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Captain Ray Markham's latest fishing report

           . . . and other tall tales  

Captain Ray Markham's

West Central Florida Fishing Journal

 

Various publications with which Captain Ray is affiliated:

Florida Sportsman Magazine 
Tampa Tribune Newspaper
www.b3fishing.com
Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper
Florida Mariner Newspaper

Florida Marine Times Magazine

www.TheLedger.com 

(Blogs - For Shore Fishing)

www.Anglerweb.com

www.PolkOutdoors.com

www.saltwateranglersguide.com

 

 

*** Wonder what a charter with Captain Ray Markham is really like? Todd  Smith recounts he and his daughter's  Florida fishing adventures from Orlando to Tampa Bay and a great afternoon spent with Tampa's premier fishing guide, Captain Ray Markham. Read Todd's article here at Step Outside . . .

https://stepoutside.org/article/florida-fun-fish-your-way-from-disney-world-to-tampa/

4Cast - West Central Florida

February 28 through March 1, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

The crazy Yo-Yo weather of up and down temperatures and winds continues this week as a mid-week front moves into the Suncoast by Wednesday. Again, the weekend might see some breezy conditions with stirred up water, so assess the conditions before you go and make sure you leave a float plan if you head out.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

It’s been tough for anglers to get offshore lately with the high winds and rough seas lately, but nearshore trips have been the best bet on short trips of half and all-day duration. The Treasure Island and St. Petersburg reefs are producing some good catches of flounder recently. Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina in Madeira Beach reports some good action along the coast by anglers hitting many of the nearshore artificial reefs. Plenty of sheepshead are still around. Hubbard’s Marina now sells fiddler crabs and mud minnows. They began taking mud minnows, (a.k.a. killifish or creek chubs), offshore and working the nearshore artificial reefs, having good success catching a variety of fish on them. Flounder and lane, mangrove, and gray snapper are hitting them. Fiddler crabs are working on the sheepshead and hogfish. Hubbard reports good action with hogfish from 40-to 90-feet of water using sand fleas, live shrimp, fiddler crabs, and rock shrimp.

Good numbers of tripletail have been caught off the beaches. A free-lined live shrimp, a DOA Shrimp, and small jigs have been catching these fish anywhere from the beaches to about 15-miles offshore.

It won’t be long before cobia will start showing up, especially during the warmer days. Beginning March 25, the minimum size cobia to possess will move up from 33-inches to 36-inches to the fork.

Spanish mackerel and a few kingfish are showing up with water conditions are calm and water clarity improves. Gotcha Jigs, trolled silver spoons and small plugs are catching the Spanish. Slow-trolled live blue runners have been the best kingfish baits fished around offshore wrecks.

If you are a fan of gray triggerfish, here is the current status of them:

Recreational harvest of gray triggerfish in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) will open at 12:01 am on March 1, 202, and close at 12:01 am, local time, on May 2, 2020.

Recreational harvest of gray triggerfish is currently closed. The gray triggerfish fishery in Gulf federal waters is closed annually in January and February.

The 2021 recreational fishing year begins, January 1, 2021. Recreational harvest will reopen March 1, 2021, following the January and February annual closure.

INSHORE

Windy days have made it tough for many anglers to get on the water this week, but those small weather windows are what anglers took advantage of to get out this week and get in some fishing in protected waters.

Redfish for many anglers have been hard to come by, but others are finding good numbers of fish. These fish are localized and not really spread out that much. The upper portion of Sarasota Bay from Cortez to the Manatee River has been holding some redfish. Anglers tossing CAL Jigs with Shad tails, live shrimp, and the new MirrOlure Marsh Minnow Jr. are catching reds to 28-inches in Palma Sola Bay and the adjacent waters. North and east of the Manatee River in Joe Bay anglers found good action with whitebait on redfish and snook. Bishop’s Harbor has been giving up some reds and a few snook and some slot sized trout on topwater DOA PT-7’s and MirrOlure MirrOdines.

Sheepshead continue to hang around structure up and down the ICW from Sarasota to Tarpon Springs. Fiddler crabs are out-pacing other baits for sheepies. Fish for them along pilings on the slack high tide. Pilings loaded with barnacles are the best for holding these fish. Keep your bait as close to the piling as possible.

Areas to the south, near Lemon Bay saw some Spanish mackerel action. Capt. Van Hubbard, out of Englewood shot me a report the other day saying that mackerel are headed out way. They had pretty good numbers of them down south as they continue their migration northward.

Anglers fishing with Capt. Billy Nobles of Apollo Beach this time of year catch a variety of fish including mangrove snapper, cobia, amberjack, blackfin tunas, and even a sailfish now and then.

FRESHWATER

It’s been difficult getting on a good bite consistently for bass in local ponds and lakes. These smaller bodies of water are more susceptible to changes in temperature since most are relatively shallow. But for those lakes and rivers that have good depth, over 10-feet, the changes are less noticeable to the fish since the temperature remains more constant. Crankbaits that work the bottom couple of feet and bump structure are most productive. A square bill crankbait like the Strike King KVD Square Bill 3/8 oz. 2-inch model in natural bream has been very effective in most area lakes.

Crappie fishing has been pretty good for anglers drifting Missouri minnows on Lake Tarpon in depths ranging from 8-to 10-feet. When you locate a school of fish, crappie jigs like Hal Flies work as well. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

Backwater Promotions

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

February 21-23, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

Spring-like weather has triggered appetites of fish inshore, and the good weather pattern with light winds has allowed anglers to get offshore to take advantage of some great fishing there as well. A cold front that’s expected to move into the area by the weekend could affect these conditions, depending on the severity and changes accompanied with the front.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

The bite’s on! It seems just getting out on the water has been a real chore lately but this week, conditions allowed most anyone looking to drop a line to get out. For anglers from inshore to offshore and nearshore, fish are being caught. Mangrove snapper have been cooperative just about everywhere there is hard bottom or some kind of structure in depths ranging from 12 to over 100-feet of water.

Get ready for this Sunday’s new moon. Stronger tides during this moon phase may make it more difficult to stay on your anchored spots. Check out the tide tables for your area on the FS website or in your magazine for periods of slack tide if you’re looking to do some bottom fishing.

Hogfish, white grunts, along with mangrove and lane snapper have been coming over the rails on the 10-hour all day trips aboard Hubbard’s Marina party boats along with a few red grouper. Good weather has had these boats out all week with the half-days and 10-hour trips. Half-days are producing some hogfish and white grunts. This weekend’s new moon might be a good time to get out and target mangrove snapper. They chew pretty well as a rule, at night.

INSHORE

The FWC announced that the current catch-and-release measures for snook, trout, and redfish will be extended for an additional year, (through May 31, 2021) in all waters from Hernando/ Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County due to the impacts from a prolonged red tide that lasted from November 2017 through February 2019. While some areas have seen some good increases in numbers of fish of each of these species, other areas have not.

In the Tampa Bay area, redfish action seems to be on the rise in most areas of the bay. Good reports continue to filter in from the north end of Tampa Bay around the Weedon Island area, the South Shore from Apollo Beach to the Skyway and in the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve. Chris and Michelle Trout of Bradenton have been finding some good action down in lower Tampa Bay with snook, trout, and redfish. This area is just north of the border of where red tide was affecting the fishery. For anglers fishing south of the Manatee River, they are seeing increases of trout and redfish. Snook down in Charlotte Harbor have been slower coming back, according to reports. Capt. Rick Grassett who fishes out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key has been leading his anglers, both fly and spin, to some good action with a variety of species. Snook, trout, redfish, pompano, and sheepshead have been in the catch lately with most coming on CAL Jigs with Shad tails and some on flies.

I took a recent busman’s holiday for a day on the water with Capt. Bucky Goldman of Tampa. We set out to try some new lures from MirrOlure. The results were very impressive with both of us tearing up big redfish on the new MirrOlure Marsh Minnow Jr. We tried a variety of colors rigged on 1/4 –ounce CAL Jigs with good success.

The northern end of the Suncoast has seen some good action for trout inshore but reports say that the big gator trout that are usually in this time of year are fewer than in years past. I’m certain that our warmer than usual weather has had an effect on these fish as well as many others. Still, good numbers of fish are being caught. Anglers must continue to release all snook, trout, and redfish south of the Pasco/ Hernando county line through May of next year.

FRESHWATER

Bass that are bedding this time of year continue with the spawn. This weekend could see some banner action around the new moon with aggressive fish for anglers who target them. Flipping is possibly the most effective method for these fish that guard their nests. Big breeder-sized bass are the result of catches here. Soft plastics like lizards, snake imitations, and others will take many of these fish. Most anglers choose to release spawning fish for obvious reasons.

Crankbaits and spinnerbaits are also accounting for some nice fish right now as well. Area ponds are holding some nice fish as well. The new suspending hard bait from Westin-fishing.com called the Swim SW, a 9-gram wt. lure has been slamming some nice bass in Hillsborough County lakes. Look for these new lures to appear in area bait shops soon. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

www.captainraymarkham.com

ray.markham@gmail.com

Fwd: 4Cast - West Central Florida

February 14-16, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

It’s winter. No, it’s spring. Fish are in their winter haunts. No, wait…they’re on the flats. Hmm…keeper red grouper are being caught in 42-feet of water, so it must be summer. It’s 85-degrees out on Wednesday, so it has to be summer. But last week it was in the 40’s so it must be winter. If you can figure it out, you’re a better weather prognosticator than I am, and I’m just as certain the fish are as confused as we are, but the only way we’ll know for sure is to get on the water and fish.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Who knows what’s going on with this crazy weather? Within the past couple of weeks, we have had tornados and strong storms with wind gusts to 85 mph here in Pinellas County. It’s been tough getting offshore to fish with sloppy seas, but make no mistake about it, as rough as conditions have been until this week, fish have been eager to get away from their sheltered ledges and relief to feed.

It’s those nice, spring-like days that follow bad weather that have been most productive. Anglers reported good action in the 30-to 80-foot range with hogfish, red grouper, sheepshead, mangrove snapper, porgies, kingfish, white grunts, and Spanish mackerel

Capt. Dylan Hubbard, of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass recommends the 10-hour, All Day trip if you want to target hogfish. Their anglers have really been putting some hogs in the boat lately, but even on their 5-hour half-day trips, anglers are getting quite a few. Hubbard just says that with the extra time on the water, there is much more flexibility in where the captains can go, and run out farther if they have to. The hog fishing has been good, but trips this week have also produced good catches if lane snapper, mangrove snapper, vermilion snapper, and a few red grouper, and several hundred white grunts.

Grouper are closed beyond 120-foot depths through March, but larger mangrove snapper, yellowtail and vermilion snapper, porgies, and almaco jacks, a few mutton snapper, and others are larger in these greater depths. Red and scamp grouper are open inside the 20-fathom break (120-feet).

INSHORE

Many areas are reporting excellent action with redfish this week. The warmer weather has been ticking the water temperature upward, ranging from 70-to 76-degrees. This has allowed anglers to use a variety of artificial lures with good success, including topwater lures. Most anglers don’t throw topwaters when the water is below the mid-60’s, since most fish are not very aggressive in that temperature realm.

Several parts of Tampa Bay have been holding small schools of redfish. Most reports of these schools have been in the north part of the bay, west side, and on the South Shore from Apollo Beach to Joe Bay, including Terra Ceia Bay. Captain Bucky Goldman of Tampa had good action with redfish this week using MirrOlure Top Dog Jr.’s, CAL Jigs with Shad tails, DOA 3-inch Shrimp rigged on a ¼-ounce jig head, and the DOA Softshell crab while fishing upper Tampa Bay.

Trout fishing has been getting progressively better from north of the Manatee River all the way to Bayport. Jigs and jerk baits are working well as is a new suspending lure called the Swim SW from Westin-Fishing. The new lure is 2 ½-inches long and weighs 9-grams, or about 5/16-ounce. This new size is just right for the current conditions on the Suncoast, and just about everything has been slamming the lure. On a straight retrieve, the lure has a wide “S” wobble that’s enticing. Many folks will just reel it in with good success catching snook, redfish, and trout as well as bass, but when twitched with a stop and go retrieve, the action of the lure drives fish nuts. The Swim SW excels in depths of water from 6-inches to about 4-feet, right were the majority of the fish have been holding on the flats recently.

FRESHWATER

Bass are in a full-on spawning mode. Look around the perimeter of most local lakes and ponds for bedding activity that can be seen by small depressions that have been fanned by the fish that are spawning. The females will lay their eggs and males will come in to fertilize them and stand guard over the nest. Occasionally, both male and females will stand guard, but soft plastic lures that resemble some type of creature will get it done. Lures like salamanders, lizards, and snake imitations can be deadly over the next month. Crappie fishing is about as good as it can get. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

 

Capt. Ray Markham

Backwater Promotions

www.captain raymarkham.com

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

January 31 through February 2, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

Cooler weather has pushed inshore fish into deeper holes and channels where water may be warmer. Sunny days can warm the shallows of darker muddy bottoms; bringing fish up to get warm, thus triggering their metabolisms and making them want to feed again. Offshore, fish run deep and seek warm springs and thermoclines. Finding the right depth or areas where fish congregate can make for some good action.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

It’s been somewhat of a tough week for anglers trying to get out on the windy days. When they were able, anglers found hungry fish. It may have taken a bit longer to get a good bite going but once fish began to feed, the action was steady for a while before fish quit biting.

Deep-dropping proved exceptional for gag and red grouper. Gags continue to be out of season and must be released. Scamp grouper have been in the catch aboard the party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina on their 39-hour trips. Plenty of mangrove snapper and some red grouper were caught in 190-feet of water along with some red snapper that were released.

With the red grouper closure beyond 20-fathoms coming in February and March the boats out of Hubbard’s Marina typically shoots outside of that range at night for big mangrove snapper, and come back inside that mark to take red grouper legally during the day on their 39-hour trips.

Several reports of anglers catching Spanish mackerel over the past week were noted. While these fish typically go deep or south for warmer waters, it’s an exception to be catching many of these fish this time of year. But when we have some seriously warm weather such as we’ve had, most anything is possible, I guess.

INSHORE

Some good action for a variety of inshore species has been reported recently, despite the cold snap we’ve seen over the past week or so. The most consistent bite inshore continues to be sheepshead, and that bite will likely continue through their spawning period over the next month or two. Good numbers of these fish are being caught on fiddler crabs, live and fresh-cut shrimp, and barnacles. They feed heavily around pilings, rock piles, and on seawalls. Some anglers use oysters for bait, but oysters are regulated by the FWC for size and bag limits as well as closures. Go to www.myfwc for information on those regulations and closures.

Speaking of closures, etc., the FWC has made new regulations regarding trout, zones, and much more beginning February 1. The Big Bend Zone will now extend down to Fred Howard Park. The reopening of trout from the Pasco/ Hernando county line to the south will not take place on February 1 with this change, but will be considered at the end of May. The bag limit, when it reopens in the closed area will be 5 trout north of this line and 3 trout in the newly renamed South Zone south of Fred Howard Park. The slot size will be 15-to 19-inches. Only 1 trout within this bag limit may be over 19-inches PER BOAT. For information on all the upcoming changes, go to www.myfwc.com.

Snook fishing slowed a bit for a few days as cooler weather pushed south, but picked right back up, particularly for anglers fishing live or artificial shrimp, like those from D.O.A. Lures. The key has been to work these baits very slowly near or on the bottom. Backcountry areas, rivers, creeks, and residential canals are all seeing good numbers of these fish. Suspending lures like the MirrOlure MirrOdine and Rapala Twitch ‘N Mullet have produced exceptional catches of fish including snook, trout, redfish, and others.

For anglers working the passes, bluefish, some Spanish mackerel, trout, flounder, and sheepshead are being caught. Shrimp have been the top producing natural bait free-lined in the current or with enough split shot weight to get it down to the bottom. The edges of sandy and rocky passes are holding some nice flounder. Both jigs and shrimp worked along the bottom are bringing up some nice flatties up and down the coast.

Capt. Rick Grassett, fishing out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key has been putting his anglers on a variety of species recently, including snook, trout, redfish, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel. All fish are being released with a good majority of them caught on fly and others on artificial lures. For the ultimate challenge in fishing, give fly fishing or fishing with artificial lures a try. Many fly clubs and venues like C.B. Saltwater Outfitters here on the Suncoast offer fly fishing lessons. Capt. Grassett is a Certified Fly Casting Instructor and a member of Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers in Sarasota. The Suncoast Fly Fishers in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Fly Fishers in Tampa are also local fly clubs that have instructors with these credentials. 

FRESHWATER

The past couple of weeks have put the halt on bass that were seen staging up in shallow areas of local ponds and lakes to spawn. If we get a spawn on nice warm weather again around the full moon around the 9th of February, we’ll likely see fish fanning some beds. Spinnerbaits have been effective for the past couple of weeks. As bass get ready to spawn, look for creature baits like lizards, salamanders, and snakes to catch some of the largest bass of the year. Crappie will be a good sweetwater bet during the winter months.

‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

February 7-9, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

An incoming cold front with some severe weather at week’s end could alter your fishing plans for the weekend. Offshore conditions might improve enough to get out by Sunday. Be sure if you go, that you monitor the current conditions and leave a float plan. Protected areas inshore will likely be the most consistent producers of fish, even in some of the areas where water is turbid.

OFFSHORE/ INSHORE

Our screwy weather seems to be relentless with high winds and warm then cool temperatures. For certain it creates difficult planning efforts. Our typical winter weather lends to at least a few days of good weather between fronts that allow conditions to improve and fish to chew. Paying close attention to the good weather windows should get you on the water for some great fishing especially if your time off is flexible.

Capt. Dave Zalewski of Lucky Too Charters in Madeira Beach had an interesting day fishing this week. While fishing in 55-feet of water out of John’s Pass, anglers caught 13 nice kingfish in the 12-to 15-pound range, said Zalewski. He was trolling #2 and #3 planers with spoons running behind on about 30-foot leaders. Water temperature was 63-degrees, very cool for kingfish. Zalewski said this is the earliest he’s ever caught kings while trolling.

Early in the week, anglers were able to get out to nearshore waters. Stirred up conditions made for tough fishing, but some grunts were caught along with some mangrove snapper. Depths ranging from 80-to 100-feet saw a little better action but conditions were still pretty bumpy.

INSHORE

Still in the recovery mode from red tide over a year ago, Sarasota Bay is giving anglers some action with decent trout fishing to talk about. Kayak fishing guide, Steve Gibson of www.kayakfishingsarasota.com had his anglers on the water recently and got into some schooling trout that kept angler’s rods bent much of the day. Some redfish and snook have also been caught from the Bulkhead down to the Cortez Bridge. They caught and released over 100 spotted seatrout.

Old Tampa Bay continues to hold schools of redfish and trout. Trout have mostly been at the low end of the slot with some slot fish as well. With dirty water conditions in many areas, cut baits with lots of scent are producing some fish. Redfish have been chewing on the rising tide on cut ladyfish around the mangroves. Action on the South Shore of Tampa Bay has been similar to that in the upper bay.

Anglers fishing St. Joseph’s Sound have been catching some fat trout using MirrOlure Lil’ John’s in the bourbon color and on MirrOdine Skin Series Mullet pattern. DOA Deadly Combos have been putting their share of big trout and redfish in the boat around Anclote Key and north to Bayport on high tide.

FRESHWATER

Crappie fishing has been pretty good, according to anglers fishing Lake Tarpon in Pinellas and Lake Manatee in East Bradenton. Small white or chartreuse crappie jigs and Beetle Spins have worked very well. The B & M Sam Heaton Super Sensitive 12-foot rod has been a favorite for dipping jigs or Missouri minnows way back in heavy cover but the new 7-foot model has been preferred for casting lightweight jigs.

Bass are on the beds in many areas and with next Monday’s full moon, you can expect some good action with the big girls on the beds. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

Backwater Promotions

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

January 24-26, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

Frigid cold weather and high winds this week put a damper on inshore and offshore trips with the exception of anglers fishing protected areas in the backcountry.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

The offshore activity this week has been limited, but for the boats that got out, they reported good action. Typically after a hard blow fish really chew. Capt. Dylan Hubbard out of Hubbard’s Marina in John’s Pass at Madeira Beach reported a continuing good bite with hogfish in the 40-to 70-foot depth range. Productive baits have included live shrimp, sand fleas, rock shrimp, and fiddler crabs. Along with hogfish in the nearshore waters, Hubbard reports that lane snapper action has been steady in 60-to 100-foot depths. They’ve been catching some nice mangrove snapper as well. Deepwater 39-hour trips have produced a variety of quality fish along with some more exotic species. Larger red grouper are coming from depths beyond 200-feet along with bigger mangos. An assortment of other fish was caught including yellowtail, silk and mutton snappers. Scamp grouper and kingfish were also caught.

INSHORE

The weather has been anything but good for inshore fishing with water temperatures falling over 10-degrees in some areas, effectively putting lockjaw on many fish. Prior to the front coming in on Saturday, anglers managed to catch black drum, plenty of sheepshead, some redfish, spotted seatrout, and flounder. The big surprise was the number of flatties that were brought to scale in last week’s Old Salt Johnny Kellar Tournament out of Bay Pines Marina.

Reports on the north end of the West Central area north of the Pasco/ Hernando line have been fairly good for larger trout. In fact, many other areas are also reporting better catches of trout. New regulations, as well as bag limit changes, will come into effect February 1, although much of our region will remain catch and release only through May when we will see a reduction of size and bag limits dropping from 4 trout per person to 3 trout per person between 15 and 19-inches. One of those fish may be over 19-inches PER BOAT, not per person when the season reopens. There will be a no-take of captains or crew on for-hire trips.

Snook fishing continues to improve with good catches being reported up and down the coast. A slow rise in water temperature is expected by the end of the week with a little cooler weather again for the weekend. Much slower presentations with sinking lures in the lower portion of the water column will produce some fish. Live shrimp will be your best bet for natural baits and jigs bumped over the bottom should produce some decent action.

FRESHWATER

Crappie fishing is firing up on lakes Tarpon and Manatee in Pinellas and Manatee counties. Both counties are seeing some action for anglers fishing 10-to 12-foot depths with either small crappie jigs or drifting Missouri minnows. These fish are excellent on the table. When they are hooked, lift these fish carefully as they have paper-thin mouths that hooks can tear out easily from. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

Captain Ray Markham

    

    Owner/Operator: Backwater Promotions

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