35 best Sarasota fishing spots
Here is a list of my 35 best Sarasota fishing spots. These are places that I fish almost every day on my Sarasota fishing charters, depending on the season and conditions. In order to limit redundancy, I will use the following terms when describing these spots.
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.
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“Deep grass flats” are from 4’ to 10’ in depth and will hold speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jacks, grouper, snapper, sharks, flounder, and ladyfish. Jigs and live shrimp, either free lined or under a cork work well.
“Shallow grass flats” are 3’ or less and hold snook, redfish, larger trout, and jacks. Topwater plugs, soft plastic baits on a light jig head or weedless hook, and weedless gold spoons are the best baits. A large live shrimp work very well, too.
“Docks” will attract sheepshead, snook, redfish, drum, flounder, and snapper. Live bait works best, with a live shrimp being the best all round choice. Baitfish will produce as well.
“Bars” are shallow bands of sand, usually with grass and/or oysters that drop off on one side into slightly deeper water. They attract snook, trout, reds, sheepshead, jacks, and more. All baits can be effective, depending on the depth and species targeted.
Most of these are large areas, not one specific spot. Click for current Florida regulations.
Fishing spots #1 through #4
1) Long Bar; a very long, shallow bar that nearly crosses the entire bay. Deep grass flats are found on the west end as well. Best on a low, incoming tide. A great spot to fish! Redfish will school up on the south side of the bar on the low, incoming tide. Reds will also be seen tailing on the north side along the shore. Speckled trout are on the deeper grass where the bar drops off.
2) Buttonwood Harbor; a very large area of deep grass with a shoal (shallow flat) on the east end and then deep grass to the south. A white “Shoal” marker makes it easy to find. Lush shallows abound near Longboat Key and are good for snook and redfish on the high tide. Helicopter Shoal is a long, narrow bar several hundred yards to the south. This is a great speckled trout area. A deeper channel runs into the basin of Buttonwood Harbor and is a good winter spot. Another VERY good year-round spot.
3) Bowlees Creek; deep grass surround the mouth of Bowlees Creek and spoil islands and bars line the channel itself. The east side of the bay in both directions has shallow grass flats that drop off and will hold fish at times. Grass flats out in front hold trout, pompano, and ladyfish. The creek itself is good for snook and jacks in the cooler months.
4) Bishop’s Point; easily distinguished by four large condominiums, Bishop’s Point is a classic point that starts shallow and slowly tapers off into deeper water. Excellent deep grass flats exist on both sides while an excellent shallow flat lies between the bar and the shoreline. Snook and reds will be shallow while the deep flats hold trout and other species. A canal runs inside the point and is a good winter spot.
Fishing spots #5 through #13
5) Stephen’s Point/Ringling flats; this is a great spot, particularly for speckled trout. An underwater “hump” exists a few hundred yards from shore with a lot of grass that holds bait and fish. The south end is a bit shallower than the north side. Breaking fish are often found here, including bluefish and mackerel. Bars along the shoreline from the Ringling Mansion north are good for snook and reds.
6) The east side of Sarasota Bay can be good, especially on a hard east wind. Shallow bars with grass and docks drop off into deeper water. Look for bait and birds. Residential canals along here will hold snook and jacks and are good spots on windy days.
7) Hart Reef; 27.22.015/82.34.574 concrete rubble placed in deeper water that holds grouper, snapper, tarpon and more. Reef is in ten feet of water. Anchoring up and bottom fishing with live shrimp or pinfish works best. Gear up for some larger grouper.
8) Country Club Shores/Moorings; a large bar runs parallel to shore here, starting very shallow then dropping off into deeper water with grass growing to 10’. This area will hold a wide variety of species. This is a very reliable “action” spot as so many different species are caught here. An artificial reef lies at the north end of CC Shores and holds bottom fish.
9) Middlegrounds; a fantastic fishing spot! I have spent entire four hour charters without ever leaving this area. The Middlegrounds is a large area of both deep and shallow grass close to the Gulf of Mexico that attracts just about every fish that swims. Trout, bluefish, pompano, mackerel, jacks, ladyfish, sharks, snapper, and even cobia will move into this area to feed. Artificial lures such as jigs will help anglers find the fish. It is a large area to be covered. Free lined live shrimp and chumming with live bait will also certainly produce. The Middlegrounds is one of my favorite 35 best Sarasota fishing spots.
10) New Pass; connects the Gulf and Sarasota Bay and can hold a lot of fish, particularly in spring and fall. Pompano, mackerel, ladyfish, blues and more will be caught in the pass. Structure such as docks and the bridge are good for sheepshead, snapper, and more. Snook school up in the pass in the summer time. Docks on Ken Thompson Island and another park on the north side of the bridge are great places for anglers without a boat to fish.
11) Zwicks Channel; a deeper cut going north, it holds trout in the winter and docks are good year-round. Docks near the restaurant and marina hold sheepshead in late winter and spring. Also a great place to catch white bait.
12) Radio Tower; a large area of submerged grass extending from the anchored sailboats south to the Ringling Causeway, this is another large area that is very productive for a variety of species. This is a good winter spot, for whatever reason. West of the flats is a protected area that is good on a north west wind. It has deep dredge holes along with shallow grass. Pop Janzen Reef lies at the south end.
13) There is a deep channel that cuts through a shallow flat here and can be very good for trout and redfish. Docks along here also hold snook, reds, drum, and sheepshead. A good spot in winter and on a strong northwest wind.
Fishing spots #14 through #24
14) Bridges; the Ringling Bridge, “Twin Bridges”, and Siesta Drive Bridge are all good spots to catch fish both day and night. Snook ae caught at night under the lights. Sheepshead, mangrove snapper, and gag grouper will take live shrimp. Jacks can be seen working on the surface. Bay Island Park lies on the west side of the Siesta Drive Bridge and is a handy spot for anglers without a boat.
15) Marina Jacks; an area of submerged grass with a shallower crown just off of the anchored boats. This is another good “action” flat that produces just about every species. Shallow flats to the south off of Selby Gardens are good for snook and reds, as is Hudson Bayou.
16) Marker #5; another good grass flat in 5’ to 7’ of water that holds a lot of fish at times. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, ladyfish, and more will hit jigs and live bait. The bar to the south is a good place to catch bait in the summer time. This is one of my favorite 35 best Sarasota fishing spots.
17) Bird Key docks; Bird Key is man-made and the dredging required to do so results in deeper water surrounding the key. Docks line Bird Key and many will hold sheepshead, snapper, flounder, and other structure oriented species. A good, protected spot on north west winds.
18) Otter Key; a deeper dredge area cuts through the keys here. This is a very good winter area. Structure and holes abound and holds many species. Docks and deeper water attract snook, reds, sheepshead, snapper, and more. The Yacht Club Channel can also be good when windy.
19) Big Pass; a veritable fish highway, Big Pass is a fantastic spot to fish! Pompano, mackerel, blues, and ladyfish will be found in the middle and hit jigs bounced off the bottom. Structure such as rocks, sea walls and docks lines the north side of Siesta Key all the way out to the mouth. This deep structure holds snook, sheepshead, snapper, reds, grouper, and drum for bottom fishing anglers. Big Pass is one of my favorite 35 best Sarasota fishing spots.
20) South Lido Park; a great spot for shore-bound anglers, offering access to the Gulf and Big Sarasota Pass. A nice grass flat lies to the southeast and is a great place to wade for trout. The Mercury hole lies to the north. It is a deep dredge hole in a very shallow flat. Be wary of strong tides; do NOT wade out near the point or in the channel!
21) Spoil Islands; spoil islands are the result of dredging the Intracoastal and can be great spots to fish. Snook, snapper, trout, reds, and more will hold here, especially when baitfish are abundant. It is a good spot to catch bait as well. Be careful of shallow water!
22) Skiers Island; grass flats in 4’ to 6’ of water surround the island, as well as nice oyster bars to the north. The Grand Canal is a good place to fish docks and to troll.
23) Bars and shallow grass good for trout, snook, and redfish. High tides are best. Docks along the shoreline hold snook, reds, snapper, and more.
24) Beaches; area beaches are probably the best bet for anglers fishing from shore. Whiting, silver trout, flounder, and sheepshead will take shrimp or a small jig in the winter. Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, jacks, and more will be found in spring and fall. Sight fishing for snook can be fantastic in the summertime. Anglers in boats will catch mackerel, kings, false albacore, sharks, tarpon, and other species. Surface action for mackerel and false albacore can be fantastic in the spring and fall. The beaches are one of my favorite 35 best Sarasota fishing spots.
Fishing spots #25 through #35
25) Field Club flat; an area of scattered grass in 4’ to 6’ of water, getting very shallow at the south end. This is a good area on a strong north east wind and incoming tide. Docks will hold fish as well.
26) Phillippi Creek; a VERY good place to fish in the cooler months. Jacks, snook, snapper, sheepshead, drum, and more will inhabit the creek. Live shrimp works well as does shallow diving plugs. Snook and jacks will migrate a long way up the creek if it gets cold. It does get shallow in spots so caution is required. High, afternoon tides are best in winter. Phillippi Creek is one of my favorite 35 best Sarasota fishing spots.
27) This stretch of the Intracoastal has a lot of rocky ledges that are good for snapper and sheepshead. It is another good, protected winter spot.
28) Stickney Point; a park just south of the bridge offers access to shore-bound anglers. Fishing from the bridge itself is also permitted. Snook, ladyfish, jacks, and bottom fish are the main targets. Very good at night for snook and snapper.
29) A nice little flat lies southeast of Stickney Point and will hold snook, redfish, and trout. Incoming tides are best. The small creek is good as well, but is quite shallow.
30) Point of Rocks; the best beach spot in the area, offering great fishing when conditions are right. It does require a little walking as access is limited, but it is worth it. Tarpon anglers congregate there in May and June. Spanish mackerel and other species school heavily in spring and fall.
31) Nice bar and grass flat east of Marker # 51, good for trout. Bars will hold snook and redfish.
32) Bars on both sides of the bat at Marker #50 are very good. Fish shallow for snook and reds and the deeper edges for speckled trout.
33) Vamo; nice shallow bars and grass with access to North Creek just to the south. There is a park that is a good place to wade or launch kayaks and canoes.
34) Neville Preserve; good grass with sharp drop-offs, fish will school up in the channel. It is another good winter spot, fish will concentrate in the channel.
35) Flats and bars south of Spanish Point on both sides are good for a variety of species, mostly ladyfish and speckled trout. Shallow bars hold snook, reds, sheepshead, and jacks. Best on the higher tide stages.