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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Tampa Bay, East and South Shore

Fronts ease the Suncoast into winter–By Ray Markham

by on Dec.05, 2015, under Siesta Key to Boca Grande, St. Pete Beaches, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore, Tampa Bay, West Shore and St. Petersburg

With less than three weeks remaining in the fall season, reflecting back will reveal that this has been one of the mildest on record. Warm air and easterly winds for nearly a week have made fishing for kingfish and Spanish mackerel just off the beaches a doable task. Plenty of big Spanish were caught but kings have been scattered. Captains Ryan Farner and Chris Turner of St. Petersburg will host a final kingfish tournament called the Bitch of the Ditch that will run Saturday out of Billy’s Stone Crab on Tierra Verde. The interesting twist is that this event has boundaries from Egmont Key to up inside Tampa Bay. The weekend will have a mild cold front easing into the area shifting winds and fish, but this front should push more kings southward to the area. Predicted winds won’t be as high as last week’s front, but changing wind direction will also change tide levels that will affect where you’ll find fish on the flats and in the bay. The Saturday weigh-in at Billy’s Stone Crab should provide interesting results.

Coming off the quarter moon this week, we won’t see the big swings in tides that we saw during last week’s full moon. Looking at the comfort zone chart for fish, the majority of fish that swim in our waters prefer water temperatures in the mid-seventies, right where Tampa Bay is presently situated. Tides won’t be moving that fast, so positioning yourself where wind blows between islands or at the mouths of small bays where there are narrow openings can speed up the water at that point, making an ambush location for snook, trout, flounder and more.

Some of the largest snook of the year have been caught this past week coming off the full moon. Most fish were caught in brackish water, meaning these fish were moving up rivers or creeks to the headwaters for the winter. Snook season closed this week along with gag grouper, making both species off limits for take-home. However, catch-and-release action for snook will bend some rods and make some smiles. Flounder continue to give anglers something extra to target. Look for sandy areas with good water flow. Reports from John’s Pass and the Pass-A-Grille area have been consistent productive areas.

If you’re fishing inside Tampa Bay and adjacent waters, look around all the channel markers and range markers in the bay for cobia, Spanish mackerel, and tripletail. All three species have been caught here this week.

Capt. Ray Markham specializes in fly and light tackle fishing with artificial lures, charters out of the Tampa Bay area, and may be reached via his website at www.CaptainRayMarkham.com, email at ray.markham@gmail.com, or at (941) 723-2655 for charter.

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Tampa Bay Sea Grass Coverage Exceeds Goals, May 2015

by on May.14, 2015, under Old Tampa Bay--Above the Bridges, TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore, Tampa Bay, West Shore and St. Petersburg

Article ImageSurvey results released this week by Southwest Florida Water Management District show the growth of more than 5,000 acres of new grasses from 2012-2104. Tampa Bay now has 40,295 acres of sea grass, exceeding the goal of 38,000 acres bay-wide set in 1995 by our partners at the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
seagrasses
The gains mirror similar trends in water quality. Tampa Bay met all water clarity targets in 2014, for the third year in a row. Water quality is now as good as it was in 1950, and the bay supports as many seagrasses as it did then.

Seagrass is a very important marine plant that lives on the bottom of Tampa Bay in shallow waters. It is teeming with life, and creates a vital ecosystem wherever it grows.

Thank you for your role in supporting the restoration of Tampa Bay! -

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TIGHTEN THE DRAG FOUNDATION INSHORE FISHING TOURNAMENT, 9/27/14, ST. PETE

by on Aug.06, 2014, under St. Pete Beaches, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore, Tampa Bay, West Shore and St. Petersburg, The Sunshine Skyway and Beyond to Egmont

This foundations  raises funds to provide therapy scholarships for those with spinal cord injuries to recover and rehabilitate. The tournament founder’s son, Capt Robert suffered this injury 23 months ago. It has been devastating.
If you get a chance, please check out our website and read Robert’s story.. http://www.tightenthedragfoundation.org/#!capt-robert-tramontana/c1xl

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Capt. Ray Markham’s West Central Florida Fishing Journal- July 4, 2014

by on Jul.06, 2014, under St. Pete Beaches, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore, Tampa Bay, West Shore and St. Petersburg

Tampa Bay Potpourri is the spice of life

By Ray Markham

Make no mistake about it– it’s hot out there, but the fishing can be just as hot as the temperature if you’re at the right spot at the right time. Variety might be the name of the game, but quality fish are also being caught in lower Tampa Bay right now. The areas we have been fishing include shallow grass flats, sand bars, deep grass, limestone hard bottom, shell bottom, and sand bottom in depths ranging from 2 to 14-feet of water. Anglers aboard my Action Craft flats skiff, Flat Back II, caught snook, spotted seatrout, silver trout, flounder, permit, tarpon, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, gag and red grouper, black seabass, and even a few lesser desirables like hardhead and gaff top sail cats, puffers, pinfish, grunts, jacks, ladyfish, lizardfish, and puffers.

The lures we used throughout the day were mostly subsurface in the numerous locations that we fished, except for the early morning topwater bite. Jigs ruled in deeper open water, using CAL Jigs with Shad tails on ¼-ounce jig heads, and MirrOlure Lil’ John jerk baits on both ¼-ounce and 1/16-ounce jig heads. Anglers caught silver and speckled trout, flounder, bluefish, gag grouper, red grouper, black seabass, and a tarpon as well as a few unmentionables…uh, like catfish, puffers, jacks, ladyfish, and quality lizardfish. Unmentionables? Well, I mention them because they pull hard, and for kids, put smiles on faces. They don’t care, and aren’t fish snobs. These species were all caught in depths ranging from 8-to 14-feet of water. One tarpon was jumped on the MirrOlure Lil’ John and broke off on the light trout rig used.

Tim Kolschowsky, visiting from Illinois, landed trout to 21-inches, bluefish, and a nice permit on a CAL Shad while fishing a long sandy bar in 3-to 5-feet of water adjacent to a grass flat on the Bulkhead. His daughter, Alicia Marie of Sarasota, landed bluefish, snook, mangrove snapper, trout, and jumped a tarpon using CAL Shads and MirrOlure Lil’ Johns in Joe Bay, Terra Ceia Bay and lower Tampa Bay. We caught silver trout, flounder, ladyfish, jacks, and bluefish on DOA Shrimp and MirrOlure MirrOdines in 2-4-feet of water on grass patches in Terra Ceia and Joe Bays, and trout on MirrOlure Top Dogs. Regardles of how mentionable or unmentionable these fish were, there’s no question, Tampa Bay is the Spice of Life…where variety rules!

Capt. Ray Markham specializes in light tackle fishing with artificial lures and charters on lower Tampa Bay out of Terra Ceia. He can be reached at

(941) 723-2655, ray.markham@gmail.com or through his website at www.CaptainRayMarkham.com.

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Old Salt King of the Beach Tournament, May 1-3, 2014

by on Mar.27, 2014, under Bradenton and Sarasota, Old Tampa Bay--Above the Bridges, St. Pete Beaches, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore, Tampa Bay, West Shore and St. Petersburg, The Sunshine Skyway and Beyond to Egmont

Click this PHOTO for info about the Tournament

The Old Salt Fishing Foundation presents the 21st annual King of the Beach (KOTB) Fishing Tournament held May 1st – 2nd – 3rd. Last year we increased the top prize to $20,000 and we have decided to keep it!

The Host…. The City of Madeira Beach will again serve as the host city for the King of the Beach. The city continues to be a strong supporter of the Old Salt Fishing Foundation and it’s tournaments, with more than 10,000 competitors and spectators from all around the bay area, state and beyond attending the three-day event making this the largest King and Spanish Mackerel Tournament on the West Coast.

The Field…. Consisting of more than 400 boats of all powers and sizes that will converge on Madeira Beach to create the most exciting fishing tournament ever! “Anglers tell me all the time that they fish a lot of kingfish tournaments not only is this the most fun to fish but if there’s one to win, it’s hands down the King of the Beach”, says Old Salt VP, Dan Casey. “We’ve designed this tournament to match anglers of all abilities”, says Verdensky. “We’ve leveled the playing field with a modest $195 entry fee and a 30 mile fishing boundary. This makes the K.O.T.B. a tournament that either a seasoned S.K.A. (Southern Kingfish Association) angler OR a novice can win. The ultimate goal of the King of the Beach is to offer a competitive community tournament with the maximum opportunity for payouts at minimal cost to the angler, all while doing it for a deserving cause.”

Three Days of Events….

Thursday night kicks off this three-day festival with a bang. Picture this, a recreation field on the water just minutes from the Gulf. Add live music, a food festival with the best local flavor, all types of marine and art vendors and a boat show. You now have a captains’ party like none other!

Friday night continues the fun with more great activities, food and a FREE concert.

Saturday starts off early afternoon with more food and drinks to try, live music all day, interactive kids zone, a King and Spanish mackerel weigh-in with over $100,000 in cash and prizes. To end the evening and this festival, a new “King” will be crowned.

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2013 MCFF/CCA “Fall Fly Fishing Challenge” Results

by on Oct.29, 2013, under Bradenton and Sarasota, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore, Tampa Bay, West Shore and St. Petersburg

The 9th annual MCFF/CCA “Fall Fly Fishing Challenge” was held on Saturday, Oct. 26th. The tournament, hosted jointly by the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers and the Sarasota chapter of Coastal Conservation Association, benefits the conservation or education programs of both organizations. Anglers could fish any water on the west coast of Florida using flies only in a catch, digital photo, release format fishing tournament for reds, trout, snook and more. All fish were photographed and immediately released. Winners were awarded Orvis Access fly tackle outfits, handsome plaques and gift certificates.  A special thanks to donors to the event, Redfish Landing Guide Service, Orvis, CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, Economy Tackle, Simms, Andy Thornal Company, Cortland fly lines and Logic Lures and to CCA Regional director, Adam Miller, for helping make the event possible. Tournament co-directors were Brent Wilson and Doug Fisher along with committee members Steve Gibson, Rick Grassett, Bob Parker and Doug Forde. Anglers gathered at Harry’s Sports Bar on Friday evening, Oct 25 for the captains meeting and at The Meadows Country Club community room on Saturday afternoon for angler check in. Following the tournament awards, anglers were treated to a homemade BBQ donated and prepared by Capt. John & Leslie Hand.

Open Division-based on total inches (guides, anglers fishing with guides and any other angler wishing to compete)

Slam-largest snook, redfish and trout
Capt. Ray Markham, St. Petersburg, FL               59.5”

Trout
Steve Gibson, Sarasota, FL                                      129.5”

Redfish
Doug Forde, Sarasota, FL                                        24.5”

Snook
Capt. Doug Fisher, Sarasota, FL                             60.25”

Fly Angler Division-based on a point per inch format for redfish, snook, trout and multiple other species (no guides allowed in this division)

1st place-Fred McClendon, Lithia, FL                     351.25  points
2nd place-Justin Hamblet, Sarasota, FL                  317.25 points
3rd place-Manfred Pailer Nokomis, FL                   198.75 points

Open Division-based on total inches (guides, anglers fishing with guides and any other angler wishing to compete)

Slam (largest snook, redfish and trout)
Capt. Ray Markham, Terra Ceia, FL                       59.5”

Trout
Steve Gibson, Sarasota, FL                                     129.5”

Redfish
Doug Forde Sarasota, FL                                         24.5”

Snook
Capt. Doug Fisher Sarasota, FL                             60.25”

Fly Angler Division-based on a point per inch format for redfish, snook, trout and multiple other species (no guides allowed in this division)

1st place-Fred McClendon Lithia, FL                      351.25  points
2nd place-Justin Hamblett, Sarasota, FL                 317.25 points
3rd place-Manfred Pailer Osprey, FL                      198.75 points

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Land’s End Marina, Apollo Beach–Great Access To The Eastern Shore of Tampa Bay

by on Oct.22, 2013, under Tampa Bay, East and South Shore

If you’re looking for an exceptional boating experience, come to Lands End Marina, where service meets the sea. Lands End is west-central Florida’s premier marina for both sport and pleasure boaters. Situated in vibrant Apollo Beach on the scenic South Shore of Tampa Bay, the marina is conveniently located just five minutes off I-75. Lands End Marina is conveniently located to proudly serve boaters, fishermen and friends from many Central Florida communities, including:

  • Tampa
  • Brandon
  • Riverview
  • Gibsonton
  • Lakeland
  • Plant City
  • Temple Terrace
  • Bartow

Wet Slips

Immediate availability on Wet Slips. Call for limited time specials.

Hi & Dry Storage

Call to set up a tour of our Hi & Dry Storage facility.  One call does it all.

Boat Service

Bring your boat in for manufacturer certified service or repair. Bow to Stern, we do it all.

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Capt. Ray Markham’s West Central Florida Fishing Journal- September 18, 2013

by on Sep.18, 2013, under Tampa Bay, East and South Shore

I love this time of year for fishing. Fall fishing can be some of the most explosive fishing of the year from late September through the first several cool snaps that begin dropping water temperatures down into the low 70’s. Recent observed water temperature is around 87-degrees in the Gulf and slightly warmer inside the bays. But as fall settles upon us this weekend, the face of the Suncoast will begin to change.
Shorter days and longer nights will begin the cooling of the air and water temperatures. Cooler water means more dissolved oxygen in the water and fish will be invigorated by it. The extra energy to chase down a lure will be exhibited by fish crashing a top water lure or torpedoing a jig or spoon.
The next few weeks will be prime for the remaining snook that are spawning to begin their move back up rivers, creeks, and into backcountry areas where they will hang for the winter to try and ride out the cold spells. It’s an excellent time to target these fish for catch and release, since most fish caught will be out of the slot of 28-to 33-inches in length. Careful handling of these fish is a must for survival. While they are very hearty and have a low mortality rate for release, care needs to be given to these magnificent fish that will be released. I choose to fish artificial lures and for snook, I love fishing top waters like the big Top Dog from MirrOlure, CAL Jigs with Shad tails, or a DOA Shrimp.
Big fish move into our area over the next couple of months, and lots of them. Snook, trout, redfish, flounder and more, all looking to chow down and fatten up for the winter ahead.
From Sarasota Bay from East around Tidy Island and West to the entrance of Cannon’s Marina and North to Ruskin and along the South Shore of Tampa Bay, schools of redfish and balls of trout will hold in deep potholes and on channel edges on quick dropping negative tides around new and full moons. Throw CAL Jigs and Eppinger Rex Spoons for reds in the holes and channels. Up skinny on early mornings, you can find big trout hanging in the shallows to seek harborage from predators like dolphin. These fish love a finger mullet, and few imposters are better at mimicking these baitfish than the Shallow running DOA Baitbuster and the MirrOlure MirrOmullet XL. Excellent for quiet skinny water fishing, these unassuming presentations will create some surface explosions matched by few others.
I don’t know if it’s the seasonal change in the temperature or just the ‘feel’ in the air, but you can tell it. Every year at this time, I fall in love again with a feeling– it might be the change in ambient light at the close of a day,  the glow of the sunset, or the awakening of a new day with a cool morning’s sun peeking over the Eastern horizon. Whatever it is, it’s a definite change in the air that humbles me, makes me breathe and renews my zest to fall again for fishing.

Capt. Ray Markham runs the Flat Back II out of Terra Ceia, Florida, specializing in fishing with artificial lures using light tackle spin, plug, and fly gear. A Florida native, he can be reached for charter at (941) 228-3474 or via his website at www.CaptainRayMarkham.com.

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CB’s Saltwater Outfitters “Orvis Fly Fishing 101” Clinic, July 13, 2013

by on Jul.08, 2013, under Bradenton and Sarasota, Siesta Key to Boca Grande, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore

CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, 1249 Stickney Pt. Rd., on Siesta Key (Sarasota) will hold an “Orvis Fly Fishing 101” clinic with Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing guides and instructors, Capt. Ed Hurst and Capt. Rick Grassett, on Saturday, July 13th from 9am – 11am.  The free clinic will include fly casting and fly tackle rigging basics. Upon completion of the clinic, students will receive free memberships to International Federation of Fly Fishers and Trout Unlimited (each a $35 value). There will also be special in store offers on Orvis products. Call (941) 349-4400 to reserve your spot.

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Winter or Spring fishing…which is it? By Capt. Ray Markham, 2/25/13

by on Feb.25, 2013, under Tampa Bay, East and South Shore

Judging by the temperature you may never know it’s still winter, and I believe even some fish are befuddled by the ups and downs of the temperature, but for most fish, they have been hungry and chewing, with some brief slow downs when the mercury dropped on a cold front.
Our cold fronts have been fairly regular in that they have arrived on about a weekly basis, but most have been so mild that little change has been noted with the exception of wind direction and velocity. But that’s not to say that those changes don’t affect the fishing. A look at the change in atmospheric pressure would give more credence to the changes in action and make for logical explanation to why fish were on and off at times.
We’ve not had a trip so far that didn’t end up with fish in the box, despite all the changes, mild or not. A typical example would be last week. A strong front blew in on the weekend, dropping water temperatures on the flats of Terra Ceia and surrounding waters over 10-degrees. The changes were expected and I cancelled last weekend’s trips and scheduled my next trip on Wednesday when the winds had a chance to lay down, water to warm up, and the sun to come out and heat up the water.
When Mike Scheid and John George, of Kentucky stepped on the boat Wednesday morning the water temperature was pegged at 67-degrees in Terra Ceia Bay. My first observation was the cool temperature and the second was an overcast sky with fog, which would slow the warm-up for the day. Keeping an eye on the temperature gauge on my Lowrance as the hours went buy we noted a rise to 68 by early after noon with a very slow tide, but as the tide began to fall later in the afternoon, we moved around until we found some water that was over 70-degrees, also located where water movement squeezed down between some mangrove island, increasing movement and creating a nice feeding lane of sorts. There was a definite mud going on in the area from mullet and redfish milling around and rooting out food. I could see it from a half-block away. Shutting my Yamaha down, I slipped my Minn Kota I-Pilot down as we slowly approached the area with ready rods rigged with CAL Jigs with Shad tail. To this point Mike and John had done pretty well, landing snook, trout, redfish, bluefish, and loads of ladyfish, but the best was yet to come. As they began fan-casting the approaching shoreline we began hooking up. At one point, three redfish on at a time, then one came unbuttoned. That last hour was golden and made the trip with over a half-dozen or so reds hooked. It took all day for the water temperature to get ‘right’, but it did. The ‘right’ part is likely to be what’s in store for us when our weather season finally decides to go full-time with the spring thing. When it does, we’ll be ready.

Capt. Ray Markham runs the Flat Back II out of Terra Ceia, specializing in light tackle angling with spin, plug, and fly using artificial lures.

He can be reached through his website at www.CaptainRayMarkham.com, via phone at (941) 228-3474, (941) 723-2655 or via email at ray.markham@gmail.com.

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