Monthly Fishing Reports from Sarasota Area

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

July Fishing Report—Capt. Rick Grassett

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

Justin Hamblet, from Sarasota, caught and released this one on a fly while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett in a previous July.

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. 

This is my favorite time to fly fish for tarpon. The tactics are the same as earlier in the season, anchoring or staking out on travel routes, although fish are in a better mood. Unlike the large tarpon schools that we see around full and new moon phases in June, July fish are usually aggressive. Large schools of tarpon are impressive, but if you spook the lead fish you will spook all of them.

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. They can be targeted in these areas with flies, a variety of DOA lures or live bait. Also look for tarpon feeding in schools of “breaking” ladyfish in these areas.

Snook

Snook and reds remain closed to harvest south of State Rd 64 in Manatee County on the west coast of Florida, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2022. Spotted Seatrout will reopen in that zone with a 3 fish per person, bag limit and a 6 fish boat limit. Trout must be from 15”-19” with one over 19” allowed per vessel . Full regulations can be viewed at https://myfwc.com/  . This is great news for our fishery.

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. Spin anglers should do well fishing lighted docks and bridges in the ICW with CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms or DOA shrimp. Fly anglers should do well with clear intermediate sink tip lines and wide profile flies, such as Lefty’s Deceiver or EP flies,  since larger baitfish may be more predominant. 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. Gibby’s DT Variation is a “go to” fly for many snook surf anglers.

Reds and Big Trout          

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. 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. Surface walking top water plugs or fly poppers and Gurglers may draw some big explosions! Casting CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms ahead of your boat is a good way to locate reds.

Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Pompano          

I like to drift deep grass flats and cast ahead of my drift with CAL jigs and shad tails or jerk worms, DOA Deadly Combos or Ultra Hair Clouser flies tied on long shank hooks on sink tip fly lines to find trout. A drift anchor will slow your drift to a more manageable speed if it’s windy. Look for birds or baitfish on the surface to find fish. 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.

False Albacore, Cobia, Tripletail          

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.

Seasonal Tips      

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

Yearly Overview

January - It can be one of the toughest months of the year to fish. When the tide is low, look for reds tailing on shallow grass or reds, trout and more in potholes or around docks. When it is high, look on shallow grass flats on sunny afternoons. Action with trout, blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano and more on deep grass flats can be good depending on conditions.

March - 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 Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) should also be a good option this month.

April - This is a great month for snook, Reds, and trout on warm, shallow flats due to an increase in baitfish. Spanish mackerel, blues and pompano in passes or on deep grass flats. Tarpons, Spanish mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail should also make an appearance in back country areas and in the coastal gulf later in the month. 

May  - Tarpon, Spanish mackerel, tripletail, cobia and false albacore (little tunny) can be found along our beaches 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

June - Tarpon should be plentiful in the coastal gulf this month as big schools of fish migrate along our beaches. Also look for cobia, tripletail and false albacore (little tunny) in the coastal gulf. 

July - 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 early in the day in shallow waters. 

September - 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. 

November  - 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, there will also be plenty of action for a variety of fish on shallow and deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. 

December - This is a good month for catch and release snook action around lighted docks in the ICW. Also, there is good action in the coastal gulf with false albacore (little tunny), Spanish mackerel and tripletail, depending on conditions.