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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Fish get the holiday blahs, too! A Tampa Bay Fishing Report By Capt. Ray Markham, 5/28/12

by on May.29, 2012, under Uncategorized

Holiday weeks make for tough fishing sometimes, due to the excess boating traffic. Memorial Day weekend is perhaps the busiest boating weekend of the year. Not all boaters are anglers and jet skis seem to avoid channels at all costs to buzz the flats. I know that’s not always the case, but it seems that way sometimes. Because of that, I try to steer away from the mattering crowd to get to areas less traveled by errant boaters.
Mediocre tides this past week made for slow but steady action that made you feel like you were picking away at fish. Periods of fast action just weren’t happening, and those are days when you need to pay particular attention to details to make things happen.
When currents are running slow, fish tend to find areas where larger bodies of water squeeze down to small openings like passes, mouths of rivers, and creeks. Even mosquito ditches that drain out of the mangroves on outgoing tides will hold baitfish that move up into the mangroves to escape being eaten. But when the tide heads out, these baitfish leave their security blanket to move in the direction of the bay, and this is where predators lay waiting for a quick and easy meal. The areas from Cockroach Bay south to the Manatee River along lower Tampa Bay have hundreds of these mosquito cuts. These are some areas we’ve found good action for snook. Tossing CAL Jigs with Shad tails or curly tails work well here for linesiders.
Redfish have been difficult to target this past week. Schools have scattered in the area and we’ve been limited to mostly single fish foraging for food. With boating pressure, these fish have become very skittish and reluctant to feed. When this occurs, I generally scale down the sizes of my artificial lures to make them less ominous or threatening in appearance to the fish. Sometimes it can be a matter of downsizing soft plastics by trimming a half-inch or more off and going to lighter jig heads that will trigger strikes. Where my DOA CAL 5.5 Jerk baits previously were working well on deeper open flats, dropping down to the small CAL Jerk bait or the MirrOlure Lil’ John with a 1/16th ounce jig head will do the trick.
Not only size, but color can turn fish off. Bright chartreuse or other colors that stand out can sometimes turn fish off. Going to a mottled, dark, or dull color like brown, root beer, motor oil, or golden bream can create a profile that fish look for but reduce the spooking that some fish feel from bright lures.
One of my redfish favorites is the ½ ounce Eppinger Rex Spoon in either gold or copper, but when redfish are skittish, I’ll downsize to the ¼ ounce model and go to a color that is not as flashy, like black. At times I’ll even take some brass or steel wool and lightly scuff the finish to dull it, reducing the flash and taking some of the attention getting alert away from the bait. I don’t feel like it reduces the catch rate either, and during times when these fish are very wary, it can even improve it. Once the fish are back in the feeding mode, on the flashy spoons I’ll take a polishing compound called Flitz and buff it back out to a sparkling flash once again.
During busy on-water days, fishing backcountry areas with plenty of overhanging limbs that produce shade can be productive. These areas produce when fish go shallow. A 1/4-ounce DOA Shrimp is one of my favoites here, and the night glow with holographic gold glitter is one of my go-to colors. But if water temps climb to an uncomfortable level, deep water is the only way to go. Areas off Piney Point, Joe Island, and Rattlesnake Key or Emerson Point have depths with grass patches ranging from 5 to 9-feet and these depths give fish like trout a feeling of security, so they move there. I’ll use lighter jig heads on tandem rigged jigs like the DOA Deadly Tandem or Love’s Lures Tandem for these fish. A MirrOlure 38MR18 has always been one of my deeper water standards here for trout and seabass. A larger TTR26 is also a favorite of mine here for trout.
Black sea bass have taken up some slack during periods where other fish may be slow to bite. They have been running around 13-inches or so and are delicious to eat. A few of these mixed with a redfish, some trout, and some flounder or Spanish mackerel will make up a nice bunch of fish for dinner.
My inshore trips were not targeting tarpon, but in some areas we fished, they were nearby the areas we targeted other species, so I kept a rod ready in the event we had a shot at a cruising poon. Tarpon were very finicky over the past week. Anglers had dozens of shots at these fish, but had limited success catching them while we were targeting black sea bass or trout in deep water. Better tides with next week’s upcoming full moon should make for a big improvement on the action. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham of Backwater Promotions runs the Flat Back II out of Terra Ceia, Florida in lower Tampa Bay and specializes in light tackle charters with artificial lures using spin, plug, and fly tackle and can be reached for charter at (941) 228-3474 or via email at Ray.Markham@gmail.com.

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