Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stephens Point offers a plethora of fish species for fly and spin anglers

The kayak launching spot is secluded at Stephens Point off Sarasota Bay.
Fishing is good year round throughout Sarasota Bay.

Lee Badensnyder with a fly-rod snook at Stephens Point.
For the kayak angler, however, where you fish depends on the wind.

When its blowing from the east, I like to fish along the east side of the bay. In that situation, you're in the lee and usually will find smooth paddling and fishing.

One of my favorite spots to fish is Stephens Point, an area that's tough for many kayakers to get to because they don't know where to launch.

I own and operate Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing ( and fish Stephens Point often.

In my continuing series of Sarasota Bay kayak hotspots, here's the lowdown.


Pompano off Stephens Point.
This is a great area that produces good numbers of snook, spotted seatrout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and pompano. Stephens Point is located along the east side of Sarasota Bay and can be reached from a launch located on Sun Circle west of U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail).

This launch is not known by many. I hesitate to publish the location and ask that you don't litter and that you keep noise to a minimum during the early and late hours. I launch at the southernmost point of a small city park located there. You can park right on the street.

There are several docks in the small harbor at the launch. Two have underwater lights. They can be great for snook and spotted seatrout. Redfish also like to hang out around docks and rocks along the seawall.

On the outside of Stephens Point, there are several more docks where you can target snook, redfish and trout before daylight.

When you leave the basin and paddle into Sarasota Bay, there's a huge grass area that begins just south of Stephens Point and runs north to just above the Ringling Mansion. The grass holds spotted seatrout, bluefish, pompano, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish and jack crevalle.
Bluefish are common during the cooler months.

I like to use D.O.A. CAL jigs with gold or copper crush paddle tails, MirrOlure MirrOdines or D.O.A. Deadly Combinations.

The grass area is large and easily identifiable in bright sunlight. You'll have to move around until you find the fish.

On a calm morning, you often will see schools of baitfish. It's always worth casting a jig or other lure around baitfish schools that you find. You'll also see predator fish chasing bait. Don't hesitate to cast.

With that in mind, keep your eyes and ears open. If you don't see the baitfish, you'll often hear them. The key is to get a lure to that area quickly.

Stephens Point is a great fly-fishing area. I fish the lighted docks before daylight. I'll usually use a small, white baitfish or shrimp imitation tied on a No. 6 or 8 hook. I use an 8-weight fly rod, floating line and 9-foot  (20-pound fluorocarbon) leader. You can fish the leader as is or add a short length of 25- or 30-pound fluoro shock if you desire.

I usually anchor when fly fishing around the docks. Take your time, be quiet and anchor within an easy cast. Don't make it difficult on yourself by anchoring too far away.

You might have to cast around docked boats or under docks.

I usually start by working the dark perimeter of the light and work my way in. If you start out casting right in the middle, you'll likely spook the snook.

You can usually see immediately if there are feeding fish around. At Stephens, you can see it from the launch.

If you're spin fishing, use small jigs or plugs like the MirrOlure MirrOdine. D.O.A. Shrimp often work well, too.

When you paddle out into the bay, you can identify the dark grassy areas easily -- if you're wearing polarized sunglasses.

I like to work the edges of the grass and any sand holes within the grass.

One of my best days at Stephens took place several years ago when Chad Pennington, then a quarterback with the New York Jets, joined me for an outing. Pennington and I combined to catch 60 trout and 15 Spanish mackerel -- all on D.O.A. Deadly Combination. The lure is a D.O.A. Shrimp rigged about 3 to 4 feet under a popping cork.

The rig is so easy to use. Cast it out, allow the shrimp to sink, reel in any slack and then pop the cork with the rod tip. Repeat often. When the cork goes under, reel up slack and set the hook.

In late fall and winter, the area often holds good numbers of pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Trout are available year round.

In December of 2009, another angler and I combined to land 30 seatrout, 40 pompano and 25 blues. It was pretty much non-stop action.

One species is available that not many know about. During the winter, silver trout, a smaller relative of the spotted seatrout, show up in good numbers in the Stephens Point basin. Bounce a light jig along the bottom and you should catch all you want. Silver trout are small, but are tastier and stronger than spotted seatrout.

While mackerel are in good numbers from November through March, we occasionally catch some monster macks. In March of 2010, I caught a 7 1/2-pound Spanish mackerel on fly rod. It was the largest mackerel I've ever caught -- or seen!

No matter where you fish when you launch at Stephens Point, you'll have a relatively short paddle. If the weather goes awry, you can get back to the launch in just a few minutes.

Have fun!

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