Autumn open-water destination: A productive day on Florida’s Sarasota Bay

One of the first Sarasota Bay fish Lesmeister landed was this nice pompano.

Someone asked me what my favorite time of year was to fish the bays of Florida. The answer to that is easy.

Anytime.

It doesn’t take a lot of convincing to get me to hop a plane that is heading to Tampa just so I can grab a guide with a flats boat and chase specks, snapper, reds and pompano, and I even like to hook ladyfish because they are such acrobats.

I’ve been visiting Florida for years and have fished up and down the Gulf Coast, but I had never spent any time on Sarasota Bay – until now.

The group enjoyed the spoils of their efforts at Walt’s Fish Market in Sarasota.

Captain Tony Blizzard has been guiding Sarasota Bay for more than 10 years. He set us up, showed us the program and then turned us loose. The “us” on this trip were myself, Ron Durkin and Stan and Chris Rud. Friends from the Twin Cities, this was also their first time fishing on Sarasota Bay.

Our first stop was a grass bed and the fish immediately began chewing at the live shrimp we were using for bait. It wasn’t long before I hooked into a respectable pompano. We were on our way to a great fish dinner when the bite quit on the spot we were fishing. It was off to the next location, and that was our pattern the rest of the trip – hit a spot, catch some fish, bite cools off, move to the next spot.

Like any body of water that has size restrictions, it always seems like the majority of the fish you catch are in the protected range and they have to go back. We caught and released a load of fish. But, we also got to drop a few in the cooler. There were some snapper, a real nice flounder and that pompano. Plenty for a fish fry.

The fish fry took place at a fish market in Sarasota. We just took in our fillets, and they cooked them to our specifications. The perfect ending to a perfect day.

Of the guides I’ve fished with over the years I can only count on one hand those I have highly recommended. Now I’m going to have to start on the other hand – I highly recommend Captain Tony Blizzard. He can be reached at fishwithtony@gmail.com or check out his web site.

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