Siesta Key and Sarasota offer a wide variety of fishing opportunities and you certainly don’t need to be an expert to have fun along the beach or even to go after the more challenging fish if you hire a guide. You can click on any of the pictures on this page to see larger images. For more pictures, please see our Photo Galleries.
Turtle Beach Marina rents fishing equipment for $10 per day (it’s the only place I’ve found for fishing equipment rental without the need to also rent a boat or hire a guide), but I have no idea how good it is.
Turtle Beach Marina is right behind the Turtle Beach Pub – follow the road out of Fisherman’s Cove to Midnight Pass and you’ll see the Pub across the street and a little to the left.
CB’s Outfitters, which is less than three miles away from the condo (on the Siesta Key side of the Stickney Point Bridge) rents fishing equipment, but only when you rent a boat (you can’t take their boats into the gulf, but there is plenty of great fishing in the bay).
A better (at least lower cost) alternative for recreational fishing from the beach or in the bay is to buy a low-cost combo spinning reel and rod combo from Wal-Mart (several locations, but the one on 13140 S Tamiami Trail in Ospry has the best selection of fishing equipment).
This Wal-Mart location commonly stocks a nice light-weight combo from Shakespeare that is usually offered for about $15* and offers heavier weight combos for a similar price. These combos aren’t rated for salt water use, but if you rinse them daily, they will easily last several weeks – maybe more. There is a deep laundry sink by the washer / dryers where you can flush your equipment with fresh water (also a shower by the beach entrance / exit).
Another option is if you have a good saltwater rated reel (a reel with stainless steel or ceramic bearings) is to bring your own reel. Sometimes guests will leave poles in our entry closet, but if there isn’t one there, you can buy a cheap pole at Wal-mart. It won’t have the feel of a high-end pole, but it will do the trick for beach fishing.
The most effective bait for fishing on the beach or in the bay is live shrimp. You can get live shrimp from Turtle Beach Marina or CBs for about $4 per dozen (if you’re not familiar with how to bait a live shrimp to that it stays alive, the people at the marina will show you how). The drawback to using live shrimp is you have to keep them alive. That means you’ll also have to buy a shrimp bucket and change the water at least every 30 minutes (pretty easy to do – just dump and submerge the bucket) or also buy an aerator for the bucket.
Live shrimp are much more effective for most situations, but if you are just looking for some action, you can catch Whiting frequently with frozen shrimp. For Whiting you will typically do best with a smaller circle hook.
My favorite alternative by far for shrimp is called FishBites. I like the “long-lasting EZ-Shrimp in pink and white best, but usually get one package of pink long-lasting EZ-Crab too. FishBite is very inexpensive (about $6 for a package of two 12” strips). On a typical hook you only use about 1” (thread the hook through three times). After a couple of casts, the scent will be activated and you will typically start feeling fish hit the bait.
The bait looks like a strip of bubble gum, but is actually a tight synthetic fabric mesh that is covered with a scented material. It stays on your hook so well that you can often catch several fish from a single baiting and you might even find it a hassle to remove once all the scented material is gone and you’re left with only the fabric mesh. If you want to use FishBite, you might consider buying a couple packages ahead of your trip – I’m not sure where you can buy FishBite in the Siesta Key area.
When you are beach fishing you don’t have to cast far. I typically cast out to the first sandbar and then retrieve the bait through the dip that is between the sandbar and the beach where I frequently catch Pompano (you’ll know you have a Pompano or other member of the Jack family if the hooked fish moves rapidly from side to side), Sheephead, Flounder, Lady Fish, Whiting, Catfish and occasionally Cobia and Snook (Snook and Lady Fish frequently jump out of the water once hooked). For these fish I use a 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook and FishBite. Keep in mind that most saltwater fish have teeth.
I also have good luck with 3 inch “Gulp” brand White Shrimp and a 1/8th ounce chartreuse or red lead head hook. You can buy Gulp products at Wal-Mart, CBs and a variety of fishing tackle stores. If you use Gulp brand artificial bait it is VERY important to remove the bait from the hook when you are done fishing. It will dry out to be as hard as cement, and become very difficult to get off the hook if you leave it on overnight.
I don’t have any direct experience using lures, but local fishing fanatics tell me the most effective are the Yo-zuri Minnow (various colors and especially good when the Spanish Mackerel are running), the Clear Super Spook Junior and silver spoons.
* The fishing line on these cheap combos is not very good; it tends to tangle and is weak. I suggest buying good quality line and rewinding the reel (Spider Wire is available at Wal-Mart, or you can go to CBs and they will wind it for you). You will also want to use at least a 25lb mono (I typically use a 50lb leader) or steel leader – not only do many of the fish have teeth, they also will use their tail and fins to cut a weaker line.
More Serious Fishing
With only a few exceptions, you won’t need the classic “deep sea” poles or reels in our area – a heavy spinning rig is good enough for even the largest Tarpon. If you want to outfit for the big stuff, I suggest using 40lb braided line coupled with 50lb or better mono or fluorocarbon leader (fluorocarbon for Tarpon if the water is particularly clear). If you’re fishing for Tarpon be sure to use at least eight feet of leader and connect your leader to the main line using a Uni knot so it can be reeled easily through the eyelets on the rod.
Snook can be found fishing off the beach in the spring and summer months – during the winter it is better to fish for them in the inter-coastal waters. From March to June you’ll probably find them in both locations. There are a variety of regulations you’ll need to observe if you are planning to keep the Snook you catch. You can read about those regulations and other license requirements by clicking here.
During the summer fisherman occasionally pull in large Tarpon from the beech too. Generally the fishing is most active in the very early morning and just before sunset, but I see people catching fish all day long.
If you rent a boat and are not using a guide, you should try setting a drift to the south from Point Crisp (depending on the tide and wind – set your drift to go to or start at and go away from Point Crisp). Also try fishing around older looking docks – the older the better. The east end of the sandbar on Big Pass outlet is also often a good spot to check.
Tarpon fishing is great beginning in mid-May through August, but is still good pretty much year around (I’ve seen Tarpon in the Gulf in late November). You can occasionally catch Tarpon from the beach and inter-coastal waters, but the best way to go after Tarpon is to hire a captain that knows the waters, and where they are running at the time you want to fish. The best Tarpon fishing captains will want you at the boat VERY early in the morning (often before dawn). This is not an inexpensive adventure, but if you are into fishing it should be on your “bucket list.”
I’ve also seen Tarpon “rolling” in November shortly after sunrise in the in the area at the northern end of the inlet that goes in front of Fisherman’s Cove. To reach this area follow the road out of Fisherman’s Cove back to Midnight Pass Rd. Turn right, and then right again into the public park area (there is a restroom and parking there). If you follow the short path behind the restroom it will lead you to a pier. When I’ve seen Tarpon there they were to the right (north) of that pier.
There are two places I recommend going to learn more about the tackle, and where the fishing is hot at the moment. Both places will usually help you with attaching your leader with a Uni knot if you’re not familiar with tying that.
CB Outfitters is on Siesta Key (less than 3 miles from the condo), and Economy Tackle is on Highway 41; about four or five miles from the condo. You will find good guides at both places that will provide current fishing reports, suggest what tackle / bait has been effective and help you secure a guide too.
At CBs you can rent a boat for inter-coastal fishing, and if you rent a boat they will also rent you fishing equipment – a guide is only $25 per hour extra when you rent a boat. They don’t allow rental boats in the gulf (even if you hire a guide too), so if you want to go there you’ll have to hire a boat with captain.
Economy Tackle, which is about a half mile north of Stickney Point Rd on Tamiami, is a great source for high quality tackle and expert advice. The guys working at Economy are mostly active or retired fishing guides. I’ve found them to be VERY generous with their time and knowledge.
Here’s to hungry fish and tight lines!
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