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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

April 9-11, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Spring fishing is what April is all about. The winds of winter are winding down and more consistent weather patterns are taking over, making fishing trips easier to plan.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Kingfish remain the hot topic for many anglers on the west coast, with kingfish tournaments waiting in the wings and big bucks on the line. Anglers from Venice to Clearwater are catching limits of kingfish with ease while trolling #3.5 size L.B. Huntington Drone Spoons or slow-trolling big live baits like blue runners. For those choosing to anchor and chum, a constant chum line of bits of threadfin herring, menhaden, and scaled sardines can enhance the action at the boat while free-lining live pilchards, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, pinfish, blue runners and other baits. Both nearshore waters and offshore wrecks are producing kingfish that are on their migration route northward from the Keys. On the agenda for this weekend is the 29th Annual Spring Suncoast Kingfish Classic being held out of Maximo Marina at the Tiki Docks Bar & Grill, located at 3769 50th Avenue South in Saint Petersburg. The Captain’s meeting begins at 5 p.m., Thursday, April 8. For more information, go to www.suncoastkingfishclassic.com.

Inside the bays and along the coast, you can expect plenty of action with Spanish mackerel. Loads of macks are showing up at the Gulf pier off Fort Desoto, both Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers, and at just about any jetty or pier on the Gulf. Most any kind of flashy jig moved quickly will get their attention. Flashy spoons like the Clark Spoon Squid in sizes ranging from #0 to #1 are working well.

This time of year, offshore boats can catch a huge variety of fish. One of the boats out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass reported catching a sailfish. It’s not a regular catch like the variety of snappers and groupers that are landed, but every year a few sails are landed up and down the coast in as close as a mile from shore.

INSHORE

Everyone in the Tampa Bay and surrounding areas are paying close attention to the spill that’s going on at Piney Point along the eastern shoreline in Tampa Bay at the northern reaches of Manatee County. The huge gypsum stacks that feed the holding ponds that hold a combination of acidic salt and fresh water, nitrogen, and phosphorous have breached and have leaked out millions of gallons of pollutants. While experts say the leak has been brought under control, the complete damage to the environment is yet to be seen. Much of the pollutants can feed algal growth that can further cause oxygen depletion and death to fish and other creatures. Red tide can also feed on the decaying algal growth creating another bloom that can be devastating to the coast. Time will tell where we stand, but the time is not to get this issue fixed!

This week, anglers fishing with me fished areas in the proximity of the Piney Point spill. Despite what was going on there, we still caught snook, trout, redfish, black seabasss, gag grouper, jacks, ladyfish, blue runners, a 5-foot blacktip shark and a variety of other fish. All were released in good shape but one trout. The trout wasn’t foul-hooked or abused, but it just turned belly up for no apparent reason.

Other areas along the coast are reporting good action with pompano in several of the passes, continued catches of sheepshead, and greater numbers of snook moving out towards the passes.

FRESHWATER

We finally had a dry week. Well, this isn’t the rainy season, but with no rain and winds under 20-knots for a change, just about anyone could get on the water that had the time. With a waning moon, catches were a bit slow at times, but anglers fishing early mornings and evenings had the most to report. Bass in the 2-to 4-pound range were caught on topwater frog lures in several lakes around the region.

Bream continue to show some bedding activity. Some fat fish that are hand-sized make terrific targets for fly anglers using a 3 or 5 wt. fly rod and some foam spider imitations. They fight much harder than you might think, and are a blast to catch. Give them a try. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

Capt. Ray Markham with a first-time catc
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Tampa Bay redfish have been crushing the
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Sunrise snook like the one Capt. Ray Mar

4Cast - West Central Florida

April 16-18, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

This time of year you have to take the good with the bad…in terms of weather. Last weekend’s weather rolling in produced major thunderstorm activity combined with at least two tornados that touched down, leaving some downed trees and damage to homes. No issues were reported on the water. As always, pay close attention to weather reports before and during your fishing trips.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Again this week anglers have been on Spanish and king mackerel as seas settled from last weekend’s blow. Nearshore waters close to rivers have been showing some turbidity as well as tannin-stained water. For some of the best action, clean water is the key. Wherever clean water is found, most times baitfish schools will be located. A good pair of binoculars can be useful in locating schools of mackerel or kingfish. Scanning the horizon to check for diving birds or surface activity from feeding fish will give you a head’s up on where to head. Some of the best action has been just after sunrise, especially on the surface, but trolling spoons and jigs at varying depths at around 5-to 6-knots will also reveal the action below. Constantly monitoring the depth recorder can also reveal schools of mackerel or kings if you are slow-trolling live baits. The slower these baits are trolled, the better, but for just scouting purposes, running about 3-knots is optimal for covering water and watching the recorder for signs of bait or schools of fish.

Hogfish action has been somewhat slower than that of a few months ago. Rising water temperature seems to have moved some of this action out to around 60-to 80-feet, but with some persistence, starting at 30-feet and out you can find some. The red grouper bite has been strong between 120 and 150-feet. The Flying Hub II out of Hubbard’s Marina recently reported landing a load of red grouper and some big scamp grouper on one of their 12-hour Extreme trips. Gags have been mixed in. Be sure and check www.myfwc.com for closures and open dates on all species.

A variety of snappers are being caught anywhere from 40-feet and beyond. Some fat mangrove snappers have been caught in the 100-foot range and beyond, but add some lane, vermilion, and a few yellowtail snappers to that mix and you have the makings of a fantastic fish fry.

INSHORE

Snook have been moving out of the backcountry and toward passes up and down the coast, stopping on points and settling in potholes on the lower tides. Scaled sardines are fish candy for linesiders and for those fishing artificial lures, it’s hard to beat a MirrOlure MirrOdine. Matching the lure size to the bait size in the area will get a good match, making for zero hesitation when getting one of these lures in front of a snook. Color can be secondary many times, but the realistic-looking “Skin Series” of these lures should be in every angler’s tackle box. But for dirty water situations and some extremely stained water the 17MR808 or 27MR808 has been exceptional producers. Clear water situations will see the 17MR18 or 27MR49 irresistible to snook.

Whenever we are a few days either side of a new or full moon, drifting a DOA Shrimp with the current past ambush points will produce snook and trout. At the bottom of the negative tides, these lures and an assortment of shad style bodies dragged through the pothole can produce flounder, redfish, trout, and more.

The upper part of Old Tampa Bay has seen some redfish action lately with over-slot fish, just as the south end of the bay out near Fort Desoto. Live shrimp and whitebait have both produced some good catches.

Fishing during stormy weather has been tough for most anglers, but those who have been relegated to fishing docks, piers, jetties, and seawalls have found some good action with sheepshead while using fiddler crabs or live shrimp. Carolina Lures makes some fiddler crab imitations in soft plastic that can be deadly for sheepshead as well as pompano. Their Sand Flea imitation has also produced some nice pompano and flounder.

FRESHWATER

It might seem for many anglers that the fly rod was made just for anglers who like to fish the Sweetwater. While thousands of anglers find the same thoughts in saltwater for a myriad of species, it’s hard to argue with anglers who consistently catch lunker bass, big bream, and an assortment of exotic species on the long wand. It takes some practice, like most everything else to get good at, but the rewards can be huge. Give it a try. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

(941) 228-3474

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

April 23-25, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

lt looks like the Chamber of Commerce has taken a few days off this week, allowing some rain to mix in with all our sunshine. Look for calm days to produce some good catches as we approach next Monday’s full moon.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Some bumpy seas during the past week have limited the number of boats getting offshore, but for those who did, they saw some decent action. Kingfish and Spanish mackerel continue to take the limelight for anglers fishing nearshore waters casting plugs, trolling Drone spoons, or fishing with live bait. Mackerel seem to be wherever you find them, and that can be almost anywhere you find clean water and baitfish. With the 28th Annual Old Salt Spring King of the Beach Kingfish Tournament only a couple of weeks away, anglers are twisting up leaders and getting their boats and tackle ready to test their angling skills. Nearly all tournament anglers will be fishing with live bait slow-trolled. There are plenty of fish around. One of the top spots for anglers has been the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel for big smoker kings. However, this year could be different, depending on how things shake out with the pollutants that came out of Piney Point a couple of weeks ago and what effect they have on our fishery. Time will tell.

Bottom dropping for hogfish has been steady in depths ranging from 35-to 70-feet of water from Sarasota to Tarpon Springs. While the action has slowed somewhat, there are still fish being caught. Most anglers are finding that live shrimp are the preferred bait, but several anglers reported using sand fleas for bait. In some instances where anglers were fishing hard bottom or small wrecks, sheepshead were also being caught on the sand fleas.

Offshore, anglers hitting the bottom with knocker rigs and live pinfish are catching good numbers of an assortment of snappers, including mangrove snapper, vermilion, and lane snapper while fishing off Pinellas in 80-to 125-feet of water. Bottom dropping beyond 120-feet has been good for some larger red grouper. Capt. Brian Morgan of Captain Morgan’s Fishing Adventures out of St. Petersburg, (South Pasadena), has been loading the boat with consistent limits of fat red grouper and an assortment of snappers while fishing in depths ranging from 108-to 120-feet of water.

Tripletail could be targets for many anglers this spring while fishing along the beaches and any kind of structure offshore. With stone crab season coming to a close at midnight May 15, come May 16, crabbers will begin removing their traps from the water. They have 5 days after the season closes to remove traps, and that means that the crab trap floats and lines attached to them will be gone and that temporary structure will be as well. This will make finding trips a bit more difficult, but not impossible. Any kind of flotsam in the Gulf or in the bays can be a temporary shelter for tripletail. These fish are suckers for live shrimp, but they will hit artificial shrimp like the DOA Shrimp or a small jig as well.

INSHORE

Pompano have been in the catch in a few areas along the Suncoast. Sand bars and passes have been the usual haunts for these fish. Good moving water like that found around John’s Pass and Pass-A-Grille Pass are good habitats for pompano. Sand fleas, fiddler crabs, and live shrimp will all work for pomps, but an assortment of jigs, like the Doc’s Goofy Jig, DOA TerrorEyz, and Caroline Lure’s sand flea and fiddler crab soft plastic lures all work well.

Sheepshead continue to bite during the bad weather days, so if you’re shore-bound because of bad weather, hit a bridge, jetty, fishing pier, or seawall for some action. Live fiddler crabs or shrimp are top baits, but don’t overlook barnacles for chum or for bait using a few threaded on a hook while chumming with them.

Lots of snook continue to be caught inshore from Hernando Beach to Sarasota. Many of these fish are migrating toward the beaches and passes in preparation for the spawn that could start next week on the full moon. Please handle these fish gently upon release so they can continue to spawn, increasing their numbers.

Redfish scattered over the past week due to some heavy weather and high winds. With calming winds, look for backcountry areas and flats to find some roving redfish.

Some decent-sized trout are being caught just north of the Pasco County line by anglers fishing topwater lures just at sunrise. Approaching the full moon this coming Monday, you’ll find these big trout up very shallow on the flats in holes. Fishing topwaters like the Rapala Skitterwalk, Zara Spook Jr., or MirrOlure Top Dog Jr. will see good action. One of my favorite lures for big trout has always been the 5M18 or 5M21 from MirrOlure. These prop baits excel in breezy conditions creating a surface noise similar to that of feeding fish on the surface that attracts curious trout from a distance to get in on the action.

FRESHWATER

Small baits or lures can sometimes catch big fish. The old saying, “elephants eat peanuts” holds a lot of truth. It’s not always the big bait that catches the big fish. TTI Blakemore’s Slab Runner is one meant for crappie, bluegill, warmouth, and the like, but when fish get finicky, they won’t eat a big bait at times. These smaller size lures can be just the ticket when it comes to getting fish to eat. I’m always reminded when I fly fish that even a 2-inch white Clouser Minnow tied on a #4 hook caught one of the largest of the snook I’ve caught on a fly, measuring 38-inches. So, next time you have a slow bite, you might break out your tackle box and go through the small baits and find a bite-sized bait to catch your next lunker.

‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later.

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

Capt. Ray Markham with an oversized red
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4Cast - West Central Florida

April 30- May 2, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

With the 28th Annual Old Salt Spring King of the Beach Tournament in Madeira Beach this weekend, expect big doin’s ahead for anglers who like kingfish tournaments. Expect to see extra boat traffic in nearshore and offshore waters. Make sure all safety equipment is up to snuff and be sure to file a float plan.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

This is a big week for anglers who have been waiting for the 28th Annual Old Salt Spring King of the Beach Tournament. This big-money tournament offers multiple payouts based on entries for six divisions and 63 places in addition to three tournaments within a tournament. With an anticipated payback of $200,000.00 in cash and prizes, it’s time to put on the big boy pants and get down to business.

Both king and Spanish mackerel catches have been excellent over the past week for anglers making their way offshore. Several days have been unfishable due to high winds and stirred-up water conditions. The keys to winning this tournament are finding clean water and schools of baitfish, then presenting your lures or bait in front of a monster smoker king or mega Spanish mackerel. The Thursday, April 29th Captain’s Party, registration, and team check-in kick off the 4-day event. Gates open at 5 P.M. at 200 Rex Place in Madeira Beach, with check-in, rules review, raffle, and silent auction to follow. Friday’s Community Party begins at 5 P.M. with Happy Hour running from 5 to 7 P.M. and a concert by Seranation starting at 6 P.M. Lines in the water at 6 A.M. Saturday kicks off fishing. Anglers must be back in and in the weigh-in line by Check-in time at 5 P.M. Early weigh-in entries begin at 3 P.M. Culmination of the results and the crowing of this year’s Spring King of the Beach will follow. The awards ceremony and pay-outs will be held at the Old Salt Headquarters at on Sunday at 11 A.M.

Last week I reported that stone crab season will be closing at midnight, May 15, i.e. closed on the 16th, there has been a change. The new closure date for stone crabs is May 2. With that in mind, think about tripletail for your target list prior to the closure, because trips love the small structure of crab trap floats and lines. When these traps disappear, you’ll still find tripletail along the beaches on swim buoys, but be aware that they will be hit by everyone else and the first one to those buoys will find the fish. Also, looking inside the bays from Sarasota to Tarpon Springs on any kind of structure, you’ll have a good shot at finding these tasty fish.

Deepwater bottom dropping from 140-feet and beyond has produced good action for a variety of fish including gag, red, and scamp grouper, amberjacks, blackfin tuna, and even a sailfish or two. Look for weed lines in the Gulf to hold baitfish. Those weed lines can also produce dolphin and tripletail. Check any kind of floating objects you find in the Gulf for tripletail. Drop a jig suspended about 16-18-inches under a cork when sight-fishing these fish and there’s a good chance you’ll catch them.

Nearshore anglers continue to catch a few hogfish as well as whit grunts and a few red grouper. Look for pelagic action with cobia to show up at any time. Keep a pitch rod rigged with a live pinfish ready and in your baitwell for some action.

INSHORE

Several days of good weather have produced some good fishing action. Upper Tampa Bay anglers have been finding a few redfish, snook, and schools of marauding jack crevalle. Capt. Bucky Goldman of Bag ‘em Fishing Charters turned what started out to be a slow day on artificial lures into a good day after switching to cut ladyfish. Slot and oversized redfish, some snook, and rod-bending jack action kept anglers busy.

Trout fishing, as we come off last Monday’s full moon, has been better on the late afternoon outgoing tides. Topwater action with lures like the MirrOlure Top Dogs, Heddon Super Spook Jr., and Rapala Skitterwalk have all produced some explosive strikes from big trout in the potholes and channel edges. Grass flats around Anclote Key have produced some consistent action on live shrimp and DOA Deadly Combo’s with shrimp under the corks. Jigs will work as well along with jerk worms like the 5.5 CAL Jerk Bait when rigged weedless.

Tarpon are showing up in some areas. Early mornings as tides bottom out have been a good time to scout out some rolling fish as the sun pops up over the Eastern horizon.

Catch and release snook fishing has been excellent around the passes up and down the coast. The full moon this past Monday will likely kick off the spawning season for snook in the West Central Region. Snook will continue to be closed through August.  

Spanish mackerel have made their way up inside bays along the coast. Lures that have some flash, like spoons, that can be moved quickly, are producing a lot of mackerel. Most are in the 20-inch class, but many much larger macks are being landed around deep water areas that are holding bait. The Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier and the Gulf and Potter’s Piers at Fort Desoto have been hot spots for macks. The piers off Anna Maria are also showing some great action there.

If you’re planning on fishing around any passes or bridges that have good water flow, plan on bringing some pompano jigs with you. Doc’s Goofy Jigs have been an area favorite for years, but Carolina Lures makes some artificial sand fleas that have been pretty exceptional. The DOA TerrorEyz has also been a great producer of a lot of pompano with the 3/8- ounce head. Work the bottom with these jigs/ lures with a twitch of the rod a couple of times, making the lure jump up off the bottom and then allow it to sink to the bottom. Each initial twitch should dig up a puff of mud from the bottom, attracting pompano and enticing them into striking. Live shrimp, fiddler crabs, and sand fleas will also catch pompano.

FRESHWATER

Area lakes and retention ponds can produce some great panfish action. An assortment of small ultra-light spinnerbaits and jigs like those from TTI Blakemore work for a variety of sunfish, and even small bass.

The next time it looks like your day on the Gulf is blown out, look for a local pond with access and give some small spinnerbaits a try. You’ll be amazed at what you can catch. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

www.captainraymarkham.com

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4Cast - West Central Florida

May 7-9, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

 

It’s not even summer yet, but the sweat rolling down the back of my neck says otherwise. Be sure and stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water while on the water. Air temperatures have been reaching 90-degrees. Don’t forget the sunscreen either…even on cloudy days. Skin cancer is an equal opportunity offender.

OFFSHORE/ INSHORE

Offshore fishing over the past week has been nothing short of outstanding. It’s tournament time! For those who participated in last weekend’s 28th Annual Old Salt Spring King of the Beach Tournament, the action was great with both king and Spanish mackerel with the 609 boats entered in the tournament putting on one heck of a show at the weigh-in. The largest king weighed in at 54.06-pounds by Team Lagerhead with Captain Steve Papen at the helm. Other team members were Erik Danowski, Taylor Danowski, and Dave Bayes, of Dogfish Tackle in Pinellas Park. In the tightly contested Youth Division, Team Dax’o angler, Daxton Bradshaw, put a 23.73-pound king up to take the top prize in the division. Marc Painter aboard Team Mako Me Rich scored the win in the Spanish mackerel division putting up a 5.54-pound mackerel on the scale.

Next up in the area is this weekend’s Clearwater Kingfish Mayhem Pro Series and Open Tournaments at Marina Cantina in Clearwater at 25 Causeway Blvd. from May 6 through the 9th with $150,000 up for grabs.

If tournament fishing for kingfish isn’t up your alley, you’ll be happy to know that anglers hitting the Gulf this week have had some exceptional trips. Captain Brian Morgan, of Captain Morgan’s Fishing Adventure, wore out clients this week putting them on some fat red grouper, snapper, kingfish, and a large sailfish. Morgan said that this sail was the largest ever caught on their trips, and it was caught on a 5000 size spinning reel!

Cobia are being caught in fair numbers. Capt. Trae Sorenson of Top Knotch Fishing Charters out of Madeira Beach has been bagging good numbers and a variety of grouper, mangrove snapper, blackfin tuna, kingfish and more.

INSHORE

This has been a great weather week for anglers to get out. Better numbers of redfish are being caught in the Fort Desoto area, the South Shore, and in Old Tampa Bay. Both live and cut baits have been working well during the day at peak heat. Early mornings and on overcast days are producing some nice snook and trout on 27MRPin MirrOdines and topwater MirrOmullet XL lures. Later in the day, DOA Deadly Combos are attracting some nice trout in the Dunedin area. Some of the swash channels around Anclote Key and Honeymoon Island are holding some big spawning snook. Redfish up around Caladesi Island have been active for anglers tossing pinfish and jigs. The CAL 3-inch Shad on a quarter ounce jig head has been productive. Anglers working larger jerk baits like the CAL 5.5 or MirrOlure Provoker are catching some big trout when rigging the lures on 3/0 Owner Twistlock unweighted hooks.

FRESHWATER

As water temperatures rise, oxygen in small shallow ponds begins to decline. In some cases fish kills are being reported. However, if you can find a deeper lake with some cover, bass are hanging in this cover and are hammering big 8-inch worms and the DOA SnaKoil when flipped or pitched on the edges of and in cover. Lake Tarpon can be good this time of year for some big bass. Several in the 5-pound class were caught recently on live shiners. For a relaxing day on the water, give one of our local lakes a shot at some lunker bass. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

May 14-16, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

 

Great weather and some terrific fishing over the past week have anglers hitting the water again this weekend for more of the same. Be sure and file a float plan!

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Migrating kingfish may be kicking it in high gear as soaring air and water temperatures continue to rise, despite a mild cold front at the end of the week. Anglers continue to catch both Spanish and king mackerel, but much of the nearshore action has been early, at or near sunrise.

A lot of tournament anglers, including myself, believe that solunar periods play a huge part in when the bite is on or when it slows, so they tend to be where they think fish are when either major or minor solunar periods exist. For those new to fishing and these theories, when the moon is directly overhead or on the opposite side of the Earth a major solunar period with heightened feeding activity exists for close to a couple of hours. When the moon is on either horizon, a minor period exists, usually making for about an hour of feeding enhancement. Hunters also subscribe to the solunar theories and look for wherever wild game goes to feed.

North Pinellas artificial reefs are producing some good action for anglers dropping baits on the Veteran’s Reef, located approximately 9.6 miles out of the Hurricane Pass entrance marker #2 on a compass heading between 272 and 271-degrees. If you went 4.2 miles on a 272 heading out of the pass you’d run into the Dunedin Reef, a popular diving spot. Continuing on a 271 heading for 5.4 miles will put you at the Veteran’s Reef, another good dive spot that has been producing good action with amberjacks that are just under the 34-inch legal minimum. An occasional keeper jack is caught. Add kingfish and Spanish mackerel to the run, along with grunts, an occasional hogfish, triggerfish, porgy, tripletail, and mangrove snapper and you could be looking at a box full of fish.

Red grouper action has been good for most anglers heading to depths beyond 110-to 120-feet west of Pinellas and Sarasota shores. Traditionally, these fish love to hang around Swiss cheese bottom where limestone produces large pocked holes resembling Swiss cheese. Where this bottom butts up to sand, you might find both hogfish and red grouper.

In just over two weeks, gag grouper season reopens. Anglers are eager to keep a few for the table. Good numbers of these fish have been caught recently, and many of them are topping 20-pounds. In addition to gags reopening, the American Red Snapper season opens June 1 for recreational anglers.

INSHORE

For many, the lure of snook fishing might be at its peak for top action. Coming off the new moon with strong tides make for good ambush feeding opportunities for fish like snook that ambush their prey. These fish are in the spawning mode during the summer, so large congregations of snook can be found around Gulf passes, beaches, and barrier islands. One such area that’s been on fire is the small islands from Tarpon Springs and Anclote Key south to Honeymoon and Caladesi Islands. Anglers tossing “whitebait” a.k.a. scaled sardines as chum usually encourages a feeding frenzy when multiple fish are around. This type of competitive feeding lowers their guard making them less wary. Some say it’s more like feeding fish than the sporting way of trying to lure the fish into eating fake baits, but regardless of how you think, it’s very effective. Snook will be found along the entire coast from Crystal River south.

Trout fishing could be back in swing for anglers looking to keep a few speckled trout beginning June 1. While an official announcement has not been made, both trout and redfish that have been under an emergency closure, caused by a red tide fish kill of several years ago, could reopen if the FWC commission votes to do so along with the Executive Director’s decision to reopen. Until there is an official announcement, both redfish and trout continue to be closed from the Pasco/Hernando line south to a line in Collier County. Some terrific reports from anglers working topwater lures for trout in the St. Joseph’s Sound area are coming in. But floating patches of weeds or algae might dictate the use of weedless lures such as the DOA PT-7 walk-the-dog style lures. Otherwise, it’s wide open for lures like the Heddon Zara Spook Jr. Rapala Skitter V, MirrOlure Top Dog, and the new Asturie 110 Xorus from A Band of Anglers.

While the Asturie 110 Xorus is not necessarily new, having been introduced in Europe, it’s new to U.S. fish that are seeing it for the first time. It’s a unique lure design from Patrick Sebile with a shape similar to that of needlefish or ballyhoo. These baitfish are fish candy to a big variety of both inshore and offshore species of fish. Inshore, both snook and trout eat big needlefish and ballyhoo especially in the spring and early summer months. These lures are particularly effective around creek and river mouths on outgoing tides where needlefish will be found. On the flats, where moving water falls off a flat into a channel, needlefish and ballyhoo may be found. Offshore, you’ll find ballyhoo skipping across the water or swimming around weed lines where dolphin or other predators are feeding. It’s a walking stick bait, but when fished on choppy water, straight erratic retrieves can drive fish crazy eliciting violent strikes. Its cigar shape makes it extremely aerodynamic for long-distance casts, to reach out to wary fish.

Tarpon fishing has been in the forefront with more and more fish showing up by the day along the beaches and moving inside bays up and down the coast. The late evening outgoing tide this week has been one of the best for tarpon action, despite the westerly winds that have been filling in on the late afternoons. Early mornings have been good with light east southeast winds laying seas down and keeping water clean. Waters off Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Anna Maria, and St. Petersburg Beach are showing some nice schools of fish. The crab flush has been on, coming out of Tampa and Boca Ciega Bays. Small dollar crabs, pass crabs, calico crabs, or blue crabs will all get munched on by tarpon on this outgoing tide. Jumbo hand-picked live shrimp will also work along with big scaled sardines or threadfins. Our next full moon will likely see shrimp heading into the Gulf to spawn. 

For anglers fishing the bridges for tarpon with dead shad or cut crabs on the bottom, black drum have also provided some rod-bending action. From the Skyway all the way up to the Courtney Campbell Causeway, black drum as large as 30-pounds have been reported.

For anglers who are boatless but looking for a way to access fish in a little deeper water than wade fishing, the FWC has just launched a new section on their website called the Florida Fishing Pier Finder. You can go to www.myfwc.com and navigate through the site or simply copy and paste the following to your browser.  https://myfwc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=bd38784e43d74550b682e448ef1f7a71&utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=campaign.

FRESHWATER

As lakes heat up and oxygen dwindles in lakes and ponds, bass get lethargic. Slower presentations with worms like a 5” Senko or a DOA Sna-Koil Texpose rigged will allow you to get into some heavy vegetation flipping without hanging up. Bass will seek some shady areas where it’s cooler. They won’t be as aggressive as they were a couple of months ago, so take things slow. Fish early in the day or just before sunset and you’ll see a whole different animal in the water than you do at mid-day. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

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Captain Ray Markham

    

    Owner/Operator: Backwater Promotions