Fishing Knows No Season
Along the Sarasota/Manatee Suncoast, there is something for everyone no matter what the time of year — whether it be fly-fishing, walking the beaches looking for the shadowy snook, or exploring the deepest parts of the Gulf for the wily barracuda. From the simplest pole with just a hook and line to the more sophisticated fly rod and reel, there is fishing for everyone along the Suncoast.
No season is the best season for fishing in our area. Certain times of the year provide different types of fish. Sarasota County has an extensive artificial reef program in the bay and in the Gulf, which has enhanced the fishing in this area. In the bay there are six artificial reefs. These reefs not only provide structure for juvenile fish, but also attract larger fish such as cobia, bluefish, pompano and many other bay species. In the Gulf, there are five inshore reefs, which are within three miles of the beach, that attract mangrove snapper, cobia, grouper, flounder and other exotic fish. There are 21 offshore reefs that are located six to 28 miles from the shore. These reefs are made from materials including railroad boxcars, concrete rubble and surplus army tanks. They attract a wide range of fish, not only those you find on the inshore reefs but also exotics such as permit, barracuda, yellowtail and tripletail.
The best way to find fish is to be observant — watch what is going on around you. Watch the birds — they will tell you where a school of bait fish is. Watch the other boats around you. If they are not catching any fish, move. If they are catching fish, watch what they are doing — what bait they’re using, how their lines are rigged, the speed of the retrieve, whether their boat is anchored or drifting. And please be careful about not getting too close. Tackle stores are a good source to find out what is biting. They are always talking to the local guides and other fishermen. Just ask! (But, as dad always said, “I’ll answer your questions, if you will listen to my answers.”)
Longboat Pass — All around the bridge spanning Longboat Pass is a favorite spot for many local fishermen.
City Island — Bay fishing in the park makes for a great afternoon, also fish from the seawall into New Pass.
Saprito Pier — Just before you cross the Ringling Bridge, this fishing pier is one of Sarasota’s most popular spots. Fish from the pier, around the seawall or shore. Bait & Tackle shop located nearby.
New Pass Bridge — Located between Lido Key and Longboat Key, record catches have been made from this bridge and adjacent seawall. Plenty of parking and a Bait & Tackle Shop is nearby.
South Lido Park — At the southern tip of Lido Key, on the shore of Big Pass, this is a great place for family fishing fun. Shelters, grills, restrooms and shelling is all there, along with a very strong current and occasional undertow. Swimming should be done with caution.
Siesta Bridge — Northern bridge connecting Siesta Key to the mainland is very popular, with plenty of parking but no facilities.
Bay Island — On the Gulf side of Siesta Bridge with benches located around the seawall for your sitting pleasure.
North Shell Road — Shore fishing off Higel Ave. on Siesta Key into Sarasota Big Pass offers a nice family spot with white sand beach and swimming.
Stickney Point Bridge — Southern bridge connecting Siesta Key to the mainland, Bait & Tackle Shop nearby.
Point of Rocks — The only rock formation on Siesta Key, just south of Crescent Beach, is a fabulous place for fishing (but be very aware of swimmers in the area!) Great for snorkeling too. Lots of rocks and underwater caves, some coral too, so bring extra tackle. No parking, no facilities, but worth getting to anyway.
Turtle Beach Lagoon — A mile or so south of Point of Rocks, this is where you can fish from shore, seawall or pier, with scads of parking, grills, restrooms and a playground for children.
Old Midnight Pass — For the serious fisherman, at the southern end of Siesta Key (walk south from Turtle Beach about a half-mile) with great fishing from both Gulf and bayside.
The Ultimate Fishing Trip — Tarpon Hunting in Boca Grande
The biggest fishing attraction in the area is tarpon fishing, which, like everything else around here, is seasonal. In the spring and early summer the tarpon populate the beach areas up and down the coast and they cluster in an area known as Boca Grande just south of Sarasota County. Boca Grande is considered the tarpon capital of the world.
The tarpon is not good eating, but as a sport fish it has no peer. The fish run in large schools along the beaches and you cast bait into their schools as they go by. They will invariably strike, but it is very difficult to bring one to boat.
Why? Because they are large, fierce fighters and have a hard palate.
Tarpon run up to 150 pounds and break water many times when they are caught. They are called the “Silver King” because the flash of the sun on their silver sides is blinding.
Boca Grande Pass is a natural home for tarpon because it is one of the deepest points on Florida’s Gulf Coast with a steady current, bringing with it a wide variety of smaller fish, thus making life for the tarpon a relatively easy one.
Tarpon is an ancient species, one of the oldest fish to travel in the waters around here. You may bring one out of four or five strikes to the boat, if you are lucky and skillful, but the “Silver King” is always released to fight another day.
Rules and Regulations — Nag, nag!
A saltwater license is required for all nonresidents, unless you are fishing on a licensed charter boat or on a licensed fishing pier. It is up to you to check all local and state laws before venturing out to fish. There are size and bag limits on every species of sport fish. Practice “catch and release” — keep only what you will eat fresh and let the rest go. The best source of information about restrictions and identifying fish is the Fishing Lines magazine, which can be found at most bait shops, tackle stores or the county tax collectors’ offices.
Sarasota County License Office
Sitting on the beach soaking up the rays with your line in the water can be a very relaxing and enjoyable way to fish. But for the beginning angler, to learn about what tackle, the type of bait and where to fish, go with a professional. How to find the right licensed fishing guide to go with? Listen to what other people tell you or ask at the marinas, bait shops and tackle stores. There are some great guides in the area.
Bee Ridge Park
4430 S Lockwood Ridge Rd
Ages: 18 and up
The Sarasota Sportsfishing Club meets several Tuesdays a year to discuss fishing hot spots, events, and general socialization. For more information call Roger Regensburg at 941-921-1536
Room C 7-10 p.m. Tuesdays