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Top Fishing Charters in Bradenton
Fishing in Bradenton
Talk about ‘a kid in a candy store’ - well, that’s how it’s like for Bradenton fishing charters. With Manatee River to the north, the Braden River to the east, the Intracoastal Waterway, and Sarasota Bay to the west and south, and the vast space of the Gulf of Mexico at its doorstep, Bradenton is a safe bet you’ll come back home with some kind of a catch. However, the fish here are wayward and will fight back no matter how skilled you are. Which makes it all just more interesting!
Bradenton is a vibrant place however you look at it. The city’s been there since the 19th century and is now growing at a rapid pace. The city’s diverse waterways are paralleled only by the rise in gentrified areas that are home to art studios and artisan shops.
The nearby rivers, bays, the Gulf of Mexico, the ICW, and meandering water bodies are a launchpad for fishing charters that have an easy access to outstanding fishing. There hide hard hitting and tasty fish.
Bradenton fishing spots
Bradenton has ample fisheries, all worth checking out. Whether it’s saltwater fishing or exploring the flats and shrubbery of backcountry lakes and rivers, the city’s waterways will have you hooked. You will likely be returning here every single year.
Speaking of having it all, Bradenton has a quick access to three major bays of Florida. And the Gulf of Mexico is only a short boat ride away. So, let’s see what’s biting in Bradenton’s saltwater fisheries.
Tucked in by barrier islands that keep it separated from the Gulf of Mexico, Sarasota Bay fisheries offer outstanding inshore fishing, with schools of Snook, Redfish, and Trout regularly lurking around shallow waters. The long stretch of grass flats fishes superbly for Trout, Pompano, Tripletail, and Spanish Mackerel.
And if you move around deeper waters of the bay, you can easily catch some Sheepshead, Black Drum, Jack Crevalle, and Snapper. They are swimming around objects, so check out piers and bridges, rocks, and wood structures.
Further out, if you explore the reefs and wrecks, you can get Amberjacks, Snapper, and Groupers.
The waters just off Longboat Key are teeming with a variety of inshore pelagics and bottom huggers, so make sure to mark this spot on your map.
Terra Ceia Bay
North of Bradenton, hidden behind the Snead Island, the Terra Ceia Bay fishes well throughout the year. Located close to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, these mangrove waters, creeks, and bayous are home to a fine selection of table fare and game fish.
You can start by drifting around flats, hooking scores of Trout and then move to mangrove channels for Snook. As you scout around the mangrove cuts, you can come across Redfish, Snook, and more Trout. With a seasoned captain, you could be hitting the ‘Backcountry Slam’ in no time. Once you’ve explored the mangrove saltwater enough, head to some more open waters for Blacktip Shark.
Tampa Bay fishing is a story in itself. It has a varied terrain that includes mangroves, skinny waters, flats, and grass areas; while fishing Tampa Bay bridges takes you to a whole new level.
If you want Tarpon - and these waters are known as the ultimate place to land a big one - then head towards the island of Anna Maria. Sitting at the south edge of the Tampa Bay, the island sees scores of migrating Tarpon each year. It’s the perfect hot spot for the Silver King.
Shallow flats produce incredible Snook fishing most of the year. When the cold front hits the bay, Snook will move back to rivers and backwaters.
And, if you want a biceps workout, check out the skinny waters. You will find Redfish roaming 5 ft deep waters year-round. In colder months, Redfish will move to slightly deeper waters that lie next to the flats and will hide around structures and close to the bottom. Black Drum, relatives to Redfish, also swim in shallow waters.
Speckled Trout are found anywhere from shallow flats to deeper bay waters and beach areas. Once you head out to offshore reefs, you can also get some Sheepshead. They too move around bridges and boat docks.
Gulf of Mexico
A true gem of saltwater fishing for numerous US states, the Gulf of Mexico is a quick boat ride away from Bradenton. The fish are strong, acrobatic, and incredibly massive.
You will see numerous anglers line down the Bradenton marina, bent on coming back with a dinner. Gag Grouper, Hogfish, and a variety of Snapper can easily satiate any angler’s hunger. You can find ample of these fellas once you set out. They feed six to 10 miles offshore, right past the Bean Point Beach and nearby ledges and rock piles.
Here, you can also get Triggerfish, Red Grouper, and to top that - King Mackerel. The sight of a King leaping out five feet above the water is not something you easily forget. These aggressive feeders are fast and merciless, but make fishing super intense.
If you want really big game, you need to reach deeper waters. Once you make it past the 60-mile mark - which is why full day trips are a good choice - you can hope to get Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and a variety of bottom fish, including Amberjack, Grouper, Triggerfish, and Snapper. Offshore wrecks and reefs are home to Porgy, Seabass, and Grunts.
From spring to well into the fall, you can get Tuna, King Mackerel, and Cobia already at 25+ miles from the coast.
How much does it cost?
When it comes to Bradenton fishing, charter prices vary depending on how you want to be fishing and where you want to head out. If you want to book a spot on a party boat, it can cost you about $200 per person for a full day trip. You will get the gear, but there will be other people on the boat and it can often get really crowded.
If you want to have the boat to yourself and your party, you will need to pay about $650-$800 for a full day trip, and about $450-600 for a half day trip. On these trips, you will have the captain at your disposal, all the fishing gear, and more flexibility to choose where you want to be fishing. You will probably stay within a 30-mile radius from the coast.
More experienced anglers who want to get the predators of the Gulf, including Sailfish, Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna, and more, can book an extended day trip, which usually means they will be fishing between 10 and 12 hours. These trips cost about $1000.
Bradenton has imposing fisheries wherever you set the course. Saltwater fishing is just one part of the puzzle. There are many more profuse fisheries to explore on the other side of the city. Enter lakes and rivers of the Manatee County.
The Manatee River stretches for 36 miles and has lush wildlife. Manatees, dolphins, herons, and alligators, this river is not only a sight for sore eyes but an incredibly rich fishery. From Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, and Gar, to an occasional Bull Shark in the brackish waters, the Manatee River should be on your to-do list.
Colder months can be super rewarding and can also get you Crappie and Bream. And, if you've been reading carefully - you must’ve noticed that Snook move back to rivers in colder months. Guess where you can find them? That’s right, right here in the Manatee River.
And, since the river is not far from the Tampa Bay, you can sometimes find some odd Redfish and Jacks here too.
The largest tributary of the Manatee River, the Braden River offers excellent fishing for Black Bass and Bluegill. It’s idyllic and relaxing, and easily paddled - so for kayak aficionados out there, you might want to consider getting your ‘yak’ and get going.
Other fish you can find here are Bream, Gar, Catfish, Carp, Panfish, Snook, Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Bowfin, and more. Just check if the stream is open to the public before your trip.
Manatee Lake is a major source of water for the entire county and has excellent fishing. In this reservoir, you will find Bluegill, Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Speckled Perch (aka the Florida Crappie), and more.
A lot of anglers pass the Lake en route to some better-known fishing spots. But the anglers who regularly fish these waterways know just how rewarding fishing Manatee Lake can be. If you want the most out of your trip, then check out the fisheries east of the bridge on R64.
The best time to be fishing here is from fall to spring, around the bushes and logs, as well as grass beds.
Lake Evers produces great Largemouth and Sunshine Bass, as well as Bream and Speckled Perch. It’s best to check out underwater structures and debris, looking for signs of fish. Early mornings and late afternoons are particularly productive. As the sun goes up, the fish will move out back to the spots with shade, so look for trees and shrubbery.
What to expect on a freshwater fishing trip?
You can expect a lot of fun. These fish might not get as big as Marlin, but fishing for them is a real detective chase. As the fish hide around shrubs and mangrove cuts, you will go after them, with no choppy seas to distract you. Half day trips are about $350 to 450 for up to two people and a bit more expensive with more anglers onboard. Full day trips cost about $500.
Rules and regulations
As with the rest of Florida, when you’re saltwater fishing, you don’t need a recreational fishing license as the charter captain covers people onboard. However, for freshwater fishing, you might need to buy a fishing license, so it’s best to consult the Florida Fish & Wildlife. This will also give you up-to-date information on the season, size, and limits for the fish you want to catch.
As for your fishing trip, it’s best to bring clothes in layers, water to stay hydrated, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and food and beverages. If you’re traveling with your little ones - check with the captain if he will take care of the vests - in most cases, they do.
Types of fishing
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again - Bradenton is a poster child of sport fishing. From flats, wrecks, reefs, rivers, lakes, and backcountry mangroves, along with bays and the vast depths of the Gulf of Mexico - there is hardly any technique you can’t try here.
Whether you want fly fishing for Tarpon, sight casting for Reds around the shallow flats, bottom fishing around reefs for Amberjacks and Snapper, or trolling for Mahi, Sailfish, and Wahoo, Bradenton will have you hooked after a single trip.
Now, if you want to stay inshore and explore the countless mangrove cuts, and grassy areas, check out for Redfish, Trout, Black Drum, and Flounder. Reds and Black Drum will go for shrimp and soft baits, and Trout are up for pretty much anything really. And if you find Snook, you will want to have feather jigs ready. Tarpon likes live bait - and mostly live mullet and pinfish but also responds well to spoons and plugs. You can do sight casting for Tarpon too.
If you head out to bay waters, you can do trolling for King and Spanish Mackerel. Live sardines and threadfin will keep Kingfish going. Around approximately the same latitude, if you do bottom fishing for Snapper and Grouper, make sure to use squid, while Groupers will bite for lobsters.
And finally, once you’re ventured to where the big boys are, make sure you have ballyhoo hooked on your outriggers and start trolling for Sailfish, Wahoo, Tuna, and Mahi. Heavy tackle is a good bet if you don’t want your gear smashed.
When you explore the freshwater spots around Bradenton, you should arm yourself with some ultralight spinning gear, or get a fly rod. Plastic worms, popping bugs, and spinner baits work for most of the species you can encounter in these lakes and rivers. Hire a local guide to take you to hidden hot spots or get on a boat and explore the streams.
If you want Bass, then go with live shiner. Nothing beats them when it comes to getting super big fish. Cast the shiners under your bobbers (floats) and look as magic takes place. But if you can’t get a shiner, then look for a small bluegill, cut mullet, or shrimp.
For Crappies, it’s best to use live minnows as bait.
Fly anglers, check out Lake Manatee. Popping bugs are used most often, but subsurface flies also do the work.
Ultralight spin and fly tackle are a good option to get Bream. And if you want a nice fight, try getting Catfish on light tackle.
Bradenton Fishing Seasons
Bradenton Fishing Calendar
What People Are Saying About Bradenton
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Top Fishing Techniques in Bradenton
Top Targeted Species in Bradenton
- Size 10 to 20lbs
- Food Value Average
- Game Qualities Average
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck
- Size 3 to 15lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Inshore, Flats, Backcountry
- Size 25 to 80lbs
- Food Value None
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Inshore, Flats, Backcountry
- Size 3 to 12lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Flats, Backcountry
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