and striped marlin. All are gorgeous fish that are very fast and leap multiple times when hooked. Marlin are found in temperate waters all over the world.

22) Grouper

Siesta Key offshore fishing charters

Grouper are a very popular bottom fish that are found in warmer waters. While some anglers may not consider them “game fish”, I certainly do. There are quite a few grouper species, including gag, red, black, scamp, goliath, Nassau, and yellowfin grouper. They pull very hard and will challenge anyone chasing them. Most grouper are caught by bottom fishing with live or cut bait. They are fantastic to eat!

23) Snapper

Siesta Key red snapper

Snapper are among the most popular saltwater game fish. Species can be found in shallow inshore waters out to the deepest structure. Snapper species include red, mangrove, lane, vermillion, cubera, and yellowtail snapper. Most are caught on live or cut bait and they are all very good to eat!

24) Amberjack

top saltwater species

Amberjack are one of the largest members of the jack family. They are found on larger deep water reefs and wrecks. They pull very hard, earning their nickname ‘reef donkey”. Amberjack hit live bait well, but can be caught on cut bait, too. Of late, anglers are using special jigs meat for deep water fishing. They are good to eat.

25) Sheepshead

fishing Sarasota Florida

Sheepshead are last on my list of top 25 saltwater game fish species. While maybe not “glamorous”, sheepshead can be challenging to hook and once hooked, they pull very hard. Sheepshead have saved the day on many of my fishing charters. While difficult to clean, they are very good to eat.

In conclusion, this article on the top 25 saltwater game fish species will help anglers identify and catch more fish!

How to Catch More Sheepshead – Pro tips!

how to catch sheepshead

How to catch Sheepshead – Pro Tips!

This article is will thoroughly cover how to catch sheepshead. Sheepshead are a very popular structure-dwelling species. They fight hard on light tackle and are very good to eat, though they are difficult to clean.


Siesta Key fishing report

Sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus, are a member of the porgy family. They feed primarily on crustaceans. Sheephead are almost always found near structure, usually on the bottom. They range from Texas to New York. Sheepshead average two to five pounds.

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer. I run fishing charters in Sarasota and Siesta Key, Florida. I target many different species throughout the year. However, in the cooler months sheepshead are highly sought after species. They pull hard and are a great fish for kids and novice anglers, as they are usually cooperative and not overly challenging.


fishing report for Siesta Key, Florida

How to catch sheepshead

Sheepshead feed primarily on crustaceans. These include shrimp, crabs, oysters, clams, and more. While sheepshead will occasionally take an artificial lure, the vast majority are caught by anglers using bait.



In most cases, basic bottom fishing rigs and techniques work fine when fishing for sheepshead. A live shrimp or fiddler crab fished on the bottom near structure will fool sheepshead if they are in the area. They can be found in very shallow water as well as on offshore structure.

Best sheepshead fishing tackle

Sheepshead fishing does not require special tackle, far from it. The same spinning tackle used for other inshore saltwater applications will work fine. I like a 7′ medium action rod with a fast action (strong butt, sensitive tip) matched with a 2500 or 3000 series reel. 20 pound braided line is a great choice as it is sensitive and strong. 14 pound monofilament can be used as well.


fishing Siesta Key

Terminal tackle is pretty basic as well. Many anglers have gone to circle hooks, with 3/0 being a good all round size. I use them, along with a #1/0 short shank Mustad live bait hook. Some anglers have better luck with an old school “J” hook.

Egg sinkers in weights from ¼ to 2 ounces will cover most sheepshead fishing situations. Bank sinkers can be used with multiple hook bottom rigs. Split shot are handy when sheepshead are found in shallow water. 30 lb to 40 lb flourocarbon leader completes the sheepshead anglers tackle box.

Best sheepshead fishing baits

As mentioned several times already, sheepshead feed on crustaceans. Devoted anglers have their favorite (and sometimes secret) baits. Baits also vary by geographical region, with different areas having their regional favorite sheepshead baits.


how to catch sheepshead

I fish with shrimp almost exclusively when trying to catch sheepshead. Shrimp are readily available and sheepshead love them. Live and frozen shrimp work well. When the bite is on, frozen shrimp are more convenient and cost effective. As an added bonus, shrimp produce a variety of other bottom fish as well. I usually thread the shrimp on, hiding the hook. Larger shrimp can be torn in half. There are times the fish want a lively shrimp; in that case I hook them under the horn.

Fiddler crabs are another very popular and effective sheepshead bait. Some shops sell them, but in most cases anglers will have to catch their own. The same goes for sand fleas (mole crabs) and oyster crabs. They are fine baits, but as busy as I am, I stick with shrimp. Razor clams are effective along the Atlantic coast.


Fishing in Siesta Key

Best bottom rigs for sheepshead fishing

There are several bottom rigs that anglers can use when fishing for sheepshead. The standard Carolina or sliding sinker rig is an excellent all round rig. The line goes through the sinker, followed by a swivel and then the leader and hook. This allows the line to slide through the sinker and the sheepshead will fell no resistance.

The multiple hook high low rig or chicken rig is another good rig. It works best when vertically fishing in deeper water, usually from a boat. Surf casters use it as well. A simple jig head can be used as well, combining the hook and weight in one handy unit. In shallow water, a hook with a couple split shot works great.

bottom fishing rigs

The rig that I use most often when sheepshead fishing is the “knocker rig”. It is similar to the sliding sinker rig, except that the sinker rides right on the eye of the hook. This does not scare the fish, I promise! It results and less snags and is vert easy to re-rig.

Fishing with live shrimp

Sheepshead fishing techniques

Sheepshead are notorious for being bait-stealers that are difficult to hook. This is true to some degree, but I have found a technique that works well with both circle hooks and “J” hooks. The key is to not set the hook, but instead just reel steadily while raising the rod tip.

live bait fishing Siesta Key

The baited hook is dropped down or cast out and allowed to settle. The angler reels up the slack and has the rod tip low, near the surface. When a sheepshead nibbles, the angler will feel a “tap” or series of “taps”. It is crucial to not move the bait at all while this occurs! I can’t stress that enough!

At some point, the sheepshead will move off with the bait and the angler will feel a steady pull. At this point, the angler reels fast and slowly raises the rod. If after a series of taps nothing more is felt, the sheepshead probably stole the bait. That is going to happen, no matter how skilled the angler is.

Boat positioning is crucial

sheepshead fishing

One of the most important aspects of sheepshead fishing is boat positioning and bait placement. Often times, the bait will need to be right on the structure. Sheepshead will move a bit when active, but the tighter to the structure the bait is placed, the more bites the angler will get.

The structure to be fished should be approached from the up-tide side. The bait will then float back naturally with the current. The scent will also pull fish towards the bait. In deeper water, anglers can fish close to or right on top of the structure. In shallow water when fishing docks and bars, it is best to anchor a cast away.

Chumming for sheepshead

Chumming is a very effective technique that anglers can use when sheepshead fishing. This can be as simple as dicing up a few shrimp and tossing them in the area. Serious anglers use chum bags with crushed clams. Scraping barnacles off of bridge pilings will draw in fish, where legal. Chumming is best when the current flow is mild, strong currents will carry the chum off and actually disperse the fish.

Top sheepshead locations

Sheepshead can be found near just about any type of structure. This includes docks, bridges, jetties, rock piles wrecks, reefs, and oyster bars. Sheepshead will feed on the barnacles and crabs that these structures attract. Seldom will sheepshead be found in open water or sandy bottom spots.

Sheepshead school up in large numbers when they spawn. In my area on the west coast of Florida, this occurs February and March. Further north, the run will be a bit later. Sheepshead are almost easy to catch during this time as they are thick on many structures. Inlets and passes and nearshore reefs and wrecks are top spots during this time.

Oyster bare are terrific spots to catch sheepshead and often go overlooked. It is also fun catching them in shallow water with light tackle. A hook and a split shot or two is all that is needed. Anglers should make a long cast. A little bit of chumming can really go a long way as well. Redfish and black drum will be caught using this technique, too.

Sheepshead are terrific to eat

One aspect of sheepshead fishing that appeals to many anglers is that they are very good to eat. The meat is firm and white and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Sheepshead are difficult to clean, the bones are firm and the tips of the dorsal fin will poke the knuckles. The meat is great fresh, but freezes well as it is quite lean.

Sheepshead are terrific blackened, fried, baked, broiled, or grilled. It also makes great chowder as it is quite firm in texture. As with all fishing, anglers should be responsible in their harvesting, keep enough for a meal or two and release the rest.

In conclusion, this article on how to catch sheepshead will help anglers catch more of these tasty saltwater panfish!

How to Catch Speckled Trout – Tips from a Pro Guide!

how to catch speckled trout

In this article I will thoroughly cover how to catch speckled trout. Speckled trout, also known as “spotted sea trout” are a very popular inshore saltwater game fish. They are a beautiful fish that takes lures and live baits and is terrific to eat.

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I am a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. I probably catch more speckled trout throughout the year than any other species. Speckled trout are great for clients as their aggressive nature makes them fairly easy to catch, once located. They do not put up the toughest battle, but are great fun to catch.

Siesta Key fishing charters

Speckled trout are found all along the coats from Texas to the Mid Atlantic. They can tolerate a bit of brackish water, though not as much as some other species. They prefer the inshore flats but can be found in deeper channels, rivers, and in the surf as well.

Speckled trout habits and forage

Speckled trout are mostly found in fairly shallow water. In Florida where I fish, most are caught over submerged vegetation that we call “grass flats”. The grass holds shrimp and other crustaceans along with bait fish. This in turn attracts speckled trout. They are opportunistic feeders that will take a wide variety of prey.

Speckled trout, especially larger fish, will be caught in very shallow water as well. While the “schoolies” are usually found a bit deeper, the larger fish are loners that are comfortable in water as shallow as a foot deep. The flats in Texas and Florida are famous for giving up some big fish.

Siesta Key fishing report

Oyster bars are great spots to find speckled trout. They break the tidal flow and provide habitat for crabs, shrimp, and bait fish. Finger mullet are a favorite forage and are often found near bars. Anglers fishing for speckled trout will catch fish on the edges of bars throughout their range.

In the extremes of summer and winter, speckled trout will move to deeper water. This can be rivers, channels, inlets and passes, and deeper holes in flats. While not as temperature sensitive as some other species, they will school up in these spots. Anglers who find them will experience some great action!

Best rod and reel for speckled trout fishing

fishing rod and reel

For the majority of anglers fishing for speckled trout, a light spinning combo is the best choice. This is a versatile outfit that will cast light lures and live baits easily while still being stout enough to handle a decent fish. I use the 7′ medium light St Croix Triumph rod with a 2500 Daiwa Black Gold reel and really like it! I use 10 pound monofilament line, I like the stretch when fishing for speckled trout.

Shop at Amazon for a Daiwa Black Gold reel and St Croix Triumph 7′ MF rod spinning combo

Conventional tackle has a place in speckled trout fishing as well. This is particularly true along the Gulf Coast off Texas and Louisiana where anglers cast larger lures and popping cork rigs. They also have some big redfish there which will hit a bait meant for trout. A 7′ medium rod and reel with 20 lb braided line works well.

how to catch speckled trout

Click to shop Amazon for a KastKing baitcasting combo

Rigging up for speckled trout

I prefer to keep it simple when rigging up for speckled trout. A 24” piece of 25 lb test flourocarbon leader is attached to the running line using a double uni-knot. Anglers can use a #10 black swivel if that is easier. The lure or hook is then tied on the end. When using live bait, I like a long shank #1/0 hook, I think it is easier to remove. Circle hooks are fine, too.

Top speckled trout fishing techniques

There are several techniques that anglers can use when speckled trout fishing that will produce fish. The technique that I use most often, by far, on my fishing charters is drifting the deep grass flats. This works well for a couple of reasons. It produces both numbers of fish as well as the occasional trophy (we call them “gator trout” down here) speckled trout. It also produces a wide variety of species.

Speckled trout fishing video

Both live bait and artificial lures can be used when drifting the flats. Lures cover more water while also provoking strikes from fish that may not be actively feeding. The top lure by far is a jig head with a soft plastic grub body. I prefer a ¼ ounce jig head ( I don’t care what color) with a 3” Gulp Shrimp, 5″ Gulp Jerk Shad, or a 4” Bass Assassin Sea Shad body. The Gulp baits cost more but have the advantage of scent, which can make a difference on a tough day.

how to catch speckled trout

Other productive lures include spoons and plugs. Suspending plugs such as the MirrOLure MirrODine work great. I prefer jerkbaits and my favorite is the #8 or #10 Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait in white or pilchard. Gold and silver spoons work well and are easy to fish. I like the ½ ounce Johnson Sprite spoon. A steady retrieve with a lot of hard twitches in between works great with both lures.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

Live bait can be free lined or fished under a cork when drifting the grass. In areas of sparse vegetation, a live or cut bait can be fished on a bare jig head. In water between three and eight feet deep, a live shrimp fished under a popping cork is extremely effective. The cork is twitched sharply, attracting fish to the bait. Live grunts, pinfish, and other bait fish are also productive and will often catch larger fish. A soft plastic bait can also be used. It would be easy to argue that more speckled trout have been caught using this method than all others combined.

Fishing for speckled trout in shallow water

It sounds like a contradiction, but often times the largest speckled trout are caught by anglers fishing quite shallow water, often less than two feet deep. Large fish fill lie in depressions called “potholes” where they can dart out and ambush prey. Oyster bars will hold fish as well.

how to catch speckled trout

Big speckled trout in shallow water are not easy to catch! They are very spooky and a mistake by the angler will send them scurrying away. Dawn and dusk are prime times. Wading is often the best approach as even the stealthiest boat will make some noise. Long casts are usually required.

It is difficult to fish in very shallow water as well. Only certain lures can be used if there is any grass or vegetation. Topwater plugs can be very effective and will draw some explosive strikes. Weedless spoons such as a Johnson Silver Minnow will work through the weeds. A soft plastic jerk bait rigged weedless on a swimbait hook is a top lure as well.

Speckled trout are difficult to sight fish, unlike some other species. They blend in so well and are often hidden in the grass. Blind casting and working potholes is the best approach. Oyster bars are always worth a shot. I like to fish on the higher tide stages when targeting trout in shallow water. Anglers with boats that run very shallow like a low tide as it concentrates fish in holes.

Fishing deep for speckled trout

Fishing Siesta Key

There are times when speckled trout will move into the deepest water available. This occurs in the coldest and hottest times of the year, especially in winter. Trout will often migrate up into are rivers. In Florida, these rivers are usually deeper than the surrounding flats. Residential canals act the same way and are almost always several degrees warmer.

It is tough to beat a large live shrimp in this situation. It can be free lined or fishing on a jig head. A soft plastic bait will also work, especially in deeper water. Anglers do need to slow down their presentations. In the warmer months, anglers do well bu just working water a little bit deeper than where they were finding them.

Fishing for speckled trout from shore

how to catch speckled trout

Speckled trout can certainly be caught off of beaches from Texas to New Jersey. They are quite common in the Carolinas and anglers fishing the Gulf Coast catch them from the beach as well. The same techniques that produce for anglers with boats will work fine in the surf. Lures work best if there is much surf and live baits will produce when it is calm.

Jetties are piers can be decent spots as well, depending on the location. Long jetties all along the coastline are prime sports to catch speckled trout. Anglers will often find large schools of fish. A free lined live bait works great. Anglers casting lures parallel to the shore will catch them as well. Live bait is usually the best bet for anglers fishing from docks and piers.

Fly fishing for speckled trout

Siesta Key fishing report

Anglers fly fishing for speckled trout can catch plenty of fish as well. In fact, they are probably the most commonly caught fish on my fly fishing charters. The locations and techniques are very similar to spin fishing. In deeper water, drifting the deep grass flats while casting a fly on a sink tip line will produce plenty of trout along with other species.

Anglers fishing shallow water or casting to breaking fish can go with a floating line. A 7wt or 8wt outfit is fine for most speckled trout fishing situations. Fly selection runs the gamut, but a #1/0 chartreuse/white Clouser Minnow is tough to beat. Any bait fish or shrimp pattern will produce. In reality, location and presentation are much more important that fly (or lure) selection.

In conclusion, my article on how to catch speckled trout will help anglers catch more of these beautiful inshore saltwater game fish!

How to Catch Spanish Mackerel-Tips from a Florida Captain!

how to catch Spanish mackerel

How to Catch Spanish Mackerel-Tips from a Florida Captain!

In this article I will thoroughly cover how to catch Spanish mackerel. Spanish mackerel are a very popular inshore saltwater game fish. They are found all over the world in temperate waters. Spanish mackerel are a beautiful fish that fight hard and taste great when eaten fresh.


how to catch Spanish mackerel

My name is Capt Jim Klopfer and I am a charter boat captain in Siesta Key, Florida. I fish for a variety of species, but I especially love to target Spanish mackerel. They put up a terrific fight on light spinning tackle, often making blistering runs, especially with fish over three pounds.

Best Spanish mackerel fishing tackle

Anglers can use a variety of fishing rods and reels when fishing for Spanish mackerel, it really depends on the technique being used. The two primary techniques are casting and trolling. A light spinning rod is best for casting while a light conventional rig is best for trolling.


fishing rod and reel

I use the same inshore spinning rod and reel when fishing for Spanish mackerel that I use on my inshore charters. It is a 7′ medium light rod with a fast action paired with a 2500 series reel. This combo will cast lures and light live baits well while still handling a good sized Spanish mackerel. I am currently using St Croix Triumph rods with Daiwa 2500 Black Gold reels. I prefer monofilament line as I like the stretch when fishing for Spanish mackerel. 10 lb test is a good all round choice. Below is a link for anglers who would like to shop for this equipment.

Shop at Amazon for a Daiwa Black Gold reel and St Croix Triumph 7′ MF rod spinning combo


top trolling lures saltwater fishing

A light conventional outfit is perfect for anglers who troll for Spanish mackerel. This type of reel holds a lot of line and can better handle the strain of dragging a planer or lure. Also, it is nice if a larger fish such as a false albacore or king mackerel is hooked.

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Rigging up for Spanish mackerel fishing


how to catch Spanish mackerel

Spanish mackerel have a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth! This requires some attention when rigging up for these fish. Despite the risk of cut-offs, I rarely use wire leader. Spanish mackerel prefer clear water, and this is certainly true in Sarasota, Florida where I fish. Anglers must decide if the risk of cut-offs justifies the extra bites, it is a trade off.

I use a 24” piece of 40 lb flourocarbon leader between my running line and hook or lure. I use lures that are long as Spanish mackerel usually hit the back half of the lure. I attach the leader using a double uni-know, not a swivel. The swivel will actually draw strikes, resulting in the mackerel “freeing” the one that is hooked. Anglers can certainly use pre-rigged wire leaders, especially if the water is murky or in a feeding frenzy.

Where to catch Spanish mackerel


Siesta Key Spanish mackerel fishing

Spanish mackerel can really be found anywhere. This makes it both fun and challenging! Top spots include inlets and passes, large open flats, and the inshore waters of the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean. In the South, mackerel are usually found on flats with some grass or vegetation as this is where the bait is. Inlets and passes are good spots as they have current and bait.

In the open waters, anglers either run and look for birds and breaking fish or fish ledges, reefs, and wrecks. While Mackerel do not really relate to structure, the bait that they feed on does. Therefore, artificial reefs, hard bottom areas, and wrecks are top spots. Anglers will also usually score by finding “bait bass’ or other large schools of bait. Spanish mackerel will usually be close by.

Spanish mackerel prefer water temperatures between 68 and 75 degrees. However, they will be found in a variety of temperatures. The overriding factor is bait, mackerel, just like other species, will not be far from the forage that they feed on.

Spanish mackerel fishing techniques


Siesta Key fall fishing

As mentioned earlier, the two basic methods used by anglers fishing for Spanish mackerel are casting and trolling. I will consider drifting to be casting as well. Both of these techniques are productive and fun.

Casting for Spanish mackerel

While trolling is productive and efficient, I prefer casting lures and baits when fishing for Spanish mackerel. Anglers get to experience the strike and initial run, especially when using light tackle.


Spanish mackerel fishing video

One of the enjoyable aspects of fishing for Spanish mackerel is that it is often a visual situation. Mackerel will herd helpless bait fish up in the water column, trapping them on the surface. Birds will get in on the buffet. The result is water that is actually frothing, especially on a calm day. Just about any lure or bait cast into the fray will get hit immediately! This can occur in the inshore bays, passes and inlets, and open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

Spanish mackerel can certainly be caught when they are not seen feeding on the surface. In fact, most are caught this way. In Florida where I fish, drifting is a preferred method. As the boat drifts along with the wind and tide, anglers cast lures or free line live baits behind the boat. Once fish are located, the boat can be anchored or the area re-drifted again. This works very well in inlets and passes as well as the open flats. Spanish mackerel are usually found in the upper third of the water column, regardless of the depth.


Siesta Key fishing report

When drifting or casting live or cut bait, I use a #1/0 long shank hook most of the time. The long shank acts as a leader and drastically reduces cut-offs. I use both shrimp and live bait fish on my charters. Anglers fishing for Spanish mackerel on the east coast often use cut bait, and these hooks work well in that application, too.

Top Spanish mackerel fishing lures

I really enjoy casting artificial lures when fishing for Spanish mackerel! The strikes can be explosive and it is just fun casting for them. Spanish mackerel are very aggressive and most often respond to a fast, erratic retrieve. This mimics a wounded bait fish, often triggering a strike.

Anglers do not need a large selection of lures when fishing for Spanish mackerel. I really only use three different lures, a plug, a spoon, and a jig. I will describe these in detail below.

Rapala X-Rap

Rapala mackerel

My absolute favorite “go to” lure when fishing for Spanish mackerel is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. It is a long slender plug in the ‘jerkbait” family. It has a very erratic action when cast or trolled. It works best with hard twitches followed by a pause. This is often when the mackerel strikes, as the bait appears to be helpless. White (Ghost) is my favorite color. I use size 08 when the bait is small and size 10 if it is larger. Note the single hooks, they make handling fish MUCH safer!

Kastmaster spoon

kastmaster mackerel

Spoons are excellent mackerel fishing lures! They cast a long distance and realistically imitate a wounded bait fish. Again, a fast, erratic retrieve usually works best. I use the Acme Kastmaster spoon. I like the long, slender design, it really casts well, even into the wind. The hook-up ratio is good and it is also available in a single hook version. The ¾ ounce model is a good all-round size.

Jig and grub

fishing in Sarasota

The jig and grub combo is arguable the top inshore saltwater fishing lure. It is economical and versatile and will catch just about every species that swims. The jig head is adorned with a soft plastic body that imitates the local forage. For me in Florida, that is often a shrimp. Paddle tail baits are popular and have great action. These lures are relatively inexpensive, which can be a benefit when Spanish mackerel fishing. I like the Gulp line of baits.

Trolling for Spanish Mackerel


Siesta Key gamefish species

Trolling is an extremely effective technique for a variety of species, including Spanish mackerel. It allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish while presenting multiple baits at different depths. Lures are most often used, especially given the speeds that Spanish mackerel like the lures presented.

The most effective trolling speed is from 5-7 knots. This results in impressive strikes. I use spoons for the most part, though I will troll Rapala X-Raps (other shallow diving plugs will produce) in the inshore waters and if I see fish busting on top.


Siesta Key fishing charter

Anglers have a couple of choices to get the lures down in the water column. The easiest method is to use a plug with a lip on it. The lip, along with the speed, will determine how deep the lure dives. Anglers can cover the water column simply by changing lures with no other hardware required.

Trolling for Spanish mackerel with spoons

Spoons are terrific trolling lures for Spanish mackerel and other species. There are spoons specifically designed for trolling. They are long and slender and will troll pretty quickly. In my opinion, the discussion starts and ends with Clark spoons. They came in a variety of sizes to match the bait. Sliver is the only color needed. Anglers do need to get them down in the water column as they will quickly rise to the surface.

There are two basic methods to accomplish this. The easiest method is to use an inline sinker, 2-3 ounces works well. A 10′ leader connects the spoon and the sinker. The rig is let out behind the boat and trolled at 5 knots or so. A plug with a shallow diving lip can be used as well.

Trolling for Spanish mackerel video

Planers are also used to get the spoons down to the desired depth. They are clever devices that work like the lip on a plug. However, when a mackerel strikes, the planer “trips”, allowing the anglers to fight the fish without the drag of the planer. A 20′ leader connects the spoon and planer. The fish must be hand lined in that last 20′. A #1 planer will dive 5-7 feet and a #2 planer will dive 12-15 feet.

Reefs, wrecks, bait schools, and breaking fish are top spots to troll for Spanish mackerel. When encountering breaking fish, it is best to skirt the edge of the fish as opposed to driving right through them. The rule of thump when putting out lines is to run the deeper lines closest to the boat and shallowest line furthest back. I like to “count” the lures back, keeping them separated.

Fly fishing for Spanish mackerel


fly fishing for Spanish mackerel

Fly fishing for Spanish mackerel is terrific sport! Their habit of feeding aggressively on the surface makes them prime candidates for anglers who like to fly fish. Blind casting while drifting will produce as well. Spanish mackerel make savage strikes and put up a terrific battle on a fly rod.

An 8wt outfit with an intermediate sink tip line is a good all round outfit. The leader should be 8′ long with a 30 lb or 40 lb bite tippet. Fly selection is basic with white bait fish patterns such as Clouser Minnow and D.T. Special flies working well. Fast, aggressive strips work best and make sure there is some backing on the reel!

Fishing for Spanish mackerel from shore

9 best Siesta Key fishing spots

Anglers do not need a boat in order to enjoy fishing for Spanish mackerel. They are a staple of those fishing from piers all along the coast. Jetties are good spots as well. Anglers surf fishing routinely catch them as well.The same techniques, lures, and baits used from a boat (other than trolling) can be used by anglers fishing from shore.

Fishing for Spanish mackerel from piers and jetties

Piers are excellent spots to fish for Spanish mackerel. The structure attracts bait which in turn attracts Spanish mackerel. This is often an “opportunistic” situation as a school of fish moves through. Successful anglers are rigged and ready when this occurs. Lures are used in this situation with a heavy spoon being a good choice.

Anglers can fish with live and cut bait from piers as well. This works well when they are not showing but are in the area. Cut and live bait also produces other species, filling in the time between Spanish mackerel.

Jetties are similar to piers, though the angler in much closer to the water. One main factor is current. It can be difficult to fish when the tide is running hard. Plugs and spoons cast parallel to the racks or out toward breaking fish will produce. Slack tides early and late in the day are prime times to fish.

Surf fishing for Spanish mackerel


surf fishing for Spanish mackerel

Anglers surf fishing for Spanish mackerel score on these game fish from Texas to New England. Most are caught by anglers cast lures as schools of fish move through. A few will take live or cut bait fished on the bottom, however their habit of swimming high in the water column limits this.

In conclusion, this article on how to catch Spanish mackerel will help anglers appreciate these underrated game fish!

Fishing Sarasota Florida, Tips to Succeed!

Fishing Sarasota Florida, tips to succeed!

Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida have many opportunities. Sarasota offers good fishing inshore, along the beaches, and offshore. Many different species are caught using a variety of techniques.

fishing Sarasota Florida

This article will help visiting anglers get started fishing Sarasota Florida. Sarasota is a resort town on the West Coast of Florida. It sits between Tampa/St. Pete and Fort Myers. Siesta Key in Sarasota is famous for its beaches. While Sarasota is not an angling destination, it does offer excellent fishing. Snook, redfish, speckled trout, and other species are caught inshore. False albacore, mackerel, and giant tarpon are caught along the beaches. Grouper and snapper are prized offshore catches.

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so on the PRODUCTS page.

View current Fishing Report

Visiting anglers fishing Sarasota Florida have several choices when it comes to how they are going to fish. Fishing from the beach are sure is easy and not very complicated. It is also not very expensive. Anglers can rent a boat and ply the inshore waters on their own. This is fun and adds a sense of adventure.

Sarasota Florida fishing charters

The best option for anglers who can afford it is to go out on a Sarasota fishing charter. Capt. Jim Klopfer runs adventure charters and has been doing so since 1991. His experience fishing the Sarasota waters dramatically increase the success rate for his clients.

Purchase Capt Jim’s e-book, “Sarasota Fishing Secrets” for $6

Spinning tackle is the equipment of choice for most visitors fishing Sarasota Florida. Many of the baits used are light and spinning tackle is the best method of casting them. Also, majority of anglers are novices, including children. Spinning tackle is certainly the easiest equipment for them to be comfortable with. Fly fisherman can also do well. Any fish that will take a jig or other lure will take a well presented fly.

Fishing Sarasota Florida options

Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida inshore have quite a few options. They can target action and variety on the deep flats and in the passes. More challenging fish such as snook in redfish are sought after on the shallow flats and along mangrove shorelines. Tasty bottom fish such as snapper and sheepshead are caught under docks and other structure throughout the area.

monthly fishing forecast

Most of Sarasota Bay is fairly shallow. The maximum depth is around 10 feet. It has many acres of submerged grass beds. These are called “grass flats”. Grass is the primary cover for game fish and bait fish in Sarasota Bay. There is very little hard bottom or natural ledges. Therefore, fish will do most of their feeding in the submerged grass beds.

Deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay

Deep grass flats are submerged grass beds that grow in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay on these deep grass flats will experience the most in terms of action and variety. Speckled trout are one of the primary species targeted on the deep grass flats. They are beautiful fish that are aggressive and taste great.

fishing Sarasota

Drifting the grass flats is a great way to locate schools of speckled trout. Anglers using live shrimp under a noisy cork do very well. Shrimp can be free lined behind the boat as well. Live bait fish are often used, particularly in the summer time. Chumming with live pilchards and threadfin herring is extremely productive. Bait fish are usually plentiful on the shallow flats near the passes. They are easily caught with a cast net. The bait is kept alive in a large well and is used both as chum to attract the fish and bait to catch them.

Artificial lures on the deep flats

Artificial lures such as a jig and grub, plug, or spoon will catch plenty of fish for those that prefer casting. The lead head jig and grub combination will catch fish anywhere on the planet. It consists of a hook with a piece of lead at the eye and a soft plastic body that imitates the crab or shrimp. One quarter ounce is the most popular size. These lures are very effective. It does not take long for even a novice angler to catch fish with them.

Many other species are caught on the deep grass flats as well. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jacks, ladyfish, grouper, snapper, catfish, sharks, cobia, flounder, sea bass, and other species are encountered in these areas at one time of year or another. The same lures, baits, and techniques that produce speckled trout will catch all these other species as well.

Shallow grass flats in Sarasota Bay

Anglers seeking more challenging species such as snook, redfish, and jacks will target them on the shallow flats. These are areas between 1 foot deep and 4 feet deep. They are usually a combination of grass, sand, oyster bars, and mangrove shoreline. Artificial lures that cover a lot of water such as shallow diving plugs, weedless spoons, and soft plastic baits work well. Fish can be scattered and these types of search baits help locate the fish.

live bait fishing Siesta Key

Live bait also works on the species for anglers fishing Sarasota Florida. A large live shrimp is a great bait, especially in the cooler months. They work very well fished on the flats or under docks. 3 inch pin fish and grunts are good baits as well. In the warmer months pilchards are very effective baits. Many of the small Silver fish are caught using a cast net. They are then used both as live bait chum and as baits to catch fish.

Sarasota passes

Sarasota has two passes, Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass. Both connect Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. Pass is a term used on the Gulf Coast. It is basically an inlet. Both passes have good current flow and a lot of structure. They also have some of the deepest water around, up to 30 feet deep. These are ingredients for good fishing spots.

Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida passes do so in a couple different ways. Drifting through the middle of the pass while bouncing jigs on the bottom is very productive. Ladyfish can be loaded up in the passes times and are great fun on light tackle. Pompano are a delicious and highly prized fish that are caught using this technique as well. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks will also be taken. Live shrimp can be fished either free lined out behind the boat or near the bottom on a jig head.

Deep water structure in the passes holds quite a few different species. Mangrove snapper are available all year long. Sheepshead move in by late January and stay until April. Snook school up there in the summer time. Redfish, drum, grouper, flounder, jacks, and other species may be taken there at any time. Live bait is generally the most productive when fishing these types of spots.

fishing Sarasota Florida

Sarasota river fishing

Several rivers flow close to Sarasota that offer a unique angling experience. The Manatee River, Myakka River, and Braden River are all less than a 45 minute drive from Sarasota. Snook migrate up into these rivers in the winter. Jacks, redfish, juvenile tarpon, largemouth bass, and other species are caught as well. It is a relaxing fishing trip with excellent scenery.

fishing Sarasota Florida

The fishing technique and rivers is pretty simple. Clients cast shallow diving lures such as a Rapala towards shoreline cover as the boat drifts along with the current. Fallen trees and rocks will hold snook and other game fish. This is a Sarasota fishing charter that is best for experienced anglers. Some casting skill is required. It is also not a numbers game. The goal is a trophy snook. Capt. Jim is the only Sarasota fishing guide that offers this experience.

Sarasota inshore Gulf of Mexico

The inshore Gulf of Mexico can offer world-class fishing to anglers visiting Sarasota. When conditions are right, the waters within a mile from shore will be teeming with bait and game fish. East winds will result in clear and calm water. This is a situation that is optimum.

Siesta Key fishing report

Pelagic species such as Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and false albacore will migrate up and down the coast just off the Sarasota beaches. They are following the schools of sardines and herring that they feed on. Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida can catch the species along with cobia and sharks in the spring and again in the fall.

Spanish mackerel and false albacore will often times feed on the surface. These are called “breaking fish”. This is very exciting fishing is so much of it is visual. Schools of fish will be seen foraging aggressively on the surface, feeding on the hapless bait. Just about any lure, bait, or fly that remotely resembles the forage that they are feeding on will get taken. The fish are very excited and aggressive!

Big fish close to shore

King mackerel grow much larger than Spanish mackerel. They will seldom be seen feeding on the surface. However, quite often they will be hovering just below the melee. The best approach when targeting king fish is to troll a large plug or live bait around the edges of the big bait schools. Some of the largest king mackerel are caught quite close to shore.

Giant tarpon show up off the Sarasota Beaches in mid May. Many consider them to be the ultimate angling challenge. There are very few opportunities to sight cast to fish over 100 pounds using spinning tackle. Again, this is a Sarasota fishing charter best suited to experienced anglers or hunters. That’s right, hunters. Tarpon fishing is as much fish hunting as it is fishing. Sighting the game and then stalking them is a big part of the fun and the challenge. There will be days when no fish are hooked. However, when it all comes together, it is nothing short of amazing!

Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program. There are a dozen small reefs inside Sarasota Bay. Most of the reefs are out in the Gulf of Mexico. Three of these reefs are within 2 miles of shore, just off of Lido Key. They provide excellent fishing for pelagic species when they are around. Anglers bottom fishing do well on sheepshead, flounder, grouper, snapper, grunts, and other species.

Offshore fishing in Sarasota

The waters offshore of Sarasota offer anglers quite a bit of variety as well. Bottom fishing for gag grouper and red grouper is very popular. Mangrove snapper, lane snapper, yellowtail snapper, Key West grunts, and triggerfish are also caught. Most of these fish are very good eating. Trolling produces king mackerel, blackfin tuna, and the occasional dolphin. Angling regulations change constantly. Current Florida fishing regulations can be viewed at the FWC website.

fishing Sarasota Florida

Anglers fishing Sarasota Florida for bottom fish target two types of spots. One is the previously mentioned artificial reef. These reefs are great fish holding structures. However, the numbers are published and everyone knows where they are at. They get a fair amount of fishing pressure, particularly on weekends. The deeper the reef, the less pressure it receives. The deeper reefs and wrecks are the best spots to target amberjack.

The best spots for anglers bottom fishing are natural ledges. Most of the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is barren of structure. The vast majority is just flat sand. Therefore, any area of hard bottom or ledge becomes a fish magnet. Coral will grow their which will in turn attract smaller fish. This will obviously attract the larger game fish. Live bait fish and cut bait such as frozen sardines works well. Florida does require that all anglers fishing offshore you circle hooks to reduce fish mortality. Fishing regulations are constantly changing, see the current rules on the FWC site.

Trolling offshore in Sarasota

Sarasota is not really known for its offshore trolling. The water simply does not get deep enough. At 30 miles from shore, the water is only about 100 feet deep. However, trolling does produce plenty of king mackerel in the spring and the fall. Most are caught between five and 15 miles from shore.

fishing Sarasota Florida

Adventuresome anglers will travel a long distance offshore in search of wahoo and billfish. This is a game for the serious angler and safety is a big concern. Boats need to be an excellent working condition, have large fuel capacity, and angler should never venture out there alone. The reward for all this effort and expense is a big wahoo, sailfish, or even a blue marlin!

In conclusion, anglers fishing Sarasota Florida have the chance to catch many different saltwater game fish species while enjoying a beautiful day in the Florida sunshine.

Capt Jim Klopfer

(941) 371-1390


1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236


Fall Fishing on Siesta Key, Tips to Succeed

Siesta Key fall fishing, tips and strategies

Fall is an excellent time to visit Sarasota and Siesta Key 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. Fall fishing on Siesta Key can be terrific when conditions are optimum.


fall fishing in Siesta Key

Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so on the PRODUCTS page.


Siesta Key flats fishing

Anglers seeking action and variety when fishing in Siesta Key in the fall will do well to fish the deep grass flats. These are large areas of submerged vegetation. Shrimp, crabs, and bait fish live and hide in these areas. This in turn attracts the game fish. Speckled trout are plentiful year round. Other species include pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, sharks, ladyfish, and more!


fall fishing on Siesta Key

Most anglers drift when fishing these larger areas, it is just a more efficient method to cover the water in search of fish. A live shrimp is tough to beat. It can be fished under a float or free lined out behind the boat. Many anglers prefer to cast artificial lures. The top lure by far all along the Gulf coast is the lead head jig with a soft plastic trailer. These are versatile and effective lures that will fool just about every species in Sarasota Bay. They are also easy for novice anglers to use.


Sarasota Fishing Charters, Jig Fishing video

Siesta Key snook fishing in the fall

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.


Siesta Key fall fishing

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.

Best artificial lures for snook


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.


Monthly fishing forecast

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.

Fishing for snook with live bait


Chumming with live bait fish is an extremely productive technique in the fall. This is something that is used often on Siesta Key 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 and redfish, as well as jacks and other species 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.


Siesta Key Snook Fishing video

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.


Siesta Key fishing report

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.

Excellent fishing off the Siesta Key beaches


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 when 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.


monthly fishing forecast

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.


Read Capt Jim’s detailed article on how to catch Spanish mackerel


Siesta Key gamefish species

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 produce when fish are on the surface

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.

Trolling is a very productive fishing technique

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.


Siesta Key fishing report

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. Anglers can find current Florida fishing regulations on the FWC site.


Light Tackle Trolling in Saltwater video

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