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Captain Ray Markham's latest fishing report

           . . . and other tall tales  

Captain Ray Markham's

West Central Florida Fishing Journal

 

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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

August 20-22, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Unstable weather due to tropical storms could put a damper on your weekend plans to get on the water in a boat. But a late shift in direction of these storms could make for some great fishing. Don’t let that keep you from going fishing. Just pay attention to the weather and you should be ok. Tides from this Sunday’s full moon should provide good action inshore. If seas settle offshore, look for some excellent fishing.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Nearshore fishing for red grouper ranging from 60-to 100-feet has been picking up. Hogfish have been caught in depths ranging from 40-to 60-feet over the past couple of weeks. A few flounder have been caught on nearshore artificial reefs. Beyond 80-feet lane snapper, mangrove snapper, and dolphin have been caught. Some mahi mahi have even been found inside of 80-feet.

Much hangs in what direction the tropical storms in the Gulf head. At this point, the prediction is for Grace to move away from the West Coast, allowing anglers to head offshore. Stay up-to-date with weather reports and always monitor them while on the water. As always, leave a float plan with a responsible person on shore.

INSHORE

Despite the fact that so many fish were killed on the Suncoast, some encouraging reports this week might indicate a lessening of red tide and the beginning of a return to better fishing. Inside Tampa Bay, the red tide appears to have disappeared, based on the daily water samplings. Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina in John’s Pass at Madeira Beach reported an increase of snook showing up in John's Pass. Hubbard says the early morning bite just prior to sunrise has been firing up. Look for the best action around periods with good water movement. With the upcoming full moon, a prime time for spawning, these fish will likely stick around through the weekend and into the beginning of next week, barring any new bouts with red tide.

The Coastal Red Tide Forecast through Friday, the 20th, shows low concentrations of red tide at the mouth of the Manatee River, the north tip of Egmont Key, and the south side of Fort Desoto. Various areas are showing potential red tide at the surface and near the bottom of the water column. See the following URL for more information. http://ocgweb.marine.usf.edu/tbm/hab/.

FRESHWATER

Freshwater fishing might be the best game in town right now. Most lakes and rivers have access to boats and many can be fished from banks. Neighborhood retention ponds are another thing. Most have a ton of bass and panfish in them, but unless you have permission, don't go into neighborhoods on private property without permission. No issues with red tide might bring you over to the sweetwater side. Take a look in your local tackle stores and see how much space is devoted to the freshwater side. By far, bass fishing is the #1 fishing segment in the world. Give it a try. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

www.captainraymarkham.com

www.ray.markham@gmail.com">www.ray.markham@gmail.com

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4Cast - West Central Florida

August 13-15, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Don’t sell all your fishing tackle just yet. Sure, some parts of the West Central Region have been experiencing fish kills and red tide, but all reports have not been bad. Red tide algal blooms move with the tides, currents, and wind. Finding clean water is the key to some action.

Heavy thunderstorms have been passing through the area nearly every day. Keep an eye on the storms and stay tuned to weather alerts on your VHF radio or by other means. Don’t be caught on the water during these storms. High winds and heavy rain along with a lot of lightning in these storms have been the norm.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Red grouper action is typically good in the summer months. Look for action over small ledges or bottom described as cheese or Swiss cheese bottom where pocked limestone meets sand starting in about 60-to 100-feet of water southwest of Pinellas. Beyond those depths, you’ll still find some red grouper, and some large ones are being caught out to 200-feet, but usually, some larger gag grouper will be available along with an occasional scamp grouper, some amberjacks, and triggerfish in these deeper depths. Offshore springs will usually hold some larger amberjacks, although getting large live baits for them has been tough. They love big blue runners, but if you can’t get them, jigging with spoons like the Shimano Butterfly Jigging Spoon has been productive.

Gag grouper fishing can be excellent in the deep stuff, but again, big live baits rule. If you can’t get live bait, fresh dead or frozen threadfins, pinfish, squid, cigar minnows, bonito, and octopus are working.

Deepwater wrecks have been producing some catches of wahoo, kingfish, and blackfin tuna over the last week or two.

Nearshore rocks, wrecks, and artificial reefs are holding some mangrove snapper. Live shrimp has been the most productive bait, but small whitebait has been a close second when available.

INSHORE

Anglers looking for a cool way to chill out from the Pasco/ Hernando County line north are hopping out of the boat with a mask, snorkel, and fins and diving for scallops. So far, it’s been an excellent year for scallops in the area. The season runs Through September 24 in Hernando, Citrus, and Levy Counties. For more information, go to https://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/bay-scallops/.

The south portion of our region has seen a lot of thunderstorms and heavy rains that have cooled Gulf and bay waters. The cooler water temperatures will hold more oxygen, enhancing the habitat for fish in this hot weather. Red tide in the Pinellas area has eased somewhat. South of the bay, waters still contain patches of medium to high concentrations of the algal bloom. As a result, anglers north of the Manatee River are seeing some improvement in fishing. However, we’re far from being out of the woods on this one. By this Sunday, a tropical disturbance will be making its way up into the Gulf and should be off the coast of Pinellas by early Sunday morning. A clockwise movement of winds could blow any possible red tide bloom that is west or southwest of Pinellas up inside the bay. As of 8/11, area samplings north of Treasure Island, with the exception of Clearwater Pass and Clearwater Beach, are showing no concentrations of red tide.

Earlier this week, the FWC extended the catch-and-release measures for snook, trout, and redfish. Under these measures, snook, redfish, and spotted seatrout are catch and release in all waters in Manatee County north of State Road 64, Hillsborough County, and Pinellas County. The Braden River and all tributaries of the Manatee River are also included but not Palma Sola Bay and the Anclote River through October 11. Regulations outside of those counties remain unchanged, including the measures south of State Road 64 in Manatee County (including Palma Sola Bay) through Gordon Pass in Collier County for snook, redfish, and spotted seatrout. For more information on this and more go to www.myfwc.com.

Tarpon anglers continue to work just off the beaches and up inside Tampa Bay. Reports of anglers seeing rolling fish in the Gulf are encouraging, despite the fact that the tarpon have been fickle to bite. Several reports of tarpon in upper Tampa Bay between the Gandy and Courtney Campbell Causeway west to the Bayside Bridge were noted. Doug Feinberg of St. Petersburg was looking for tarpon along the beaches off Pinellas when he spotted what appeared to be a large object floating near a crab trap float. A closer look revealed that it was a big tripletail. Feinberg baited up and flipped a dead pilchard to the fish. Instantly the trip inhaled the pilchard and was hooked. After landing the fish, Feinberg put it on a scale. The tripletail weighed 17-pounds.

FRESHWATER

Lakes, retention ponds, and rivers are swelling with all the rains we’ve had recently. More water makes it more difficult to locate fish, however, finding areas that have some movement or flow will surely point you in the direction of fish that are ambush feeders and staking out areas to catch their prey. Bass look for areas around drainage culverts and overflow drains to stage up in preparation of feeding. Small forage like bluegill, tilapia, and shiners are all targets for bass. Crankbaits that imitate the small fish will be readily attacked. Fly anglers casting floating poppers, and assorted bug patterns like spiders, crickets, and worms will have good success with a variety of fish here. Give these spots a try and see if you don’t catch some fish. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

www.captainraymarkham.com

ray.markham@gmail.com

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Capt. Ray Markham with a first-time catc
The topwater  MirrOlure 94MR21 Top Dog c
Tampa Bay redfish have been crushing the
Sunrise snook like the one Capt. Ray Mar

4Cast - West Central Florida

August 27-29, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

While scattered reports of red tide continue, even greater numbers of reports are coming in of a resurgence of fish in multiple areas and good action with catch-and-release in many areas of the West Central Region that remains under an emergency closure.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Excellent action with gag grouper continues west of Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties. While legal fish are being caught at around 80-to 100-feet, better numbers of larger gags are being caught beyond 125-feet. In areas off Sarasota and Manatee, beginning in 70-to 80-feet, red grouper are being caught. Closer in to shore at 50-to 60-feet, hogfish action has been picking up from Manatee to Pasco.

We’re getting closer to our fall pelagic run of kingfish and Spanish mackerel. Spanish action has picked up from Sand Key off Clearwater, south to Bradenton. Hard bottom areas in 20-to 50-feet off Sand Key have been productive. Loads of glass minnow schools and fry whitebait are luring these fish in to feed. Look for diving birds offshore to locate mackerel at a distance. Live shrimp, scaled sardines, or threadfin herring will work if you can keep them alive, but your best bet may be to troll some flashy silver or gold spoons about 3-inches in length. Clark Spoons and L.B. Huntington Drone Spoons have long been the standards on the Suncoast for mackerel, both Spanish and Kings. Larger spoons in the 4-to 5-inch sizes have taken some monster kingfish. For anglers looking to put some meat in the box, Gotcha Plugs and most any kind of jig with some flash will catch mackerel. They like these lures reeled quickly and erratically. Nylon skirted jigs will hold up a bit better than most others since mackerel have sharp teeth. Light solid coffee-colored stainless solid wire about 12-to 16-inches in length with a ball bearing swivel will help reduce line twist as well as prevent cutoffs. But the negative is that you’ll likely get fewer bites. Stepping up leader size to 40 or 50-pound mono will help reduce the cutoffs and increase your bites, putting more fish in the box. At a minimum of 12-inches mackerel in the lower sizes will contain less mercury than larger Spanish or king mackerel, a caution for pregnant women or anyone who eats a lot of these fish. Kingfish are showing up on deep-water wrecks and artificial reefs. There aren’t any big numbers yet, but reports of fish showing up off Citrus and Hernando Counties are increasing, so it’s just a matter of time before the migration of these fish hits the Suncoast full bore.

INSHORE

Red tide sampling reports taken inside Tampa Bay are not showing signs of red tide. On the fringes of the bay to the north and south, there are some levels of the algae in varying concentrations. Numerous reports this week showed improvement in most of the areas that recently reported slow fishing or higher concentrations of red tide. Knock on wood, but it looks like the recent improvement is one we can hope continues.

Fishing this past week with a group from Florida Outdoor Writer’s Association proved to be a very successful fish-catching event. While the targeted species were trout, ladyfish, and jacks for the artificial lure-only fun event, other fish caught were redfish, snook, tarpon, mangrove snapper, catfish, and a few others. Most anglers fished Little Sarasota Bay and Sarasota Bay. A few floating dead fish were noted that could have blown in from another area or moved with the tide, but we didn’t see any other signs of heavy concentrations of red tide and the fishing was good.

Areas inside Tampa Bay from Apollo Beach south to Terra Ceia showed some good action with snook and redfish. Most anglers are having very good success with artificial lures like the CAL Shad, DOA Shrimp, MirrOlure 17MR MirrOdine, MirrOlure Top Dog, and Eppinger Rex Weedless Spoon. Some anglers are finding live pinfish and some scaled sardines to fish with. Most of the sardines have been small. Live shrimp under popping corks have produced some action with trout.

FRESHWATER

These hot summer days typically can be slow for fishing in freshwater lakes and local retention ponds unless we have rain. The heat drives the water temperature up and dissolved oxygen levels down without rain. But during or just after heavy rains, the surface action fires up and fish turn on. Edges of lakes and banks of rivers that swell also have a runoff of insects that fish move to feed on. Smaller lures, jigs, and worms can excel here, but fly rodders will be able to match the hatch the best. Being able to tie something that imitates the natural forage almost identically gives a leg up for fly anglers. Areas with storm drains and overflow drains will find small baitfish imitations that work well as tilapia, small bluegill, and other small baitfish move out of the overflow areas making for great ambush areas for larger fish waiting outside of the drain areas. Pay special attention to these areas and you’ll see some good action. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmailcom

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

September 1-3, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Hurricane Ida passed through the Gulf of Mexico without creating any major issues here in West Central Florida. The Suncoast has seen some good fishing both inshore and offshore. The slower tides this week will help settle seas and give the water a chance to clear.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Red grouper have been chewing lately in depths ranging from 50-to 100-feet, according to Capt. Dylan Hubbard out of Hubbard’s Marina in John’s Pass. While much of their action has come from the 39-hour trips with monster mangrove snapper, gag grouper, amberjacks, dolphin, some kingfish, a few blackfin tunas, and the occasional wahoo, the nearshore half-day, and all-day trips have seen some outstanding action with red grouper, grunts, some assorted snappers, and a few hogfish. Live pinfish have garnered much of the action but cut squid, octopus, threadfins, and sardines are all producing some quality fish. Hubbard says that lane snapper have been biting best on live shrimp, and cut squid or threadfins between 60 and 100-feet. The Mahi Mahi being caught are typically the Chicken Dolphin or smaller fish ranging from 14-to 24-inches. Amberjacks have been cooperative mostly beyond 120-feet but some real monsters were caught in about 280-feet on the Hubbard’s 44-hour trip weighing up to 97-pounds.

Look for the gag grouper bite to steadily improve as waters begin cooling off through about December. Gags will typically move in closer on ledges, reefs, wrecks, and on hard bottom.

INSHORE

With several weeks of red tide sampling done with zero red tide reported in Tampa Bay, anglers are starting to see better action with snook, redfish, and even some trout. Several areas are hot with some slot and over-slot redfish. Areas around Fort Desoto have seen some breeder-sized fish move in from the Gulf. The South Shore of Tampa Bay has been holding some nice reds as has the top of the bay. From The Skyway to the mouth of Tampa Bay, good action with reds and snook has anglers fired up for fishing again.

Spanish mackerel have been thick in some areas. Look for birds diving on glass minnow schools and small pods of whitebait. There have been loads of ladyfish running with the mackerel so be prepared for some cut-offs and chafed leaders. Take extra jigs and spoons too, as you’ll probably lose a few. Wire leader will help prevent cutoffs but stepping up mono or fluorocarbon leader size will generally accomplish the same thing and also produce more fish. If using a swivel make it black or coffee-colored. Shiny hardware will get bit and you'll get cut off. Take a black Sharpie with you if you don't have black or coffee-colored hardware and color it with the Sharpie to help hide it. Look for mackerel on the beaches early in the morning, over hard bottom, and around the Skyway Bridge, Egmont Key Ship’s Channel, and around channel and range markers inside Tampa Bay.

Cobia have been caught inside Tampa Bay as far up as the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Watch for them around the channel and range markers. A jumbo shrimp or live crab will work as will jigs with eel imitations used as trailers. While looking for cobia, tripletail have been caught on the swim buoys off the beaches and inside the bays on channel markers. A live shrimp suspended under a popping cork with about 18-24-inches of leader with a small split shot will work for them.

A few tarpon catches continue to be reported up inside many of the bays from Boca Grande to Tarpon Springs. Many of the rivers will hold juvenile tarpon and some in the micro-poon size that are a handful on a light 6-to 8 wt. fly rod. Small Clouser or streamer flies about 4-inches long or shrimp and crab patterns will work well with these fish that generally run up to about 20-pounds. River tarpon eagerly chew the root beer/gold glitter colored DOA TerrorEyz and the 3” glow-colored DOA Shrimp. Check the holes around the Bayside Bridge in between St. Pete. and Clearwater as well as the channel running up inside Alan's Creek. 

FRESHWATER

With stormy days some great freshwater action has been had with bass and assorted panfish. Anglers hitting the Braden River down in Bradenton are catching loads of bluegill on worms, crickets, and grass shrimp. Bass have been hitting silver spoons with a trailer and chartreuse and white spinnerbaits. Topwater action has been good for bass lately just before sunset and at sunrise. Some of the old standby lures like the Jitterbug and Rebel Pop-R have seen some bass in the 3-pound range caught on them. Much of the old lures don’t get thrown these days, but with time, even the old lures look new to a fish. Give ‘em 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

September 10-12, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Improvements in water quality are making a noted difference in the inshore fishing on the Suncoast. In the ICW from Venice north, clean water has allowed fish to move back in slowly to replace some of the fish that died from red tide. It’ll take time to get back to where we were prior to the emergency closures.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

The action continues to pick up each week. This week’s new moon will get snappers chewing in a broad range of depths. Mangrove snapper can be found from 20-feet of water over hard-bottom to well into the triple-digit depths and beyond. Lane snappers have been fairly plentiful with some big lanes being caught between 80 and 120-feet.

Nearshore waters up to several miles off the beaches continue to show somewhat higher concentrations of red tide, making it difficult to keep live baits alive. These areas are holding fewer fish and have been located from Port Richey to Tarpon Springs, and Clearwater south, with somewhat lower concentrations down to Egmont Key. Areas from Stump Pass to Boca Grande also contain some red tide concentrations. For more information go to FWC’s red tide daily sample map at the following URL: https://myfwc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=87162eec3eb846218cec711d16462a72.

Deepwater wrecks beyond 150-feet have been producing a few blackfin tunas as well as an occasional wahoo, Anglers slow trolling live blue runners are finding some kingfish around wrecks. Most are running in the upper 30-pound range. Amberjack fishing has been hit-and-miss for a few anglers who have been targeting them. The AJ’s that were reported were caught while vertical jigging.

INSHORE

Veteran guide, Capt. Rick Grassett who fishes out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key sent me an encouraging fishing report this week. Fly anglers fishing with him caught pre-dawn snook around dock lights along with trout, bluefish, and even a shark. In other trips, deep grassy areas of Sarasota Bay are producing some good catches of trout. Deeper areas have been productive with CAL Jigs with Shad tails and DOA Deadly Combos. The shallows have held some larger trout that Grassett’s anglers are catching on the topwater DOA PT-7.

Anglers fishing around the Sunshine Skyway have been finding some redfish action to their liking. Joe Bay and north to Apollo Beach has been on fire with redfish the past month. Look for potholes to hold redfish and trout. On the outgoing tides, snook are moving to pinch points where water exiting an area increases in velocity. Baitfish moving through the area will keep snook interested in chewing lures like the MirrOlure MirrOdine, Rapala Twitchin’ Mullet, and DOA CAL Shad. The pilings around the channel markers leading out of Tampa Bay are holding a few tripletail. Range markers have been holding cobia, loads of baitfish schools and Spanish mackerel early in the day. Deep grassy areas between Clearwater Pass and Hurricane Pass in Dunedin are holding trout. Jigs and shrimp under popping corks are getting some max-slot trout.

The TTR and 52MR series MirrOlures are catching some of the largest trout in the area according to anglers fishing just outside of the Weeki Wachee River in 5-to 7-feet of water. Redfish are holding on outside points and around rocks. Top lures have been gold spoons like the Eppinger Rex Weedless Spoon and the Johnson Silver Minnow. The 5.5 CAL Jerkbait nose-hooked on a 4/0 Owner live bait hook has been slamming snook and trout in the area. The Glow in the Dark color has been a top-producer.

FRESHWATER

With the fall months right around the corner, look for conditions to improve just about everywhere you fish. Daily rumbling from thunderstorms cooling down area waters makes fish more lively and eager to chase baits. Over the next month, we should start seeing water temperatures beginning to fall into the 70’s. This will, no doubt, signal a real change in aggressive fish behavior. Bass and bluegill alike will be hitting surface plugs, poppers, and flies with real aggression. This is an exciting time to fish topwater, but subsurface lures will continue to produce. Many of the new wake baits, as they are called, serve double duty. Most float when not worked, but if they are reeled steadily; they will go just below the surface creating a small V-wake in their paths. A twitch/ pause retrieve will make these lures dive and refloat to the surface. Using a combination of retrieves with these style baits will drive fish mad and trigger strikes. Give them a try. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

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4Cast - West Central Florida

September 17-19, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

NOAA announced that recreational harvest of gray triggerfish and red grouper in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico will close at 12:01 am, EST, on September 15, 2021. Parts of the West Central Region to the north saw snook reopen on September 1. Be certain you check with www.myfwc.com and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council for updates on rules and regulations depending on where you fish.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Loads of baitfish have been reported up and down the coast, but there are also continuing bouts with concentrations of red tide just offshore ranging from 4-to 6-miles, according to Capt. Dylan Hubbard out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass. The schools of baitfish that have steered clear of the red tide have attracted Spanish mackerel, a few kingfish, bluefish, and multiple other species to nearshore waters. Beyond about 10-miles it seems that red tide is minimal or non-existent. The days are slowly getting shorter. With that comes a slow cool-down of water temperatures near shore. Temperatures approaching the mid-70’s will see more and more fish moving south from the Panhandle. Spanish mackerel and kingfish will begin moving in, and occasionally, wahoo will be caught offshore. There may even be some changes as early as next week’s full moon around the 21st.

Deepwater anglers fishing past the 100-foot mark had some exceptional trips for mangrove snapper over the past week or two. Many of the mangos were very large for this time of year, pushing 6-pounds. Mid-summer months have traditionally been best for mangrove snapper; however, anglers have reported some good action even in nearshore and inshore areas for mangos. Structure, rock piles, wrecks, and rubble will hold mangos. Live shrimp work well as do small whitebait. Anglers looking to chuck artificial lures will find jigs tipped with shrimp work well. Vertical jigging in depths less than 20-feet with a 3/8-ounce DOA TerrorEyz can produce some good results with a tiny bit of shrimp tipping the hook.

Gag grouper action has been just fair, but that will likely change over the next 3 months as area waters begin to cool. Gags that hang beyond 100-foot depths during the summer months traditionally move in on hard bottom areas with ledges, rubble, wrecks, and artificial reefs starting in about 30-to 40-feet. One typically good area for fall and winter gags through the closure at the end of December is around the hard bottom areas of Sand Key, and many of the artificial reefs from Dunedin south to Sarasota.

INSHORE

We’re just about in the middle of the hottest redfish bite of the year here in the West Central Region. Some very large schools of spawning fish have been moving just offshore and returning to feed inside bays and around barrier islands. Some of the current hot spots have been in the Intracoastal Waterway from Anclote Key to Dunedin, areas near Bunces Pass and around Fort Desoto, and inside Tampa Bay along the South Shore from Apollo Beach south to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Capt. Jim Huddleston has been regularly putting his clients on good numbers of redfish as well as some hefty snook while fishing out of the Ozona Fish Camp.

Live pinfish have worked well for redfish around Fort Desoto along with whitebait. Anglers are seeing a variety of sizes of bait caught on their cast nets. Smaller baits have been used for chum, while the larger baits seem to work best on the reds. Most fish are being caught during the early morning hours from just prior to sunrise to about 9 a.m. After that, it seems like anglers have to work a little harder to get the bite going. When the bite slows, sometimes cut ladyfish, mullet, or pinfish are working best. Artificial lure chuckers are doing very well with topwater lures early in the day around sunrise. Rapala Skitterwalk, MirrOlure Top Dog Jr., and Heddon Zara Spook Jr. lures have all worked well. In areas where floating grass has not allowed these lures to work well, the DOA PT-7 weedless topwater soft plastic walking lure has been the go-to lure. After about 8 a.m., switching to subsurface lures has worked best. The MirrOlure 17MRPIN MirrOdine has been excellent around bait schools and where big mullet are milling around mangrove shorelines. But if the action is spotty, lures that cover a lot of water quickly, like the CAL Shad or a MirrOlure Marsh Minnow rigged on a ¼-ounce jig head, or a weedless gold Eppinger Rex Spoon will get the job done.

Snook continue moving toward inside areas on the flats and feeding around points and areas with good moving water. Next week’s full moon will trigger a big feeding effort as these fish gorge on live baits to put on an extra layer of fat before the coming cooler months.

FRESHWATER

Sometimes escaping to offshore waters, or even traveling to boat ramps to get out on the bay for a few hours of fishing takes more time than we’d like. Getting live bait, and keeping it alive, dealing with water quality issues, and the clean-up chore afterward might be more to deal with than many are willing. Sometimes just fishing from the bank of a neighborhood retention pond or walking along a local creek or river to fish will satisfy the urge for a tug on a line.

America’s #1 choice of fishing is bass fishing. It may be tough to convince diehard offshore anglers of that, but bass are a tough hard-fighting fish, especially on light tackle. A top tackle choice for many anglers is a fly rod. It’s not something you just pick up and do with finesse right away, but with a little practice and some lessons from a professional instructor, you can be fly fishing in a short time.

CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, located at 1249 Stickney Point Rd. Sarasota has announced dates for their Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing Schools for the upcoming season. The first school will be on November 6, 2021 followed by January 15, March 19, and April 9, 2-22.

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. The cost for the class, which will run from 8:30 AM to 2 PM is $225 per person and includes the use of Orvis fly tackle, a 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.

Take some time to relax and give fly fishing a try. It may be a challenge at first, but even marathon runners took baby steps at first. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-3655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

September 24-26, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Full moon weeks nearly always produce some exciting action and good fishing. In most instances, this past week was no different. Moving toward the weekend, tides will begin to slow somewhat, but with all the rain we’ve been having cooler waters could mean hotter action for this first weekend of fall.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

It’s important to know that red tide has not gone away completely—at least in nearshore waters off Clearwater, Dunedin, Treasure Island, Anna Maria, and Venice. There were a few reported fish kills that weren’t major yet still enough to make leaving with a livewell full of bait inshore and arriving offshore with dead bait. The safest thing you might do is get several 5-gallon buckets with bubbler aerators and keep the bait in them until you get offshore to your fishing spots before dumping it in your live well.

Some nearshore areas are producing a few Spanish mackerel where there’s clean water. Trolling spoons or flashy jigs is your best bet for catching a few of these fish. Most have been coming from depths beyond 50-feet. A few red grouper were caught and released beyond 80-feet off Bradenton this week. Good action with gag grouper has been seen anywhere from 110-to 160-feet between Sarasota and Tarpon Springs. The hot bite continues to be mangrove snapper and some assorted other snappers ranging from 60-to 120-feet.

A cold front is expected to move south through the area on Thursday, bringing some dryer air for more comfortable fishing. We won’t see a drastic change in temperature but it will feel better with less humidity. Fish react to these fronts by feeding heavily in pre-frontal conditions if the change is radical. The bite slows at the bottom on the barometric change and picks up again as the barometer rises again. Just something to think about as we get into the fall and winter months ahead.

Lane snapper continue to bite consistently in depths ranging from 40-to 100-feet, according to Capt. Dylan Hubbard out of Hubbard’s Marina. Mangrove snapper action has been steady throughout the region in both near and offshore waters.

The amberjack bite has been mediocre at best, according to recent reports. Typically good action has been in the 120-to 200-foot range, but just not right now. However, these depths have been producing some big porgies, vermilion and yellowtail snapper, almaco jacks, and scamp grouper.

Stay tuned to the north. With cool fronts beginning, we will be seeing a push of kingfish any time as they migrate southward from the Panhandle. Tripletail action should pick up too when stone crab traps get put back in the water in October. In the meantime, look for trips around any kind of floating objects and along the beaches where there is a line of swim buoys.

INSHORE

Redfish continue to pop in and out of the bays in large schools, but some of the most consistent fishing for them remains along the South Shore of Tampa Bay from Apollo Beach to the Skyway Bridge. Gold spoons like the Weedless Eppinger Rex Spoon have been crushing fish. Sizes of fish vary from mid-slot upwards of the 40-inch range. Spoons have been effective after the sun is up over the horizon where the flash of the spoon attracts the attention of these fish. The flash might look like pinfish to these reds. The MirrOlure 17MRPIN MirrOdine has also been deadly on these fish. When the action slows, cut ladyfish tossed under mangroves on high tides or around oyster bars as water levels fall will get bit.

Snook fishing continues to be good as these fish migrate into the backcountry, on points, and to creek and river mouths as they move in from the beaches and passes. Jerkbaits have been effective. The DOA CAL 5.5 Jerkbait has been deadly when rigged on a 1/8 oz. jighead or weedless on a worm hook. The darting action seems to imitate a needlefish, one of a snook’s favorite snack foods.

An occasional pompano being caught has been reported by anglers fishing just inside Longboat Pass. However, a small fish kill was also reported off Anna Maria, so I wouldn’t look for much action with pompano as long as there is some red tide reported in the area. Several reports of pompano action in the Bunces Pass and Pass-A-Grille Channel area were reported by anglers tossing Doc’s Goofy Jigs in yellow/white combination with a pink teaser fly attached.

FRESHWATER

Good action continues with bass as we come off this past Monday’s full moon. Topwater action early in the day has been good around the Walsingham reservoir. With all the weeds in this body of water, the weedless DOA PT-7 soft plastic walking lure has been a go-to lure here. White/ chartreuse spinnerbaits have also seen some great action here.

The Braden River has had a good bass bite along with some nice bluegill for anglers fishing grass shrimp, crickets, and worms. Six-inch black or purple soft plastic worms have been deadly for bass when Texas rigged with a bullet weight. Whopper Plopper lures have been effective early and late in the day for bass here and at Lake Manatee for bass.

Get out and wet a line! ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

To book charters for the fall and winter season, I can be reached at the contact info below.

(941) 228-3474

(941) 723-2655

www.captainraymarkham.com  

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Captain Ray Markham

    

    Owner/Operator: Backwater Promotions