If you are spending the day floating around Sarasota Bay or nearby waters – whether in a kayak or on a paddleboard – chances are excellent that you’ll notice quite a few fish swimming serenely past your vessel. The waterways around Sarasota and Siesta Key represent a diverse and vibrant ecosystem that supports a wide variety of marine life, including numerous species of fish. From shallow seagrass beds to deeper channels, Sarasota Bay’s habitats offer homes and feeding grounds for fish adapted to both saltwater and brackish conditions.
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Here are 13 varieties of fish commonly found in Sarasota Bay. Whether you bring your fishing pole or just enjoy the scenery, these are the species you are most likely to encounter. (We’ve included the types of environments where each can be found.) Click here to see photos of each type of fish.

  1. Snook: Anglers highly prize snook for their fighting ability and delicious meat. They are commonly found near mangroves, docks, and deeper channels, where they ambush prey such as shrimp and small fish.
  2. Redfish: Redfish are another popular sport fish in Sarasota Bay. They often gather in schools near oyster beds and grass flats, feeding on crabs, shrimp, and smaller fish.
  3. Trout (Spotted Seatrout): Spotted seatrout are abundant in the grassy shallows of Sarasota Bay. They are known for their distinctive black spots and are caught by anglers using live bait or artificial lures.
  4. Mangrove Snapper: Mangrove snapper darts among the mangrove roots, docks, and rocky areas within Sarasota Bay. They are sought after for their sweet, mild-flavored flesh and are often caught using live shrimp or small fish as bait.
  5. Tarpon: Known for their impressive size and acrobatic leaps, tarpon migrate along the coast and are often found near bridges, passes, and channels.
    fish of Sarasota Bay, kayak rentals
  6. Sheepshead: Sheepshead are recognized by their prominent teeth and vertical black stripes. They feed around structures like docks and pilings, consuming barnacles, crabs, and small shellfish.
  7. Flounder: Flounder are bottom-dwelling fish that camouflage themselves against sandy or muddy bottoms. They use their flattened bodies to ambush prey like shrimp and small fish.
  8. Spanish Mackerel: These fast-swimming predators are found in open waters and nearshore reefs of Sarasota Bay. They are prized for their speed and often caught by trolling or casting lures.
  9. Jack Crevalle: Jacks are powerful fighters that roam the bay in search of schools of baitfish. They are known for their aggressive strikes and can be found near flats, channels, and passes.
  10. Ladyfish: Ladyfish are slender, silvery fish that inhabit shallow, grassy areas and are often mistakenly caught by anglers targeting other species.
  11. Pinfish: Pinfish are small, abundant fish found throughout Sarasota Bay. They serve as important prey for larger predatory fish and are commonly used as bait by anglers.
  12. Grouper: Various species of grouper inhabit the deeper waters and reefs around Sarasota Bay. They are prized for their large size and excellent eating qualities.fish of Sarasota Bay, kayak rentals
  13. Pompano: Pompano are fast-swimming fish found in sandy areas and around grass flats in Sarasota Bay. They are highly sought after for their delicate, flavorful flesh.

These are just a few examples of the many fish species that inhabit Sarasota Bay and its surrounding waters. The bay’s diverse habitats, from seagrass beds to mangrove shorelines, support a rich and complex marine ecosystem that is both ecologically valuable and a draw for nature enthusiasts. In fact, spotting wildlife in Sarasota is one of the local’s favorite ways to spend our day.

Floating atop the water’s surface gives you a wonderful view of many of these fish as they cruise by. On your next paddle, see how many of these fish you can spot (and don’t forget to read up on our shorebirds as well.) If you’d like to really learn about our area, book a kayak tour and a professional guide.

Ride and Paddle is Sarasota’s premier destination for kayak, paddle board, and bicycle rentals. Call today to reserve yours.