Fishing Reports from Sarasota Area

Here’s the latest reports from fishing guides in the area.

January Fishing Report—Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick Grassett is a Charter Captain with CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key

man holding a fish in a boat
Marshall Dinerman, from Lido Key, had good action with reds in skinny water and blues on deep grass on CAL jigs with Shad tails while fishing Sarasota Bay with Capt. Rick Grassett on a couple of trips in previous Januarys. (Photo: Capt. Rick Grassett)

You may find reds and big trout concentrated in potholes in January. Action with trout, blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano and more on deep grass flats can be good depending on conditions. There should also be good catch and release snook action in rivers, creeks and canals this month, although fishing docks for snook and other species is also a good option. It may be worth checking the coastal gulf for tripletail, cobia, false albacore (little tunny) and more when it’s warm.

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found at https://myfwc.com/news/all-news/extended-cnr-220/.

Snook

Snook are very temperature sensitive, so I won’t target them if the water temperature dips below 60 degrees. However, fishing lighted docks in the ICW at night with lures and flies can be very good in January. You should also find snook in rivers, creeks and canals this month. Fish deeper water in outside bends to locate snook where you may catch them with CAL jigs and shad tails or jerk worms, DOA Baitbusters or diving/suspending plugs. You may also find reds, juvenile tarpon and even largemouth bass in the same areas depending on salinity.

Reds

Reds should be a good option this month. You’ll find them concentrated in potholes when the tide is low. Fly anglers should score with lightly weighted flies fished on a 10’-12’ leader with a floating fly line. Reds feed on crustaceans this time of the year, so crab and shrimp fly patterns should work well. They may tail on shallow grass flats when the tide is low.

Trout, Pompano & Flounder

You may also find reds around docks, along with snook, sheepshead, flounder and more. Little Sarasota Bay has numerous oyster bars and docks that often hold reds in January. Work CAL jigs slowly along the bottom for the best action. You’re likely to find big trout in many of the same areas that you find reds. The same lures, flies and techniques that are used for reds will also work for big trout.

You’ll also find trout on deep grass flats in January along with blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano, flounder and more. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with CAL jigs and a variety of plastic tails and DOA Deadly Combos. Since trout can sometimes hold very tight to a particular spot or area, try to cover as much water as possible to find them. Once you’ve located fish you can shorten your drift or anchor on them. A GPS can be useful for this type of fishing since the breadcrumb trail will allow you to duplicate your drift. A drift anchor will slow your drift so you can fish it more thoroughly or make it easier for fly anglers to move their fly. My favorite deep grass flats, have a good mix of grass and sand with a strong tidal flow.           

Spanish Mackerel, Blues, False Albacore and Tripletail

Even though there may not be much happening in the coastal gulf this month in the way of sight fishing it may be worth a look when it is warm. Migratory species such as king and Spanish mackerel, cobia and tripletail probably have moved further south, however they could reappear during warm ups. Also look for false albacore (little tunny) when it’s warm since they may move from offshore to inshore depending on where baitfish are located.

Seasonal Tips

January can be one of the toughest months of the year to fish. However if you are able to choose when to fish based on tides and weather, it can be good. Action is usually good as weather fronts approach.  Following fronts, fishing may be tough for a couple of days so afternoons may fish better at that time. I’ll let the stage of the tide determine where to look for fish. When the tide is low, look for reds tailing on shallow grass or reds, trout and more in potholes or around docks.  Look for reds or big trout cruising on shallow grass flats on sunny afternoons when the tide is high. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural, industrial and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

December Fishing Report—Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick Grassett is a Charter Captain with CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key

Cobia may be an option in December. Capt. Rick Grassett caught and released this one on a CAL jig with shad tail on a Sarasota Bay deep grass flat in a previous December.

You may find reds along with big trout concentrated in potholes, along the edges of bars or tailing on shallow grass flats on negative low tides this month. This is a good month for catch and release snook action around lighted docks in the ICW. Some lights will also have trout and reds making it possible to get a dock “slam”. There may also be good action in the coastal gulf with false albacore (little tunny), Spanish mackerel and tripletail, depending on conditions.

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has extended a temporary modification of regulations for reds, snook and trout, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found at https://myfwc.com/news/all-news/extended-cnr-220/

You may find reds along with big trout concentrated in potholes, along the edges of bars or tailing on shallow grass flats on negative low tides this month. This is a good month for catch and release snook action around lighted docks in the ICW. Some lights will also have trout and reds making it possible to get a dock “slam”. There may also be good action in the coastal gulf with false albacore (little tunny), Spanish mackerel and tripletail, depending on conditions.

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has extended a temporary modification of regulations for reds, snook and trout, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found at https://myfwc.com/news/all-news/extended-cnr-220/

Snook

Catch and release snook fishing around lighted docks can be good this month unless it gets too cool. I won’t target snook following a strong cold front or if the water dips below 60 degrees, since they may be stressed at that time. However, it can be very good under normal conditions. Larger baitfish will thin out and snook will gorge themselves on glass minnows and small shrimp in the ICW at night. I like docks that have a good tidal flow and deep water under them.

Reds

You might find reds in potholes or along the edges of flats and bars on negative low tides. They may also tail on shallow grass when the tide is low. As the tide rises, reds will spread out and feed on shallow flats. You may also find them around docks this month.

Trout, Pompano & Flounder

You may also find big trout in skinny water this month in many of the same areas where you find reds. You should also find trout on deep grass flats this month along with flounder or pompano. Blues may sometimes feed on the surface, so bird activity may give their presence away. Pompano may skip when you drift or run past them and when that happens, circle back upwind and drift through the area casting ahead of your drift. Flounder prefer a mix of sand and grass, particularly in potholes or on the edges of bars. I like to fish on points and along sand bars for trout, blues, flounder, and pompano in December.

Spanish Mackerel, Blues, False Albacore and Tripletail

There should still be some action in the coastal gulf with Spanish mackerel, blues, false albacore and tripletail. Rough or cold water later in the month may slow the action and move fish south or offshore. Look for terns either diving or hovering low over the surface of the water to find albies, blues and mackerel feeding on the surface. Look for tripletail around crab trap floats or channel markers. Try to make your first shot count since they are much tougher to catch once they know you’re there.

Seasonal Tips

There will be lots of options in December, although weather becomes more of a factor. When fishing flats, I usually let conditions and the stage of the tide determine when, where and what I will target. I like to fish the coastal gulf for false albacore and tripletail whenever conditions are good. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural, industrial, and residential runoff and discharges, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

November Fishing Report—Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick Grassett is a Charter Captain with CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key

Man holding fish in Sarasota Bay
Marshall Dinerman, from Lido Key, had good action with blues and pompano on CAL jigs with shad tails while fishing Sarasota Bay with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous November. (Photo: Rick Grassett)

You may find blues, Spanish mackerel and pompano mixed with trout on deep grass flats this month. You should also find larger trout in skinny water along with reds. Snook will stage around bars and on shallow flats as they make their move towards winter areas. Action in the coastal gulf with false albacore, tripletail, Spanish mackerel, blues and more should explode!

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has extended a temporary modification of regulations for reds, snook and trout, in an area that extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found at https://myfwc.com/news/all-news/extended-cnr-220/.

Snook

You should find snook staging around docks and bridges in the ICW and along sand bars and in potholes on shallow flats. They may be along mangrove shorelines when the tide is high. I like CAL jigs with 3” and 4” shad tails and surface walking top water lures like the DOA “PT” in shallow water for snook. CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms, DOA TerrorEyz, DOA Shrimp and small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, will work well around dock and bridge fender lights. Fish the strongest tides for the best action.

Reds

Reds will spread out on shallow grass flats in November. You should find them along bars, in potholes or around docks. Look for them along mangrove shorelines when the tide is high, but they are just as likely to be roaming with mullet schools in shallow water. CAL jigs with shad tails, grubs or jerk worms and gold spoons should work well for reds in shallow water. Fly anglers may score with lightly weighted flies, such as Clousers, spoon flies or my Grassett Flats Minnow fly.

Trout

You may also find big trout along with reds in shallow water this month. The same lures and flies that you use for snook and reds in shallow water will also work for trout. You’ll also find trout on deep grass flats in water from 3’ to 7’ deep. I like to drift and cast quartering ahead of my drift with CAL jigs, DOA Deadly Combos or weighted flies on sink tip fly lines to locate trout. In addition to making a series of drifts to find fish, look for baitfish on the surface or birds to find them.

Deep Grass Flats

You may also find blues, Spanish mackerel, flounder or pompano on deep grass flats this month. The techniques to find them is the same as for trout, although blues and Spanish mackerel may feed on the surface making them easier to find. Likewise with pompano, that may skip on the surface when you run or drift past them. When that happens, circle back upwind and drift back through the area, casting ahead of your drift. I like a 1/16 or 1/8-ounce chartreuse CAL jig head with a gold grub for pompano. You’ll need to add wire or heavy fluorocarbon when toothy fish are around to keep them from biting you off. You may find flounder on a mixture of grass and sand, particularly on the edges of bars or in potholes.

Offshore

There should be good action in the coastal gulf with false albacore (little tunny), Spanish and king mackerel, blues, tripletail or cobia. Look for Spanish mackerel, blues or false albacore feeding on the surface to find them. Diving terns or terns hovering just above the surface of the water and moving fast will give their presence away if they aren’t on top. CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms and top water plugs will work well. Fly anglers should score with small white flies, Ultra Hair Clousers, poppers or Crease flies. Look for tripletail around crab trap floats and cast DOA Shrimp, CAL jigs with shad tails or DOA TerrorEyz to them. Cobia may also be found around crab trap floats, swimming on the surface or over structure. They will require medium-heavy spinning tackle or at least a 9-weight fly rod. Larger baits like DOA Baitbusters, CAL jigs with 5½” jerk worms or the DOA SnakeKoil should work well for cobia on spinning tackle. Fly anglers should score with wide profile baitfish patterns.

Seasonal Tips

This a great month for fishing the flats or the coastal gulf. Since the action in the coastal gulf is seasonal and will end when it gets cooler, I like to fish there when conditions allow it. However, if that’s not for you or if conditions won’t allow it, there will be plenty of action for a variety of fish on shallow and deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural, industrial and residential runoff and discharges, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit

September Fishing Report—Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick Grassett is a Charter Captain with CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key

man holding fish at night in sarasota bay
Howard Hsu, from Atlanta, with a nice red caught and released on a fly while fishing Sarasota Bay at night with Capt. Rick Grassett recently. (Photo: Rick Grassett)

Tarpon, Snook, Reds, Trout, Blues & Spanish Mackerel

Fishing dock lights before dawn is usually dependable for snook and more and is a great way to beat the heat. Juvenile tarpon and reds may also frequent dock lights this time of year. Fishing deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay is a good choice for action with a variety of species including trout, blues and Spanish mackerel. 

Recent Outings

Anglers fishing Sarasota Bay with me, out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, had great action with snook, reds and tarpon recently. Rusty Chinnis, from Longboat Key, fished a pre-dawn snook/tarpon trip with me and we caught and released numerous snook on my Grassett Snook Minnow fly before dawn. We shifted gears to tarpon after daylight and caught and released an estimated 20-lb tarpon.

Will Stein, from Longboat Key, and Ben Stein, from Orlando, fished the same trip with me a few days later and the action was even better. They caught and released numerous snook and several reds on the same fly. After daylight we jumped several tarpon and caught and released one. Fly angler Howard Hsu, from Atlanta, fished with me the next day and also had good action catching and releasing snook and a red on my Snook Minnow fly.

Our natural resources are under constant pressure, so please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

July Fishing Report—Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick Grassett is a Charter Captain with CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key

Man holding fish
Fishing for reds and snook in shallow water should be good during July as long as you do it early in the day. Jon Yenari from Sarasota, had good action catching and releasing reds and snook on CAL jigs with shad tails while fishing Gasparilla Sound with Capt. Rick Grassett on a trip in a previous July. (Photo: Rick Grassett)

Tarpon will still be a good option this month. Shallow water action for reds and big trout will be best early and late in the day. Some of the best action will be with trout, blues, pompano and more on deep grass flats. Catch and release snook fishing in the ICW at night or in the surf should also be good options.

Tarpon     

Tarpon fishing should be good in the coastal gulf this month. Large schools of tarpon will dwindle in size and numbers to singles, doubles and small schools of post spawn fish during July. I usually find tarpon to be aggressive in July, with spawning completed and after a long migration, they usually feed aggressively. I also find them to be more curious this time of the year often swinging closer to check out the sound of a landing bait, lure or fly. Spin anglers will do best by setting up in travel lanes and drifting live baits under floats while staying ready to sight cast to fish that may pop up with no notice. It is easier to penetrate a hard tarpon mouth with a single sharp hook rather than a treble hook.

Tarpon will thin out towards the end of the month as they begin to move to inside waters of Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. They move into these areas to rest and feed following spawning.

Snook

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has extended a temporary modification of regulations for reds, snook and trout, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found on the FWC website. This is great news for our fishery! Sarasota Bay is rebounding and the continued closure will make it even better.

Catch and release snook fishing will be a good option this month. With very warm water this time of year, it is important to use tackle heavy enough to land them quickly. Docks and bridges close to passes should be the best ones. You’ll also find snook in the surf, where you can walk along the beach and sight cast to them in shallow water.

Reds

You’ll find reds very active in shallow water this month. With plentiful baitfish and higher tides, they’ll spend more time feeding over shallow grass flats. Look for them along the edges of bars or in potholes when the tide is low or along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars when the tide is high.

Trout  

You’ll also find big trout in many of the same areas where you find reds, but the bite for big trout is usually best early or late in the day.

You may find Spanish mackerel, blues, pompano and more mixed with trout on deep grass flats. Flats close to passes or on points that get good tidal flow are usually productive.

Offshore

In addition to tarpon, you might find false albacore (little tunny), tripletail or cobia in the coastal gulf this month. Look for albies feeding on the surface. I have seen large schools of albies “blitz” the beach while tarpon fishing this time of year. They are usually feeding on larger baits, such as threadfins or pilchards, so flies and lures should be sized accordingly. You might even find cobia swimming with tarpon or cruising bars in shallow water along the beach. You can use your tarpon fly or spin tackle for cobia, but a medium spinning outfit or an 8 to 9-weight fly rod will be better suited for mackerel and albies. I also occasionally run into tripletail this time of year, either around a crab trap buoy, navigational marker or floating debris.

There are lots of options this month, late season tarpon, snook in the surf or at night or fishing skinny water for reds or big trout. Tarpon fishing is best when sweat is pouring down your back, but you’ll want to fish early in the day in shallow water. Our natural resources are under constant pressure so, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

May Fishing Report—Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick Grassett is a Charter Captain with CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key

Tarpon jumping out of the water in sarasota florida
May should be a great month for tarpon in the coastal gulf. Dennis Ondercin, from Siesta Key, caught and released this one while fishing the coastal gulf with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous May. (Photo: Rick Grassett)

Tarpon fishing will take off during May as migratory fish arrive along our beaches.  Also look for Spanish mackerel, tripletail, cobia and false albacore (little tunny) in the coastal gulf. Snook will move into passes and the surf and reds and trout should feed heavily on shallow flats as baitfish become more plentiful. Trout, blues, Spanish mackerel and more should be good options on deep grass flats.

Tarpon     

As migratory tarpon start to arrive this month, we should have schools of tarpon moving both north and south along our beaches. Early arriving tarpon may be more aggressive due to less fishing pressure early in the season. Set up in their line of travel and wait for tarpon schools to move past and cast a DOA Baitbuster, a 4” CAL Shad, a live crab or pinfish to them. Be quiet and using your electric trolling motor sparingly. Give other anglers at least several hundred yards of space and keep in mind that fish can be moving either north or south so setting up too close to another angler may affect their flow of fish.

Snook

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found on the FWC website. This is great news for our fishery! Sarasota Bay is rebounding, and the continued closure will make it even better.

Snook will be spawning this month so use tackle heavy enough to catch and release them in a timely manner and handle them gently. Larger snook will mostly be females and should always be supported horizontally rather than hung vertically by the jaw. You’ll find them in passes and in the surf. They will also stage around docks and bridges close to passes.

Reds

Higher tides this month will mean that reds will spend more time feeding on shallow flats. Look for them along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars when the tide is high and in potholes or along sandbars when the tide is low. When fishing shallow water for reds, be as quiet as possible. I prefer to use a push pole or wade.

Trout  

You’ll also find big trout in many of the same shallow areas that you find reds. They will be plentiful on deep grass flats. Look for flats that have a good mix of grass and sand and good tidal flow.

You may find pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel on the same deep grass flats where trout are plentiful. They can be targeted in the same way as trout, but you may need to use wire or heavy fluorocarbon leader when toothy fish are around.

Offshore

You may find Spanish and king mackerel, little tunny, cobia, and tripletail in the coastal gulf. Keep your eyes open for surface activity such as diving birds, breaking fish or baitfish being forced out of the water which could indicate the presence of mackerel, blues, or little tunny. I have also found cobia swimming with schools of tarpon before. Tripletail may be found around crab trap floats or buoys.

This is one of my favorite months of the year. If battling a big tarpon isn’t for you, you should have plenty to do on both shallow and deep grass flats or in the coastal gulf. I’ll be spending my time targeting tarpon in the coastal gulf unless conditions won’t allow it. There is something about casting a fly to a giant fish in shallow water! Our natural resources are under constant pressure so please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

April Fishing Report – Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick Grassett is a Charter Captain with CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key

man and woman holding fish in sarasota florida
April should be a great month for catch and release snook action. Mark and Jenny Nichols, of DOA Lures, fished Gasparilla Sound with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous April. (Photo: Rick Grassett)

This is a great month for snook on shallow flats. Reds and trout will also be more active as the water warms and baitfish become more plentiful. You might find Spanish mackerel, blues and pompano in passes or on deep grass flats. You should also find Spanish mackerel along with false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail, in the coastal gulf this month. Tarpon should also make an appearance in bay or back country areas or along beaches by later in the month.

Tarpon

Tarpon will become more plentiful as resident fish make their way out of rivers and creeks and early arriving migratory fish begin to show along beaches, particularly by the end of the month. Resident fish may be rolling on deep grass flats in some of the same places that you find trout, laid up on edges of shallow grass flats or along sand bars.

Snook

Snook, reds and spotted seatrout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found on the FWC website. This is great news for our fishery! Sarasota Bay is rebounding and the continued closure will make it even better.

Snook should be staging on flats, around sand and oyster bars, on points of islands and around docks and bridges close to passes in the ICW. Fish the edges of bars and potholes when the tide is low and mangrove shorelines or points of islands when the tide is high.

You’ll also find snook around docks and bridges in the ICW. Night snook fishing should be productive with small white flies, shrimp patterns or Shrimp Gurglers. Fish peak tidal flows for the best action.

Reds

Reds will spend more time feeding on shallow flats due to more plentiful bait. Look for them in potholes, the edges of bars and around docks when the tide is low. You should find them higher on flats over shallow grass or around mangrove shorelines when the tide is high. You may also find big trout in skinny water in many of the same places that you find reds. The same flies and techniques used to find and catch reds will also work for big trout.

Trout

Trout should be plentiful on deep grass flats. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift. Look for trout on deep grass flats with a good tidal flow and a mixture of grass and sand. Fly anglers should score with weighted flies on sink tip fly lines.

You might also find blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano or flounder mixed with trout on deep grass flats. The same flies and techniques that you use to find trout on deep grass will work for these species, too. Flounder are often found in potholes, on the edges of bars or on mud bottom.

Offshore

There should be good action in the coastal gulf this month with Spanish and king mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail. Look for Spanish mackerel or albies feeding on the surface. You might find tripletail or cobia around crab trap floats. Artificial reefs or natural areas of hard bottom may hold any of these species.

April is one of my favorite months. There should be good action in the bay on both shallow and deep grass flats, in the coastal gulf for mackerel, albies, cobia and tripletail and with tarpon by the end of the month. Our natural resources are under constant pressure so please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

March Fishing Report – Capt. Rick Grassett

Rick Grassett is a Charter Captain with CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key
man posing with a fish in sarasota county florida
There should be good action in shallow water during March. Capt. Rick Grassett waded a shallow flat in a previous March and caught and released this nice red on a fly. (Photo: Rick Grassett)

There should be good action with reds, trout and snook in skinny water in March as baitfish become more plentiful. Look for Spanish and king mackerel, cobia, tripletail and false albacore (little tunny) in the coastal gulf. Night snook fishing in the ICW should also be a good option this month.

As always, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!

Important Season Update from FWC

Snook, reds and spotted sea trout remain closed to harvest on the west coast of Florida. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has extended a temporary modification of regulations for these fish from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds, snook and trout are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2021. Full details including exact boundaries can be found here.

This is great news for our fishery! Sarasota Bay is rebounding and the continued closure will make it even better.

Snook

This should be a good month for snook fishing at night around lighted docks and bridge fenders in the ICW. DOA Shrimp, CAL jigs with shad tails and small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, usually work well at night since glass minnows and shrimp are the predominate bait. Focus on shadow lines where light meets dark and fish strong tides for the best action. Although snook may also be found in rivers, creeks or canals in March, they will also start to move onto shallow flats, particularly on sunny afternoons when it’s warm.

I like larger lures like CAL jigs with jerk worms, CAL 4” Shad Tails, DOA Baitbusters and the DOA PT soft plastic top water lure or wide profile flies like Clousers, Deceivers and EP flies, for snook on the flats.

Tarpon

Look for early season tarpon that may start to show in backcountry areas. These are usually adult resident fish that are making their way out of rivers and creeks. They may be “laid up” or rolling on deep grass flats, on edges of shallow flats or along bars when it is calm. An accurate cast with a DOA Shrimp, a Deceiver or Tarpon Bunny fly may result in an explosive strike! Look for them in areas of Sarasota Bay on some of the same deep grass flats where you find trout.

Reds

Reds should be more active as the water warms and baitfish become more plentiful. Higher tides, as we head into spring, will allow them to spend more time feeding in shallow water. Look for them over shallow grass, along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars when the tide is high. You should find them in potholes and along sand bars when the tide is low. I like the shallow flats of north Sarasota Bay for reds this month.

I like 1/16-ounce CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms to locate reds. Fly anglers should score with my Grassett Flats Minnow fly, fished on a 10’-12’ leader. When using a long leader be sure you are able turn it over, otherwise you’ll need to shorten it until you can. The butt section should be at least 50% of the total length of the leader and stiff enough to transfer energy from your fly line to the leader.

You might also find reds around docks when the tide is low. Look for deep water under docks with a good tidal flow for the best action. A 1/8-ounce CAL jig with a shad tail or grub or a weighted fly fished on a clear intermediate sink tip fly line with a 6’ leader with should work well for dock fishing.

Trout, Spanish Mackerel, Blues, Flounder & Pompano

You may find big trout in skinny water in many of the same places that you find reds. Blind cast seams where grass meets sand or focus on light colored bottom, in potholes on top of sand bars, where you may be able to sight fish them. These big fish are important to the health of our fishery. You should also find trout plentiful on deep grass flats along with Spanish mackerel, blues, flounder or pompano.

I like to make a series of drifts, casting ahead of the drift with CAL jigs with shad tails, DOA Deadly Combos or an Ultra Hair Clouser fly tied on a long shank hook and fished on a clear intermediate sink tip fly line to locate fish.

Also look for birds, bait showering out of the water or boils on the surface that will indicate fish feeding below. When mackerel and blues are around, you may need to add 6” of 40# to 60# fluorocarbon or wire to your leader. Top water plugs and fly poppers also work well when blues and mackerel are around and may help locate them by attracting them from further away. Flounder may be found on sand or mud bottom areas on both shallow and deep grass flats or around docks. Pompano may skip on the surface when you drift or run past them, giving their location away. Fish deep grass flats with a mixture of grass and sand and a strong tidal flow for the best action.

Spanish/King Mackerel, False Albacore, Cobia & Tripletail

You may also find Spanish or king mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia or tripletail in the coastal gulf this month. Look for diving or hovering terns to find Spanish mackerel or false albacore feeding on the surface.  1/4-ounce CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms or top water plugs should work well for spin anglers. Fly anglers should score with small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow or Ultra Hair Clousers fished on an intermediate sink tip fly line.

Run crab trap lines at various depths to find tripletail or cobia around crab trap floats. Fly anglers should score on tripletail with DOA Shrimp or lightly weighted flies with weed guards. Cobia may also be swimming on the surface as they migrate from south to north following warmer water and baitfish. DOA Baitbusters, Airheads, PT’s and large, wide profile flies, like Deceivers or EP flies would be good fly choices for cobia.  In the absence of any fish on the surface, check out one of the many artificial reefs or natural hard bottom areas that may hold baitfish and predators. Drift over structure and cast DOA Baitbusters or weighted flies on fast sinking fly lines to get deeper in the water column to catch them.