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Captain Ray Markham's latest fishing report

           . . . and other tall tales  

Captain Ray Markham's

West Central Florida Fishing Journal

 

Captain Ray Markham in the News

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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

 

 

4Cast - West Central Florida

February 19-21, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Some crazy weather continued this week with temperatures in the 80’s to begin the week followed by strong thunderstorms, high winds, and temps falling into the 50’s. Welcome to a Florida winter. Fear not, as spring is right around the corner.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Nice days with picture perfect weather windows made it easy for offshore anglers to head out to their favorite spots this past weekend for some snapper, red grouper, hogfish, grunts, and many other species. While some of the best opportunities to catch fish are during these periods of nice weather, taking time off when they conflict with work and other duties can make for bad scenarios. We live in an area where it seems the weather can change in the bat of an eye, so it might be wise to just wait for those weather windows to open and take advantage of them when you can.

Good action with red grouper has been noted by anglers hitting depths ranging in the 80-to 120-foot range west of Bradenton. Many of the best producing areas for red grouper are on bottom dubbed as Swiss cheese bottom, named for their pocked holes in limestone. They may not show on a recorder as big ledges or structure with a lot of relief, but reading your bottom machine to show how hard the bottom is might be the easiest way to find good productive bottom for red grouper. Areas beyond 120-feet through the month of March are closed for grouper.

Hogfish remain a good prospect for anglers looking to catch these delicious fish. Live shrimp will get the job done, but in the event your bait dies on the way out, hogs will still eat the dead bait as long as it’s kept fresh. By fresh, I mean it still has the same color it did when it was alive. Bait that died and sat in a bucket all day begins to turn color, and if it’s been dead too long it will take on a pink color that hogfish don’t find appealing. So, fresh is always better and live is best. Some anglers have found that blanched sand fleas also work well.

On some of the nice days with the horizon called, anglers found blackfin tuna, dolphin, wahoo, and other species out beyond 180-feet of water. Pick your days and be safe.

INSHORE

Trout fishing has continued getting better with larger fish each week. This is typical of this time of year. My biggest trout have nearly always been caught in March and April. Continued catch and release of these fish using barbless or circle hooks will help reduce release mortality. Look for areas with potholes and grass patches on the flats. In cooler temperatures, fish areas that are a little deeper, such as channel edges that are adjacent to shallow dark mud flats.

Trout have been closed for some time now, and the closure continues through May for snook, trout, and redfish from the Pasco/Hernando county line south to Gordon Pass in Collier County.

Redfish have been caught by a lot of folks this week, but schools of fish have been few and far between in most areas. Upper Tampa Bay has been holding some fish around Riviera Bay on the Pinellas side, and along the South Shore near Piney Point. Several areas along the west side of Sarasota Bay have produced catches of some nice reds. Gold spoons, soft plastics resembling crabs or shrimp, and small baitfish have been luring reds to strike. Fishing docklines with live shrimp will produce redfish, snook, sheepshead, and even trout. At night, dock lights can be excellent areas for all of these species. Live shrimp freelined work very well, but fly fishers can also take advantage of a good bite for these fish using shrimp or glass minnow patterns.

It won’t be long before snook get in the spawning mode. The string of recent warm days has sent good numbers of snook out on the flats to forage for food. Jigs resembling a baitfish such as the CAL Shad or MirrOlure Marsh Minnow have been producing some good action. When water temperatures climb back up into the 70’s you can expect these fish to get very aggressive, chasing topwater lures like a Zara Spook, MirrOlure Top Dog, or Rapala Skitter V.

FRESHWATER

It’s hard not to want to get on the water when the weather has been as nice as we’ve had this week. The warm days with lighter winds when the sun is up makes sight fishing spawning beds for bass easy. Almost any lake or pond with bass is showing these spawning potholes around the perimeter of lakes. Some may not be bass beds, but tilapia beds. Creature baits that appear to invade a bed to eat a bass’ eggs will get hammered instantly. Flipping this time of year can be deadly on big bass. Large soft plastic worms in black, purple, and green pumpkin all seem to work well. Bluegill beds might also be in our area. I love fishing small popping bugs on a 5 wt. fly rod for these fish. They may not be huge fish, but they sure fight like it. Get out and give it a try! ‘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 12-14, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

The chamber of commerce must have been listening to us. A string of perfect weather days has allowed offshore anglers to travel at will. But all great weather days may not produce as you’d like.

 

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

After several days of extremely windy and cold weather, the Suncoast is looking at changes for the better. Calm seas and light winds have made for terrific days, except for the foggy days this week. Much warmer days should continue for the weekend. The water temperature is still pretty cool in the nearshore arena. As the week progresses, fish become acclimated to the changes. Surface temperatures may produce some action with some Spanish mackerel around bait schools.

 

Some of the best action recently has been ranging in depths from 30-to 80-feet deep to the west off Manatee and Pinellas shores. Steady action with white grunts, mangrove snapper, and hogfish has been the norm. Red grouper are being caught from 80-to 100-foot depths off Bradenton

 

Good weather continuing into next week might see a few kingfish show up in deep water artificial reefs off Sarasota. Anglers looking for them should keep an ear out for catches in the Boca Grande/ Venice area, as those fish will be moving northward from the Keys as waters begin to warm. Our spring weather has not arrived just yet, but as the days get longer and warmer, you can expect some pelagic action to heat up.

 

INSHORE

This week’s warm weather produced mixed results at the beginning of the week. Coming off some cold, windy weather from last week, fish were slow to respond. Redfish were laid up in the shallows over dark muddy bottoms trying to warm up. Anglers finding these fish early in the day had limited success, but as afternoon temperatures peaked, the action began to turn on. Live pinfish, shrimp, and scaled sardines produced some reds. Shad-style soft plastic lures like the CAL Shad and MirrOlure Marsh Minnow got bit. As we get toward the weekend, you’re likely to see some of the best action in weeks as temperatures rise, triggering metabolisms in fish.

 

Trout fishing has been about the most dependable, other than sheepshead. It seems that regardless of the conditions, sheepshead have been feeding relentlessly. Fiddler crabs, mangrove crabs, and mud crabs have been the top bait for them. Sand fleas and live shrimp have also produced some sheepies in the 3-to 5-pound class around docks, pilings, rock piles, and seawalls. Targeting sheepshead during slack or slow tide periods will allow you to rig with light weights to get the bait down. The lightest weight you can use with the stealthiest of leaders testing between 15 and 25-pound test are what’s getting bit. Small but stout hooks in the #1-to #1/0 sizes work best.

 

Schools of trout have been easy to find on low tides. Potholes or channels are top spots to look, but on those extreme low tides, take note of wading birds on the flats. Look for “run-outs”, or those areas that will be travel lanes where the water drains off the flats on extreme negative tide periods. These run-outs will be the last places where bait will be found, and with little water remaining on the flat, wading birds like gulls, herons, and roseate spoonbills may find the forage easy pickings. Roseate spoonbills resemble flamingos in color. They get this coloration from eating crustaceans. The crustaceans, like crabs and shrimp, contain iodine. The iodine produces those bright pink colors in their feathers. Remember these locations on the flats where they are feeding. When the tide comes in, redfish and trout will head back to these areas to feed as well. MirrOlure Lil’ John’s rigged on light jig heads will produce both trout and redfish. They may resemble marine worms that these fish find to their liking. Larger jerk baits like the CAL 5.5 Jerkbait nose-hooked with a #3/0 Owner live bit hook when fished around mouths of canals or creeks can be deadly this time of year. Crimping or filing barbs down in areas of catch and release only will help reduce release mortality rates.

 

Snook fishing continues to improve as rising temperatures cause appetites to peak. Aggressive behavior advances with warming days, making topwater lures a possible choice, but suspending lures like the MirrOlure MirrOdine seem to work best when they can hover right in the strike zone the longest. The Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbait has been an exceptional producer lately. A twitch and pause retrieve worked slowly has been the best retrieve.

 

FRESHWATER

Reports from bass anglers around the region say that in many areas these fish are beginning to fan beds in preparation for spawning. Most area lakes and ponds that hold bass will see some small sandy depressions a foot or more in diameter that may have a male fish on it. Females will lay their eggs in the depression. Both will hang on the spot until the spawn is over, making them much easier to target. Some of the most productive lures for catching them include soft plastic “creature baits”. These can be anything from an imitation lizard, crawfish, salamander, snake, or worm rigged on a worm hook Texas Style. Bass will guard their nest and attack most anything that tries to invade it, making them more susceptible to being caught. It’s probably the top time of year for anglers who seek to catch a trophy bass. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

 

LEARN TO FLY FISH- SARASOTA 

CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, 1249 Stickney Point Rd, Sarasota, FL will hold Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing schools on Sat, February 13, and March 13, 2021. The course, designed for beginning and intermediate fly casters, will focus on basic fly casting principles, improving casting skills, and correcting faults. Instructor, Capt. Rick Grassett, will also cover saltwater fly fishing techniques, leader construction, and fly selection. Cost for the class, which will run from 8:30 AM to 2 PM, is $195 per person and includes the use of Orvis fly tackle, workbook, and lunch. Optional instructional guided fly fishing trips are also available for an additional fee. Contact CB’s Saltwater Outfitters at (941) 349-4400 or info@cbsoutfitters.com to make reservations.

 

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

(941) 228-3474

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

January 22-24, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

What a beautiful weather week this has been. Look for more of the same until we hit the first-to-middle part of next week. Fish love this brief warm-up and calm weather!

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

The fishing has been nothing short of stellar this past week. Nearshore waters ranging from 30-to 70-feet are producing some major catches of hogfish. The fishing range on these trips is perfect for getting good numbers of hogs. Some of these trips have seen some very light loads, so it’s a good time to get onboard one and expect plenty of elbow room on the rails. Capt. Dylan Hubbard out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass in Madeira Beach has been reporting some terrific catches of hogfish and red grouper on their 10-hour trips. The 5-hour trips or half-day trips have been producing a variety of fish, including a few hogfish, mangrove snapper, grunts, porgies, and some Spanish mackerel.

Long range trips beyond 120-feet have produced some big red grouper, scamp grouper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, lane snapper, and a few blackfin tunas.

Silver trout are showing up along the beaches in depths of about 10-to 20-feet of water. Tandem rigged jigs tipped with shrimp work exceptionally well on these fish. They are a smaller fish, but there is no bag or size limit. Just keep what you want for dinner and release the rest. They do fight very hard for their size so whatever size you hook may surprise you. Typical spots for these fish to school can be off Blind Pass near St. Pete. Beach, Bradenton Beach, and Sand Key.

INSHORE

Numbers of speckled trout have been on the rise. Some areas are also seeing some larger fish show up. Some specks over 20-inches are being caught. As we approach March and April, most trout in this area will contain roe as they prepare to spend the summer spawning. Much of the West Central Region remains closed through the end of May, with the exception of the area north of the Pasco/ Hernando county line. Trips this week produced double digit catches of specks for release on MirrOlure Marsh Minnow Jr. soft plastic shad-style bodies and S7MRS MirrOlures. Crimping barbs or filing them down on hooks can help decrease or avoid release mortality with these fragile fish.

Sheepshead are coming into their prime time for spawning. These fish will be about as fat as they can get this time of year. Look for any kind of structure, rock piles, pilings, bridges, docks, piers, and seawalls to hold these fish. They feed on crabs, shrimps, mollusks, fiddler crabs, and a few other type crabs. There are others, such as barnacles but all will catch these striped fish. Scraping barnacles off pilings can get these fish feeding. Threading a few barnacles on a hook and dropping it just after scraping a piling can produce some great results.

Redfish have been spread out over much of the region. Pockets of fish are being caught in upper Tampa Bay, the South Shore of Tampa Bay, and Sarasota Bay with many running into the 30-plus inch range.

Flounder are on the minds of lots of anglers. Over the past few years, numbers of fish and sizes have been down. As of March 1, new bag and size limits for these fish go into effect. The new minimum size will be 14-inches. The bag limit will be 5 per person per day. These limits extend out to both state and federal waters. Warmer than normal winters may have been the reason for the change in numbers of these fish but that’s speculation.

FRESHWATER

Bass fishing has been very good with lots of very active fish hitting a big variety of lures in this cooler water. Most areas have water temperature in the low 60’s with a few smaller lakes running up to the mid-60’s. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and Chatterbaits are all working well. Grace Albergo of Tampa, with her husband, Dylan catch some nice bass in Tampa lakes on plastic worms but recently ran up to Tallahassee to fish. Grace landed a fat largemouth estimated at about 6 or 7-pounds on a purple Zoom worm. These fish are getting fat now and will be fanning the beds just about any time.

Bream fishing has been steady. Look for these fish to be bedding soon as they prepare to spawn. Crappie will be doing much the same thing over the next couple of months. Tighter schools of specks in greater numbers will be available during this time. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

January 29-31, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Early morning foggy conditions that plagued areas in the West Central Region will lift as a new cold front approaches this week. Warmer weather has pushed inshore water temperatures up to the mid-to-upper 60’s. Offshore water temps are ranging from 62 to 70-degrees depending on the depth.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Depending on what depths you’re fishing your success will vary and the variety of fish caught will change. Anglers working depths between 30-and 70-feet are still bringing in good numbers of hogfish. Live shrimp or fresh dead shrimp are working best for them. Beyond 80-feet off Pinellas red grouper action has been steady along with some catch and release gag grouper.

In a couple of months, we should see an onslaught of kingfish moving northward from the Keys. But it’s not normal to find kingfish here this time of year, but in deep water, you’re likely to find a few hanging around wrecks and some high relief if there are baitfish present. Their preferred water temperature ranges from 70-to 80-degrees. Thermoclines exist throughout the Gulf and those layers of warmer water that fish find more to their liking are places that you’ll find these fish. Blackfin tunas may be in the same boat where their preferred temperature is concerned. This is what makes Florida’s Middle Grounds such a consistently producing area to fish. Getting out beyond the West Florida Shelf west southwest of Pinellas, depths can drop below 1000-feet, but areas with 200-to 300-feet can see some pretty consistent water temperatures that are much warmer than the shallows of the Gulf just a few miles from our coast. This makes fishing in the Middle Grounds such a great place to fish. Not many recreational vessels have the range or are equipped for the conditions and runs of 70-to 100-miles one way, but for those that are, the variety and sizes of fish can be exceptional. Several party boat groups in the West Central Region offer these trips, and the party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina in John’s Pass at Madeira Beach are one such group of boats that offer these comfortable trips on their 39 and 44-hour trips.

INSHORE

Several days this week were challenging for anglers getting out early. The dense fog created navigational hazards for boaters on the water until mid-morning. Exercising extreme caution in these conditions is a must. Without radar, visibility of other objects on the water can be very limited at best.

Trout fishing has progressively gotten better since the closure over two years ago. These fish spawn numerous times a year. While the average size may be down from what it was a few years back there are still some ‘gator’ trout out there. In the Old Salt Johnny Keller Tournament this past weekend, trout over 26-inches were caught and released. Some of the most productive areas for speckled trout have been in depths of water from 3-to 5-feet where there are patches of turtle or eelgrass and sand holes. On sunny days, fish will move to the edges of grass and sand holes. Live shrimp under popping corks are hard to beat. But for anglers throwing artificial lures, the DOA Deadly Combo usually accounts for the same or even greater numbers of trout. Covering water is the key to catching more fish, and blind casting with a methodical pattern will get that job done. Baits like the CAL Shad or MirrOlure Marsh Minnow Jr. on a jig head will produce a lot of fish. With water temperatures ranging from 62-to 70-degrees in Tampa Bay, the S7MR MirrOlure has been hugely productive for big trout and redfish. This floating lure will dive about 6-inches when the rod is twitched and the lure will float back to the surface with slack line. This enticing action has produced some big trout over 20-inches recently for me.

Fan-casting an area will cover all likely spots, and using a gold spoon can be especially productive for redfish. When I was a kid, I threw spoons on a regular basis, catching a variety of fish. There are many proven lures, like the Johnson Silver Minnow or Eppinger Rex Spoon that are standards here, but the Bagley Bait Company has just come out with some new spoons that are proving their spot in the tackle box and ends of rods. Bagley isn’t a new company. In fact in 1954 when they started out selling their balsa wood baits, I had quite a few of them. Right now I’m throwing a weedless spoon model with a hammered finish. Hammered finishes tend to reflect light in multiple directions, increasing the flash that attracts fish. The wobble of the spoon is enough by itself to draw strikes from snook, trout, redfish, ladyfish, bluefish, mackerel, or just about any gamefish in Tampa Bay and it has been.

Sheepshead fishing has been terrific. A third place award went to a 4.25-pound sheepshead in last weekend's Old Salt Johnny Keller Tournament. The upcoming full moon will see these fish spawn, and the completion of this action will be next month around the full moon then. Some fat fish are being caught on live shrimp, fiddler crabs, clams, sand fleas, and barnacles. Some of the passes are holding the highest concentration of these fish where there are lots of pilings, seawalls, rock piles, and docks.

Reports of catches of pompano have come in this week from Sarasota’s Big Pass to John’s Pass in Madeira Beach. Doc’s Goofy Jigs and DOA TerrorEyz, along with live fiddler crabs, sand fleas, and live shrimp have accounted for most of these fish being caught.

FRESHWATER

Bass fishing has taken an upswing as we approach this full moon. Some areas are showing some beds where these fish will lay their eggs. Some big fish are typically caught around this period while using an assortment of ‘creature’ baits. Soft plastic baits such as salamanders, snakes, and crawfish can be very productive.

Crappie fishing continues to be good in most deep lakes. Lake Tarpon and Lake Manatee are both producing some nice specks. It’s a great time to go get some while the weather is moderate. ‘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 5-7, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Cold fronts slammed the Suncoast early in the week, with winds gusting to 40 mph. Wave action stirred up Gulf waters. Another front is expected during the weekend. It might take a few days for seas and sediment to settle, making for better fishing.

Falling overboard can become a deadly issue within a matter of a few hours with water temperatures in the upper 50’s. Hypothermia in water affects the body 26 times quicker than in air. Be safe, dress appropriately, and wear a life jacket.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

The depth you fish in this time of year with present conditions can mean the difference in a boat ride or bringing home dinner. Cold conditions with recent fronts passing and high winds make for slower fishing. Fish tend to move deeper where temperatures are more moderate and stay a more consistent temperature.

According to Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina out of John’s Pass in Madeira Beach, the hogfish bit remains on fire ranging in depths ranging from 30-to 80-feet of water, but the hottest action seems to be centered from 40-to 60-feet west of Pinellas. As their boats continue west, they’re hitting good numbers of fat red grouper between 80 and 120-feet. A closure on red grouper beyond 120-feet is in force through March.

With cooler water temperatures, adding a little stink on the end of the line is a plus. Fresh cut baits like squid, sardines, or pinfish attract just about everything and can sit in the strike zone of fish without moving, making lethargic fish bite. When the bite gets going, fish will feed for a short time, but if the bite stops, try dropping live pinfish with clipped tails to slow their mobility. The vibrating action will get things started again.

Areas along the beaches and just offshore are spots to look for tripletail where channel markers, crab trap floats, or swim buoys add a bit of structure. A small shrimp under a cork with about a 2-foot leader will get these fish that nearly cling to the structure close to the surface.

INSHORE

Trout fishing continues to pick up. From the Hernando/ Pasco line south in our region, trout, snook, and redfish remain closed. Fragile trout need to be released with minimal handling if any. Proper release tools and barbless hooks can go a long way toward reducing release mortality. Deeper areas are holding big trout, particularly on the negative low tides. Look for potholes and exit routes on the flats that intersect channels or deep water. Live shrimp free lined or with a split shot work very well. In areas with depths ranging from 4 to 6-feet of water, use popping corks with a suspended live shrimp rigged on a circle hook with a small split shot. The DOA Deadly Combo continues to be an exceptional producer of trout.

Redfish action can be wherever you find it. With this week’s hard blow, schools split up. You’re more likely to find singles and pairs of fish right now until we have several days of calm weather under sunny skies. Gold spoons are working well. The new Bagley Weedless Spoons have been scoring some nice slot reds for release. Soft plastic shad style bodies such as the CAL Shad, MirrOlure Marsh Minnow, and Z Man DieZel MinnowZ offer excellent action for a variety of fish including snook, trout, redfish, flounder, and more. Popular styles of rigging vary from a simple 1/8 or ¼-ounce jig head to weighted worm hooks that when used make the baits weedless.

This week’s cold weather pushed snook well back into rivers, creeks, and deep residential canals. With water temperatures at the upper 50’s in many areas, it’s best to not target these fish at all. With that said, some bays present varied temperatures based on the bottom make up, such as a dark muddy bottom that holds heat. It’s possible that on one side of the bay water temperatures can be as much as 10-degrees warmer than another. So, pay close attention to the habitats you’re fishing. Snook are extremely cold-sensitive and hooking and fighting these fish in conditions that are below their temperature threshold can bring them to the point of total exhaustion that will not allow them to recover. A temperature gauge on your bottom machine can tell you where these cold temperatures are.

Areas just outside many passes are holding whiting and silver trout. These scrappy fish can be caught on tandem rigged jigs. Some folks like to tip their jigs with a bit of fresh shrimp to enhance the bite, but it’s not really necessary. Areas such as Longboat Pass, Blind Pass in Pinellas, John’s Pass, and Clearwater Pass are areas that these fish have been caught. Deep areas east of Riviera Bay off Mermaid Point are holding some silver trout.

No matter where you are from Sarasota to Citrus County, you’ll find sheepshead. They’re on the flats, in the passes, up canals, and almost anywhere there is some kind of structure. Rock piles, seawalls, and pilings are holding them. They are in the process of spawning over the next month. They are fat, and some of the biggest of the year will be caught now. Fiddler crabs, live shrimp, sand fleas, barnacles, and cut clams are some popular baits.

FRESHWATER

Cold water from the latest fronts passing through made for some bass that were a little sluggish. Reports from anglers fishing area ponds and lakes are that a few decent bass are being caught on plastic worms worked very slowly. Six-to 8-inch worms in June bug, purple, or purple/ black have been top bass getters. The Z-Man Chatterbait fished on lakes Tarpon and Manatee has produced some nice fish. Chartreuse and white Chatterbait Jackhammers have produced well.

Crappie fishing has taken an upturn in action recently, since the last full moon and barrage of cold fronts. Some fat fish are being taken on Lake Tarpon with Missouri Minnows as well as Blakemore Roadrunners and Hal-Flys in white, yellow, or pink. This may be the best time of year to get out and catch some crappie here. ‘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 26-28, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Breezy days early in the week and warming conditions throughout the week are showing signs of spring nearing the Suncoast. As temperatures rise, the appetites of fish improve. Winds have been coming down over the week and should settle seas and clean up visibility for pelagics that are beginning to show up as they move northward. Weather predictions for the weekend look great as we approach Saturday’s full moon.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

A variety of fish is being caught offshore and on nearshore trips. Capt. Dylan Hubbard reported that a black grouper was caught on their 10-hour trip this week. Hogfish have continued to be a shining species on their nearshore trips especially on their 10-hour trips and some of their half-day 5-hour trips. Boats have seen light loads and fewer anglers so this might be a great time to take advantage of the extra elbow room.

Nearshore anglers have been catching Spanish mackerel on days with light winds and calm seas. They are following bait pods. Look for birds diving on bait early in the morning just after sunrise. Skyrocketing macks are an obvious locator. Be sure and bring some binoculars for sighting flocking birds. They make spotting schools of these aggressive fish much easier. Dragging hardware is the way to go. Some of the smaller Huntington Drone Spoons are mackerel magnets. The larger versions are king killers!

Mangrove snapper continue to be in the catch on the majority of trips offshore in most depths of water. Small ledges and limestone areas will hold them.

Capt. Brian Morgan, of Captain Morgan’s Fishing Adventures in St. Petersburg and his anglers have been wrecking the red grouper. Limits of red grouper along with good numbers of an assortment of snapper and hogfish along and bonus catches of blackfin tuna were caught on recent trips.

With a strong warming trend, look to the south for the beginning of the kingfish run. They may begin migrating slowly at first, but it’s all temperature related. Spanish mackerel are already showing up inshore and near shore. Offshore wrecks will likely see the first arrivals of some smoker kings.  Dragging hardware is the way to go. Some of the smaller Huntington Drone Spoons are mackerel magnets. The larger versions are king killers!

INSHORE

With this last warming trend, snook have begun moving out on the flats from creeks, rivers, and backcountry waters. Barring any severe temperature drops these fish could remain on the flats until they begin to make their move toward passes and on to the beaches. The warming waters have triggered appetites and they’re eating just about everything in their paths. Artificial lures are attracting a lot of fish for big numbers on the most active days. With this weekend’s full moon, expect some good action centered around moving water with strong tides for banner catch and release action. Negative low tides will make for some excellent wade fishing. Topwater lures might be the ticket for some explosive strikes. Lures like the MirrOlure Top Dog, Heddon Super Spook Jr., and Rapala Skitterwalk or Skitter V will all draw strikes. Top ‘in your face’ lures will be suspending lures such as the 17MR or 27MR18 MirrOlure MirrOdines. Of course, when fishing ambush points, few lures will out-produce the DOA Shrimp when drifted by these feeding zones when the tide produces good moving water.

Suspending live shrimp under popping corks will produce a multitude of species. With trout still closed south of the Pasco/Hernando county line, it’s best to use circle hooks to reduce gut-hooking and release mortality. We’re coming up on a timeframe when we’ll see some of the largest spotted seatrout of the year. Most will be in the spawning mode and laden with roe. Try to keep these fish in the water when removing hooks and minimize handling them.

Sheepshead action will peak between now and the next 30-days. Fiddler crabs and live shrimp are tough to beat as baits go for these cagey critters. Work docks, piers, and seawalls around structures such as pilings, rock piles, or rubble.

Redfish action with some larger over-slot reds has been pretty good around Weedon Island and the upper part of Tampa Bay. Several areas of the Intracoastal Waterway between Indian Rocks and Anclote Key are holding some reds. Sarasota Bay’s Long Bar is holding some redfish in potholes. DOA Shrimp and CAL Jigs with Shad tails are producing catches of these fish for Capt. Rick Grassett out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key. Grassett’s anglers have also been finding bluefish, spotted seatrout, and Spanish mackerel hitting on deep grassy areas in Sarasota bay. Both fly and spin anglers have been catching some nice fish here.

FRESHWATER

Bass are on the beds in many rivers and lakes in the West Central Florida. Lakes in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, and Hillsborough counties are all producing good catches of bass as well as bluegill, stumpknockers, redears, and assorted other panfish. The crappie bite has slowed with the warmer weather, but can still be caught on Blakemore Roadrunners, Hal Flies, and Missouri minnows. It’s a great time of year to be on the water, so GO FISH! ‘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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