Pedal kayaks are the natural way to fish in Florida, says Dick Pfaff, kayak department manager at Economy Tackle/Dolphin Dive & Kayak Center. “Because the kayak is pedal-powered, there’s no motor noise to scare off the fish. The foot pedal also leaves your hands free to do your fishing.” Another advantage? Fish flee from those scary, loud motorboats right into shallow flats—where kayaks rule. Pfaff adds, “There are plenty of kayak-friendly fishing spots, from the Myakka River to the Intracoastal Waterway.” Pfaff’s favorite “fishing machine” is the Hobie pedal kayak. He recommends the two-seater Hobie Mirage Outfitter ($2,499) or the one-seater Hobie Mirage Outback ($1,749). 6018 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; (941) 922-9671; www.floridakayak.com"
Former banker Greg Clausen commands the Flying Fish Fleet, a Sarasota fishing charter. His flotilla includes two “party” boats holding 100 people each, and a 41-foot Morgan, a luxe affair for up to six passengers. Clausen will customize expeditions to your expectations. His larger boats are ideal for corporate charters. A typical half-day Gulf expedition heads out 12 miles in search of grouper, sand perch, cobia and more. The fee includes fish cleaning, rod, reel, bait, licenses, and taxes ($2,500 for 50 people). Desperately seeking black fin tuna, barracuda and other deep sea denizens? Book the Morgan for a 12-hour trip, 100 miles offshore ($1,750 for six people). A special extra? Game fish are caught and released, but Clausen works with a local taxidermy company to create replicas of your big catch. 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota; (941) 366-3373; www.flyingfishfleet.com.
Tackling the Challenge
You’re ready to fish—but what about your tackle? Fishing fanatic Eric Baize at Sarasota’s All About Fishing recommends gear from Penn. For offshore fishing, Baize praises the Penn Senator as a “durable and capable rod and reel combo” ($100-$140). For inshore fishing, his top pick is the Penn Slammer, a tough, metal-bodied spinning reel for beach or boat fishing ($100-140). Regarding lure, Baize waxes poetic about Berkley’s Gulp, artificial bait that “smells incredible to fish.” (A pack of eight is around $7.) 1115 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; (941) 955-7288; allaboutfishingflorida.com.
C.B.’s Saltwater Outfitters is the go-to place for fishing, including gear, supplies, classes and charters. Aledia Tush, its owner for 32 years, says, “We offer guided trips for anybody from the beginner to the avid angler.” How about tarpon fishing? C.B.’s offers Tarpon Charters between May and mid-July. (Reserve soon; these popular tours fill fast. $500 for two anglers). Need to improve your fly-fishing skills? C.B.’s Instructional Fly-Fishing Trip will teach you the tricks of the trade ($350 for four hours). 1249 Stickney Point Road, Siesta Key; (941) 349-4400; www.cbsoutfitters.com.
The Big Bond
Top Notch Sportfishing operates two Dorado boats (a 23- and a 26-footer) and will also create customized expeditions. Most voyages start at the New Pass Bait shop on Longboat Key, says Tom Stephens Jr., who co-owns the company with his father, Tom Stephens Sr. Local businesses often charter both boats as a gift for senior staff or clients. “This kind of intimate experience really helps people bond,” says the younger Stephens. “They’ll start with breakfast and a business meeting while our team prepares the boat.” Each boat holds four passengers; most charters are half-day affairs. At journey’s end, passengers and boat captains bond over a hearty lunch at the Salty Dog. ($400 for four people per boat; with an additional $200-plus set-up charge.) (941) 358-9701; www.topnotchfishing.com.
The Big Fishing Show
Bring the whole family to the Florida Sportsman Fishing & Boat Show, March 7-8. Vendors will be hawking the latest in everything—from boats to tackle and beyond. The event includes seminars, hands-on clinics, kids’ activities and more. It’s sponsored by Florida Sportsman, and tickets are $8 for adults; children 12 and under free. Sarasota Convention Center, 8005 15th St. E, Sarasota; (941) 355-9161.
REGIONAL FISHING AND BOATING RESOURCES:
The Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers is a local fly fishing club established to advance the knowledge and enjoyment of saltwater fly fishing, and to provide a forum for beginner and novice fly fishers to expand their experience. (941) 366-1399; www.mangrovecoastflyfishers.com.
Tarpon Anglers Club conducts a professional tournament series and partners with Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Wildlife Research Institute to ensure the health of the environment and species. 1189 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte; (941) 255-1581; www.tarponanglersclub.com.
Coastal Conservation Association is dedicated to preserving and protecting Florida’s marine fishery resources. www.ccaflorida.org
Dogfish Tackle Company creates hand-crafted tackle to meet exact fishing needs. 8750 Park Blvd., Seminole; (727) 393-2102; www.dogfishtacklecompany.com.
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing offers saltwater and freshwater kayak fishing trips from Tampa Bay to Pine Island Sound. 2519 Wood Oak Drive, Sarasota; (941) 379-2839; www.kayakfishingsarasota.com
Hart's Landing is Sarasota’s oldest saltwater fishing bait and tackle store. 920 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota; (941) 955-0011; www.hartslanding.com" www.hartslanding.com.
Rivolta Yachts, headquartered in Sarasota, builds high-end yachts, sailboats and motorboats. 1765 Ringling Blvd., Ste. 300, Sarasota; (941) 954-0355; www.rivoltayachts.com
Cannons Marina rents and sells boat and motor products, including Grady-White, Scout and Yamaha outboard motors. 6040 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; (941) 383-1311; www.cannons.com