Anglers can't throw a lure without hitting water

Anglers can't throw a lure without hitting water The self-proclaimed title, "Fishing Capital of the World," says enough. Florida boasts 1,200 miles of coastline and another 10,000 miles of rivers and streams. But Manatee County, in particular, has it all.

It's not uncommon to find anglers from the east coast coming here for the first time, marveling at our gin-clear water, shallow in long stretches so anglers can watch every sand spot, grass flat or fish species zip by. Anglers can boat 10 minutes to the Skyway for some of the biggest fish around the almighty tarpon and return quickly inshore for more game fish. Look at a map of Manatee County, and you'll see vast areas of blue in the form of rivers, lakes and hundreds of ponds. Of course, the standout feature maybe the mark of Bradenton is the Manatee River, marking the city's northern boundary. From beginning to end, it offers a spectrum of excellent fishing. Flowing widely from the mouth, "the river," as it's simply known, offers an array of saltwater opportunities, before eventually becoming brackish, and finally to freshwater, where shellcracker, bluegill, speckled perch, freshwater catfish and other tasty little fish can be had in the most voluptuous of wild scenes. From the passes, the gateway used by some fish to make a transition to spawn off the beaches or venture inshore, to the wide-open bays, dotted with lush mangrove islands, there are hundreds of strategies an angler can take, leading to an equally endless combination of possible rigs. If that isn't enough, just northwest of one such bay Terra Ceia lies the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers. The south, a waterfront paradise, stretches 8,400 feet. Along with the 3,360-foot north pier, the piers offer an opportunity to walk to offshore fishing for king mackerel, grouper and cobia. Big snook also hang out under some of the pilings, and Spanish mackerel, a favorite for light-tackle anglers, is an almost constant resident. Our area's shallow waters also lend opportunity to non-boaters. By the Longboat Pass beaches, wade-fishermen can park at Coquina Beach, walk north to Leffis Key and wade out in knee-deep water to cast to a limestone bottom that often holds a multitude of species. The Rod and Reel Pier and Anna Maria City Pier are popular hang-out spots both offer a variety of species, and hold legendary shark tales. So whether you're fly-fishing, off in the deep sea, milling the flats with light tackle or inland for freshwater, there's hardly a better place than Bradenton, its own little "Fishing Capital of the World."