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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

 

 

4Cast - West Central Florida

July 31- August 2, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

Heavy rains with cloud-to-ground lightning have been a threat to boaters over the past week. While the prediction of rain and thunderstorms will decrease this week, but the threat during the summer rainy season continues for one of those deadly thunderstorms popping up remains present. As always, file a float plan and keep an eye on the weather.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

This is your last shot at keeping an American red snapper for the 2020 season if you’re headed offshore on a federally permitted vessel for hire through August 1 at midnight. The red snapper season for recreational private boats was August 25. This has been a banner season for anglers. Catches have been reported in as shallow as 60-feet, but that’s not been the norm. Good catches of these fish have come from 120-feet but for some of the largest red snapper, anglers bottom dropping in the Middle Grounds have pulled up some real behemoths.

Amberjack season reopens August 1. Lots of these beasts are being caught on offshore springs in depths greater than 100-feet. Deepwater wrecks are also producing the big AJ’s. Blue runners are excellent for these fish. They respond well to chumming over wrecks and can be brought up to the surface. Topwater chuggers can be worked on the surface, creating a disturbance that draws some vicious strikes.

For the most part, anglers continue to target gag grouper and mangrove snapper on a daily basis. Gags remain open much of the year but there is no closure on mangrove snapper. The mango bite has slowed since last month, and gag fishing has been tougher as well for most. However, some good action has been had by anglers working the “Ditch”, also known as the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel leading out of Tampa Bay. The pipeline that also leaves the bay and goes into the Gulf has also held good numbers of gag grouper. The shallow water gags are typically smaller, taping out from 22 to 26-inches with some occasional larger fish. Live pinfish have been a top producer.

Anglers didn’t make many offshore trips due to bad weather and thunderstorms last week. This week, storms have been hit and miss along the coast as they moved offshore, but overall, the week has seen some open windows of decent weather to get out. Most report good early morning action but mid-day fishing has remained much slower.

With lighter east winds this week, waters near shore are improving in clarity. With that, Spanish mackerel are showing up in some areas within a mile or so of the beaches. Look for south Pinellas and north Manatee between Bean Point and Pass-A-Grille in the Egmont Key area to produce some fish. Look for bait pods and diving birds for the top action. Glass minnows are showing up again along with a hatch of small whitebait. Anchoring up and deploying a frozen chum block of glass minnows will draw these fish in. Fast-moving jigs and spoons will trigger strikes or live whitebait or shrimp can fill a cooler quickly with a limit.

INSHORE

Fast-moving thunderstorms have brought a deluge of rainfall this past week cooling area waters temporarily. Several inches of rain in some areas has created a drop in temperature of over 10-degrees. That along with changing salinity in many areas might be moving fish. The saying, “here today and gone tomorrow” can apply here. But if you know what you’re looking for, you can find good action. Residential canals with storm drains can produce some currents with water flowing out of drain pipes running from retention ponds and streets. Many times, small forage fish will move out with the overflow drains, producing a flow of small fish into the canals. Snook are notorious for ambushing their prey and these locations can surely become feeding stations just after a hard rain.

There has been some improvement in redfish numbers over the past week. Some anglers reported some of the larger breeder-sized fish being caught. Next week’s full moon on August 3 could produce a push of big reds in from the Gulf. This is a normal occurrence here. If not on the full moon, then likely these fish will show in better numbers around the new moon. Water temperatures and weather, in general, have been different this year with more extreme heat and more storms than the norm. Tropical weather, disturbances, and hurricanes will also play a part on the movement of these fish. But look for the strong incoming highest tides of the day for these fish to begin showing up.

Good action for catch and release snookin’ has been going on up and down the Suncoast. Most of the passes are holding breeding snook, and the upcoming full moon will see more action in these areas. A stretch of beach for several hundred yards north or south of a pass will usually hold some snook that are feeding in the surf along the shoreline. In times when the beaches are not crowded, fly anglers can have some good action here with snook. White minnow fly patterns or patterns like glass minnows, crabs, or sand fleas can produce good results for snook in the surf. In areas with no structure, a light 5-weight fly rod might suffice but overall, the 8-wt. rod might be the best all-around rod rigged with a 25-pound tippet.

Live bait anglers are seeing some of the best action of the year with snook. Chumming can be very effective when done sparingly, but can both attract and also shut the fishing down if overdone, but it seems to be the only method of attracting and holding fish in an area. Like most other animals fish can become accustomed to this practice of being fed. They lose their fear of boats and anglers. For this reason, it’s illegal to feed alligators, dolphins, and many other wild species.

Trout fishing in the northern regions of our West Central area is firing up. Anglers working waters in Hernando County are seeing some nice specks being caught on slow-sinking or suspending plugs like the MirrOlure MirrOdine. Attracting fish without using live bait can be a challenge, but using popping corks with a jig or a DOA Deadly Combo that uses the DOA Shrimp can out-produce many other methods of attracting trout without live bait. Scented baits might help to a small degree, but the sound of rattling lures and popping corks does the job very effectively.

FRESHWATER

Lakes are peaking at near overflow levels with all the recent rains. It makes for some tougher fishing with increased areas for fish to travel. Expanding perimeters of lakes will raise water levels higher than the norm, exposing insects that live on the perimeter of the lake shores to the water and fish. Fishing fly rods for these fish is the perfect scenario to present a natural-looking forage of hand-tied feathers, thread, fur, and more. So, shorelines might be a good place to start looking for panfish and bass. Lake Manatee down in Bradenton has been a hot spot for bream and bass recently. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

July 24-26, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

What a week it’s been with the weather. Strong thunderstorms moving from East to West all week have made for some risky times on the water. Many anglers chose to remain in port. Eyes are now on a disturbance in the Caribbean that should make its way into the Gulf by early next week.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Long runs, for anglers who made them, were rewarded with good catches of a variety of fish. Big gag and red grouper are being caught on board the party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass in Madeira Beach. Red snapper action has been steady. The Flying Hub 2 came to the docks with red snapper to 21-pounds, some nice mangrove snapper, loads of gags, some approaching 30-pounds, and a few scamp grouper were in the catch along with a variety of others. The weather has been an issue at times with predictions not matching the actual weather with it being worse than predicted. Productive depths have ranged from 110-to 150-feet of water.

Artificial reefs off Bradenton and Sarasota have been producing good catches of mangrove snapper, permit, gag grouper and a few nice Spanish mackerel. Most have been caught on live pilchards and threadfin herring, but jigs and spoons cast to breaking fish are also producing some mackerel in the 2-to 4-pound class.

Slower tides for the weekend should make for some good opportunities to do some bottom dropping in the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel that leads into Tampa Bay. Gag grouper are being caught on lighter tackle at slack tide. Pinfish are the bait of choice. Anchoring and chumming with small chunks of greenbacks and whitebait are bringing some nice mangos and gags to the area.

INSHORE

Falling water temperatures with all the rain lately have made fish a little more aggressive. Previously, the summer heat had the thermometer in bay waters reaching nearly 93 degrees, but with all the rain lately, Tampa Bay water temps have fallen to the low-to mid-80’s. Early morning topwater action has been good with some nice reds and snook blowing up the DOA PT-7 in areas with lots of floating grass. Rapala Skitterwalks, Zara Spooks, and MirrOlure Top Dogs are also producing good catches of fish, including snook, trout, redfish, and some big jacks.

Trout action has been on the rise for anglers fishing live shrimp under popping corks but the DOA Deadly Combo with their glow DOA Shrimp suspended has been matching the catches.

Most areas inside small bays are producing some chunky redfish and some big snook that have been holding on points and near passes. The 3-inch and 4-inch CAL Shads are catching some nice reds. The 3-inch CAL Shad has accounted for some nice mangrove snapper in lower Tampa Bay on hard bottom areas and some of the back bays around mangroves and shell bottoms. Flounder action has been scattered from Sarasota to Clearwater with a few reported over the past week, coming off Monday’s new moon.

FRESHWATER

Look for cooler water temperatures in area lakes and ponds to hold more active bass. Bream will move to lake perimeters to eat insects being washed into the lake. Storm drains will have some current as lakes reach overflowing levels, drawing predators to the area to feed. Crankbaits like the chrome/ blue Rat ‘L Trap are producing some nice catches of schooling bass along drop-offs. Spinnerbaits might be a top bait choice for putting numbers of fish in the boat. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

July 3-5, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

This holiday weekend we celebrate this nation’s independence. There is always additional boat traffic on holiday weekends, and you are reminded that there will be increased enforcement as well. Law enforcement officers will be looking for boaters under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

When you’re hot, you’re hot! Daytime near record-breaking temperatures can be a health threat. Take precautions to avoid the mid-day heat and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoid alcohol. Don’t be a statistic. Be safe and have a great holiday weekend.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Monday’s full moon might present a terrific opportunity to catch some fat mangrove snapper just about anywhere you find rock piles, ledges, or other structure. In just about all arenas from inshore to offshore you could find ‘mangos’ that are in the spawning mode. Aggressive fish will chew hard in the evening, making the coolest time of day the best time to fish for mangrove snapper. Nearshore artificial reefs are providing action for mangos for anglers dropping medium-sized live shrimp and small-to medium whitebait, a.k.a. scaled sardines or pilchards. Typical sizes for inshore mangos range from 1 to 3-pounds. Offshore, larger whitebait, threadfin herring, live shrimp, and even squid will attract mangrove snapper in the 8-to 10-pound class.

Spanish mackerel have moved in along the beaches and artificial reefs from Sarasota to Clearwater. Many are moving inside passes and into the bays. Anglers trolling spoons in the #0 to #1 sizes like the Clark spoon or Huntington Drone Spoon are catching macks in the 2-to 4-pound range with the occasional 5-pounder in the mix.

Party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina at John's Pass in Madeira Beach continue to get on big red snapper. Anglers fishing aboard federally permitted for-hire vessels will continue to enjoy the open season for red snapper through August 1. Many of the red snapper brought to gaff have approached the 20-pound mark. Huge gag grouper have also been landed on their 39-hour offshore trips while fishing depths ranging from 120-to 250-feet of water. Red snapper season is closed to recreational anglers.

Blackfin tuna continue to be caught beyond 100-feet. Many of the wrecks offshore are holding sharks and barracudas. Both put up a great fight. Dolphin are making their way in to depths ranging from 60-feet of water and deeper. Good numbers of these tasty fish are being caught, but the bulk of larger fish are out beyond 30-miles off Pinellas and Manatee shores. Keep a feather jig ready on a 15-pound class rod to pitch to marauding dolphin when the show up. Watch for weed lines and floating objects to attract both dolphin and tripletail.

A few anglers reported good action with hogfish over the past week. Look for them starting at about 60-foot depths. The top baits have been live shrimp and sand fleas. Numerous charters fishing nearshore and offshore as well as dive charters like SeizeTodayCharters.com out of the West Central area offer trips for this elusive species. 

Anglers fishing nearshore waters off Manatee and just south of Pinellas counties will have a new location to hit the waypoint save button on just 5-miles west of Anna Maria Island. Spearheaded by CCA-Florida, the new CCA-Florida Sean Gucken Memorial Reef was created in honor of the late St. Petersburg CCA member, angler, free diver, and spearfisherman who was a devout advocate for protecting Florida’s waters and marine resources.

 

According to reports, “the concrete was deployed on the Manatee County "Bridge Reef," a pre-permitted artificial reef site roughly .25-mile long by .25-mile wide. The concrete reefing materials were donated by Port Manatee and Westra Construction. The Bridge Reef is located west of Anna Maria Island, 27º°30 55.44 / 82º 49 1.56 central point.” Yamaha Outboards and Building Conservation Trust (BCT) are partners in supporting this project and continuing Sean’s legacy.

INSHORE

This weekend’s late afternoon outgoing tides should produce some exceptional catches of snook and tarpon. Sunday night is the full moon, and as the celestial changes line up, conditions will produce good fishing opportunities. Fishing the major and minor solunar periods should produce good results.

Good moving water in the morning incoming tides should help improve the trout bite. Early morning action should be on tap for anglers fishing topwater lures like the MirrOlure Top Dog, Rapala Skitterwalk, or Heddon Zara Spook Jr. Areas with floating grass can be worked successfully with the weedless DOA PT-7. As the sun gets up higher, suspending and slow-sinking lures like the MirrOlure MirrOdine or Catch 2000. Smaller baitfish seem to be more available to match the size of your lures to the available baitfish in the areas you fish. Some of our best trout action has come on the DOA Shrimp in the Deadly Combo version or as a bait fished alone. Pinfish can be a problem with live shrimp in many areas, but if you can find some decent shrimp, you’ll usually catch some fish with them.

Sunny days can be exceptionally productive for anglers fishing spoons. The Eppinger Rex Weedless Spoon in gold and ½ ounce is a favorite of mine. On occasion, I’ll downsize to a quarter-ounce spoon if the fish follow but don’t hit the half-ounce spoon. This usually gets the bite.

Redfish seem to have been spreading out in most areas we’re fishing. Schools of fish have been rare. When we find a redfish laid up in a sand hole, these fish have been hitting small jigs like the CAL 3-inch Shad, MirrOlure Marsh Minnow Jr., and the DOA Shrimp with little hesitation.

 FRESHWATER

Unless you’re hitting the lakes and rivers in the pre-dawn hours or after sunset, whatever lures you use will have to be worked slowly. In most cases you can get some action on buzzbaits under the cloak of darkness, but a frog bite can happen both at sunrise and sunset as well. After sunrise, good action on rattling crankbaits like the Rat ‘L Trap can be had. Spinnerbaits are a good option. Mid-day bite will be slow, but big live shiners fished around heavy cover or Texas-rigged worms pitched or flipped into openings of heavy cover will produce some big bass. After dark, many anglers prefer a lure like the Snag Proof Frog or some of the old tried and true lures like the Smithwick Devil’s Horse, or the Arbogast Hula Popper or Jitterbug. All will create some exciting topwater strikes. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

 

Backwater Promotions

www.captainraymarkham.com

(941) 228-3474

4Cast - West Central Florida

July 10-12, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

With some rain finally hitting multiple areas up and down the coast, inshore waters have dropped a couple of degrees in a number of locations. The water temps are still very warm, so continue looking for cooler water to fish. Deeper waters offshore are typically producing larger fish.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Mahi continue to be caught from 60-to 150-feet of water off the coast from Sarasota to Hernando counties. Look for weed lines that are holding baitfish that are attracting dolphin. Many of the deep water wrecks and ledges are producing good catches of a variety of grouper. Last Sunday’s full moon seemed to fire up the mangrove snapper bite offshore too.

A brief scallop season is slated to run in Pasco County from July 17 through July 26. “Direct and continuous transit of legally-harvested bay scallops is allowed through closed areas. Boaters may not stop their vessels in waters that are closed to harvest and must proceed directly to the dock or ramp to land scallops in a closed area.” All other rules and regulations apply including a fishing license and a dive flag when diving for them.

Tripletail are back in the limelight for anglers running channel and range markers and swim buoys along the beaches. Nearshore and offshore anglers can also find them around any kind of floating objects. Five-gallon buckets found floating in the Gulf often have these fish inside. The buckets attract baitfish and offer some shade for these fish, making them an attractive temporary hangout. Weedlines that you might find dolphin around will also hold trips. Keep a few dozen live shrimp handy as they make a great pitch bait for these fish.

Keeping a few live blue crabs in the livewell will also make for great pitch baits to cobia that seem to appear out of nowhere. Because they show up briefly and disappear rather quickly, leaving one hooked crab in the well at the ready will allow a shot at these great fish.

Gag grouper fishing has been very good of late. Many anglers following the pipeline out of Tampa Bay are finding good action on the mitigation sites. Party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina have had banner catches of both red and gag grouper lately as well as a ton of snapper. Mangos, red snapper, vermilion, and lane snappers have all been in the catch. Federally permitted for-hire vessels are licensed to take red snapper through August 1.

INSHORE

With heat indexes at 110-degrees fishing during daylight hours beyond 10 A.M. becomes a risk to health without proper hydration. Fish may also be having a difficult time since the warmer water temperatures get, the less oxygen it will hold, making breathing difficult for fish. Appetites diminish and fish move, seeking cooler water and shade. Boat docks with deeper water might hold redfish this time of year. Snook seek cooler water temperatures and feed more vigorously at night.

Tarpon, however, can survive in some pretty rough conditions with less oxygen available, since they can roll on the surface and gulp oxygen when needed. Beach fishing for tarpon should be on the rise, not for schools of fish, but for hungry singles and pairs back from spawning offshore. Many fish will be much lighter in weight, having dropped pounds of eggs during the spawn. Increased appetites and leaner fish that are more aggressive is what remains. Excellent action for anglers tossing artificial lures and flies exist off the beaches and along edges of sand bars. Finding the depth of their travel lanes will be the key to getting on fish consistently. Windy days with winds from the west are tough for sight-fishing tarpon. Early morning is your best bet on the beaches. As the sun rises in the east with morning easterly winds, the silvery mirror-clad scales reflect the morning sunlight. The flashes of rolling fish are a dead giveaway for their locations.

Anglers to the north from Pasco to Citrus County are seeing some good action with spotted seatrout. Trout have been holding on light-colored rocks in 6-to 10-feet of water. One eighth or quarter-ounce jig heads with soft plastic bodies like the CAL Shad or MirrOlure Lil’ John are favorites of this area. Larger jerk baits like the glow colored CAL 5.5 Jerkbait nose-hooked with a 4/0 live bait hook has been a top lure for big trout here. Slow-sinking lures like the TTR MirrOlure or suspending baits like the Rapala Twitch ‘N Mullet or 27MR18 MirrOdine are perfect for these depth ranges.

Summertime is snookin’ time, but with these fish spawning throughout the summer around new and full moons, it might be best to just allow them to do their thing without constantly putting hooks in their faces. The season is closed in all areas. But the northern part of the West Central Region, from Hernando County north, will reopen in September.

Inshore, mangrove snapper action has been hot on rock piles and around bridge fenders like those on the Sunshine Skyway. Live whitebait or smaller threadfins work well for these fish, but shrimp will rarely be refused. Hard bottom areas ranging from 12 to 22-feet in lower Tampa Bay are holding keeper gag grouper, mangrove snapper, and some tasty black seabasss. A few flounder were in the catch reports this week but not many.

FRESHWATER

Some areas that have had heavy downpours are seeing a slight temperature drop in area ponds and lakes. They are also seeing rising lake levels, making fish more difficult to target. Early morning topwater action has been outstanding in many areas for bass. Prop baits like the Smithwick Devil’s Horse, poppers like the Rebel Pop-R, and chuggers like the L&S 12LS18 are all big bass lures. Perimeters of lakes with floating cover can be worked with frog baits that are weedless with good success. Weedless spoons such as the Johnson Silver Minnow and Eppinger Rex Spoon are tough to beat. Many anglers choose a trailer to these spoons or jigs like the new Z-Man Goat to add to the profile of these lures and increase the enticement. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

Backwater Promotions

www.captainraymarkham.com

(941) 228-3474

4Cast - West Central Florida

July 17-19, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

Moving toward the weekend, stronger tides will be on tap as we approach next Monday’s new moon. Snook and tarpon anglers should see some action later in the day on the outgoing tides.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Big gag grouper continue to hit the docks when anglers return to port from a long day’s fishing. Some of the largest gags are being taken from depths beyond 120-feet of water west of Pinellas. To the north of Hernando County, anglers are finding keeper gags in 50-to 60-feet of water on rocky bottom with good relief.

A plethora of snappers continues to be caught. Vermilion, lane, and mangrove snappers are all chewing pretty well. The mangrove snappers have been available just about anywhere you have good structure from 10-feet and beyond. Mangos in nearshore waters are running between 10-and 16-inches in length but for the big ones tipping the scales at over 8-pounds look beyond 100-feet of water, or roughly 30-miles or more off Pinellas.

Red snapper anglers continue to hit deep water for big American Reds while fishing aboard federally permitted boats. The party boats at Hubbard’s Marina remind everyone that the last day of fishing for red snapper this year will be August 1. Their boats are federally permitted for-hire vessels and are allowed to keep red snapper through the last day.

Permit have been caught on artificial reefs and wrecks in the mid-range areas of Manatee and Sarasota Counties. Many of the reefs from 7-miles and beyond will hold these fish, but from time to time you’ll see a school of these fish around Egmont Key and the crystal clear flats off Passage Key and Bean Point.

Capt. Dave Zalewski of Lucky Too Charters out of Madeira Beach has been putting together some good action on the artificial reefs off south Pinellas lately. Working the nearshore reefs for some mangrove snapper, grunts, or other species usually keeps anglers busy, but for some real drag singing action, he’s been heading out a bit deeper to a stretch between 60-and 80-feet for some nice Spanish mackerel. Trolling spoons like the Clark Spoon or Hunting Drone are typical meat-getting rigs. Some of the deeper wrecks in this depth range are also holding some acrobatic barracudas and numerous sharks.

INSHORE

Snook fishing has been crazy for anglers fishing the beaches and passes, but yet many others are finding good numbers inside on flats with points. This weekend should be a good weekend to target snook for release if you choose to do that, however, you are reminded that this fishery is closed and snook will be in the spawning mode, so if you’re using artificial lures, hooks with barbs crimped down or barbless hooks will make for easier release and fewer fish succumbing to release mortality. For natural bait anglers, the circle hook is the hook of choice for best releases with the lowest release mortality.

The flats inside Anclote Key and the north tip of Anclote Key, as well as the cut between Honeymoon Island and Three Rooker bar are holding some big snook and have been hitting live shrimp and whitebait on the outgoing tides. Drifting a 4-inch DOA Shrimp with the tide has been deadly on these fish. If the current is running too hard, try Carolina Rigging a shrimp. The Spooltek 4-inch and 5-inch Fattys have been explosive lures for snook in the swashes around these islands and many passes.

The multitudes of mangrove islands and potholes that exist north of Aripeka and Hernando Beach are holding good numbers of spotted seatrout. Right around the islands, the MirrOlure 17MR18 MirrOdine has accounted for plenty of big trout early in the morning. The shady side of mangroves on high tide will hold some nice redfish here. Live pinfish or the 27MRPIN MirrOdine have been top baits in the area for snook and redfish here. Look for some big trout in potholes in the 5-to 7-foot range. Keep a rod ready for an occasional cobia that might pop up where you’re fishing the flats. It’s also a good time to keep some live blue crabs in the livewell. These can be rigged and ready for a shot at both cobia and tarpon that happen by.

Tampa Bay anglers and those working south to Sarasota Bay continue to find good action with some big snook. Anglers targeting mangrove snapper everywhere from the mangroves to the Skyway Bridge are getting limits of these fish. While many are typically around 12-to 16-inches, they are the prime size for a fish sandwich and some of the best eating around.

Look for a few pompano to be running the bars out near Fort Desoto. East Beach has had some as has Bunces Pass and Pass-A-Grille Channel. Top lures have been the Doc’s Goofy Jig in yellow with a pink teaser fly attached and the 3/8-oz. DOA root beer colored TerrorEyz.

FRESHWATER

The heat lately has made for some tough fishing in small lakes. Neighborhood retention ponds with depths of water less than 10-feet are quite warm. Some lakes are having fish kills due to low oxygen levels. Cooler times of the day fishing for bass will undoubtedly produce more action and fish. Live wild shiners might be your best bet during the day when fished around heavy cover. Look for a weedless topwater frog lure like a Snag Proof  Phat Frog, a Freddy the Frog wakebait, or baby duck imitation like the Danny the Duck from Westin Fishing fished at sunset for some big blasts on the surface. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

Backwater Promotions

(941) 228-3474

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

August 7-9, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

Weaker tides will become more prevalent as we approach the weekend. Look for areas of small passes and openings to small bays to increase water flow and make for ambush areas for predators inshore. Targeting grouper and snapper on the tide changes can give you a better shot at catching bottom fish that will move away from structure more readily.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Hard-moving bottom currents around full and new moons can make it tougher for bottom fishing in a number of ways. Anchoring in deep water can be a challenge with tide changes and wind direction and velocity changes. For some anglers who prefer to use a GPS guided trolling motor, hitting a “Spot-Lock” button can hold the boat on a coordinate better than an anchor in good conditions. When waters are rough, the wind is blowing, and currents are running, most bottom dwellers like gag grouper and mangrove snapper will move up tight to structure. Structure with high relief is a preferred holding place until conditions improve when fish will move away from their holding place. Dropping a chum block down on an anchor line can sometimes put the chum up current, allowing chum to drift back under the boat where baited hooks are. With continuous light chumming, on slack tides you can pull fish away from structure and up in the water column, making them easier to keep from turning back into cover and avoiding break-offs.

Good action over the past week or so with gags and assorted snapper was seen. Now that red snapper season is over for all, more than likely, efforts for catching gag grouper and other species of fish will resume. Some big gags are coming over the rails aboard the 39-hour party boat out of Hubbard’s Marina in depths ranging from 140-to 200-feet of water. They’ve also been reporting some decent action with hogfish again ranging from 40-to 80-feet of water. The red grouper bite has been pretty good for them between 70-and 100-foot depths. Action for most of these fish has been coming on cut baits and pinfish.

Tripletail have shown up in nearshore waters along the edges of the Gulf on some of the swim buoys. Live shrimp or a DOA Shrimp have both worked well.

INSHORE

This week it’s been snook and redfish that are producing the majority of the Kodak moments. Anglers up and down the coast from Sarasota to Hernando Beach are reporting catching some big reds on the higher portion of the incoming tides. These fish will move to the mangrove edges and the edges of oyster bars on this phase of the tide. Catches of these fish have been steady on whitebait and live shrimp as well as MirrOlure Lil’ Johns, CAL Jigs with Shad tails and DOA Shrimp. Top action for snook has been around ambush points on the outgoing tides for anglers tossing either a DOA Shrimp or a CAL Jig with a Shad tail.

A few tarpon have been caught this week, but the numbers have dwindled on the beaches. Several reports of some fair action up inside Tampa Bay with tarpon by anglers soaking dead shad on the bottom were reported.

Some of the best trout action has been coming from areas north of Clearwater up to Aripeka. Anglers using the DOA Deadly Combo are scoring some nice trout on these rigs north of the Pasco/ Hernando county line where trout may be kept right now. Anglers to the south must continue to release snook, trout, and redfish until next year at the end of May or whenever the FWC changes the rule.

FRESHWATER

Sunrise and sunset are producing some of the best action for bass this past week. Crankbaits and live wild shiners are producing some of the best catches. If getting out early to beat the heat but not have to head out in the boat, give one of the local lakes or ponds a shot. Some good action can be had working the perimeter of these lakes. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

August 14-16, 2020

By Captain Ray Markham

Next Tuesday’s new moon will make for an increasing influence on tides and fish. Look for more radical weather to make for a strong bite as barometric pressures change.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

The nearshore bite has been a little slow lately with water temperatures soaring above the 90-degree mark. Much of the action has been sporadic but between 40-and 80-feet, anglers have managed to catch a few hogfish, lane, vermilion, and mangrove snapper. Red grouper have been tough to come by, but a few continue to be caught on each trip. Several good reports of red grouper being caught on roll-offs where sand meets a ledge and drops off. The hogfish seem to be biting best on live shrimp. Fresh dead baits are producing better than live baits at times as many predators seem too lethargic to chase down a livie. Nearshore action for mackerel has slowed, but for anglers working deep water wrecks, they’re picking up a few mahi, kingfish, and wahoo well beyond 100-foot depths.

Offshore action between 120 and 200-feet has been respectable. Anglers are catching limits of some nice gag grouper with an occasional scamp and even a snowy grouper from time to time. Capt. Dylan Hubbard reported scamp being caught on small live pinfish, small squid strips, and on Diamond Jigs from 4-to 6-ounces.

Trolled big lip lures like MirrOlures and Rapala X-Raps are accounting for catches of assorted pelagics. Wahoo, tuna, kingfish, and even some mahi mahi are being caught.

Big amberjacks are being caught on springs and deep water wrecks using butterfly jigs and large blue runners. Look for temperature breaks to hold fish.

INSHORE

Mixed results from anglers could improve as we move toward next Tuesday’s new moon and better tides. Focusing on the major and minor feeding periods and times with the best moving water can help improve your catch. Ambush points with moving water will likely be the best spots to target snook around the points. Oyster bars will also hold snook and should also see some feeding redfish on the incoming tides on higher water. The best snooking tides should be on the bottom third of the outgoing tides, particularly in the afternoon, but the cooler morning water can also make for some good action with topwaters. Focus on your top spots just before sunrise. MirrOlure Top Dogs, Rapala X-Rap Skitter-V, and if there’s floating grass, the DOA PT-7 topwater soft plastic bait will produce some explosive strikes.

The rising sun and water temperatures dictate subsurface lure usage for the best action. Trout, reds, and snook will hammer some of the soft plastic Paul Brown lures such as the Fat Boy, and the Fat Boy Pro model. If trout are your target, look for these fish to move to deep water as the temperature rises. If you have deep channels, even as deep as 25-feet, give them a try with light braid testing 10-pounds or less with a 20-pound leader using a ¼ to ½-ounce jig head. Soft plastic curly tails or shad tails will both work. Also, an effective lure has been the 3-inch DOA shrimp body using a 3/8-ounce jig head and allowing it to sink to the bottom. A couple of twitches will usually result in fish if there are some in the area.

Early morning pothole hitting with the Shallow Running DOA Baitbuster has produced some big trout. The MirrOlure 27MR PIN MirrOdine has also captured some big specks for kayak angler, Pam Wirth of Tampa. Pam’s recent 25-inch gator trout is an example of the quality fish she’s been catching on MirrOlures lately.

Flounder have been in the catch this past week in Pinellas around some of the passes for anglers tossing jigs. Several were caught on CAL Shads, MirrOlure Marsh Minnow Jr., and even on Doc’s Goofy Jigs. Look for the best action on the incoming tides.

FRESHWATER

Hot water equals slow action for bass. With that in mind, fish the cooler times of the day, or even in the evening. Very slow working topwaters like a frog pattern or a popper like a 12 LS 18 from L&S Bait Co. will get some action.

Fly anglers will have some good action down in Lake Manatee in Bradenton while working edges of hydrilla or surface cover with small poppers, sliders, or foam spiders. Hook sizes in the 4-to size 8 or 10 range will work for most fish there. Bluegill, bass, and even an occasional crappie can be caught. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655 for charter bookings

(941) 228-3474

www.captainraymarkham.com

ray.markham@gmail.com

Captain Ray Markham

    

    Owner/Operator: Backwater Promotions

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