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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Archive for November, 2015

Red tide posing problems in portions of Tampa Bay and south By Ray Markham

by on Nov.27, 2015, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

As much as I hate to report this, red tide has again reared its ugly head, stretching from Charlotte Harbor to north Manatee County and parts of the south Pinellas beaches. For charter captains in Charlotte, Sarasota, and parts of Manatee County this has been a real problem keeping bait alive for the live baiters. But on the positive side, bait dying in the livewell is like the proverbial canary in the coal mines. Dying bait instantly tells you to move. But for anglers like myself who fish strictly with artificial lures we have to look for other signs that the toxic bloom is around.

Fish move when the first signs of red tide show up. But not all fish move in the right direction. Some head into back bays and get trapped by the bloom and die. Others remain in schools and die. My first indication is the obvious—dead fish. But when I’m seeing fish but finding that I detect eye or breathing irritation, I move. While fish may be there, the bloom seems to turn the bite off for fish that are present. The old adage of never leave fish to find fish doesn’t apply here. While even healthy fish don’t always bite, if I find irritation and presence of fish I move to find fish without sensing the irritation.

On recent trips down around the Bulkhead and the mouth of the Manatee River we’ve been on schools of redfish, trout, snook, and have caught good numbers of flounder. Mullet schools were jumping everywhere. But on a day following one of those good trips, the area looked like a deserted wasteland. It wasn’t until I moved well up into Tampa Bay that we found more feeding fish. Joe Bay, Bishop’s Harbor, and the South Shore areas seemed to be unaffected and we continued catching fish there with no signs of the red tide there.

I had similar results in areas while fishing off South Pinellas around Fort Desoto. Schooling redfish around Conception Key were there one day and gone the next, and irritation of my eyes was my indicator that the algae bloom may be present. Moving north, the John’s Pass area was in good shape, and fishing that area produced good numbers of redfish, trout, snook, and flounder. Poking my head outside the pass, we caught bluefish and Spanish mackerel.

Noting the signs of a red tide problem may keep you from wasting your time in affected areas that are marginal for killing fish, yet still support life. Fish caught in areas of red tide are ok for consumption as long as they appear to be healthy otherwise. Updated information on red tide can be found at http://myfwc.com/REDTIDESTATUS. To report a fish kill, call 1-800-300-9399.

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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