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Sarasota, FL Fishing: Why It’s the Sunshine State’s Top Tourist Spot

Sarasota, FL Fishing: Why It’s the Sunshine State’s Top Tourist Spot
Published: Monday, June 28th, 2021
Updated on: Monday, July 19th, 2021

Sarasota is a beautiful coastal city just south of the Tampa Bay area, right in the heart of the world-renowned Florida Gulf Coast. It draws millions of domestic and international visitors every year, given its idyllic setting. With over thirty-five miles of coastlines adorned with gleaming sugar-white sand beaches and surrounded with calming turquoise waters, it really isn’t surprising the city is known as one of Sunshine State’s top tourist attractions. This favorite summer getaway also features a total of six barrier islands that stretch along the city’s coastlines, protecting the mainland from the Gulf’s wind, waves, tides, and currents. And because it faces the Gulf of Mexico, sunsets here are definitely a sight to behold. 

While the name (with different variations like Sara Zota, Sarazota, and Sarasote) was already used way back as evidenced by maps made in the early 17th century, no one is certain where the name Sarasota came from. Some historians have said through time that the name came from a Spanish term that meant “a place of dancing”, but until now, nothing has really been proven and all were just speculations. The first European settlers came in 1856, most of which were into agriculture and developed the land for planting orange trees and raising cattle. When a group of Scottish families settled in the area in 1884, they built a golf course, thus paving the way for the development of the area as a recreational hub. By the early 1900s, tourism began to grow, thanks mostly to the railroads that were constructed to connect this coastal paradise to the rest of the state and country. The area was finally incorporated into a city in 1913, and from then on, Sarasota has seen several structural developments to further boost tourism.

Today, Sarasota is not just a popular tourist destination but a retirement location. Tourism is the main economic base of the city. Real estate, agriculture, shipping, and manufacturing, nonetheless, are also seen as key sectors that help the city’s economy. Aside from the beautiful beaches, all-year-round warm climate, and world-class amenities, Sarasota is also known for its burgeoning arts and culture scene with museums, galleries, performing arts complexes, and cultural events popping up everywhere in the city. And, oh, did we mention that Sarasota is home to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Ringling College of Art and Design? 

Sarasota Fishing

As a city that faces a bay and a gulf that is known to be abundant with so many fish species, it’s really not surprising Sarasota is also seen as a favorite destination not just for experienced anglers but for beginners as well. For first-timers, you won’t even have to go far as you can cast your line straight from the beautiful beaches along its namesake bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the other side. Surfcasters aren’t even required to use a heavy tackle and long casts but can still expect to catch some popular game fish, including trout, sheepshead, pompano, red drum, flounder, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, and snook among many others. If you plan on fishing off the beach, recommend using either live or frozen shrimp to better lure these fish into your trap. If you prefer artificial lures, you can go with silver spoons, plugs, and jigs as these are said to bring more success for anglers.

If you want to fish a bit farther from land, you can either try renting a boat or go out on a fishing charter and try drifting on top of grass beds along the bay where fish tend to stay. Same with surfcasting, the best baits to use in these areas are live baits, cut baits, and jigs. Expected nearshore quarries are pompano, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, barracuda, tarpon, black seabass, snapper, grouper, amberjack, cobia, and some occasional sharks,

If you came to Sarasota to challenge your fishing skills, you can do so via a fishing charter and head out to the Gulf of Mexico. Here, you can test your limits against some of the most challenging fish you’ll ever find anywhere in the world such as tarpon, mahi-mahi, wahoo, tuna, billfish, marlin, and even some ferocious sharks.

Now, if you’re into competitive sportfishing, Sarasota is also a great place to show off your fishing prowess as several tournaments are held here every year. One of the most popular is the Sarasota Tarpon Tournament, which starts in May and lasts for five weeks. Other fishing tournaments include Sarasota Slam, Suncoast Saltwater Shootout, and Yellowfin Billfish Classic.


Sarasota’s Top Fishing Locations

Is it your first time planning a fishing trip in Sarasota? With so many fishing opportunities in the bountiful waters around the city, you’d probably be faced with a bit of conundrum—where will you start? To help you out with your fishing itinerary, here are some of the top Sarasota locations we highly recommend:

New Pass – there’s a bridge that connects Longboat and Lido Keys where you can cast your line and catch some quality gamefish such as redfish, bluefish, and snook to name a few.

Big Sarasota Pass – a waterway that connects the bay to the gulf and where there’s a lot of underwater structure is definitely where you should try fishing as it carries an abundance of species including snook, grouper, snapper, sheepshead, redfish, and a whole lot more.

Bird Key Park – dubbed as one of the most scenic areas in the city, this location also offers world-class inshore fishing with plenty of opportunities to land ladyfish, cobia, and redfish, among many others.

Pop Jantzen Reef – just a few meters north of the Ringling causeway is this man-made reef that supports a wide array of targets including flounder, bluefish, sheepshead, and snapper to name a few.

Gulf of Mexico – this huge body of water sits just beyond the barrier islands and offers outstanding deep sea fishing where you can catch tough fighters like wahoo, mahi-mahi, tuna, marlin, and sharks.       


Top Ten Fish Species in Sarasota, FL

The top ten fish species in Sarasota, FL are sheepshead, redfish, bluefish, tarpon, cobia, snook, marlin, tuna, sailfish, and grouper.

Sarasota, FL Fishing: Why It’s the Sunshine State’s Top Tourist Spot Fish species
Sheepshead  fish

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck

Weight: 1 - 8 Pounds

Length: 14" - 20"

Snook  fish

Habitat: Inshore, Flats, Backcountry

Weight: 12 - 29 Pounds

Length: 16" - 50"

Common Dolphinfish
Common Dolphinfish fish

Habitat: Offshore

Weight: 15 - 30 Pounds

Length: 40" - 83"

Blue Marlin 
Blue Marlin  fish

Habitat: Offshore, Open Water

Weight: 200 - 400 Pounds

Length: 132" - 197"

Cobia fish

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck

Weight: 10 - 80 Pounds

Length: 24" - 79"