With quick access to Sarasota and Bradenton, and Tampa just up the interstate, Longboat Key also makes an ideal location for a family vacation. The fishermen can hit the water while the rest of the family enjoys the beaches, restaurants and shopping in the area. Longboat Key forms most of the west border of Sarasota Bay on the Gulf Coast of Central Florida. Longboat is also the name of the city that includes the main island and the smaller islands of Jewfish Key, Sister Keys, White Key, Whale Key and several smaller islands that are not named. Water flows around the island on the south side through New Pass and north at Longboat Pass. The west side of the island is white sand beaches. The east side is packed with canals, short tidal creeks and grass flats; it is a fisherman's paradise.
Inshore fishing is on the bayside or the Gulf side in the shallow waters. Before you head out, take a look at the new generation of artificial shrimp lures. These new lures are just as effective as live shrimp. Use a popping cork, as seen in the video, when the water is murky. The sound and vibration give fish something to home in on. Hard baits of various shapes, colors and sizes also account for plenty of fish every day in Sarasota Bay. Longboat Key fishing charters know where the big ones like to hang out. Bay fishing has reds, tarpon, snook, sheepshead, flounder, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, black drum and other fish less commonly targeted. If you are looking for snook, find the currents. When the tide is running, the fish are biting. In the channels, if the tide is slack, it is very hard to entice a snook into a bite. Reds like oyster bars and tidal creeks. When they are schooling and feeding in the shallows, just about anything will result in a hook up. Gold spoons, jigs, live and cut bait are still the best selections. Trout are found in the flats in the grass beds and around pilings. Jigs, crankbaits and live bull minnows and small pinfish will draw strikes from the gator trout lurking out there. Tarpon are about the least finicky fish out there. Use bit baits and big lures. Listen to your guide and cast where he tells you. Tarpon can be spooked, which means your presentation is critical. If you want to catch one on a fly, you need three things: 1) A stout fly rod, at least an eight-weight. 2) Big flies in streamer, crab and shrimp patterns. 3) At least 200 yards of backing on your reel. More is better. On the Gulf side, inshore fishing close to the beach has croakers, whiting, blacktip and spinner sharks. Croakers and whiting are an unregulated species. If you are after a lot of fish to take home, these are your targets. You can have up to 100 pounds of fish per angler. Cut up shrimp and squid on small hooks with a pyramid sinker is the ideal setup. For sheer excitement, throw big topwater plugs for spinner and blacktop shark. These acrobats will slam a giant popper in a heart-stopping attack. Just be sure you wait until you feel the fish on the line before setting the hook. Jerk too soon and you'll take the plug away from the shark.
Head offshore to find piscatorial tackle-breakers like king mackerel, wahoo, mahi mahi, sailfish and tuna. These cruising fish are rarely in one place long. They chase the plankton blooms because prey fish eat the microscopic organisms. Trolling is a time-tested way to connect with these fish. Drag dusters and bubblers tipped with cigar minnows or ballyhoo for the best results. Reef fish like amberjack, grouper, snapper and others like structure. Natural reefs, artificial reefs and shipwrecks are fish magnets. You need to drop live or cut bait right over the structure and hang on. Jigging giant jigs and spoons is also effective.
If you are up to the challenge, inshore or offshore, monsters hide beneath the surface. Goliath grouper are catch-and-release only; sometimes the release comes when the fish breaks the line. Your guide will make sure you have plenty of video and pictures to take home, if you can get the beast to the side of the boat.
The best time to go fishing is whenever you can. FishAnywhere has the guides in Longboat Key that will make you want to come back time and time again. Let's fish!