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A guide to get your Sarasota fishing adventures started

As outdoorsman and angler Fennel Hudson puts it: “Having a fishing rod in your hand is merely an excuse to explore out-of-sight depths and reveal mysteries that previously only existed in dreams.”

Sam Ramey fell fast and furious in love with the life aquatic. For him, the experience was so life-changing that he finished his schooling while living aboard a sailboat.
Sam Ramey fell fast and furious in love with the life aquatic. For him, the experience was so life-changing that he finished his schooling while living aboard a sailboat.
Photo by Lori Sax
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Fish can be hard to catch. Fishing fever, on the other hand, is amazingly easy to catch. It can also be a lifelong condition — and highly communicable. Those who feel the fever love to pass it on. 

Just ask Matt Scanlon. He’s been casting off area piers his entire life and has worked nearly every job in the business, starting with a high school gig peeling shrimp at New Pass Grill and Bait Shop and, later, as a cook there. Today, he runs the bait shop and co-owns Dreams Reelized, a local fishing charter business. 

According to Scanlon, the fever was intense in his youth — to the extent that he and his friends went out shark hunting in a flimsy inner tube one afternoon. Not the smartest idea, but he shrugs it off. 

“You have to risk it for the biscuit,” he laughs, adding that good fishing opportunities are worth whatever it takes. As it turns out, Scanlon and his buddies didn’t catch Jaws that day — but Jaws didn’t catch them, either. They all had a great day being out on the water, and the risk made the experience even more memorable.  

For Scanlon and so many others, the happiness that fishing brings is the greatest catch of all. Why does fishing put a smile on their faces? For them, the list includes the excitement of the challenge, close contact with nature, times of contemplative solitude as well as times of camaraderie. They also talk about fishing’s mental and physical health benefits — and many studies back them up. 

If you’re already a seasoned fishing pro, you know all about it. If you want to get started, we’re happy to help. Here’s a quick guide to some of our area’s fishing experiences. 

Offshore fishing

Offshore fishing means what it says. About 10 miles from our shores, the depth is about 60 feet; at 30 miles, it’s around 100 feet. Depending on the time of year, the fish that make their home in these waters include grouper, snapper, cobia, amberjack, shark, mackerel, snook, trout, redfish and flounder. 

To learn more, we spoke with Capt. Sam Ramey, who heads up Suncoast Fishing Adventures. Ramey is one of a handful of area-based captains with a federal fishing permit that allows him to fish up to 100 miles from the shore. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Ramey attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and soon fell in love with the life aquatic. For him, the experience was such a game-changer that he finished his schooling while living on a sailboat. After graduating from Eckerd, Ramey went on attend the Chapman School of Seamanship. He now holds a USCG 50-ton Master’s License. 

“I didn’t know that being a fishing guide was even an option as a career,” Ramey says. “No one in D.C. does that. As soon as I heard you could make money doing it, that became my focus.”

Ramey customizes his fishing expeditions to his clients’ needs. His 28-foot Contender vessel comes equipped with a 40-gallon live bait well, 20 rod holders and two GPS systems with sonar and radar — all the better to track down the perfect fish. 

If You Go: Six hours is $1,125; eight hours is $1,500; and 10 hours is $1,875. Those prices apply for up to four people; additional guests are $50 each. 941-301-775-0306.

Inshore fishing

Inshore fishing also means what it says. Inshore fishing odysseys in our area explore the waters of our bays and estuaries; these are usually closer than nine miles from shore in waters no deeper than 60 feet. These shallower depths teem with a variety of species, including snook, flounder, redfish, trout and tarpon. 

Matt Scanlon has been casting off area piers his entire life and has worked nearly every job in the business.
Photo by Lori Sax

Capt. Matt Scanlon’s “Dreams Reelized” fishing charter business offers inshore charters off Lido Key on a 24-foot Scout boat, which he captains with his business partner Jason Boyll. Scanlon says his main goal is giving other people the joyful fishing experiences that he’s enjoyed over the years. (The company also owns a 35-foot Strike boat for offshore treks.) 

“As long as someone learns something at the end of the day, that’s great,” Scanlon says. “I love watching people feel that enjoyment of fishing. You’re creating memories out here. I want everyone to have a smile. That’s the fulfillment I need.”

If You Go: Prices for up to four people range from $650 for four hours to $1,150 for eight hours. 941-504-8219.

Family-friendly charters

Fishing’s a blast for adults — and it can also be for children. If you’d like to give your young ones an unforgettable experience, Sarasota Family Fishing Charters is a great place to start. Capt. Scott Tesinsky is a third-generation Floridian and a licensed Coast Guard captain with 35 years’ experience leading fishing expeditions. As Tesinsky puts it, the tradition of Florida fishing was passed on from his grandfathers. “I had a fishing pole in my hand since I could walk,” he says.

What makes his charters so family-friendly?

Tesinsky recounts a recent father-and-son trip. He noticed that the boy was reluctant to get on the boat, let alone hold a fishing rod. But once Tesinsky drew his attention to the amazing Gulf creatures they encountered, he started to relax. 

“He saw his first dolphin, a manatee and a sea turtle,” Tesinsky smiles. “It took him awhile to figure the actual fishing out, but he eventually hooked a large blacktip shark.” Father and son reeled in the shark together after a 30-minute battle. Tesinsky later found out that the son had bought his own fishing rod and planned to continue the hobby. 

To Tesinsky, that’s what it’s all about. 

“Getting kids away from technology and into the great outdoors is often the spark of a new passion.” 

If You Go: Treks start at $400 for four hours with up to three guests; a fourth guest is $50 extra. No additional charge for children under 10. 941-266-6214.

Night Snook Fishing

CB’s Saltwater Outfitters has been around since 1959. It lays claim to being Sarasota’s largest bait and tackle shop and also offers gear, clothing, boat rentals, parasailing and plenty of fishing charters. 

CB’s is a great place to launch your fishing adventure — snook fishing, especially. The Snook Alley Evening Trip is one of its most popular charters. This expedition encompasses four moonlit hours of night snook fishing along the Intercoastal Waterway between Sarasota and Venice. Most of the fishing unfolds near lighted docks, where snook cluster to feed on bait that the lights attract. 

If You Go: Four hours is $550 for one to two anglers; $100 for a third person. 941-349-4400.

Luxury charters

Fishing is often an everyman’s sport. Pelagic Color Fishing Co. caters to a more upscale clientele. But its idea of luxury is far from tame. According to its website, the company’s mission is to “change your life by giving you an experience where your senses are heightened, adrenaline is pumping and your heart is beating out of your chest.” 

Given owner Noah Neumann’s hospitality background, it’s no wonder that his fishing treks are more deluxe than most. “Our mission is to deliver something you’re not going to get anywhere else,” says Neumann. 

Pelagic’s super-fast, high-performance Yellowfin 42 is a big, brawny, no-holds-barred powerhouse of a boat.
Courtesy photo

He adds that his guests receive gourmet meals catered by Harry's Continental Kitchens and a selection of top-shelf beverages. The ride is a super-fast, high-performance Yellowfin 42 — a “big, brawny, no-holds-barred powerhouse of a boat.” Pelagic Color trips can net you mahi mahi, goliath grouper, king mackerel, swordfish, wahoo and other monsters of the Gulf. One trip even nabbed a 13-foot tiger shark.

If You Go: Pelagic “Quests” can last 24 hours and cost up to $11,880; less expensive options are also available. All Pelagic trips are for up to six guests. 941-807-9655.

Fishing from shore

Beginning anglers who don’t have their sea legs yet can bypass the boat. Bait-casting off a pier or bridge are great places to start. There are plenty of local options.

Matt Scanlon, of New Pass Grill and Bait Shop, says there are multiple piers near New Pass that yield good results. Other public fishing spots include Longboat Key’s Overlook Park and Quick Point Nature Preserve and Sarasota’s Hart’s Landing pier. Public beaches like Siesta Key Beach also hold the potential for successful fishing.

What bait to use? 

“Beginners probably want to stick with live shrimp,” Scanlon says, noting that the strong scent of shrimp attracts fish. “We sell a lot of tackle that fit a plethora of different styles. We’re not going to give you the wrong bait and then send you catfishing.” 

If You Go: New Pass Grill and Bait Shop, 1505 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota. 941-388-3050.



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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