Fishing Charters on Siesta Key with Capt Jim Klopfer
Fishing charters on Siesta Key are popular among visiting anglers. Many vacationers are attracted to the powdery white sand beaches. However, the waters around Siesta Key offer anglers a wide variety of fishing options and species.
Siesta Key is a barrier island on the West Coast of Florida in Sarasota. It lies about an hour south of Tampa. The beaches are world-class, as are the restaurants and resorts. Siesta Key is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota Bay, Roberts Bay, and Little Sarasota Bay. All of these waters offer visiting anglers a diverse fishing experience. Anglers going out on fishing charters on Siesta Key maximize this experience by going out with a license, experienced, professional fishing guide.
Visitors do not need a great deal of angling experience in order to be successful. Many of the fish are caught by drifting open waters, were great casting skill is not required. Spinning tackle is used on almost all fishing charters on Siesta Key. It is versatile and easy to learn to use. Both live bait and artificial lures are used, depending on the experience and skill level of the clients. Seasoned anglers may choose to target more challenging species.
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 HERE on the PRODUCTS page.
Siesta Key fishing charter targeted species
The species of fish that is available to anglers on fishing charters on Siesta Key is long. The inshore bays and passes produce speckled trout, pompano, snook, redfish, jacks, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, sheepshead, flounder, ladyfish, bluefish, black drum, cobia, sharks, catfish, and more. Anglers fishing in the inshore Gulf of Mexico may encounter false albacore, tarpon, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and sharks. Anglers can check the FWC website for current Florida fishing regulations.
There are distinct fishing seasons in Florida. The time of year will dictate the techniques used and to some degree the species that will be caught. That is another satisfying aspect of fishing charters on Siesta Key. Anglers visiting during different times of the year may have completely different experiences. Let’s run through the four seasons outlining the techniques used and species that are most often caught.
Winter fishing charters on Siesta Key
Winter is a relative term. Despite the fact that it is usually much warmer in Sarasota, Florida than most of the country and winter, fish do change their habits this time of year. The water temperature on the flats is often quite cool. This will result and fish species moving off of the flats in search of deeper water. Residential canals, creeks, deeper holes, and the passes are all prime spots to search for fish and winter.
Big Sarasota Pass lies on the north end of Siesta Key. It connects Sarasota Bay with the Gulf of Mexico. Fish use the pass as a migration route to go back and forth from the Gulf to the Bay. Structure in the pass holds sheepshead and snapper in the winter. Sheepshead are a structure oriented bottom fish that school up heavily in the winter. They spawn in the rocks this time of year. Sheepshead and snapper are caught by anglers bottom fishing with live or frozen shrimp.
Winter fishing techniques
Speckled trout and ladyfish will school up in the deeper holes and channels in the winter. The Intracoastal Waterway will often hold fish, especially on the lower tide stages. Deeper cuts and channels along Bird Key and behind Siesta Key will hold fish as well. A live shrimp free lined with a split shot works well, as does a lead head jig and grub. Anglers fishing live shrimp under docks on fishing charters on Siesta Key will do well on sheepshead, black drum, redfish, and snook.
Snook and jack crevalle will migrate up into residential canals and creeks in the winter. The Grand Canal on Siesta Key is a prime example of this. Phillippi Creek is another great spot to target these species in the winter. The best approach is to drift with the tide while casting artificial lures such as shallow diving plugs and jigs to shoreline cover and structure.
Spring fishing charters on Siesta Key
Spring can be a great time to be fishing on Siesta Key. Warming water temperatures will have fish moving out of the deeper water in onto the flats to feed. Submerged grass beds in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep will hold a variety of species. Anglers drifting the flats and casting live shrimp or jigs can expect to catch speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, ladyfish, bluefish, and more.
Big Sarasota pass is usually very productive in spring time as well. The sheepshead run will be winding down, however Spanish mackerel numbers will be on the rise. Anglers drifting the center of the pass and sandbars will catch mackerel, pompano, ladyfish, bluefish, and more. Ladyfish will often times school up in large numbers. This is a great opportunity for inexperienced anglers to catch a lot a fish in a short amount of time.
Spring fishing options
Experienced anglers seeking a bit more challenge may choose to target the shallow back water areas for snook, redfish, and jacks. Shallow diving plugs and jigs are cast towards mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, docks, and other fish holding structure. This type of fishing will produce less in terms of numbers. However, it generally produces more in terms of quality. That means bigger fish!
The inshore Gulf of Mexico can come alive in the spring. When conditions are right, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, and sharks will be plentiful quite close to shore. East winds will result in calm, clear water in the Gulf of Mexico. Huge schools of bait fish will move in, with the predator fish caught on their tail. The action can be nothing short of spectacular as fish are seen feeding voraciously on the surface.
Summer fishing charters on Siesta Key
Summer fishing can be fantastic, though it is also awfully hot. Anglers need to be out on the water at first light and are usually done by 11:00 AM or so. Small bait fish flood the flats near the passes and summer. This bait attracts the game fish. One extremely effective technique used on fishing charters on Siesta Key is live bait chumming on the deeper grass flats.
This technique involves catching many of these little fish and then using them to attract other fish behind the boat. It is a deadly technique that produces 100 fish days occasionally. It is also very easy for anglers with little experience to use. The boat is anchored up in 6 foot of water to 8 foot of water and then handfuls of the live bait fish are tossed out behind the boat. It usually doesn’t take long before game fish are feeding 10 to 15 feet behind the boat. Speckled trout, mackerel, ladyfish, snapper, grouper, sharks, bluefish, and more are often landed by clients.
Summer fishing strategies
Snook have migrated out from the bays and are in Big Sarasota pass and out on the Siesta Key beaches. This is a great time to target these game fish as they are schooled up in good numbers in the deep structure at the northwest corner of Siesta Key. Anglers also sight fish for them right off of the beaches along the entire length of Siesta Key.
Our largest fish of the year are also targeted by anglers fishing in the summer. Giant tarpon show up in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Siesta Key beaches in early May. They school up in large numbers as part of their annual spawning migration. These fish are seen milling about on the surface and anglers cast to them using live baits such as crabs and sardines. This is big-game fishing in every sense of the word as these fish average 80 pounds and fish to 150 pounds are not uncommon. Tarpon fishing does require patience and not every trip will produce fish.
Fall fishing charters on Siesta Key
Fall is a fantastic time to experience fishing charters on Siesta Key! The weather is usually fantastic, with low humidity and little rain. It is also the time of year that has the least amount of tourist traffic. This results in less boating activity and thus less fishing pressure. Cooling temperatures have the fish energetic and in a mood to feed as a transition to their fall locations.
Action on the deep grass flats is very good in the fall. Anglers drifting the flats will cast lead head jigs and live shrimp in search of speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, pompano, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species. Large areas of grass that are in water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep are usually the best spots to try.
Anglers experience great fall fishing
Snook fishing is usually very good in the fall as well. Fish have moved off of the beaches and passes and into the backwater areas on the east side of Siesta Key. This area of Little Sarasota Bay and Roberts Bay is prime snook and redfish habitat. Mangrove shorelines and oyster bars are plentiful. The key is finding spots with a little bit of water depth, between 2 feet and 4 feet deep. Anglers chumming with larger live baits or working the shorelines and casting lures will do well.
Fall action in the inshore Gulf of Mexico is often times better than spring. The main reason for this is that the weather patterns are more stable. This results in optimum conditions being present on more days. Days of high pressure will result in Northeast winds which will have the waters close to shore, in clear. False albacore in particular are more plentiful in the fall. Spanish mackerel will usually be found in good numbers and are less finicky than the false albacore. Larger king mackerel can be found close to shore on some days and are most often caught by trolling spoons, plugs, and live bait.
Fishing charters on Siesta Key
One one enjoyable aspect of taking out fishing charters on Siesta Key is the variety of fishing techniques that are used. Anglers seeking action and variety will do well to drift the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. Big Sarasota pass offers clients to chance to vertically jig for pompano, ladyfish, and other species. Bottom fishing with live shrimp around structure such as rocks, bridges, and docks produces sheepshead, mangrove snapper, grouper, drum, snook, redfish, and flounder. Experienced anglers working the shallow water oyster bars and shorelines may catch a trophy snook, redfish, or Jack. Fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be fantastic when conditions are right.
Fishing the deep grass on charters
Drifting the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay is a very productive technique. These are fairly large expanses of submerged vegetation and water between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Bait fish, shrimp, and other crustaceans seek refuge in the grass. This in turn attracts game fish. The grass provides cover and ambush points for them as well. Speckled trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, snapper, grouper, ladyfish, sharks, cobia, catfish, and more are taken on the deep grass flats near Siesta Key.
Drifting is often the best technique to employ when fishing the deep grass flats. The fish can be scattered over a wide area. Drifting with the wind and tide while casting artificial lures or live bait is an extremely productive method. Once fish are located, the boat can be anchored in the area fist thoroughly. Often times the drift is just continued and then the boat idled around so that the same area can be drifted again.
Chumming with live bait is an extremely effective in the warmer months. Large schools of small to inch to 3 inch bait fish are generally fairly easy to locate and catch when the water temperature is in the mid-70s or higher. Once the bait is obtained, the boat is anchored on a likely flat and handfuls of the live bait are tossed out behind the boat as chum. It usually does not take long before fish are taking advantage of the free meal.
Shallow flats charters on Siesta Key
It seems like a contradiction, but often times the largest fish are found in shallow water. These larger fish are quite often loners and are not found in schools as the smaller fish are. The exception to this is in the late summer when redfish school up into larger numbers on the shallow flats. This type of fishing is more challenging. It takes patience and some casting skill to thoroughly cover the flats, mangrove shorelines, and oyster bars where snook, redfish, and jacks are found.
Artificial lures work very well in this application. They allow anglers to cover much more water than can be done with live bait. Game fish can be scattered out over quite a large area. Lures that draw strike such as shallow diving plugs and soft plastic baits along with weedless gold spoons are all excellent search baits to help locate the fish.
Chumming with live bait can be just as effective in the shallow water as it is on the deeper flats. The only difference is that slightly larger baits are preferred to attract snook, jacks, and redfish. The technique is the same though, the boat is anchored close to a likely shoreline and a few live baits are tossed out to attract the game fish. Once the snuck start popping on the free baits, there fairly easy to catch on the hook.
Fishing Big Sarasota pass
This pass runs between Siesta Key and Lido Key. It can offer good fishing all year long on a variety of species. Snook will school up heavily in the rocks at the northern part of Siesta Key in the summer. Sheepshead are found in the same areas in the winter. Mangrove snapper can be caught in the structure all season long.
Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, and pompano will be found in the open waters of the pass and along the Scholl areas as well. Often times, Spanish mackerel can be seen busting on the surface. This is great fun and very exciting as almost any lore or bait that gets cast towards them will draw a strike. Vertically jigging while drifting with the tide will also produce the same species on the bottom.
Bottom fishing on Siesta Key
Bottom fishing is a simple technique that is been around for a very long time. It basically consists of hooking on a live or fresh dead bait and dropping it to the bottom. The majority of fish species feed on the bottom, especially around structure. The water surrounding Siesta Key have countless docks that hold fish. Other fish holding structure would include bridges, seawalls, rocky ledges, and even oyster bars.
The best bottom fishing bait for anglers on fishing charters and Siesta Key is live shrimp. It is readily available at all local bait shops all year long. Every fish that swims in this area can be caught on a live shrimp. Fresh dead shrimp will work as well, particularly on sheepshead and drum. Live bait fish will not normally catch as many fish as shrimp will, but will often times catch larger specimens.
Fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico
The waters in the inshore Gulf of Mexico just off of the Siesta Key beaches can provide visiting anglers with world-class fishing when conditions are right. East wind will result in calm, clear water close to shore. In the spring and again in the fall, this will attract huge schools of baitfish such as scaled sardines, glass minnows, and threadfin herring.
These huge schools of bait fish will attract Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, sharks, cobia, and even tarpon. Often times, the fish can be seen visually feeding on the surface. This is known locally as “breaking fish”and is one of the most exciting experiences an angler can have. Game fish will literally have the water boiling as a frantically devour every bait fish that they can.
This is a great opportunity to use artificial lures. Heavier lures such as spoons can be cast a long way and there erratic flash and vibration almost always draws a strike from feeding fish. Jigs and plugs can also be effective. In reality, just about any lure that remotely resembles the baitfish that they are feeding on will catch fish. This is an excellent opportunity for fly anglers to score as well.
In conclusion, I hope anglers enjoyed this article about fishing charters on Siesta Key, and that it will encourage them to give it a try!
Many visiting anglers who come to Sarasota choose to go out on Siesta Key Beach fishing charters. The waters off of Siesta Key offer clients a wide variety of fishing opportunities.
Capt. Jim Klopfer has been running Siesta Key Beach fishing charters since 1991. He is very well-rounded and chooses the type of fishing based on the clients experience and expectations. Drifting the deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay will produce speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano and more. Both passes have excellent bottom fishing for sheepshead and snapper along with drifting for ladyfish, mackerel, and pompano. Experienced anglers may choose to target the mighty snook along mangrove shorelines. Mackerel action can be fantastic in the inshore Gulf of Mexico.
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 HERE on the PRODUCTS page.
All anglers welcome on Siesta Key Beach fishing charters
Siesta Key is a resort island on the south end of the city of Sarasota. It lies on the West Coast of Florida, just south of Tampa. Siesta Key Beach is famous for its powdery white sand. However, it offers visiting anglers some excellent opportunities to catch a wide variety of species using multiple techniques.
Many of the anglers who go out on Siesta Key Beach fishing charters are inexperienced. This includes both children and adults. Much of the fishing that is done does not require great casting skill or a lot of experience. Light spinning tackle is primarily used, which is easy to learn even for the novice. Casting, drifting, trolling, and bottom fishing are all techniques that are used to produce fish for clients.
Deep Flats fishing on Siesta Key
Anglers seeking action and variety will do well to target the deep grass flats. This type of fishing is done on the majority of Siesta Key Beach fishing charters. Sarasota Bay is quite flat and relatively featureless. Submerge grass beds are the primary cover for bait fish and crustaceans. This in turn attracts the game fish. Submerged flats in 6 feet of water to 10 feet of water hold a variety of fish. Speckled trout, pompano, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle, grouper, snapper, ladyfish, and more are taken regularly on the deep grass flats.
Drifting is the preferred technique when fishing the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. Many of these areas are quite large. Drifting with the wind and tide allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of schools of fish. Once fish are located, anglers and concentrate on that area. It is best to find a flat to drift where the wind and tide are moving in the same direction.
Live bait on the Siesta Key flats
Live bait works well when drifting the grass flats on Siesta Key fishing charters. Shrimp are available all year round and work well on just about every species. Live shrimp can be free lined out behind the boat with little or no weight. This works best in deeper water. In shallower water, the shrimp can be fished under a noisy float. The float both signals a strike and is used to attract fish.
Live bait fish can also be used with great success on the Sarasota grass flats. In the summer time, huge schools of small silvery bait fish flush into the bay. They are easy to catch on the shallow flats near both passes. Once obtained, they can be used as chum to attract fish up behind the boat. This is a deadly technique that regularly produces 100 fish days. Live pin fish and grunts can also be floated back behind a drifting boat.
Fishing with artificial lures on the deep grass flats
Artificial lures are very productive for anglers drifting the grass flats as well. They will often times out fish anglers using live bait. Artificial lures allow anglers to cover much more water than they can with live bait. Lures will also trigger bites when fish are not in a mood to feed. Lures are cast out ahead of the boat as it drifts across a likely grass flat.
The number one artificial lure for anglers on Siesta Key fishing charters is the jig and grub. This consists of a lead head jig with some type of plastic grub body. A 1/4 ounce jig head is the preferred size. Tails come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. Most of them mimic either a bait fish or some type of crustacean. Scented grubs can make the difference on days when the bite is tough.
More effective lures when fishing Siesta Key
Spoons are another effective artificial lure. Silver is the most popular color in the clear waters of Sarasota Bay. 1/2 ounce spoons are the most often used size. Spoons cast a very long way and put out and enticing flash and wobble. Spoons are very effective on bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jacks, and ladyfish. They are especially productive when fish are feeding on the surface.
Plugs are another very effective artificial lure. They imitate small bait fish and can be cast out ahead of the drifting boat. Plugs are also very effective when trolled and are great way to help locate fish in a large area, particularly when there is no wind. Plugs do have a couple drawbacks. They are relatively expensive. Also, anglers must take great care as most plugs have multiple treble hooks.
Fishing the Siesta Key passes
Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass can be excellent fishing spots. Passes are basically inlets that connect the Gulf of Mexico with Sarasota Bay. These are virtual fish highways that many species use to migrate between the two bodies of water. Passes have excellent current flow along with abundant structure. This results in an outstanding fishing spot!
Bottom fishing for sheepshead in the passes is a staple on Siesta Key fishing charters. These tasty saltwater pan fish show up in January and stay until early April. Anglers fish live or frozen shrimp right on the bottom near rocks, docks, seawalls, and other structure. This is a great technique for anglers with little experience and for kids as it is relatively easy and very productive. Grouper and snapper are landed as well.
Fish are also caught in the open waters of the passes as well. Pompano, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, and bluefish are caught by anglers drifting with both live and artificial bait. A live shrimp drifting out behind the boat either free lined or on a jig head can be very productive. Vertically jigging in the deeper water is another great technique. Anglers also cast to breaking fish as they feed on the surface.
Siesta Key fishing charters for snook, redfish, and jacks
Anglers with more experience who seek bit more of a challenge may choose to targets snook, redfish, and jacks. Clients who go this route will not catch as many fish, however, they will usually catch larger ones. This is a “quality over quantity” situation. Both live bait and artificial lures can be productive, depending on the time of year.
These species are rarely found in the open waters as speckled trout and other species are. They are much more are structure oriented and are usually found around mangrove shorelines, docks, oyster bars, and bridges. Both Roberts Bay and Little Sarasota Bay lie on the east side of Siesta Key and offer miles of this prime habitat.
Artificial lures produce on Siesta Key Beach fishing charters
Artificial lures are often used by anglers targeting these species on Siesta Key Beach fishing charters. Shallow diving plugs, we list spoons, and soft plastic baits are most commonly used. These fish can often be found in water as shallow as a foot deep. Lures that will run shallow in the water column are required. Lures allow anglers to cover miles of mangrove shoreline and oyster bars on a fishing trip.
In the wintertime, snook and jacks migrate up into Siesta Key residential canals and creeks. Phillippi Creek is a terrific wintertime spot for both species. Anglers casting plugs towards shoreline cover and docks will usually experience success if they are persistent. Trolling with plugs can also produce some nice fish.
Live bait is also used when targeting snook, reds, and jacks. Jumbo live shrimp are very effective in the cooler months when pitched underneath a dock. Chumming with live bait fish along mangrove shorelines and near docs is extremely effective. This is the best way to catch numbers of fish and is a technique employed whenever the bait fish are available to be caught.
Fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico
Action and the inshore Gulf of Mexico can be nothing short of amazing when conditions are right! Several days of East wind will have the waters close to shore clear and calm. This will attract huge schools of bait fish which in turn will attract Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, sharks, and more. Often times, game fish can be seen feeding voraciously on the surface. This type of visual fish and is extremely exciting.
Casting artificial lures to breaking fish is great fun. This type of fishing is done on Siesta Key fishing charters whenever conditions allow. This most often occurs in spring and again in the fall when the water temperature is in the low 70s. Spanish mackerel are usually abundant and are easy to catch by anglers casting jigs, spoons, and plugs. False albacore are a bit more challenging, but are incredible sport.
Trolling is an excellent way to locate and catch fish when they’re not working on the surface. This is another technique that requires very little angling experience by clients. No casting is required as the boat drives around dragging lures in search of fish. Spanish mackerel are most often caught, but it is not at all unusual for larger king mackerel to be landed just a few miles from shore.
Siesta Key Beach shark fishing
Small sharks are often times plentiful near the schools of Spanish mackerel. Bonnet head and black tip sharks average around 40 pounds and are great fun on medium spinning tackle. The technique used to catch them is fairly simple; a chunk of’ fresh Spanish mackerel is drifted out under a float near the schools of mackerel. If there are any sharks around, it usually does not take long for them to find the bait.
There are three artificial reefs within a couple miles of shore just off of the Sarasota beaches. As much of the Gulf of Mexico floor is barren, these reefs attract both bait fish and game fish. They are great place to start looking when fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Pelagic species such as mackerel and false albacore will be found just under the surface. Anglers bottom fishing will catch sheepshead, flounder, grouper, and snapper.
River snook fishing
Capt Jim offers visiting anglers a unique fishing opportunity; fishing area rivers for snook, bass, and jacks. The Manatee River, Braden River, and Myakka River are within 45 minutes of Siesta Key. All three rivers can offer some fantastic fishing in scenery in the cooler months. As anglers drift with the current in a 14 foot Alumacraft Jon boat, they cast plugs and jigs to likely shoreline spots.
This trip is best suited for experienced anglers. Decent casting skills and patience are required. This is definitely not a numbers game. However, patient anglers can be rewarded with the trophy snook of a lifetime. Fish to 30 inches are caught regularly and snook to 40 inches are caught every season. One unique aspect of this is that largemouth bass inhabit the same waters and can be caught as well.
SIESTA KEY GAME FISH SPECIES
Siesta Key in Sarasota offer anglers a wide variety of game fish species that can be caught at one time of year or another. Redfish, snook, speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jacks, sheepshead, grouper, snapper, tarpon, false albacore, sharks, and ladyfish are all available to be caught by anglers on Siesta Key fishing charters. anglers can find current Florida regulations on the FWC website.
Snook are the most prized inshore game fish in Florida. They are very similar to largemouth bass in that they have a largemouth in a broad tail. They are very powerful ambush predators that are usually found near some type of structure. Docks, bridges, oyster bars, mangrove shorelines, and other structures will all hold snook at one time of year or another.
Snook have a distinct seasonal migration. They are normally found up in creeks and residential canals in the cooler months. As it warms up, they move out into the backwater areas to feed. By May, most mature fish will be out in the passes or along the beaches as part of their spawning ritual. By September, the pattern will begin to reverse itself and fish will move back into the bays.
Snook can be caught by anglers using both artificial lures and live bait. Most effective snook lures were originally freshwater lures designed for largemouth bass, as both fish are similar in habits. Live bait such as large live shrimp, pin fish, grunts, and shiners are also very effective.
Redfish are another very popular inshore game fish. They are highly regarded, perhaps just a bit behind the mighty snook. Redfish also have a fairly distinct migration pattern. In Sarasota Bay, they are normally found under docks and up in creeks and residential canals in the wintertime. As it warms up, they scatter out across the grass flats in very shallow water. They are often times found in loose schools. By late summer, mature reds usually group up into very large schools before moving out into the Gulf of Mexico to spawn.
Most redfish in the cooler months are caught by anglers using live shrimp fished under docks and around other structures. As it warms up and the fish move out onto the flats, artificial lures become more productive. Reds are often caught in very shallow water and it can be difficult working a live bait. Artificial lures such as the weedless spoon and soft plastic baits along with top water plugs are better choices when redfish are schooled up on the shallow flats.
Speckled trout, or spotted sea trout, are an extremely popular inshore saltwater species in the southeast part of the United States. They are present in decent numbers for anglers on Siesta Key fishing charters. Speckled trout are a schooling species that are most often found on deeper grass flats between 4 feet of water and 10 feet of water. However, the larger specimens are often loners that are found in very shallow water.
Anglers targeting speckled trout do well drifting the grass flats. The jig and grub combo is the top artificial lure while a live shrimp fished under a popping cork probably has produced more speckled trout than all other baits and lures combined. Anglers seeking trophy speckled trout will use a larger live bait such as a pin fish or even better yet, a grunt.
Chumming with live pilchards are threadfin herring is an extremely effective technique for speckled trout and other species. The chum will draw trout right up behind the boat, making them easy to catch. This is a style of fishing that anyone can do, even if they have never fished before.
These are a terrific, and underrated game fish. They school up tightly in large numbers and are normally very aggressive. They are often times seen feeding violently on the surface. When this occurs, just about any lure or bait tossed into the mix will draw a strike. Trolling is another very effective method, particularly in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Drifting live baits will produce fish as well. Spanish mackerel are found in the passes, the Gulf of Mexico, and the inshore bays.
Bluefish are well known to anglers who fish up in the northeast part of the United States. The bluefish that are caught on Siesta Key fishing charters are smaller, averaging around 2 pounds but growing up to 5 pounds. However, they are normally caught by anglers using light spinning tackle and put up a terrific fight. Bluefish are most often caught by anglers casting jigs on grass flats in deeper water from 7 feet deep to 10 feet deep. They may also be encountered in the passes and out on the beach.
Pompano are a beautiful fish that average a couple of pounds but put up a terrific fight for their size. They also happen to be one of the finest eating fish that swims. They are prized by anglers for both of these qualities. Pompano are caught by anglers surf fishing off of Siesta Key beaches as well as by anglers drifting both passes and nearby grass flats. Pompano will readily take a live shrimp. However, most fish are caught by anglers using jigs as this mimics the crustaceans that they feed on.
Jacks are the brawlers of the inshore saltwater. They have broadsides, a blunt nose, and a deeply forked tail. They put up a terrific fight and can grow to almost 20 pounds. Jacks are often times seen feeding on the surface. Anglers and countering these feeding frenzies will have an exciting time cast into these large fish. Anglers blind casting to mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, and docks using plugs, spoons, and jigs will encounter jacks as well. They are not considered good to eat.
Sheepshead may not be considered a true game fish by some anglers. However, they meet all the criteria. They fight hard, can be finicky, and are terrific eating. Sheepshead are bottom feeders that primarily feed on shrimp and other crustaceans. Very few sheepshead are caught by anglers using artificial lures. Bottom fishing with live shrimp around structure is the most effective technique. They move into the area to spawn, with February and March being the prime months.
Grouper and snapper
Gag grouper and mangrove snapper are most often thought of as offshore species. However, they are caught in decent numbers in the inshore waters as well, though most are juvenile fish. Both species are found tight to some type of structure, with docks, bridges, and underwater rocks being the top spots. Live shrimp works well for mangrove snapper and smaller grouper while the larger versions of both species prefer larger live bait fish such as pin fish and shiners.
Tarpon are considered to be the ultimate game fish by many anglers. They move into the area in early May and stay until late August. Early in the season, large schools of fish are seen milling on the surface and are sight cast to by anglers using live crabs and bait fish. By mid summer, the fish quit showing on the surface and are most often caught by anglers fishing live baits under floats or cut bait on the bottom. Tarpon fishing is truly big-game fishing and is best for more experienced anglers.
False albacore, known locally as “Bonita” are a terrific game fish species. They are caught in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At times, they will come very close to shore. However, they are rarely if ever caught in the passes or bays. False albacore can be seen feeding on the surface, churning the water into a froth. Anglers position the boat a cast away and try to get a bait in front of the feeding fish. False albacore can be fussy and move around a lot, and patience is required to catch them. However, no other fish caught by Siesta Key anglers is as fast or as powerful.
There are several species of small to medium-size sharks that can be caught by anglers on Siesta Key fishing charters. The best time to target sharks is from mid spring to mid fall. Black tip and bonnet head sharks are the most prevalent species. Though sharks will sometimes be caught by anglers casting artificial lures, cut bait produces the most action. Chunks of oily fish such as Spanish mackerel, jacks, and ladyfish fished under floats in most Sarasota Bay in the inshore Gulf of Mexico will produce these hard fighting game fish.
Ladyfish are sometimes disparaged by anglers because they are not good to eat. However, they are game fish in every sense of the word. They hit both artificial lures and live bait with reckless abandon. Once hooked, ladyfish usually leap several times, as highest 3 feet out of the water. They are also fast and put up an excellent fight for their size. Ladyfish school up, and once one is found the action is usually fast. Lead head jig with a grub body and live shrimp are the top baits.
In conclusion, this post on Siesta Key Beach fishing charters will help anglers understand all the great fishing options available to them!
I had a Siesta Key fall fishing charter. My clients were experiencing hot action as we were anchored up-tide of a large grass flat in 6′ of water in Sarasota Bay. I had the fish chummed up with live pilchards and just about every bait that hit the water got inhaled. Spanish mackerel, trout, jacks, snapper and more kept the rods bent. Then, Chelsey hooked something that put up a more determined battle, staying deep and keeping the identity a mystery. After several moments the mystery was solved a large speckled trout came to the net. This is what autumn fishing charters is all about!
As a Sarasota fishing guide, I love this time of year! Despite the still quite warm weather, fall does arrive and the fish respond accordingly, however, the changes are subtle. The days are a bit shorter, the water temperature slowly drops, and the first mild cold fronts move through. Game fish will begin to change habits and the successful angler will change tactics as well. It is time to move in and fish the shallow flats when Siesta Key fall fishing.
The shallow waters inshore will be very productive in early autumn as the water cools off. Speckled trout will move from deeper grass in 6′ to 10′ of water to the bars, potholes, and over grass flats in water between 2′ and 4′ deep. They will feed on the schools of bait fish that will concentrate in these locations. Snook will also begin their fall migration, moving from the passes to the same type on inshore spots.
Live bait when fall fishing Siesta Key
Live bait is tough to beat when it comes to catching numbers of fish and several techniques work well. The easiest is the time-proven live shrimp under a popping cork. The depth should be set so that the shrimp floats a few feet above the submerged grass. The rig is cast out, allowed to sit a few moments, then the rod tip is twitched sharply, resulting in a “pop”, which attracts the game fish to the helpless shrimp.
Chumming with live pilchards or threadfin herring is extremely effective, especially for snook. It is more involved as a LOT of bait is required, along with a large recirculating livewell and a good pump. Potholes, bars, mangrove shorelines, and even docks are likely spots to try for snook, while lush grass flats with holes are prime spots for trout and other species. Anglers will anchor near the target and toss out a few baits to attract the snook and get them excited and in the mood to feed.
Artificial lures are effective as well and are a lot of fun to fish when Siesta Key fall fishing. They also allow anglers to cover a lot of water quickly. My two favorite lures are a soft plastic bait on a jig head and shallow diving plugs. Shad and shrimp tail baits in natural colors such as new penny, olive, white, and chartreuse work well on a 1/8 ounce jig head with a stout hook. Small plugs in olive and white that float on the surface and dive a couple of fish when retrieved are very productive.
Siesta Key fall fishing, deep grass flats
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.
There are several approaches that can be successfully employed when fishing Sarasota grass flats of Sarasota Bay on my Siesta Key fishing charters. The first choice to make is whether to anchor or drift the flats. Large expanses are most efficiently fished by drifting while smaller patches or edges are best fished from an anchored boat. Working the edge of a shallow flat that drops off sharply into deeper water is a deadly technique that is particularly effective on low tides. The fish will tend to stage on the edge as there isn’t enough water up on top of the flat. While artificial lures can be used this is a situation that is best suited for live bait. A live shrimp or small baitfish free-lined over the edge is simple and very effective.
Drifting the flat while casting lures is an extremely popular and effective technique. One benefit of using artificial lures when fishing Sarasota grass flats is that anglers can cover a lot of water fairly quickly. This is important on the larger expanses of grass; the sooner the fish are located, the better! The primary lure used on the Gulf Coast of Florida is the lead head jig and grub combo. This versatile and inexpensive bait will catch anything that swims and has resulted in many a tasty fish dinner.
Jigs are productive on the deep flats in the fall
Jigs come in a variety of sizes and colors but ¼ ounce heads in white or red are all that is required. Plastic bodies also come in a myriad of shapes and colors but again it does not need to be complicated. A selection of gold, pearl, olive, rootbeer, and charteuse bodies in both the shad tail and flat grub tail will cover most situations. Scented soft plastics such as Gulp! Shrimp can make the difference if the bite is slow.
Hard plugs also catch a lot of fish. The venerable suspending MirrOlure baits have been a staple in tackle boxes for decades. They slowly sink and when twitched suspend motionless in the water. Speckled trout in particular find them irresistible. Shallow diving plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap also work well when retrieved erratically. They are a great choice when surface activity is present and are also effective when trolled while fishing Sarasota grass flats.
Chumming the deep grass flats in the fall
Mangrove snapper will definitely respond to chum. Anglers snapper fishing Siesta Key flats will enjoy the most success by loading up on live pilchards and threadfin herring for bait. Next, a deep flat with good tide flow is chosen and the boat is anchored. Live baitfish are tossed out behind the boat a handful at a time. This attracts the gamefish such as trout, mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish. Snapper generally show up after a bit, when the chum has had a chance to spread out.
Dead chum can be extremely effective when used to attract snappers. Also, at times they will prefer a dead piece of bait on the hook, so try both live and deads baits. These fish are usually a tad deeper, so a split shot is often required to get the bait down in the water column. Mangs can also be a bit leader shy. A 24″ piece of 20 pound flourocarbon leader and a #1 live bait hook works well.
While most anglers snapper fishing Siesta Key flats use live bait, these fish can be aggressive and will certainly take an artificial bait. Scented soft plastic baits such as the Gulp Shrimp work well. Many snapper have been caught on my Siesta Key fishing charters casting small Rapala X-Raps. However, the majority of snapper landed will be taken on live baits. If cast netting bait is not an option, a live shrimp will seldom be refused.
Fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico in fall
When conditions are right, the action in the inshore Gulf of Mexico just off of the Siesta Key beaches can be fantastic. Huge schools of bait fish will move in, attracting the predator species. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, sharks, tarpon, and other species will be caught. One cool aspect of thios type of fishing is that much of it is visual. This is especially true for mackerel and false albacore as they will often be seen feeding on the surface. This is easy pickings as the fish are in a feeding frenzy! Trolling will produce when the fish are not seen on the surface.
Siesta Key fall fishing strategies
Live bait can certainly be used while drifting as well when fishing Sarasota grass flats. In fact, it is a fair bet that more speckled trout have been put on ice using a live shrimp under a popping cork than any other method. This is simply a #1/0 live bait hook with a “popping cork” placed on the line three feet or so above the hook. A live shrimp is hooked under the horn and the rig is cast out in front of the boat as it drifts along. The cork has a concave face that “pops” when twitched sharply. This simulates the sound of feeding fish and will attract trout and other species to the shrimp which is dangling there helplessly.
There are also several manufacturers of noisy floats such as the Cajun Thunder float. These are very noisy and can be cast a long way. The cork is tied on to the running line and then a leader connects the cork to the hook. Popping corks work great in water depths of six feet or less when fishing Sarasota grass flats. A live shrimp can even be replaced with a light jig or artificial shrimp. Live baits can also be drifted out behind the boat. This works well in deeper water and under breezy conditions.
Live baitfish are another terrific producer on the flats. Pinfish and grunts can be purchased at local bait shops or caught out on the flats and are best fished under a float to keep them from getting in the grass. “Whitebait” is a local term used to describe the schools of small silver bait fish that cover the flats in the warmer months. Scaled sardines (also known as pilchards) and threadfins (greenies) are the two most prolific species.
Pilchards are the preferred bait as they are much hardier than the threadies, but both are equally effective. Baitfish are sighted on the grass or chummed into range and then cast netted and quickly put into a large, well aerated baitwell. Jack mackerel or canned cat food mixed with bread is a popular chum as well as bulk tropical fish food.
Catching live bait fish on Siesta Key in the fall
In the summer and fall these baitfish are thick on the shallow grass near the passes. Loading up the live well with bait practically guarantees success for anglers fishing the Sarasota grass flats. Once the bait is acquired, anchor up-current of a flat and toss out a handful of bait. Repeat this every few minutes and if the fish are there they will show up in short order. Once the action heats up, slow down the chum flow; use just enough to keep them excited. I average one hundred fish mornings all summer long using this method.
As with all fishing techniques there are subtle nuances which will increase success. Here are some tips that will help your trips be more successful:
1) Choose a flat that has the wind and current moving in the same direction. Boat positioning and bait presentation will be better. This holds true both when drifting and anchoring.
2) When drifting, keep an anchor with 20’ of line tied off. Once fish are located, quietly slide the anchor in and work that area thoroughly. When the action slows, pull the anchor and continue the drift.
3) Try and set up a drift that covers different depths on the flat. Drifting from eight feet of water into four feet of water is better than drifting at one depth.
4) Keep the noise down. Have the landing net out and keep the bait well lid open. Slamming hatches will shut down the fish!
5) Florida fishing regulations can be viewed on the FWC site.
In conclusion, this article on Siesta Key fall fishing will help anglers catch more fish!
Here is Capt Jim Klopfer’s list of the 9 best Siesta Key fishing spots. After over twenty five years of running fishing charters on Siesta Key, Capt Jim has learned all of the best places to fish, and is sharing them here. Siesta Key offers visiting anglers the opportunity to catch a variety of species from both shore and from a boat.
Capt Jim has written a very long and comprehensive post on fishing in Sarasota. It covers every aspect including tackle, rigging, lures and baits, techniques, locations, and species. Anglers can read it HERE.
The 9 best siesta Key fishing spots are as follows; Bay Island Park, Shell Rd, Robert’s Bay, Siesta Key Beaches, Phillippi Creek, Stickney Pt., Pt. of Rocks, Little Sarasota Bay, and Turtle Beach. These spots will produce for anglers at various times of year, depending on conditions.
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 HERE on the PRODUCTS page. Here is a video covering the same information,
1) Bay Island Park offers anglers a convenient place to fish, either from the sea wall or the Siesta Drive Bridge. Parking is plentiful and there is a portable restroom. Anglers can cast from the sea wall and catch snook, trout, pompano, ladyfish, snapper, and more. A free lined live shrimp is tough to beat. Outgoing tides early and late are great times to fish. Bridge fisherman will score on the same species, especially at night. Just be careful of the traffic!
2) Shell Rd is a cool little park right in Big Sarasota Pass. Pompano, snook, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, sharks, flounder, sheepshead, and other species are landed. Jigs and spoons work well for anglers who prefer casting artificial lures. Live shrimp always is a good choice. The best time to fish is on a high tide, just as it turns to go out.
Anglers with boats drift the pass and fish the structure all along the north end of Siesta Key. Pompano are available in spring and fall. Sheepshead are thick in late winter and early spring. Snook school up in the pass in the summer. Ladyfish will bend the rod almost all year long. Spanish mackerel will migrate in and out of the passes in the spring and fall.
3) Robert’s Bay is a spot for anglers with a boat. Oyster bars, docks, and mangrove shorelines hold snook, jacks, and redfish. Live bait and artificial lures with produce. Topwater plugs are great early and late on a high tide. Jigs and shrimp produce trout and ladyfish on the deeper grass flats. Canals will attract jacks and snook in the winter.
4) Siesta Key beaches offer outstanding fishing when conditions are good. Clear water is important. Fishing is not as good when the water is churned up and muddy. Shrimp will produce whiting, trout, and flounder in the winter. Pompano, ladyfish, and mackerel are taken in spring and fall. Lures will catch a lot of fish as well. Sight casting for snook can be very good in the summer time.
5) Phillippi Creek is a fantastic fishing spot, especially in the cooler months. Snook and jacks with be found at the mouth and up in the creek itself. Shallow diving plugs will catch fish without getting hung up. Snapper and sheepshead congregate on the channel edges, which are rock ledges. Live shrimp works best for bottom fishing.
Phillippi Creek affers protection from the wind as well. This is another reason that it is a good winter fishing option for Siesta Key anglers. One very easy technique is to simply troll a small shallow diving plug such as the #8 Rapala X-Rap.
6) Stickney Point has a park that is accessible for anglers shore fishing. Outgoing tides in the morning and evening are best. Sheepshead, ladyfish, snook, snapper, and trout are the species most often caught. The bridge is a very good night snook spot. It also produces snapper, sheepshead, drum, and flounder.
7) Point of Rocks is the best spot to fish on the Gulf of Mexico side of Siesta Key. Rock ledges attract bait and game fish. Just about every species can be caught here at one time or another. Parking in the neighborhood is prohibited. Anglers must use the public access and walk a half mile or so, but it is worth it!
Point of Rocks is a very popular spot for anglers with boats. In the spring and fall, bait will stack up in huge numbers there. This attracts king and Spanish mackerel, sharks, and false albacore. Trolling and casting to breaking fish are the main techniques. It is also a tarpon hot spot in summer.
8) Little Sarasota Bay has many oyster bars and a few grass beds that hold fish. Snook, reds, trout, and jacks will be found on the bars. Trout, ladyfish, and pompano with be landed drifting the grass flats. For the most part, this is a boaters spot. However, there is access at the southern end from the park on Blackburn Point Rd.
9) Turtle Beach gives anglers the opportunity to fish the surf or the backwater lagoon. Surf fishing is good when seas are calm, while the lagoon is best when the surf is churned up. There is a nice boat ramp along with picnic tables, grills, and a portable restroom. Sight fishing for snook is terrific sport when conditions are right. Anglers can use light tackle or fly as there really is nothing for the fish to break off on.
In conclusion, this article on the 9 best Siesta Key fishing spots will help anglers catch more fish when visiting Siesta Key.
Capt Jim Klopfer offers a Siesta Key fishing charter to visiting anglers. Sarasota Bay has many different species that please clients. Novice and experienced anglers will have success using a variety of techniques. Tactics and target species change throughout the year.
Fishing Siesta Key with Capt Jim Klopfer is the best Siesta Key fishing charter. A professional, full time fishing charter usually results in the best chance of success for visiting anglers. Experienced fishing charter captains are out on the water every day. They stay current on the fishing and adapt to current conditions.
Capt Jim offers several different options to take advantage of these conditions. Inshore saltwater fishing is available all year long. Fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico is productive in the spring and fall. River fishing charters produce big snook and jacks in the cooler months. Both live and artificial baits are used, depending on angling experience and season.
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.
Inshore Siesta Key fishing charters
An inshore charter on Sarasota Bay is the best option for most anglers visiting Siesta Key. There are many different species that can be targeted using different techniques, depending on conditions and time of year.
Fishing charters on the Siesta Key deep grass flats
Opportunities abound for anglers fishing Siesta Key on the west coast of Florida. Anglers can expect action and variety on a fishing charter. Redfish can be sight fished in shallow water, tarpon are targeted along the beaches, and snook will ambush prey along mangrove shorelines.
However, the majority of fish caught on my fishing charters are done so on the deep grass flats in Sarasota Bay. Many of my clients have very limited angling experience. In fact, some had never caught a fish before and we certainly fixed that! Fishing the deep grass offers those anglers the chance to catch a lot of fish. These same techniques will produce all along the Gulf Coast.
While the largest fish on the flats are typically found in quite shallow water, the deep grass flats will produce more in terms of variety on a Siesta Key fishing charter. Anglers who just want to bend the rod and perhaps catch a fish or two for dinner can’t do better than drifting the deep grass flats. Spanish mackerel, speckled and silver trout, pompano, bluefish, jack crevelle, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, black sea bass, flounder, cobia, ladyfish and even tarpon are all available at one time of year or another. Every once in a while a snook or redfish will be encountered over open flats deeper than four feet. Mottled expanses of grass in depths from four to eight feet will be the most productive.
Anglers with very little experience including young children can have success fishing this way. The fish are not spooky and long, accurate casts are not required. A novice angler can learn to cast a jig and catch fish in just a few minutes. Live bait is often used, which is even easier for kids to use. On most trips, six to eight different species are landed, though a couple times clients caught over twenty species on one trip!
Weather conditions are a factor on a Siesta Key fishing charter
Wind, tide, and water clarity all play a role in choosing which flats to fish. The best situation is one in which the wind and tide are moving in the same direction. Generally speaking, incoming tides are preferred but as long as the water is moving, fish can be caught. Flats just inside a pass can be the best spots of all as they flood with bait and clean water from the Gulf of Mexico. Finding clean water is another element when fishing. The exception to this is right after a cold front passes through. Those flats will soon be covered with “dirty” water due to wind churning up the water in the Gulf. On breezy days it is easier to fish flats that are in protected water as opposed to those in open bays.
Many inshore bays have a shallow bar that runs parallel to the shoreline. These bars generally have a sloping bottom with lush grass that drops off into deep water. These are great spots to fish! Speckled trout and pompano might be taken in the four to five foot depths while Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and ladyfish are usually found on the outer edges of the grass. Points usually have good grass flats on both sides and are also excellent spots to try. Areas near passes will have natural deep channels along with man-made dredged channels. Any grass flat that drops off sharply into deep water can hold fish, particularly on a low tide.
Siesta Key fishing charters with lures
Artificial lures are both very productive and a lot of fun to fish on a fishing charter. Casting lures out in front of a drifting boat is a great way to cover a lot of water efficiently. Begin the drift on the up-tide or up-wind side of the flat. Fan cast the area while varying the retrieve. Lures will produce action and variety. Pay attention to details such as depth and water clarity. If a drift produces good action, idle around and make another pass through the same area. If not, move on to another spot. This technique allows anglers to eliminate unproductive water fairly quickly.
Occasionally, I will anchor when using lures. One recent charter comes to mind. It was very windy and Spanish mackerel were isolated on the up-tide side of grassy points with good current flow. The wind and tide made working these points difficult while drifting. I anchored a short distance away and had my clients cover the small flat using Rapala X-Raps. A fast, erratic retrieve triggered some very exciting strikes! We ended up with a dozen nice Spanish for the box along with speckled trout and ladyfish.
Jigs are effective Siesta Key fishing lures
The most popular artificial bait on the west coast of Florida is the lead head jig with a soft plastic body. These baits come in a myriad of colors and styles, but they all basically work the same. And they all catch fish. Bass Assassin jigs come in some great colors and sizes and are very cost-effective to fish. My personal favorite is the gold shad tail on a ¼ ounce white jig head. Grub tails and jerk baits are also effective.
Dark colors such as olive, green, and rootbeer work well in dark water while gold, silver, and white are good choices in clear water. Chartreuse is a great all-round choice and hot pink is a good option when the water is dirty. Scented soft plastic baits such as Gulp! can make a big difference on days when the fish are reluctant to bite.
Plugs are effective on Siesta Key fishing charters
Plugs are also effective lures when fished over the deep grass. Suspending plugs such as the venerable MirrOlure are deadly on speckled trout. Both topwater and shallow diving plugs will also catch plenty of fish. The Rapala X-Rap slashbait is a great choice for working areas where fish are breaking on the surface. These lures dive a few feet down and have great action. A fast, erratic retrieve is usually very effective. One disadvantage in using plugs is that the multiple treble hooks can damage small trout.
Silver and gold spoons have been around a long time and they still catch fish. Spanish mackerel love a quickly retrieved silver spoon while speckled trout seem to prefer a slowly wobbling gold spoon. In open water spoons with a treble hook such as the Johnson Sprite are utilized; there is really no need for a weedless spoon in this application on a Siesta Key fishing charter.
Fly fishing on a Siesta Key fishing charter
Fly fisherman can use the same tactics to score on the deep flats. Any fish that will hit a jig will take a weighted fly. The most popular pattern by far is the Clouser Deep Minnow. There are a ton of variations on this fly, but basically it is a hook with some dressing and a weighted eye that allows it to sink. The fly is cast out, allowed to settle for several seconds, and retrieved back in short strips.
White, green/white, olive/white, and chartreuse/white Clousers tied on a #1 or #2 hook are the most popular flies. A 7or 8 weight rod with an intermediate sink-tip line works best. I use Orvis tackle. Many fly anglers make the mistake of using a floating line. Even with a weighted fly, the line will not get down deep enough when fishing in water over six feet.
Siesta Key fishing charters use live bait
While artificial lures are productive, live bait is tough to beat. Shrimp and bait fish are the two most popular live baits. Shrimp are purchased locally while bait fish are usually caught, but they are sometimes available at bait shops. Pinfish, grunts, and “whitebait” are the most commonly used live bait fish. “Whitebait” is a generic term for any shiny white fish that schools up in large numbers (pilchards, threadfin herring, etc). Match the hook size to the size of the bait. A 1/0 live bait hook is a great all-round choice. I usually free line the bait, but sometimes either a split shot or a float will be required, depending on current flow and depth. Use a long shank hook if cut-offs from mackerel and bluefish become a problem.
A well full of 3” pilchards practically guarantees success. These are caught with a cast net over shallow flats or out on the beach. In the summertime flats near the passes will be covered with these bait fish, especially on an incoming tide. If they are seen on the surface “dimpling”, it is easy enough to quietly ease into range by drifting or using a trolling motor. Chumming is a great way to get a bunch of bait fish within range of a cast net.
Chumming for Siesta Key bait fish
A can of jack mackerel (purchased at your local Publix) and a half loaf of wheat bread is a proven mixture. Add just enough salt water to make a thick paste. Anchor in two to four feet of water on the up-tide side of a flat and sparingly toss pea-sized pieces into the water. The bait should show up within a few minutes. This will produce action and variety on fishing charters.
I use the same tackle and rig with both live bait and artificial lures. A 6 ½ foot spinning rod with a matching reel spooled with ten pound monofilament line works well in both applications. A Spider Hitch is used to double the last three feet of line and a double Uni-Knot attaches a 24” piece of fluorocarbon shock leader. 30 lb test is a good all-round choice, but conditions will dictate what size leader to use.
Clear water will perhaps require lighter leader while dirty water or the presence of toothy critters such as bluefish, mackerel, or sharks will make 40 lb or 50 lb leader a better choice. The lure or hook is then tied on to the end of the leader. I do not like to use snaps, swivels, or any other types of “hardware”. The exception to this is when using spoons. A snap swivel will eliminate line twist. Tackle and rigging are important aspects when fishing.
Winter Siesta Key Fishing charters
Contrary to popular belief, January is winter, even in Florida, and it does get cold. In order to be successful fishing during cold weather, anglers need to adapt to the different conditions that are presented this time of year. First, let’s go through the weekly weather cycle. It begins after a cold front moves through. The wind will be out of the north east and it will be chilly in the morning. The next couple of days will be pleasant and sunny with east winds. As the next front approaches, the wind will shift south with clouds and a chance of rain before the front moves through and it blows hard out of the northwest. The best days are usually the ones with south winds, just before the front moves through and the pressure is just starting to drop.
Cold weather techniques on a Siesta Key fishing charter
Tides are also a factor in cold weather. Morning tides can be extremely low, especially when coupled with a northeast wind. This will congregate fish in holes and deep channels, there simply is not enough water on the flats for fish to be comfortable. Holes in creeks and canals will produce sheepshead, redfish, snook, trout, drum, and flounder on the low tide stages. Afternoons will often be more productive as the day warms and the tide rises, especially for speckled trout.
Both passes and the surrounding flats will be productive several days after a front passes as the water clears, fish do not like dirty water. The area from Stickney Pt. south to Blackburn Pt. is very reliable this time of year. It offers deep grass flats, oyster bars, bridges, creeks, and canals. Water quality is usually better as it is protected from dirty water that comes in for the Gulf of Mexico.
Live shrimp are a top bait in winter on Siesta Key fishing charters
Shrimp are extremely effective baits this time of year. Cold weather means lower water temperatures will result in fish being more lethargic. A live or freshly dead shrimp fished on the bottom with catch just about every species. Frozen shrimp are a good second choice. On lower tide stages, deeper areas will be more productive. Oyster bars that drop off sharply, deeper holes in creeks and canals, bridges, docks, and channel edges are all good spots to try. A #1 hook on a 2’ piece of 20 lb. leader with a split shot (if necessary) is all that is needed. If the action is slow, try chopping up a shrimp or two and tossing the pieces into the water, this may get the fish going. A live shrimp fished under a popping cork will catch a lot of speckled trout when fished over grass flats on a high tide.
Artificial lures will also catch plenty of fish in cold weather. A jig/grub combo is perhaps the most popular and effective lure. Bouncing a jig down channel edges and in both passes will produce pompano, trout, ladyfish, and other species. Again, in cold water a subtle retrieve will usually elicit more strikes. Sometimes tipping the jig (adding a tiny piece of shrimp) will make a big difference. Jigs will also fool speckled trout, pompano, and ladyfish on the deep grass flats. Darker colors such as olive and rootbeer are quite effective fished on a ¼ ounce jig head.
Artificial lures are effective on a Siesta Key fishing charter
Plugs are also effective winter baits. Suspending plugs such as the MirrOlure MirrOdine and 52 Series are deadly in cooler water. The lure is cast out, allowed to sing several seconds, and twitched sharply. The bait suspends there, seemingly helpless, triggering strikes. Snook and jack crevelle will migrate up into the many creeks and canals in our area. Shallow diving plugs are very productive lures, allowing anglers to cover a lot of water fairly quickly. Olive and gold are two very productive colors on a Siesta Key fishing charter.
Take what Mother Nature gives you this month. Enjoy the warm, sunny days and fish the open flats. In cold weather, breezy days, don’t fight it. Find a protected spot to hide and soak a shrimp on the bottom. Plenty of fish can be caught. I had a charter last January that sticks in my mind. The weather was awful, northwest winds at 20 + knots. I never put the boat on plane and we caught a ton of fish!
We started off in the Intracoastal, catching sheepshead on live shrimp. Then, we located a school of ladyfish in a deep hole in a canal and caught one on every cast on red/gold Bass Assassin jigs. We finished up catching snook and jack crevelle on Rapala way up in Phillippi Creek. Be flexible and have fun this month while other less adventurous anglers stay at home.
Siesta Key structure fishing produces on charters
Fish love structure, it is an undeniable fact. It provides cover and attracts forage. All species of fish can be taken inshore structure fishing, but the primary targets will be sheepshead, snapper, flounder, gag grouper, redfish, snook, jack crevelle, and black drum. Sheepshead are very reliable in winter and early spring and they will often times bite when the water is cold and dirty and other species shut down. Mangrove snapper school up on the channel edges and bridges in the summer time. Snook, reds, and jacks are available all year.
Inshore structure fishing takes many forms; bridges, docks, seawalls, rip-rap, rock piles, artificial reefs, oyster bars, and holes. Both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass are filled with fish-holding structure as are most of the passes and inlets in Florida. Docks and oyster bars are abundant in our area, along with several bridges. The north end of Siesta Key in particular is a terrific spot with deep water and miles of rip-rap, docks, and the Siesta Drive Bridge. The following breaks down the two different techniques for fishing deep water and shallow water structure.
Siesta Key deep water structure
In most instances, a vertical presentation is the most effective way to target fish in deeper water. A knocker rig works very well in this presentation. It is simply a sliding sinker that rests up against the hook. This results in the bait resting right on the bottom and allows a fish to move off with the bait without detecting any weight. A two foot piece of heavier leader helps prevent cut-offs on the sharp rocks. The baited hook is lowered and allowed to lie on the bottom with a taught line. As with all structure fishing, use as little weight as possible, just enough to hold the bottom. The best time to fish deeper areas is during periods of slow tidal movement as a lot of current makes fishing too difficult.
Siesta Key shallow water structure
Docks and bridge pilings in four to twelve feet of water make up the majority of structure in Sarasota waters. Anchoring several boat lengths up current and tossing the bait back towards the structure is the best approach when fishing these spots. Whenever possible, use a minimal rig consisting of a two foot piece of leader, a hook, and a split shot. If heavy current exists, use the “knocker rig” with a light weight. When the water in the passes is clean, docks adjacent to the passes will be productive. After a front moves through, the passes will be full of cold, dirty water. The area to the south is more protected and often times the docks and canals here will offer better fishing as most species prefer cleaner water.
Do not overlook oyster bars as structure! Bars are plentiful from Stickney Pt. south to Blackburn Pt. Any bar that has a drop off into three or four feet of water may hold snook, reds, sheepshead, jack crevelle, and other species. Quietly approach the bar and anchor as far away as possible to avoid spooking fish. Free lining a live shrimp or pilchard with no weight is the most productive technique when fishing shallow bars. A low, incoming tide is normally the best time to target these fish-holding structures. Fish will stage in the deeper water waiting until the tide floods and they can get up on top of the bar. Once that occurs, they scatter out and are more difficult to locate.
The coldest weather will send fish scampering into creeks and canals. The water will be warmer, which also attracts bait fish. Deep holes will hold fish, especially on the low tide stages. Holes and changes in depths are often overlooked by other anglers. Treat these spots just like and other structure, anchor up-current and let the bait flow back naturally either free-lined or with a split shot.
Live bait is effective on Siesta Key fishing charters
For the most part, this is a natural bait situation. While artificial lures can be very effective, particularly around docks, the focus will be on anchoring and fishing with natural baits, which in most cases means live shrimp. Live shrimp are the most popular bait when fishing structure in the cooler months on. They are readily available, easy to keep alive, and are effective on a variety of species.
Hook the shrimp just under the horn, allowing it to swim freely. If fish are nibbling around the hook, thread the shrimp onto the hook from the tail. Frozen shrimp are a suitable replacement if live shrimp are unavailable. Sand fleas and fiddler crabs are both effective live baits, but anglers will have to catch their own. Frozen baits are usually available at local bait shops. Squid and other frozen cut bait can be used successfully, especially for flounder and snapper.
Siesta Key fishing charter tackle
A 7 foot spinning outfit spooled with twelve to fifteen pound line is ideal for inshore structure fishing. The rod needs to be stout enough to pull a decent fish away from cover, yet light enough to cast a small bait and detect subtle strikes. A shock leader should be used. The water clarity will determine what size to use; thirty pound test leader is a good all-around choice. Hooks come in a variety of sizes and styles. Match the size of the hook to the baits that are being used. A #1 short shank hook will work well in most circumstances. Circle hooks are quite popular with many anglers and vastly reduce the number of fish that are hooked deep. Another popular option is a plain jig head, which basically is a hook and weight all in one package.
As the water temperature approaches seventy degrees, live bait fish become extremely effective baits. Pinfish, grunts, and pilchards will fool snook, reds, flounder, and mangrove snapper. Pinfish and grunts can be purchased, shiners (pilchards, threadfins, etc.) will need to be cast netted by the angler. Bait schools are seen and cast over, or a mixture of jack mackerel and wheat bread can be used to lure the baitfish within range. A large livewell is required to keep these baits alive. Again, match the hook size to the baits, a larger 2/0 hook may be required.
Siesta Key live bait techniques
One common mistake many anglers make when inshore structure fishing is moving the bait too much, especially when the water is cooler. Allow the bait to sit still and when a fish begins to nibble, do not move the bait at all, wait until a good pull is felt, then raise the rod tip and reel. This works well with both circle hooks and “J” hooks. The judicious use of chum can spell the difference between a successful outing and a slow one, particularly when the water is cold or dirty. A couple of shrimp diced into small bits will often stimulate the fish, but too much chum will fill them up. Also, do not chum in heavy current, doing so will have the opposite effect, pulling fish away from the spot instead of attracting them.
One morning in early spring I was out on a fishing charter with a family. We were targeting sheepshead under the docks that surround Bird Key. Michelle, a teenage angler from New York, cast her shrimp out and within several seconds her rod bowed deeply and the drag screamed as lined peeled off of the reel. She was almost pulled out of the boat! I quickly came to her aid, helping her pull the fish away from the dock. Miraculously, we were able to stop the fish just short of the pilings. Several more runs ensued, testing both the light ten pound tackle and the angler’s skill. We prevailed this time, landing a 22” gag grouper. You never know what surprise await inshore structure fishing Sarasota!
Fishing off of Siesta Key beaches
Shorter days and cooling water temperatures announce the beginning of autumn here on the Suncoast. The changes are subtle, but they are there. A sweatshirt might be required on some mornings, along with long pants. The grass stops growing. The oppressive humidity is easing. It is one of my favorite times to fish in Florida! When conditions are right, I will be out in the inshore Gulf of Mexico chasing Spanish mackerel and false albacore enjoying a Siesta Key fall fishing frenzy.
Spanish mackerel are a terrific and underrated gamefish. They strike lures, flies, and live bait with reckless abandon, make long runs, and are superb table fare. October is a prime month to target these speedsters both in the Gulf of Mexico and in Sarasota Bay. There will be plenty of mornings when the wind is out of the east and the Gulf is flat; these are excellent conditions to run the beach in search of outstanding light tackle action. Birds working on the surface are a certain sign that feeding fish are in the area. Several artificial reefs off of Lido Key are also reliable areas to fish.
Surface fishing action off of Siesta Key Beaches
When schools of fish are seen feeding on the surface, a true Siesta Key fall fishing frenzy, I usually choose to cast artificial lures at them. My personal favorite is a Rapala X-Rap in the (08) size. Lighter colors work best in the clear water. Cast the plug out and rip it back in with an erratic retrieve, the faster the better. This will produce explosive strikes! Silver spoons, jigs, and flies are also quite effective. I will often times replace the treble hook(s) with a single long shank hook to allow a better release. On days when the fish do not “show” as well, blind casting or free lining live baits can produce.
This is a great opportunity for anglers who are interested in a fly fishing charter. Larger mackerel will get into the backing. The best outfit is an eight weight with an intermediate sink tip line. A white D.T. Special tied on a long shank hook will catch plenty of fish and reduce cut-offs. An eight foot piece of fluorocarbon leader works well, but a section of 50 lb can be added should the sharp teeth of the macks become a problem. Fast retrieves work best. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to move the fly quickly enough. Keep the rod tip low, strip quickly, then “strip strike” the fish when it hits. This involves pulling sharply on the fly line with the stripping hand and smoothly raising the rod tip.
Fishing Siesta Key artificial reefs
Anglers who anchor up and chum on one of the inshore artificial reefs are virtually guaranteed to experience success in October. They can create their own Siesta Key fall fishing frenzy. The best approach is to anchor up-wind of the structure and free line a live bait back behind the boat. A long shank 1/0 hook and 30-40 lb leader works well. Use a split shot if wind or current do not allow the bait to sink. Chum is not always necessary but increases the odds. Frozen blocks of chum can be purchased at local shops. Live baitfish that are crippled and tossed out will bring the gamefish right up to the boat.
False albacore (little tunny, bonita, fat Alberts, albies) will also be encountered in the inshore Gulf of Mexico. Albies are incredible sport though more challenging than the mackerel. They can be fussy and usually move faster and do not stay up as long. Patience will pay off. It is better to sit and wait for a good shot than run all over the place. Eventually they will pop up within casting range. The same lures that fool the macks will catch the tunny. Anglers should not be surprised if other gamefish crash the party. Sharks, king mackerel, cobia, and even tarpon will hit baits meant for smaller game. The albies and mackerel can be landed on fairly light tackle but the cobia, kings, and tarpon will require a step up to heavier gear, so bring along some beefier tackle, just in case.
River snook fishing charters near Siesta Key
My Client cast the Rapala towards a submerged tree at first light on the mist-shrouded Myakka River. She began her retrieve, giving it sharp jerks and then pausing briefly, imitating a wounded baitfish. On the third pause, there was a huge boil as a nice snook inhaled the lure, violently breaking the eerie morning silence as at leapt high out of the water in an effort to toss the plug. Unsuccessful, it dove for the safety of the fallen tree. I used the trolling motor to put some distance between us and the structure. It was nip and tuck for a few moments, but Bonnie fought the fish like a pro, and eventually it came alongside the boat, posed for a quick photo, and was released back into the dark, tannin-stained water.
I love river fishing! It is one of my favorite trips. River fishing has all of the elements that I enjoy most when angling; serenity, solitude, great scenery, and the chance to catch large fish on artificial lures using fairly light tackle. It simply does not get any better than that! Rivers offer several advantages over open bays and other large bodies of water. Most importantly, the fish are easier to locate; there is simply less area to search. Rivers also offer protection from the wind on days that it is blowing hard. In the cooler months, snook migrate up into rivers to escape the drastic temperature changes that can occur on the shallow flats.
Snook habits and migration patterns
Snook are an “amphidromous” species, meaning they can tolerate absolute fresh water, but their migrations are not for the purpose of spawning. Both coasts in the southern half of Florida offer many opportunities to experience this type of fishing for snook. Tarpon, largemouth bass, gar, and other species will also be encountered; the types of available species will depend on the season, location, and salinity level of the river or creek that is being fished.
I use artificial lures when working rivers and shallow diving plugs have proven to be very reliable. They have several advantages over other types of baits; anglers can cover a lot of water, these plugs are relatively snag-free, and the hook-up ratio is high due to the multiple treble hooks. In the dark tannin stained waters that I fish on the west coast, gold and Firetiger are the two most productive colors. In clearer water, chrome and white work well. #10 Rapala X-Raps and BX Minnow baits in gold and Firetiger are my go-to baits.
The new Rapala Jointed BX Minnow has fantastic action and is a good choice as well. Topwater baits will catch fish early and late in the day as well as under overcast conditions. Lipless crankbaits such as the Rat-L-Trap will produce and are a good choice for anglers with less experience as they have a lot of built-in action. For whatever reason, they also tend to catch more bass.
River snook fishing lures and techniques
The best technique when using suspending or shallow diving baits is an erratic retrieve with pauses in between. Often times the snook or bass will crush the lure as it hangs there motionless, seemingly helpless. The Jointed BX Minnow has a lot of built-in action and will produce fish with a slow, steady retrieve. Same goes for the lipless crankbaits. As with all artificial lure fishing, vary the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges.
Soft plastic baits can also be extremely effective, particularly when the water gets cold and the fish are a bit inactive and do not want to chase a faster moving lure. Low water conditions will tend to concentrate fish in the deeper holes; this is another good time to slowly work a soft plastic lure. Weighted swimbait hooks work very well and will snag less that a jig and grub combination will. Swimbaits such as the Bass Assassin Boss Shiner in darker colors are my favorite baits. These lures have a broad tail that gives it a seductive action. The bait is cast out, allowed to sink, and brought back to the boat using a slow, steady retrieve. Unlike with the plugs, snook seem to prefer a more subtle presentation with the soft plastic baits.
River snook fishing lures
Spinnerbaits are another effective lure that allows an angler to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time. They are very easy to use; a steady retrieve usually works best. Most freshwater spinnerbaits have a skirt. I have found that those made specifically for saltwater and have a jig and grub produce better in rivers. The Terminator Redfish Spinner is a good example of this. The strong, single hook is relatively snagless, has a good hook-up ratio, and makes releasing fish easier than a plug with treble hooks does. Gold blades and dark grub tails work well in darker tannin water. Both spin and baitcasting tackle works fine, use 40 LB braid and a 2’ piece of 40 LB fluorocarbon leader.
Fly anglers can score when targeting snook in rivers as well. In fact, it is a good opportunity to land a trophy fish on fly. A 9wt rod with an intermediate sinking line, and a 6’ piece of 40lb fluorocarbon leader is a good combination. Long casts are not required but stout tackle will be needed to land a big fish in the close confines of a river. Bright Clouser Minnow and Enrico Puglisi patterns that mimic a bluegill or tilapia produce well. White has also proven to be a good color for snook. Anglers will need to pay attention to their back casts in tighter sections.
Best snook fishing spots in rivers
While fish may be found anywhere in the river, certain spots will prove to be reliable over time. In most rivers the outside bends, particularly if cover such as fallen timber is present, will prove to hold fish on a consistent basis. The current flow tends to gouge out a deep hole in the bends of the river. Also, while most structure is visible, a depth finder can be a valuable tool to locate fish. Florida rivers tend to “undulate”. A stretch of river bank may look identical, but the shallow spots will not be as productive as those that have a little depth. In fact, the drop-offs in the middle of the river act as current breaks and ambush spots and will hold predators as well. Rivers that have a lot of twists and turns are more productive than those with long, straight stretches.
Trolling is both a great way to learn a river as well as to locate and catch fish on a river charter! Years ago Buck Perry invented the Spoonplug and it continues to be effective to this day. Lipless crankbaits such as the Rattletrap also work well, but I like to use diving plugs for one simple reason; they float at rest. If for some reason the boat needs to be stopped, these plug will float to the surface instead of sinking to the bottom. Trolling in rivers is quite simple; tie on a lure, let it out behind the boat, and drive up or down river at idle speed or just above. Once fish are located, slow down and fish that stretch thoroughly.
Give a nearby river trip a try. Chances are you will enjoy change of pace and tranquility that river fishing offers. In most cases it is not a numbers game, but the challenge of catching a trophy fish in a peaceful setting may hook you, just as it has for me!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do visitors to Siesta Key need a fishing license?
A: Anglers going out on a fishing charter do not need to purchase a fishing license. The state of Florida has a provision where charter boat captains can purchase one license that covers all guests. However, anglers from out of state who want to fish on their own will need to obtain a fishing license. HERE is a link to the FWC site which has all fishing license requirements and the ability to purchase online.
Q: What do anglers need to bring on a Siesta Key fishing charter?
A: Clients taking out a fishing charter need only bring their drinks and snacks, appropriate clothing, hats, sunglasses, and sun screen. Fishing tackle, bait, licenses, and a cooler with ice are all provided as part of the cost of the trip. Anglers may bring along their own “favorite” fishing rod if they so desire. The same goes for clients who would like to fly fish. Capt Jim provides Orvis tackle, but anglers may bring their own equipment.
Q: What fish species can clients on a Siesta Key fishing charter expect to catch?
A: Siesta Key and Sarasota offer visiting anglers many different species that they may catch on a fishing charter. Speckled trout, snook, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, sheepshead, snapper, grouper, ladyfish, redfish, jack crevelle, flounder, cobia, bonita, sharks, catfish, and more are landed regularly. Capt JIm Klopfer’s personal best was nineteen species on one six hour charter! Generally, six to eight species are taken. HERE is a link to Capt Jim’s monthly fishing forecast.
Q: Can fisherman keep fish to eat on a Siesta Key fishing charter?
A: Yes. While Capt Jim promotes “catch and release”, he understands that many anglers enjoy a fresh fish dinner. Clients may keep a few fish, enough for a meal. Fish will be filleted and bagged for clients at the end of the charter. It will be stressed, however, that only a few fish for a meal will be kept. Sarasota Bay gets a lot of pressure, fish conservation practises need to be employed.
Q: Where will clients meet for a Siesta Key fishing charter and what time?
A: Capt Jim likes to pick clients up at the boat ramp in downtown Sarasota at Centennial Park. HERE is a link with the address and a map.
The back-up spot is Bay Island Park at the north end of Siesta Key. HERE is a link with the address.
Time will be determined depending on weather, tides, and conditions. Morning is generally the best time to fish, though afternoons can be better in the winter.
Q: What is the age limit for a Siesta Key fishing charter and how many anglers can be on the boat?
A: There basically is not one. It is up to the parents to determine if their children are going to be relaxed enough and enjoy the experience. Capt Jim has taken many four and five year old kids out with great success! Four anglers is really the maximum that can fish comfortably. On occassion, Capt Jim will take out five if there are kids involved, with the understanding that only four will fish and the adults will help with the kids. Families with kids make up the majority of crews going out on charters and Capt Jim enjoys teaching the youngsters to fish.
Q: How much does a Siesta Key fishing charter cost and what does it include?
A: A four hour fishing charter is $400. Four hours is plenty of time for most anglers. The price includes the boat, Capt Jim and his experience and service, all bait, tackle, licenses. Longer charters can be arranged. A six hour fishing charter is $550. This is a better choice for more experienced fishermen. It offers the chance to do more challenging and time consuming fishing. Anglers can target snook in the back country, bonita out on the beach, or just fish a couple extra hours.
Live bait fishing Siesta Key will produce the most action for the majority of novice anglers on Siesta Key fishing charters. The two predominant baits used here on the West Coast of Florida are shrimp and bait fish. Shrimp can be purchased at most bait shops and are the “nightcrawler of saltwater”, they catch everything!
Anglers fishing from shore will need a bait bucket to keep them alive. Most buckets have holes in them so that the bucket can be lowered into the water, insuring a supply of fresh water to the shrimp. Small battery operated air pumps can be purchased to keep them frisky in a five gallon bucket. Most fishing boats have an aerated baitwell.
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.
Bait fish come in all shapes and sizes; big fish have been eating small fish for a long time. The two basic types are “whitebait” such as scaled sardines (pilchards), threadfin herring, and sardines and “fin fish” including pinfish and grunts. All are productive when live bait fishing Siesta Key. Fishing with bait fish is more complicated; they must be caught by the angler in most cases and are more difficult to keep alive. Whitebait in particular need the water changed constantly. Pinfish and grunts can be kept alive in a bucket for a while.
Most clients really enjoy being a part of the bait catching process. Young children in particular are enthralled when the net comes back with hundreds of little squirming minnows! It is great fun scooping up the stray baits that fall out of the net. Also, other marine life such as starfish and sea horses are occasionaly caught.
Live bait fishing Siesta Key techniques
The rig for live bait fishing Siesta Key is fairly simple. A #10 black swivel is tied onto the end of the main line and 24” of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader is tied onto the other end of the swivel. A hook finishes off the rig. Hook choice is determined by the size of the bait being used. In most cases, a #1/0 short shank live bait hook is a good choice. Shrimp are hooked either under the horn just behind the eyes or in the tail.
Baitfish can be hooked under the dorsal fin or through the lips or nose. A float can be used to suspend the bait from the bottom and weights can be added to both get the bait down to the bottom along with adding distance to the cast. Baits can also be “free-lined” which means just hooked on with no other weight and allowed to swim naturally in the current.
It is probably safe to say that over the years more trout and other species have been caught live bait fishing Siesta Key with a shrimp under a popping cork than any other method. A popping cork is a float that has a concave face with a weight at the bottom. The float sits up-right in the water and when the rod tip it “twitched” sharply, the float makes a “pop” which imitates fish feeding on the surface and attracts game fish to the bait. In recent years noisy “clacker” type floats have become popular. These are effective but one drawback if that the depth cannot be changed as easily since the leader is tied on versus the popping cork which slides onto the line.
Popping corks and other tactics
Using the popping cork rig is quite easy. The cork is attached 3-4 feet above the hook, which is baited with a live shrimp. If a lot of current or wind exists, adding a small split shot a foot above the hook may be required to keep the bait down. A 7’ rod works best as the rig is “lobbed” out using an easy swinging motion. Once the bait settles, reel up the slack and twitch the rod sharply. The cork will “pop” and the shrimp will jump up, and then slowly settle back down.
Fish find this difficult to resist! Wait 30 seconds or so and repeat. Do this several times then reel it in and cast out to a different spot. When the float disappears, reel the slack up and set the hook. This works well from both the shore and from a drifting boat when live bait fishing Siesta Key. A bait fish can also be used in place of a shrimp.
Both live shrimp and bait fish can be “free-lined”. This simply consists of hooking the bait, casting it out to a likely spot, and waiting for it to get eaten. This works best over deeper grass flats, off the beach, and near structure such as docks and bridges. It will not be effective in shallow water as the bait will go down into the bottom to hide.
Bottom fishing techniques
Bottom fishing is another popular method when using live bait. This is usually done from shore or from an anchored boat. The amount of weight needed will be determined by the depth of the water and the strength of the current. The rule of thumb is to use only enough weight to hold the bottom. If the bait moves too much it will eventually snag on the bottom. In shallow water a split shot or two will often times be enough.
In deeper water or if current is present, a sliding egg sinker should be used. The sinker can be added on the main line above the swivel, this is called a “fish finder” rig. It allows the fish to pick up the bait and move without feeling the weight. Another method is the “knocker” rig which puts the weight right on the eye of the hook. This works well and will not hang up as often. Frozen bait and fresh cut bait can also be used effectively when bottom fishing.
Fishing has been steady so far. My late spring Siesta Key fishing report reflects the action on my trips. Conditions have not been perfect as the water has been a bit dinghy with areas of that thick mossy-type grass, perhaps due to the wind and rain. Finding patches of clean water has been important on the deep grass flats.
Baitfish are starting to show up on the flats and bars near the passes, though most of it is too small to net right now. Snook are fairly plentiful in both passes and starting to show up in good numbers out on the beaches. As the surf clears and settles, the beach snook fishing will improve. Tarpon fishing has been sub par this year, mostly due to long periods of west wind.
Siesta Key fishing with live bait
I spent most of my time on charters fishing the deep grass flats as most of my clients included families with children and novice anglers. Drifting the flats and casting Bass Assassin jigs and live shrimp was productive for a variety of species. Speckled trout were the most commonly caught fish, but Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, pompano, ladyfish, sharks, cobia, and catfish were landed as well. This is a normal spring Siesta Key fishing report.
Snook school up in both Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass and this is a great time for less experienced anglers to catch them. Chumming with white bait will produce a lot of fish. A free lined large live shrimp is also a very effective bait for snook. Docks, bridges, rocky structure, and even sand beaches in and near the passes will hold snook. Afternoon outgoing tides can be a great time to fish. Snapper, grouper, flounder, and other species will be landed as well.
Spring Siesta Key fishing reports includes that redfish were landed in Robert’s Bay and in creeks and canals throughout the area. A live hand-picked shrimp is tough to beat. Snapper, snook, drum, sheepshead, flounder, and more will take a shrimp as well. As we get into summer the reds shouls school up on the flats, especially up in norh Sarasota Bay.
Live bait produces on family fishing charters
It is mid-June here in Florida and most of my Siesta Key fishing charters involve families and children. The kids are out of school for the summer and many families choose to visit Sarasota and Siesta Key and Lido Key and Siesta Key summer fishing is in full swing. Fishing has been steady, although the water is quite warm, in the upper 80’s. This warmer water temperature resulted in the fish being less aggressive and so a change in tactics was required. Jigging became less effective, so it was to get out the cast net.
I switched over to catching live bait fish this week. This is a very effective technique when Siesta Key summer fishing. Schools of pilchards and sardines showed up in decent size and numbers, so each morning I netted up a bunch and used them as chum and bait. Getting out there early, at first light, was very important as it gets very warm by late morning. The early bite was also the best action.
Deep grass flats are very productive
The grass flats in 6′ to 8′ of water near the passes at Bird Key, Radio Tower, and Middlegrounds produced decent action and variety. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevelle, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, ladyfish, catfish, and more were attracted to the chum and fed behind the boat.
Sarasota Bay is still a bit off color, for whatever reason. There is also quite a bit of thick, mossy weed that can make fishing a bit frustrating as it gets attached to the hooks and lines. Our daily afternoon storms should start any day now, which will result in lower water temperatures and will really help improve the fishing. While live bait is very reliable, artificial lures can be used successfully, especially first thing in the morning. Combining both techniques can work well when Siesta Key summer fishing.
In conclusion, this article on live bait fishing Siesta Key will help visiting anglers catch more fish!