Fishing in Sarasota: The Ultimate Guide
Jul 7, 2020 | 10 minute read
Reading Time: 10 minutes

What’s not to love about Sarasota? Often dubbed as one of the top vacation destinations in Florida, this city is the perfect place to party, relax, or both. With over 30 miles of public beaches to enjoy, adventurers and vacationers alike love coming here. And to top it all off, fishing in Sarasota is fantastic.

From the mangrove-lined flats and nearshore reefs in Sarasota Bay to the offshore waters of the Gulf brimming with trophy fish, just about anything you’d like to target is a boat ride away.

Top Catches in Sarasota

Picking top catches in Sarasota is easier said than done. Dozens upon dozens of species are available here and you’d have to spend a lifetime fishing to get them all. Here are some of the most popular catches in Sarasota:

Snook for Everyone

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been fishing, going after Snook is always fun. This is undoubtedly one of the most frequent catches in Sarasota and everyone loves catching this gamefish.

Two happy anglers holding a good-sized Snook with beautiful nature and blue sky in the background

Snook are available year-round, though they move around depending on the time of the year. You’ll find them on the flats and in the bay in spring, and as the water warms up, they move to the beaches. Surf fishing for Snook is very popular because you can hook a trophy in a few feet of water.

If you’re coming to Sarasota in winter, look for Snook in residential canals. Winter is also an excellent time to go river fishing for these hardy fellas. There are several rivers in the area that you can explore, including Manatee, Myakka, and Braden rivers.

Shore anglers will have a great time casting for Snook from bridges and piers, and there are plenty of those around the city. It’s a good idea to adjust your choice of bait to your fishing spot and/or the size of fish you’re chasing. Nice large shrimp is always a good choice, while greenbacks are very productive in the summer. If you’re going for a trophy, pinfish are your best bet.

Whatever technique you use, whatever bait you prefer, one thing’s for sure – going after Snook will be a blast and you’ll always come back for more!

Let’s Talk About Grouper!

Bottom fishing in Sarasota is always in demand and it owes a lot of its fame to Grouper. Both nearshore and offshore waters are teeming with different Grouper species, which is good news for anglers of all levels. What’s more, you can come at any time of the year and go after these bottom dwellers.

Three happy anglers holding their Red Grouper catches

Gag Grouper are usually the main stars, mostly because you can hook them just about anywhere. From flats to offshore reefs, these guys like to roam and are always hungry. You’ll find them in the shallower waters during winter and spring, and they’re great to catch because they’re strong fighters. Not to mention, they’re absolutely delicious.

If you’re going for variety, be prepared to head out to the offshore Gulf waters. Cast your line in more than 200 feet of water and you can expect Black and Red Grouper, as well as Scamp and even Goliath if the conditions align.

Bear in mind that every species has its own timing, so if there’s a particular Grouper you’re after, make sure to check when the best time to come is. Anglers looking for truly big specimens should be prepared to travel further offshore (80–100 miles), but the trip will be worth it.

Ready to Take On the King?

Many a story has been told about the ultimate Florida inshore gamefish – the Tarpon. No other fish fights better and none is more acrobatic, which explains why fishermen love them so much. Add to that the incredible size that the Silver King can reach, and you’ve got yourself a real fishing challenge.

Two anglers leaning off the edge of the boat, holding a massive Tarpon

You can catch Tarpon practically year-round because there are some residential fish that hang around. Still, those fish are usually smaller (so-called “pods”). When the migration begins, the chances of landing something big are better, which is what most anglers want.

The best time to fish for Tarpon is between May and August. During this period, Tarpon are migrating through the Sarasota inshore waters in great numbers. Smaller fish are very fun to catch, but there are also some giants that go well into three digits. And having a 200 lb Tarpon fighting you on a 20 lb line is enough to get anyone’s blood pumping.

A lot of experienced fly fishermen love to target the King on a fly. Anglers usually spend their time around sandbars, sight fishing with a 12 wt setup and a dark fly. If you prefer spinning tackle, then you can’t go wrong with blue crab, which happens to be Tarpon’s favorite food.

With Tarpon in the mix, your epic fishing battle could be but one cast away!

So Many Snapper to Choose From

Going after Snapper is always a good idea. These fish are available all year and they will fight you with everything they’ve got. Whether it’s Mangrove, Red, Yellowtail, or Mutton, Snapper can be found just about anywhere.

A satisfied fisherman holding a trophy Red Snapper

Mangrove Snapper are probably the most abundant of all. As their name suggests, you’ll find them around mangrove shorelines year-round, and they make for top-notch eating. Snapper also congregate around underwater structures like rocks, piers, and bridges, where they can easily find cover.

For bigger, trophy-sized fish, head out to the offshore reefs for some first-class bottom fishing. You can score some true lunkers out there, especially during the open Red Snapper season in the summer.

People love targeting this fish because it’s equally fun to catch for all ages. Spend a half day trip with your kids inshore and you’ll have plenty of Snapper fillets for several dinners. Looking for more of a challenge? Then offshore spots are your destination, where truly big specimens live and feed.

The only question is, what kind of Snapper are you in the mood for today?

And so Much More…

Fishing in Sarasota is like exploring a treasure chest – there’s so much to do that it’s hard to pick where to start. That’s why we just have to mention some of the fish that are the stars of the area.

Two happy anglers sitting on a boat, holding a nice Amberjack

In the inshore realm, Redfish and Spotted Seatrout are very popular catches. Sheepshead, Jack Crevalle, Pompano, and Permit are also always around. On the nearshore front, you can expect Cobia, Flounder, and Tripletail. Spanish and King Mackerel migrate through the area in huge numbers twice a year, in spring and fall.

Deep sea fishing enthusiasts will have plenty to do. True, you might have to travel further to get to the best fishing spots, but you’re in for a treat. Anything from Sharks to pelagics are in the cards, so you can fish for Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, and even Swordfish. Mix things up with bottom fishing, and you’ll be face to gills with Jacks, Triggerfish, Hogfish, and Barracuda. So, what are you waiting for?

Types of Fishing in Sarasota

With a fishery this big and abundant, it’s hardly a surprise that there are many ways to fulfill your angling dreams. Whether you enjoying fishing from shore, from a pier, or from a kayak, Sarasota will have something for you.

Surf Fishing

A photo of people surf fishing on the beach

One of the easiest and most relaxing types of fishing must be surf fishing. You don’t need much to be successful – basic spinning gear, some bait, and good weather conditions. Another great advantage of Sarasota is that the majority of beaches are open to public.

The best time to hit the beach is in spring and summer (April–August), but this is also when temperatures can get very high during the day. This is why it’s a good idea to go fishing very early in the morning.

One of the best insider tips is not to cast your line until you see the outline or a shadow of fish in the water. You can target an array of species – Snook, Flounder, Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel, and Redfish, to name a few.

Bridge and Pier Fishing

Anglers fishing from a pier at sunset

Imagine this: One day you’ve got your feet in the warm surf, and the next you’re hanging out with your fishing buddies on a pier. Sarasota is the perfect place to mix up your angling action!

There are fishing piers scattered all over the Sarasota area, so just pick one closest to you. Tony Saprito Pier, Whitaker Gateway Park Fishing Pier, and Rod & Reel Pier are the most common haunts of passionate fishermen.

If you’d like to try your luck on bridges, then go to the Bird Key Park, right on the end of the Ringling Bridge. Here, not only will you enjoy good fishing action, but you’ll also admire gorgeous views of Sarasota in between the bites.

Kayak Fishing

A photo showing the front of a kayak with a fishing rod propped in front and beautiful view

For anglers who are also outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers, kayak fishing is the perfect combo of everything they love. If kayaking is your passion, you’ll have a great time in Sarasota.

There are plenty of launch sites to choose from, depending on where you’d like to fish. Myakka River State Park is a great option if you’d like to bask in splendid views while waiting for the fish to bite.

Another option is The Turtle Beach kayak launch on the Little Sarasota Bay, close to the Jim Neville Preserve. This gem is worth exploring, both because of good fishing and the wildlife you could see. Finally, Buttonwood Harbor is very popular among angling ‘yakkers because it can take you to the top-notch bite of Redfish, Snook, Trout, and much more.

Fishing With a Charter

A charter boat on the water with a captain on it

One of the most popular ways of fishing for non-locals is definitely on board Sarasota fishing charters. If you’re fishing in Sarasota for the first time, you’ll want to have a professional by your side. That way, you won’t be wasting your time looking for fishing spots and you’ll have a better chance of catching good fish.

There are plenty of charters to choose from, and the most important factor is where you want to fish and for how long. Inshore trips are generally more convenient for families, while offshore expeditions are usually reserved for trophy-seeking experienced fishermen. Of course, there are also nearshore excursions in the bay that are practically suitable for everyone.

Having a local fishing expert on board will help you make the most of your time on the water and fall in love with Sarasota’s fishery once and for all.

Fishing Tournaments in Sarasota

Fishing boats lined in a marina, ready for a fishing tournament

With amazing fishing opportunities come fishing tournaments that attract anglers from all over the country. Whether you’re in the mood to seriously compete or just have some fun, you’ll enjoy these events.

The most popular tournament is the Sarasota Tarpon Tournament, which has existed since 1930. The tournament lasts 5 weeks and usually takes place in May, and during that time, fishermen compete in who will catch a Tarpon with the biggest girth. There are also special divisions (Ladies, Youth, Most Release), so there’s a bit of something for everyone.

You can also participate in the Sarasota Slam, inshore or offshore, that lasts from April all the way through August. There are some local tournaments that are often organized to raise money for noble causes, so you can also partake in those if you’d like.

Top Fishing Spots in Sarasota

An aerial photo of the Big Sarasota Pass
An aerial view of the Big Sarasota Pass, one of the most productive fishing spots in Sarasota.

Another conundrum that anglers face when fishing in Sarasota is how to find the best spots – or rather, how to decide which one to choose. The list of amazing fishing holes is virtually endless, but here are some that look promising.

  • Stephen’s Point: Some say that there’s no better place to go if you’ve got Spotted Seatrout on your mind. This is also a part of the Ringling Flats, where you can find Snook, Bluefish, and Redfish.
  • Long Bar: By far one of the favorites of local inshore fishermen. Come here when you’re looking to relax, but also when you’re in the mood for excellent Redfishing. Spotted Seatrout is another common catch.
  • Big Sarasota Pass: Another spot that you shouldn’t miss out on, if only for the sheer variety of fish. There’s a lot of underwater structure where Sheepshead, Redfish, Snook Grouper, Snapper, and more come out to play.
  • Middle Grounds: Right on the doorstep of the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find this veritable fishing heaven. A lot of fish like to feed in this grassy area, so you can look forward to targeting Snapper, Ladyfish, Cobia, and Bluefish, among many others.
  • Pop Jantzen Reef: This an artificial reef in Sarasota Bay, that’s a famous haunt of many fish species and anglers who chase them. In these nearshore waters, you can find Snapper, Sheepshead, Flounder, and Bluefish.

Fishing Licenses and Regulations

A picture with a notice that a fishing license is required

When you’re fishing, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the current fishing regulations. Solo anglers should do their research and find out what kind of fishing license they need and what the daily bag limits are for species you’re planning to target.

Remember that Tarpon are exclusively catch-and-release, while some species like Red Snapper have strictly regulated seasons. These regulations change annually, so you should figure out all the details before you hit the water.

Anglers fishing with a charter are taken care of because the guide provides all the necessary licenses and will keep you in the loop about regulations.

The Stuff Fishing Dreams Are Made Of

A view of downtown Sarasota at sunset

The city of Sarasota is a beloved vacation destination, but even more so, it’s a fishing haven. Here, beautiful beaches are welded with breathtaking views, vibrant nightlife, and angling action that never stops. If you still haven’t tried fishing in Sarasota, it’s safe to say you’re missing out on quite a bite. Try it out, we promise that you won’t regret it!

Did you go fishing in Sarasota? What are your impressions? Do you have any advice for the community? Let us know in the comments below.

Rather be fishing?

Get great fishing tips, travel inspiration, and fun facts straight to your inbox, once a week, every week.
Invalid email address This email address is already subscribed

Something went wrong!

Unfortunately we can't subscribe you at this moment due to a system error. Please try again later.
Leave a reply
NameRequired *
Your comment Required *