Offshore bound.

Heading offshore this weekend.

I typically head out of Little Gasparilla or Boca Grande but am thinking of fishing out Of the Venice area or Sarasota. I have only lived in this area for about 16 months and am still finding places to fish. I usually hit public numbers such as Bayronto, boxcars, pegasus, etc.... I do have some spots in the 15 mile range that produce sometimes but I am trying expand!!. I have heard a lot of people talk about the "ledges" or lots of swiss cheese hard bottom out of Venice. Can someone throw me a bone and point me in the right direction where I can start finding these ledges and some fish. Tired of catching Squirrel Fish:huh I have 3 young boys I sure would like to put on some Grouper this weekend.



  • goddfaddagoddfadda Posts: 111 Officer
    Here's a hint: artificial reefs are generally within the vicinity of hard bottom / ledges / cheese. At least it is that way up here in Sarasota. I think the county intentionally did this so the local inhabitants would explore their new artificial offerings.

    When I was first looking for good bottom and "graduating" from the artificial reefs, I would pick a known reef to head for, but watch the fish finder along the way. The idea was to hopefully find a new spot before I actually got to the artificial reef. But in the worst case if I didn't find anything I could always hit the known reef that was within my path as a plan B instead of driving aimlessly and losing morale. Works well when your boys are getting impatient while your tinkering with the fishfinder.

    How good are you at reading your fish finder? There are a lot of ways to tune them, but the best method for me...

    Turn off the fish icons - they aren't helpful.

    Set the fishfinder to bottom lock, or to a setting where you are only looking at the bottom 10 - 20 feet. This will make the bottom good and zoomed in.

    Turn up the sensitivity to the point of static, then back down until the static just disappears.

    Drive slow enough that your sonar can still read the bottom. This is dependent on how well you have the transducer mounted. If it can't read details when driving at 20 knots, cut back on the speed a little as you head to the spot.

    Watch the bottom. You'll see sand probably 70% of the time. Boring wavy and smooth. It'll appear as a red line gradually fading to yellow, green and blue. This is your sonar signal blazing through the soft sand and returning.

    When you drive over hard bottom, you'll notice the red line changes to thin and solid. No yellow/green/blue gradual fade. There may be nothing under this red line, or possibly a second red line under it from the sonar bouncing off the hard bottom, back off the boat, and back to the bottom again. You'll also see greenish fuzz just above the red line sometimes. This is ferns / plants. If you see red blobs or sudden thickening of the red line, this is grouper. They won't show as fish or arches on a fishfinder because they are holding tight to the bottom. You may also see red points coming from the bottom instead of the smooth sand contour. The points are small limestone boulders. When you are on good hard bottom - you will not catch a squirrelfish or lizardfish.

    Where there is hard bottom, there is ledges and lots more hard bottom.

    You won't mistake a ledge, its a drastic image on the fishfinder that literally looks like there are 2 bottoms interleaved or just a sudden shift in the bottom by 1 -7 feet.

    You'll want to catch red grouper this weekend, so you don't want to fish ledges. You just want hard bottom / cheese. Again I speak for sarasota, but pretty much every artificial reef we have here is within a mile of natural hard bottom. So if you are in the area code of an artificial and you drive around while watching your fishfinder you'll find hard bottom or ledges.

    You can start catching keeper reds within about 60 - 70 feet. So, head to a reef out that depth or deeper. When you are approaching 50 feet or so on your journey, start watching the finder. If you notice a drastic change in the bottom like mentioned above, throw over a half sardine and a 3-6oz sinker and drift a little. Make sure you drag bottom. You'll have a grouper/snapper/sea bass within seconds. If you get a good size one, mark the spot and anchor up. If you get a lizard or squirrel, leave the area.

    Between 50 - 80 feet of depth your bound to run over some hard bottom. Maybe someone closer to you can speak up but if I marked each area of hard bottom I drive over each trip, my gps would look like a christmas tree. There really is that much of it. Heck the last trip we were able to SEE it in 80 feet of water from the surface. It was amazing. Probably not this weekend though :grin
  • goddfaddagoddfadda Posts: 111 Officer
    Oh and if you see a sea turtle or even bait working... STOP. There is hard bottom nearby. Especially with turtles. Turtles are ALWAYS indicators of a new fishing spot.
  • JimmytalkJimmytalk Posts: 587 Officer
    Godfadda...great stuff

    "Fu%#, fight or go for your gun" - unknown
  • KrackenKracken Posts: 72 Deckhand
    Thanks guys. I heard that there was some ledges in the vicinity of the "cuda hole" and that the area with ledges covers a lot of ground. Can anyone confirm or deny this? Looks like this may be my plan to try to get the boys on some Gags come Sunday. If you see someone out there doing circles in a sea cat, just ignore me!

    I always mark spots when I see turtles but for some reason I am still catching squirrel fish..ha. My turtles must just be traveling.
  • jcbsharkjcbshark Posts: 25 Greenhorn
    google icebox or cuda hole.both are about 50 ft of water i go to the icebox area normally.there is alot of good stuff around there.not sure if you'll luck into any keeper size grouper but you should get some fish to eat.just watch your fish finder.icebox27.09.281/082.39.632 cuda hole is closer to sarasota 27.14.398\082.45.326.this is just a starting point.the best holes you'll get you'll find yourself.good luck.
  • jcbsharkjcbshark Posts: 25 Greenhorn
    the turtle stuff is right on too.i check every bump i see.i did go to cuda hole once and did well i just like to stay further south.if i'm gonna burn gas it's to go west.
  • SJCSJC Posts: 2,565 Captain
    Goddfadda, I mostly fish inshore but I am thinking about venturing offshore a little but that is probably one of the best tips i've seen anyone give a newbie. Thank you! Thanks to shark also!
    The Beatings will continue until moral improves!
  • goddfaddagoddfadda Posts: 111 Officer
    No problem glad to help. The turtle will be sunning himself. When you get near him he will swim down on an angle. He's swimming back to safety, which I can guarantee is not going to be sand. Watch where he swam to and watch closely with your sonar, because there is a very good chance a gag/snapper will be within feet of where he went.

    If you're good you can pull a captain phil from deadliest catch and watch his bubbles. He will be traversing the hard bottom for you, telling you just where it is.

    Cuda hole is an area with miles of ledges and hard bottom as well as a good tutorial to learn how to use your fishfinder, but its heavily overfished mainly by divers. Big fish stay clear but you'll certainly find some eats in the white grunt and spanish mackerel variety. And about elevendy billion short red groupers and gags for each keeper. Sunday it will probably look like a parking lot with dive flags.

    The best fishing spots are not public, and the fish that live there will have no clue they have to watch out for food with hooks in it :fishing
  • Angler SystemsAngler Systems Posts: 919 Officer
    Solid Goddfadda Solid
  • Aquaman13Aquaman13 Posts: 84 Deckhand
    goddfadda is right on. There is hard bottom all over the place. There are ledges in many places. It does not matter which pass you go out of, there are good fishing spots out there, you need to learn how to find them. Learning to read your sounder is the most important thing. Mine will read at all speeds, so wherever I run I always watch the screen. Some of my best hard bottom areas do not show up as much, other than knowing it is rock and not sand. I have hundreds of numbers compiled by a bunch of captains, but I barely fish those. The best spots are the ones you find yourself, that no one else fishes.

    You have some good ideas given to you. Turtles are almost always on hard bottom. Stone Crab Traps usually show rock, although mostly inshore. And they do put reefs near hard bottom, because they do not want to lose the material in the sand. The best thing to do though is run and watch that screen. It may take a while to get it, but once you do, you'll be in the fish.
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