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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

July 16-18, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Before your next trip on the water, you might take a look at the RED TIDE SAMPLING MAP that is supplied by the FWC so you might determine areas to avoid so you don’t lose your bait passing through an affected area or waste time fishing areas that may be unproductive. In addition, anglers have been reporting that their pinfish traps that were left in the Gulf to avoid the red tide inshore have been getting robbed or stolen. Not cool!

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Numerous reports by anglers complaining that their bait died on the way to their offshore honey holes have been noted. Leaving pinfish traps offshore might be the answer, but only if you can trust that people won’t rob or steal them. 

Capt. Dave Zalewski of Lucky Too Charters, who runs out of the Madeira Beach Marina, says he’s seen and felt the effects of red tide around Madeira Beach and John’s Pass, but has had good success this week with Spanish mackerel and barracudas on the South County Reef as well as several other locations. Frozen sardines, cigar minnows, and threadfin herring have been producing good results for many who are not able to keep bait alive. Red and gag grouper action has been consistent beyond 80-to 100-feet with some of the largest fish coming in deeper water. Lane snappers have also been a hot species starting at about 75-feet off Pinellas. Depths beyond 100-feet are producing fair action with mangrove snapper to 6-pounds along with some vermilion snapper. Red snapper action has been off the charts in the 175-to 200-foot range.

Running more than 60-miles into the Gulf for some trolling, Vance Tice, of St. Petersburg and friends caught some nice gag grouper, dolphin, and a big wahoo over 60-pounds. A few blackfin tunas were reported this week beyond 180-feet.

INSHORE

For anglers working inside Tampa Bay this week, it’s been really tough. Red tide seems to be just about everywhere and there has either been dead fish or no fish in many areas. Most dead fish were located on the downwind side of the bay. My guess is that the wind also has blown whatever algal bloom existed in the same direction. Red tide has been spotty and reported as far north as New Port Richey and as far south as Boca Grande. There are some areas inside the bay that have produced a few fish. Some smaller trout and some snook have been caught in the Manatee River and at the 7-Pines area. 

Numerous anglers from Sarasota to Tarpon Springs reported catching snook off the beaches, particularly on days with an east wind that cleared up the waters at the shoreline. Live threadfin herring have been the bait of choice for Capt. Rob Gorta, fishing out of St. Petersburg. Capt. Rob has some secret spots that produce some amazing snook and redfish. For more information or to book a trip, contact Capt. Rob at (727) 647-7606 or via his website at www.captainrobgorta.com

FRESHWATER

Sweetwater anglers have a distinct bonus right now in that they don’t have to deal with red tide. However, days when the air temperature peaks at temperatures nearing 100-degrees, many of the shallow-water lakes will see a big reduction of dissolved oxygen content that can kill fish under extreme conditions. Some of the best lakes have deep holes that will maintain cooler temperatures. Lake Tarpon up in Tarpon Springs and Lake Manatee in east Bradenton are two such lakes with good depth and a lot of fish. Bass, bluegill, crappie, perch, and some others swim in these lakes and are there to welcome anglers for some rod-bending action.

Next week I'll be spending most of the week looking at new products at ICAST in Orlando. I hope to see some cool stuff to share and help you catch more fish. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

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The topwater  MirrOlure 94MR21 Top Dog c

4Cast - West Central Florida

July 2-4, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

 

It’s another big holiday weekend folks, and law enforcement will be doubling down on BUI offenses. Boating under the influence will be a main objective to check by law enforcement this holiday weekend. Be sure your safety equipment is up to snuff. Also, a new law recently enacted makes it mandatory for the operator of outboard vessels to attach the kill switch cord to the person running the boat while running.

OFFSHORE

Offshore action has been excellent with good numbers of gag and red grouper being caught. Lots of red snappers have also been landed along with a variety of other snappers. The long-distance party boat trips and the 10-hour trips on their private for-hire vessels out of Hubbard’s Marina have seen some great action and returned with full fish boxes. Big mangrove, lane, and vermilion snappers are being caught. The 60-to 100-foot range has been good for lane snapper. Cut fresh baits of pinfish, squid, octopus, and squirrelfish are producing some good action as well as live pinfish, sardines, and cigar minnows.

Pelagic action has been fairly slow as water temperatures rise. Most have run deep or to the north. Dolphin, (mahi mahi), have been in the catch in about 200-feet of water west of Bradenton and Sarasota beaches. Target weed lines, floating objects, and bait schools there for them. Leave the first fish in the water to bring more fish to the boat to bring the numbers up in your catch.

Tripletail and cobia are moving into nearshore waters around any kind of structure, including swim buoys and crap trap pots. Spanish mackerel were reported on some of the nearshore artificial reefs off Bradenton and up to Egmont Key.

INSHORE

In many areas of Tampa Bay waters, we’re dealing with varying degrees of red tide bloom. Areas north of the Gandy Bridge have been clean thus far. But the highest concentrations seem to be around Piney Point and the Sunshine Skyway all the way up the South Shore into Hillsborough Bay, around MacDill and up to the Gandy Bridge. Avoid those areas and look for signs of fish in other areas. Jumping mullet, “rain minnows”, aka. glass minnows and some fry-sized scaled sardines are plentiful. Choose some smaller artificial lures that will match the size of these baitfish, such as the MirrOglass from MirrOlure, CAL Shad, and the DOA Baitbuster or Rapala Shadow Rap. With the amount of floating grass in some areas, topwaters can be hard to work and keep clean of the grass. Weedless spoons like the Eppinger Rex ¼-ounce Spoon or the Johnson Silver Minnow will work exceptionally well. For true topwater, try the DOA PT-7 weedless topwater rattling walker.

Redfish have been available in the north end of Tampa Bay as well as in St. Joseph’s Sound up to Anclote Key.

The area beaches from Sarasota to John’s Pass have been loaded with some monster snook in the spawning mode. Live pinfish, scaled sardines, shrimp, or cut baits are working best here. Fly anglers can take advantage of catching these fish in the surf on 8-wt. fly rods with a 3-to 4-inch white streamer fly pattern with a touch of pearl flashabou or crystal flash tied on a #2 hook. Chartreuse and white Clouser Minnows also work very well here.

The beaches around the last full moon finally produced some decent days for beach tarpon fishing for Capt. Rick Grassett, who fishes out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key. He had several days of jumping and landing tarpon to about 100-pounds.

Deep grass areas inside Sarasota Bay from New Pass to Longboat Pass are producing some nice catches of spotted seatrout on DOA Deadly Combos and CAL Jigs with assorted tails. In Anna Maria Sound, the TTR26 classic MirrOlure is catching some decent trout in the deep grass patches and potholes out near the north end of the island. Scattered Spanish mackerel are showing up inside Sarasota Bay along with bluefish.

Keep your eyes tuned into the appearance of cobia showing up inside the bays and rivers from Hernando south to Clearwater. Jerkbaits or eel imitations, including the DOA Sna-Koil will catch these fish when rigged on jigheads.

FRESHWATER

Fishing small area ponds and lakes can be tough this time of year as the temperatures rise. But on those days when we get a downpour of heavy rains, the water temps can drop significantly. My favorite time to fish these small ponds is right immediately following a heavy rain. Typically, barometric pressure drops radically on an approaching storm. As it passes, the barometer begins to rise again. In both extremes, fish will generally chew. Look for small foam spiders, popping bugs, and sliders to be deadly around the perimeter of these ponds. Small worm imitations such as the San Juan worm will work very well. Simplicity is good. Tie about 2 or 3-inches of some red yarn on a #4 hook and you’ll probably get hit. Give it a try and you might be surprised at what you catch. 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

June 25-27, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

 

Stormy weather caused anglers to run from the scattered thunderstorms that have been produced most days this week. Some tropical weather could be in store for the weekend, so stay tuned to your weather channel for advisories and updates.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Good reports continue to come in as anglers hit some deep water offshore for gag grouper and red snapper. Beyond 150-feet the action improves and so does the variety of species caught, with the exception of pelagics. It’s been tough to troll for tuna due to the amount of floating grass, according to captains reporting on the party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina. Some bonito were caught, which proved to be excellent bait for big gags and even red snapper. Strips of bonito have worked well along with octopus. Other species reported were mangrove and lane snappers, red and scamp grouper, and a few others.

Reports of anglers catching Spanish mackerel near Southwest Channel near Egmont Key this week shows some promise. Good quantities of baitfish have been in the area and are likely bringing the macks near shore. Look for spoons trolled to get the numbers you might be looking for. Clarke Spoon Squids in #1 and LB Huntington Drone spoons should cover the size range you need for both large and small mackerel and the possible kingfish. Most kings that have been caught have been on the artificial reefs and wrecks in a little deeper water…beyond 60-feet off Sarasota/ Bradenton beaches.

Tripletail are a possibility this time of year inside bays and along the beaches. Look for them around buoys, channel markers, and most any object floating in the water. Live shrimp are your top natural baits when rigged on a small hook under a float with about 18-inches of leader and a split shot for weight. A DOA Deadly Combo with a DOA Shrimp will work just about as well. Cast the rig near the structure and hold on. These funny-looking fish have fins and a broad tail that look almost like three tails, and thus, it’s called a tripletail.

INSHORE

It’s been an interesting week of fishing. Areas south of the Manatee River have been free of red tide, according to the latest water sampling. However, it appears that the bloom has moved northward as far as Anclote Key to the north. It’s creating issues for some anglers who are having difficulty staying on fish as the bloom moves with the wind and currents. Fish that have been hesitant to eat artificial lures have been more attracted to dead-sticking cut baits like ladyfish, mullet, and pinfish. Water temperatures have ranged from 92-degrees down to about 82-degrees depending on what parts of the bays you’re fishing and if there has been rain in the area. Water has been stirred up so lures with some flash or vibration have worked well. Spoons like the weedless Eppinger Rex spoon are working for snook and redfish. MirrOlure 27MR MirrOdine XL lures in most colors have been exceptional producers. We’ve had higher tides than the predicted levels due to the persistent southwest winds this week. Salinity levels have also been changing rapidly in areas with heavy rainfall. As much as 2 to 4-inches of rain have fallen in some areas.

Reports of anglers catching big snook up rivers like the Manatee and Peace Rivers might have something to do with salinity levels or as an attempt to escape red tide patches in an area. It still seems that the best scenario for not finding fish is to more until you do.

Capt. Rick Grassett who charters out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key has been having good success with spotted seatrout and bluefish in Sarasota Bay while fishing deep grassy areas with potholes with a variety of lures like the CAL Shad and DOA Deadly Combo. His fly anglers are also having good success using sinktip lines and small baitfish patterns such as the Clouser Minnow and the Grassett’s Grass Minnow.

Anglers fishing aboard my Action Craft, the Flat Back II have been catching a variety of fish including Spanish mackerel, snook, spotted trout, redfish, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, gag grouper, and silver trout using MirrOlure MirrOdines, Eppinger Rex Spoons, CAL Jigs with Shad tails, DOA Shrimp, DOA Baitbusters, and a new lure from A Band of Anglers called the Asturie 110 Xorus. The new topwater walking lure is a 4-inch 1/2-ounce walking bait that resembles a needlefish or ballyhoo. While I think this lure would be terrific in the spring when big trout move in around March and April and target needlefish on the flats, we’ve had some exceptional success with the lure with trout, snook, and redfish just this week. The lure has been extremely popular in Europe and is a creation of Patrick Sebile, famed lure manufacturer who holds many world records for fishing and has developed many lure brands that have become popular throughout the world.

FRESHWATER

Afternoon and evening rains have been washing insects into canals, storm drains, lakes, ponds, and rivers. Right now, these insects are a major source of food for bass and panfish. But in areas where there are dams or overflows from lakes, look for the drains exiting these areas to be releasing some tilapia, bluegill, or other small fish, making these areas prime areas for bass to ambush them. The Live Target Bluegill lure is a fine replica of a small bluegill that will get hammered in these locations. The rattling crankbait has action similar to the famed Rat ‘L Trap by Bill Lewis, but with graphics that are very realistic looking.

One of the best times to target fish this time of year is just after a heavy rain. Fly rodders can do well with bug imitations such as a worm, cricket, or spider and nearly everything in the lake will pounce on these flies. Baitfish patterns on spillways that look like small perch or bluegill will even get snook in areas where they spill over into a river that feeds out into the bays or Gulf. Give them a try for some sweetwater action. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

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Sunrise snook like the one Capt. Ray Mar
Tampa Bay redfish have been crushing the
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Capt. Ray Markham with an oversized red

4Cast - West Central Florida

July 9-11, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Dealing with the aftermath of tropical weather or hurricanes requires paying special attention when on the water. Strong winds and high tides can put both submerged and floating objects in the water. Everything from trees to docks and many other objects in the water can make navigation hazardous and should be done with special care.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Post-storm conditions may take a few days for seas to settle and waters to clear. But for grouper, snapper, and many other bottom dwellers that have hunkered down on tall structure and ledges without feeding, they will find themselves pulling away from that structure to find food. With that in mind, being where fish are when the feeding resumes will definitely result in the opportunity to cash in on a strong bite.

Waters beyond 100-feet will likely become clear more quickly. These areas will also hold greater numbers of larger fish. Turbidity in water can make it difficult for fish to find food. Fresh and frozen cut baits might attract fish a little better than live baits in turbid conditions. The scent moving through the water can attract from a distance, making it easier for fish to find the bait. Lively baits may create some vibration that will attract fish too, but usually, the nod will go to the easy dead bait to eat.

Channel markers in the Gulf leading out of Tampa Bay can hold tripletail and cobia. Keep some big bucktail jigs with a large soft plastic curly tail on a heavy spinning rod at the ready. Cobia can pop up at almost any time and seem to go away just as quickly.  A medium-action spinning rod with about a 2-foot leader and a cork with a 1/0 circle hook might be the perfect rig with a live shrimp if sight fishing tripletail.

INSHORE

The past week has been tough in Tampa Bay due to expanding concentrations of red tide bloom and Hurricane Elsa blasting through. Here’s hoping that the heavy rains from Elsa and the strong change of tides will minimize the concentrations of red tide that have been in Tampa Bay or possibly move them elsewhere.

South of Tampa Bay, anglers are seeing some fair action with speckled trout in the deep grassy areas of Sarasota Bay as well as some bluefish and Spanish mackerel. For the weekend, look for clearing water to improve fishing in most locations. Passes and beaches will see increasing numbers of snook reappearing.

When seas settle, Pinellas and Manatee County anglers might shoot out to the grassy and rocky areas that are around Egmont Key. These areas traditionally hold speckled trout, flounder, cobia, Spanish mackerel, tripletail, mangrove snapper, and several other species of fish.

Anglers fishing north of Anclote Key might expect good action from snook and trout with some mixed action from redfish. Barrier islands from Caladesi north to Bayport will hold snook, trout, and reds. Live shrimp, pinfish, grunts, and whitebait will all be welcomed baits for fish there.

FRESHWATER

Water, water everywhere! Lake levels are at flood levels up and down the coast. The excess water makes fishing a little more difficult. Actually, it’s the finding and not the fishing that is more challenging because fish have more places to go with the higher levels of water. Crankbaits that can cover a lot of water will be a good bet to throw and locate fish. If there are overflow areas, you might throw lures that look like bluegill, such as those from Live Target. These lures are just the size of small bluegills that are getting flushed over dams and out overflow pipes. The areas surrounding these locations will have some current, making for the perfect ambush scenario for bass.

Hitting the perimeter of most lakes with a fly rod and foam spider, work, or baitfish patterns can produce good catches of bluegill. Give it a try! ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast - West Central Florida

July 23-25, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Inshore anglers fishing from a portion of Tarpon Spring south to the Manatee River are under another emergency closure for snook, trout, and redfish beginning July 16 and running through September 16, 2021. These fish may be caught and released only in this area. For more details on the exact closure go to: CLICK HERE. 

The Fish Rules App is available in the App Store and Google Play for IOS and Android. Enabling location services will give you site-specific regulations for your location.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Most anglers I’ve spoken to over the past week who fish from Sarasota to Clearwater are saying that they can keep bait alive beyond about 25-to 40-feet. This might be the area where clean water begins as you run offshore. With that said pinfish traps that are closer to shore may not keep fish live. Red tide can be patchy and move with both the tides and wind-driven currents.

Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina says their party boats running the long-distance trips have been having some terrific catches of red snapper to 15-pounds. Their most recent trip had more than a dozen of them in that size range. In addition, lane, vermilion, and mangrove snappers were all caught along with gag grouper, blackfin tunas, cobia, and much more, making a decent haul for the anglers on this 39-hour trip.

This weekend’s full moon will be one of the best for night fishing for snapper. Mangrove snapper are in the spawning mode and will chew hard during this period wherever you find them. The slower portion of the incoming tides near the top will make for some cleaner water and might be the best time to target mangos. 

INSHORE

The upper portion of Tampa Bay has been fairly consistent giving up catches of snook and redfish. Capt. Bucky Goldman of Tampa has been throwing cut bait and live bait for these fish in the upper bay. A recent trip resulted in a 38.5-inch snook that was caught and released.

Redfish have been scattered, but the bulk of the fish have been found around areas with relatively clean water free of red tide. Fish have been somewhat lethargic and in some cases eating cut bait before they can muster up the energy to chase down live baits. Artificial lures like the DOA Shrimp and Softshell Crab worked very slowly are working and catching some fish.

FRESHWATER

Late afternoon thunderstorms are cooling lakes and rivers down to a more comfortable level that has encouraged bass and other fish to chew. Tilapia imitations or lures that resemble bluegill like the Live Target has been a very good producer. With action, vibration, and sound similar to the Bill Lewis Rat ‘L Trap, lures like these excite schooling bass and create a feeding response. Give them a try and see if you too can catch some nice bass on lures like these. ‘Til then… I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

www.captainraymarkham.com

4Cast- West Central Florida

July 30-August 1, 2021

By Captain Ray Markham

Red tide continues inshore from about Venice north to New Port Richey. Varying concentrations of the algae bloom in patches move with the tide and winds. This may increase or break up concentrations in certain areas, so if you’re going to try and fish an area, keep moving until you find fish that will feed. Offshore anglers have good opportunities this weekend.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

While the inshore scene of the West Central Region is at best iffy, nearshore and offshore anglers can have some excellent action depending on what is targeted and where they go. The summer months can be good for red grouper in nearshore waters, but most successful anglers are having some of their best catches beginning at about 80-feet and heading deeper. Southwest of Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee anglers may find red grouper just a bit shallower on patches of Swiss cheese bottom. Limestone pocked with holes, and roll-offs of rock onto sand can hold some red grouper. Look for some hogfish starting in similar spots.

Mangrove snappers have been hitting coming off the full moon. Mostly frozen baits are being used, due to the lack of live baitfish. Shrimp can provide some excellent action as well for snapper, hogfish, mackerel, and others. Frozen sardines, pinfish, ladyfish, grunts, squid, cigar minnows, and octopus all can fill the fish box, so try and keep a variety of baits in your cooler and switch them out to see what bites at the time on what bait.

The last day of recreational fishing for American Red Snapper is Wednesday, July 28. The season is closed on July 29th. Greater amberjack will reopen August 1 for anglers with a limit of one fish per person measuring a minimum of 34-inches fork length. Gray triggerfish also reopen August 1st. Anglers may possess one fish per person measuring a minimum of 15-inches to the fork.

Capt. Dylan Hubbard out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass continues to report excellent action on their long-range 39-hour trips as well as their nearshore all day and 5-hour trips. The deepwater runs are producing good numbers of gag grouper, a variety of snappers, porgies, red grouper, a few blackfin tunas, and others.

INSHORE

Inshore fishing around areas of red tide has been tough to be consistent. Finding areas like these could mean locating the mother lode of snook, trout, redfish, and other species of fish that get pushed by the influx of red tide. But for those lucky anglers who find these areas, even then fish will usually only eat when they are hungry. But with baitfish in limited supply, they are more apt to eat than not. Captain Griffin Deans of Slot Machine Charters is one guide who has been fortunate enough to find some feeding fish around patches of the algal bloom. His Palmetto-based charter business is located several miles south of the Piney Point area, but Deans will run to wherever he can find feeding fish in the area.

The most recent water samplings for red tide have shown varying degrees of red tide from New Port Richey south to Venice. However, aerial photographs and recent reports have said the areas in the Gulf are showing that the amount of algae bloom is reducing. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that that is the case.

FRESHWATER

Many anglers looking for an alternative to keeping a rod bent in saltwater are turning to area lakes, rivers, and ponds. Some excellent action with bluegill and bass can be had with any number of lures, flies, and live baits. Crickets, worms, and shiners excel for live baits used for bass and bream. A fly rodder can catch almost anything that swims on the “long wand”. And for those who have managed to become proficient with a fly rod, the bonus is that hand-tied flies can be light enough to resemble the real thing and still be cast with accuracy and distance and give presentations that no other gear can to catch fish.

Kids love any kind of action as long as it puts a bend in the rod. Even a simple cane pole with some light monofilament and a #8 hook with a split shot and a bobber is all you need with some worms or crickets to put a bend in the pole and a smile on a face. Take a kid fishin’.  ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

www.captainraymarkham.com

Capt. Ray Markham with a first-time catc
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Captain Ray Markham

    

    Owner/Operator: Backwater Promotions