Pass Fishing
Fishing in the passes and inlets between Bradenton
and Boca Grande is fun and usually very productive. I
fish them according to time of day, season, and
conditions for many of the same species one finds on
flats and bays. Passes and inlets are the gateway
from the protected inshore waters to the open Gulf.
Schools of baitfish, crabs, and shrimp use them like
an interstate highway. That activity, in turn, draws the
predators that feed on such a buffet line. The wide
variety of bottom contours and structures, all in a
relatively small area, are the added bonus that makes
this fishing so versatile in appeal. The options are
many and close together.

We catch just about every species of inshore
gamefish in the passes at one time or another using
live bait, artificials, and flies. These areas are also a
very good place to fish for
novices and children as
they usually offer fast action with relatively easy
techniques. I am often drawn to the passes and inlets
when action elsewhere slows down or is just not up to
my expectations. My most common targets, among
many, are snook, flounder, snapper and grouper.
However, during some months, Spanish mackerel,
pompano, bluefish,
jacks, and ladyfish become the
primary quarry. Ladyfish, mackerel, bluefish, and jacks
are voracious predators and when we find a hot
school, the action can accelerate rapidly until virtually
every cast will draw a strike or multiple strikes.

Snook are in the passes and inlets year round, in
greater numbers some months than others. Cobia are
not uncommon and tarpon inhabit them as well during
the summer. These fish are best fished early or very
late when boat traffic is minimal, and I start trips this
way when the chance arises. For the occasional
angler who likes to tangle with sharks, the passes are
the best place around these waters to raise the odds
of finding one to wear you out.

Snapper are a staple target in the passes and inlets.
They run a bit bigger on average during the summer
months, but at any size, they bite live bait with
abandon and they give a good tussle in protest when
the hook bites back. There’s no snob appeal in it, but
snapper fishing is just good, clean fun! The icing on
the snapper fishing cake is the number of other
species we catch in the same spots. Because of the
structure and location of good snapper spots in and
near the passes, we regularly catch grouper,
sheepshead, snook, and flounder as well. Incidental
catches include barracuda, jacks, blue runner,
bluefish, ladyfish, redfish, pompano, and permit. It’s a
laundry list of fish at these spots since so many
species visit them as feeding stations on a good tide.
Needless to say, for someone simply looking to bend
a rod, thrill a child, or stay busy while enjoying the
sunshine, this is the least demanding way to do it!

Easy, fast, fun . . . Pass fishing.
A typical Gulf Flounder in full display.
Flounder frequent many of the areas we
typically fish in the passes and inlets.
A dinner size 17" permit (fork length)
taken on fly in a Sarasota pass.
An average pass mackerel displays his
dental work on the way to the cooler.