6641 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, (941) 554-8101, bigwaterfishmarket.com
The best spot to buy seafood on Siesta Key, Big Water carries a rotating selection of Gulf species, all of them picked out by owner Scott Dolan. If he won’t eat it, he won’t sell it, which means you can count on getting the freshest amberjack and mahi-mahi. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to order one of the enormous grilled fish sandwiches whipped up in the back kitchen.
8421 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 351-4492, captainbriansseafood.com
The competition to get a table at Captain Brian’s often spills out into the parking lot and, at peak hours, the cars are lined up on U.S. 41. If you’re seeking Gulf fish, it’s worth the fight for that parking space. In addition to its restaurant, Brian’s sells a nice range of fish and shellfish, such as amberjack, snapper, Florida lobster and stone crab, depending on the season.
7119 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 413-7133, freshcatchfishmarketandgrill.com
The selection here might be smaller than what you’ll find at other local fish shops, but the quality is spot-on, with a refrigerated case stocked with hogfish, snapper, wahoo and tripletail. The in-house restaurant also serves a tidy collection of simple fish plates and sandwiches, with steamer pots to boot.
12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, (941) 794-1243, starfishcompany.com
Star Fish owner Karen Bell is also a co-owner at the massive commercial fish house right next door, A.P. Bell Fish Company, which is named after her grandfather, Aaron Parks Bell. That tight relationship guarantees the seafood you’ll find at Star Fish is among the region’s freshest, with a topnotch selection of Gulf fish, oysters, scallops and shrimp. Like the famous dockside restaurant out back, this shop is cash only.
4144 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 921-4605, waltsfishmarketrestaurant.com
Walt’s today is best known for its Chickee bar and its bustling restaurant, but the heart and soul of the establishment is the seafood market in the back. For nearly 70 years, the Wallin family has been featuring the catches of local fishermen and, among the flown-in salmon and catfish in the market, you’ll still find a hearty selection of prized Gulf species such as grouper, snapper, pompano and mullet, and friendly fishmongers eager to gut or filet your selection.