Interested in having Capt. Ray write for your publication? Speak at your seminar or club meeting? Contact Captain Ray for details.

Captain Ray Markham's latest fishing report

           . . . and other tall tales  

Captain Ray Markham's

West Central Florida Fishing Journal

 

0.jpg
0.jpg
0.jpg

Captain Ray Markham in the News

Screen Shot 2020-12-20 at 1.43.54 PM.png

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

December 2-4, 2022

By Captain Ray Markham

The Chamber of Commerce may have had something to do with the weather forecast for the coming weekend. Now that most of the turkey, stuffing, and pie are about gone, it’s time for some seafood! Inshore or offshore, something is waiting for you to bring home.

OFFSHORE/NEARSHORE

Grouper have been moving for the past few weeks toward shallower waters of the Gulf and into Tampa Bay. Anglers fishing “The Ditch” (Egmont Key Ship's Channel), that runs on the north side of Egmont Key and out toward the Whistler can find gags along the way. The Pipeline that runs from Port Manatee out into the Gulf is another option for locating gags that tend to hold on rock piles of the mitigation areas. Looking for stone crab trap floats while running out into the Gulf will generally show some hard bottom where the traps are dropped and a good place to slow down and check out with the bottom machine. The floats will also hold tripletail.

Small boats are challenged at times to get out into the Gulf in deep water where they will find a big variety of fish. If gag grouper are your target, you may not even need a boat! Some of the “insiders” who regularly fish the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers will likely be tight-lipped about the exact spot they find the most gags on the artificial reefs that were deployed perpendicularly to the piers. The rubble that made these reefs came from the destruction of the old Skyway Bridge. Every other group of pilings from the farthest parts of both the north and south piers going out into the bay has small reefs that jut out about 100-to 150-feet from the pier. They can hold grouper, black drum, pompano, mangrove snapper, cobia, sheepshead, snook, trout, tarpon, Spanish mackerel, kingfish, and many other species at varying times of the year.

Over the last few weeks, one of the regulars on the piers, Bee Yang, has been chucking some big lures for gags. One of his top-producing lures is the 111MR11 MirrOlure. Another is the Rapala XRap Magnum UV 30. In a recent report, as posted on his Facebook page, he caught 4 gags of which 1 was a legal-sized fish, measuring 31-inches. Another time, he pulled up a barely legal 24-inch gag. Some are undersized and released, but for shallow water fishing, it’s a real bonus. Not too shabby for only burning a little gas driving to his fishing spot and a small fee to fish and for his car. There is a separate fee for fishing on the pier; this does not include the $4.00 vehicle fee. Children 5 years old and under are free. Children 6-11 years old are $2.00 each. Adults 12 years and older are $4.00 each. It’s a Florida State Park, and is open 24 hours a day. Alcohol consumption is prohibited.

Trolling for grouper has been good for anglers with downriggers and planers. Downriggers are preferred as depth control is more accurate. Fish are being landed on heavy jigs with big curly tails as trailers. Much of the Egmont Key Channel is rock on both the bottom and sides that holds good numbers of fish.

INSHORE

A look at the calendar will show that we just made it out of hurricane season and are headed into the holiday season. We are finally beginning what I call the Yo-Yo season. When cold fronts blow in, seas get kicked up, water becomes turbid, the air and water temperatures cool, and then the whole thing passes. A few days go by and temperatures warm up, clear ‘bluebird skies’ appear, and winds go light. During this period, fish come out of their hiding places and chew. With winter approaching in the coming weeks, they know it and prepare by feeding as heavily as possible. For snook, it’s to put on body fat to stave off a cold winter. Because of their inability to withstand brutal cold temperatures, snook season closes at midnight, November 30th, so they are off limits December 1 and remain closed throughout the winter. On another note, flounder seem to enjoy the cooler water temperatures and begin moving into bays and on the flats. Some of the best spots to catch them are around passes and most areas with moving water, sloping sandy, shelly, or mud bottoms that are adjacent to sparse grassy patches. Jigs like DOA Curly tail jigs rigged on ¼ to 3/8 oz. jig heads work well. Tipping the hook with a tiny bit of fresh shrimp will add enough incentive to get a bite. Work the lures slowly enough to maintain contact with the bottom, while kicking up a small puff of mud or bottom make-up. Flounder season reopens Thursday, December 1 with a minimum size of 14-inches and a limit of 5 fish per anglers per day.

Redfish action has been good on the northern reaches of Tampa Bay for anglers fishing pinfish. Weedon Island anglers have seen sporadic action with snook and redfish, with a few trout coming from deep grassy areas of Mermaid Point.

Capt. John Gunter of Off the Hook Charters out of Palmetto has been on the fish lately. Snook, trout, redfish, Spanish and king mackerel, mangrove snapper…well, you get the idea. The Terra Ceia area, upper Sarasota Bay and lower Tampa Bay areas have been productive.

FRESHWATER

Cooler weather will begin turning on crappie over the next several months. Meanwhile, bass have been active in several areas of our region. Anglers fishing Lake Manatee, the upper Manatee, and Braden Rivers have seen some good action with bream, bass, and are just beginning to see better action with speckled perch. An assortment of crappie jigs will take the panfish, but TTI Blakemore Road Runner Marabou Spin Jigs have been a favorite in the area.

So many fish…and so little time. Go FISHIN’!

‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 228-3474

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

November 25-27, 2022

By Captain Ray Markham

This holiday weekend might be spent on the couch watching some football on TV, but for those getting on the water, perhaps a lighter than usual crowd may be found.

Water temperature in the Gulf has dropped to about 71-degrees. Tampa Bay temps are varying from 67-to 72-degrees. Cooler temperatures are invigorating fish. The new moon occurred on Wednesday, November 23rd. This lunar period will increase high tides and reduce lower tides above and below the norms. North winds will make for even lower than predicted tide levels of both highs and lows. Adjust your fishing plans to allow for these predictions and hit the water. As always, file a float plan and be certain your life jackets are serviceable. We are getting into the realm of possibility for hypothermia for boaters who fall overboard. Wear a PFD. They do no good in a locker. Inflatables are comfortable and small enough to allow freedom of movement yet provide protection in the event you go overboard. Expected survival time for someone in the water with temperatures ranging from 60-to 70-degrees is 2-to 4-hours.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

The numbers of blackfin tunas being caught beyond 120-foot depths have been on the rise lately. Most have been caught while trolling Rapala X-Rap, Nomad DTX Minnows, the 111MR and 113MR MirrOlures. Trolling speed has varied between 3 and 9 knots.

A variety of snappers, including yellowtail, mangrove, and vermilions are being caught beyond 120-feet on average but several reports have been noted of catches at around 80-foot depths.

Artificial reefs have been producing a variety of fish. Grunts, Spanish mackerel, flounder, red and gag grouper, porgies, sheepshead, tripletail, and a few others have been in the catch report on the South County Reef, St. Pete Beach Reef, Madeira Beach Reef, off south Pinellas, and the Rube Allyn Reef and Veterans Reef off mid-Pinellas, as well as the Tarpon Springs Reef off north Pinellas. These reefs vary in depths ranging from 30-to 45-feet and are a short run for most nearshore anglers.

INSHORE

I’m betting that the turkey hasn’t even had a chance to make it to leftovers before angler will hit the water to wet some lines. The flounder closure ends at midnight next Wednesday, November 30 and reopens on the 1st, but even more popular will be the snook closure that begins December 1. Coming off the new moon on the 23rd will see some good water movement through the weekend. Bottomed out tides will make for some easier fishing for fish trapped in potholes and those that fall off into channels on the edges of the flats. Snook will likely be found near the mouths of rivers, creeks, or in the depths of residential canals.

Exposed oyster bars at low tide in the morning will become hot spots on rising water as redfish move up on the flats to feed on crabs, minnows, shrimp, and whatever else they find on these bars. Later on the incoming tides, reds will move to mangrove edges to feed and move up into them as the tide peaks at high levels.

We are seeing increasing numbers of sheepshead on the flats with these cooler days. This trend will only get better over the next several months. Several reports of catches have come from anglers fishing Doc’s Goofy Jigs for pompano around Pass-A-Grille, John’s Pass, and Bunces Pass in Pinellas and around New Pass and Longboat Pass in Sarasota Bay. Red tide reports to the south around Sarasota’s New Pass were on the rise a couple of weeks ago but seem to have decreased somewhat. Wind direction blowing from northerly directions could push it south.

FRESHWATER

Walsingham Reservoir just south of Walsingham Road in the Seminole/ Largo area has been productive for anglers looking to catch some bass and bluegill. Will cooler weather, you can also expect some crappie to be caught. The open parts of the lake can be productive with diving crank baits, while the perimeter holds lily pads, and a variety of vegetation that hold some big bass. Topwater lures that are weedless, such as the DOA PT-7 that walks, or one of the frog type baits can be deadly here. Fly anglers have a distinct advantage as well, where placing a small popper or spider imitation in a small opening in the grass can produce big results. The reservoir bans the use of internal combustion engines so kayaks, canoes, and boats with trolling motors only are allowed. A boat ramp allows access just off Walsingham Road.

There’s something for everyone fishing this weekend. Count your blessings for all we have to be thankful for. To all our FS readers, have a safe and very Happy Thanksgiving.

‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 228-3474

www.captainraymarkham.com

Capt. Ray Markham with a first-time catc
1013829_10201120064785758_762239869_n.jpg
spanich_mack.jpg

4Cast - West Central Florida

November 18-20, 2022

By Captain Ray Markham

Water temperatures are finally dropping a significant amount, enough to encourage pelagic migrations of king and Spanish mackerel, and to move inshore fish toward their winter haunts. This weekend’s cool weather is perfect for getting fish in the feeding mood.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Water temperatures at Egmont Key have dropped 6 degrees in the past week, down to 75-degrees on Thursday. Look for that to fall even more as this cold front that hit the region this week passes, and cool air moves southward. Breezy conditions could have gag grouper push back to structure and hold until it passes, but after it does, expect a good bite to turn on. At the same time, these fish will be moving toward shallower waters. Some of the top reports for big gags has been from anglers working depths beyond 100-feet, but recently, good reports from anglers catching gags have come from depths ranging from 50-to 80-feet while fishing areas of structure and hard bottom. Top baits have been threadfin herring and live pinfish.

Capt. William Toney, our Big Bend Action Spotter reported a wave of Spanish mackerel moving through the Nature Coast area around Homosassa and Crystal River. You can expect the arrival of those fish here in short order with this weekend’s cooler weather. Trolling Huntington Drone Spoons or Clark Spoon Squids at about 3-knots will garner some fish for the cooler. The artificial reefs off Pinellas and hard bottom off Sand Key have traditionally been good areas for catching mackerel. As with grouper, they will seek baitfish that will hold on structure and hard bottom. Working around these areas will be a good bet for each of these species. For anglers without bottom machines, look for diving birds around bait schools, and stone crab traps and the floats that mark their locations for some current spots for these fish. If trolling isn’t your thing and bottom dropping is, bring plenty of live shrimp and some frozen chum blocks. Anchor up-tide of stone crab traps and deploy chum blocks, shaking them every 5 minutes or so to get a chum slick going. Fish will begin to come up into your chum slick. Live shrimp will lure mackerel, gag grouper and red grouper (closed), hogfish, and a variety of snappers. Note: Lane snapper season closed at the beginning of the week. They have been caught in nearshore waters lately, so be sure to release these fish. Also, be sure to bring a venting tool and descending device in the event you bring fish up that are bloated and experiencing barotrauma. Most often this occurs in depths beyond 50-feet, so be prepared to properly release unwanted fish.

INSHORE

Water temperatures inshore have been ranging from 73-to 78-degrees in our region. These temperatures offer prime time for topwater lure fishing. Overcast days with some wind are prime for topwater fishing. Lures like MirrOlure’s Top Dog or 5M prop bait, Rapala Skitterwalk, and Storm Chug Bug are a few local favorites for anglers fishing for speckled trout and snook. Occasionally, you will find redfish following up in the wake of these lures and crashing them, making for some explosive action. Less than two weeks remain for snook season in our region. With the most recent cool down, snook have begun migrating into creeks, canals, into deeper backcountry areas with dark bottoms, and up rivers. As water temperatures drop below 70, look for snook to hold in deep water of rivers and creeks, typically in the outside of bends of these areas. During high pressure with bright blue skies, consider using slow-sinking, shallow diving, or suspending lures such as the 17MR MirrOlure MirrOdine, the Berkley Juke, or Rapala Twitch ‘N Rap.

Upper Tampa Bay has produced some good action with redfish and snook lately as well as the area near the St. Pete./Clearwater Airport. Cockroach Bay and the South Shore from Ruskin to Joe Bay continues to be productive for anglers looking for grand slams with snook, trout, and redfish.

Pompano have been in the dock talk lately as a few anglers in the know are catching some on Doc’s Goofy Jigs. Seminole resident, “Doc”, Bob Hartkopf, will celebrate his 88th birthday Wednesday, November 30th building these lures one at a time. They’ve been a mainstay for anglers who target pompano, however, these lures have been successfully used to catch hundreds of different species of fish.

Sheepshead action continues to improve steadily around docks, bridges, piers, and on rockpiles up and down our coast. Live fiddler crabs, sand fleas, barnacles, and shrimp are top baits for these fish that are notorious for stealing baits off hooks. Thus, the nickname “convict fish”, with their black and white strips suits them well. Action with these fish will improve considerably over the next 4 to 5 months as the move toward their spawning period in late winter/ early spring.

FRESHWATER

This is one of my favorite times of the year to fly fish for bass and bluegill. While incoming windy cold fronts can put a damper on a fly fishing day, particularly for new fly casters, these days might be excellent to sharpen your skills for punching flies through the wind to your target. If you’re fishing around lots of overhanging trees or mangroves, it can be costly in terms of flies lost to heavy cover. For these days, it might be best to find an open field and set out targets to cast at with varying angles to the direction of the wind.

This Sunday, November 20, Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club will host the Big Gun Shoot-Out fly casting competition at Picnic Island Park, shelter 611 starting at 9:00 a.m. Individuals and teams of three are welcome. Trophies for individual, team, women and the long cast (Big Gun) will be awarded. They will provide lunch and have raffle items to give away.  Bring your own rod to compete in the six qualifying stations, but you must use an 8 weight for the long cast. Entry is free and all you must do is show up and be ready to cast. We welcome new members to come and check out this fun event.

‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 228-3474

www.captainraymarkham.com

0.png
untitled.png

Captain Ray Markham

    

    Owner/Operator: Backwater Promotions