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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Florida Sportsman West Central Florida Fishing 4Cast–Capt. Ray Markham

by on Mar.03, 2016, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Moderate weather has been the norm of late. Even with mild fronts making it down to the Suncoast, it’s not been cold out. Water temps are back on the rise and there is the first push of pelagic fish at hand. Go fishing!

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

For anglers looking to put some meat in the box, Spanish mackerel are beginning to show up on the beaches and near most passes from John’s Pass south. Keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground; because now that we’ve seen some Spanish come over the gunnels you can just about expect kingfish to start to show on offshore wrecks. We have a mild front that should come in some time on Friday bring some wind that will kick up seas and dirty the water, that will put a king in the mackerel action but once it clears and the water cleans up, look for some kings and Spanish to show. If you head out of Tampa Bay and follow the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel all the way out to the Whistler, somewhere along the way you’ll find a good show of bait. That’s where you’ll want to look for kings. Time’s Square is another good location for early arrivals of kingfish.

It’s almost tournament time again and the 25th Annual Suncoast Kingfish Classic is just about a month away. The long-running tournament promises to bring out some of the best kingfish anglers in the southeast. Slated to run April 7 through 9 at John’s Pass Marina, the tournament is a favorite local event that draws some of the top kingfish anglers in the country to vie for the $20,000 first place prize. A discounted early entry fee for those who get in before the April 1 early entry deadline may be incentive enough for those who are already checking their rod guides, changing line, and twisting up some leaders to prepare for kingfish season. If you’re around April 28-30, the Old Salts will be cranking up their mack daddy event, the 2016 Old Salt Spring King of the Beach Tournament where anglers will be fishing for some big jack…no not crevalle, but $50,000 for the top angler in the Madeira Beach event. This big buck tourney has been known to draw big crowds to enjoy the festivities and witness some big kings being weighed in.

If bottom dropping is your bag, anglers working shallow to 50 or 60-foot depths are finding it slow going and have reported some red grouper, catch and release red grouper, and some tasty grunts. To elevate the lowly grunt the Old Salts have come up with the Great American Grunt Hunt slated to run down the road May 12 & 14….details to follow.

INSHORE

Spring is just a few weeks away and lucky us! We will be springing forward with our clocks March 13 so we will have sun setting an hour later after that date. A variety of things have been going on inshore. Snook season reopened on Tuesday with the expected lackluster start. Water temps have been slowly climbing with the recent warm weather but on opening day in the ICW near John’s Pass it was 68.5-degrees. Not really cold but just warm enough to get a few fish to eat in that area. We caught several under slot fish near there.

Redfish action has been good, with good numbers of fish bending rods in the upper Tampa Bay region and in the ICW near Dunedin. Spoil islands and mangrove shorelines in the area are producing reds in the mid-slot on live pinfish and cut baits. Tampa Bay anglers are scoring with the Eppinger Rex Spoon that is about the size of white bait that’s on the flats and around the Sunshine Skyway. Steady action in Terra Ceia with trout and reds has been the norm. A few flounder continue to mix up a day’s fishing there. Bluefish in lower Tampa Bay are keeping anglers on the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers busy as well as the Spanish mackerel. Gotcha Jigs, Diamond Jigs, and Clark Spoons are the top meat getters for mackerel there. Bigger trout are coming from Sarasota Bay waters just inside the passes. Capt. Rick Grassett’s anglers have been tossing an assortment of flies for ladyfish, jack crevalle, trout, and redfish in that area. Grassett’s night trips for snook have been productive with good numbers of fish being caught on fly around dock lights and bridge fenders.

For those who just love to eat fish, there’s none better than a pompano, in my opinion. For anglers targeting them, they are getting several fish per day around the Gandy Bridge, and in the Fort Desoto area near Bunces Pass. Pass-A-Grille can also be a hot spot for pomps at times. The original Doc’s Goofy Jig continues to be the top lure for pompano but anglers fishing live sand fleas and fiddler crabs find fishing productive for them as well.

FRESHWATER

Bass anglers continue to show some big bass being caught from area ponds. Bedding bass around lake perimeters are hitting an assortment of soft plastic lures. Lizard and eel type imitations and just about any of the creature baits that are available are getting the most attention. Crappie fishing continues to be good on Lake Tarpon. With the warmer weather, though, the schooling action could break up. Continue drifting for specks with Missouri minnows or crappie jigs suspended at different levels to find the schools and concentrate on those areas.

News Channel 8 Outdoor Expo & Boat Show this weekend!

Come out and join us at the WFLA News Channel 8 OUTDOOR EXPO & BOAT SHOW at the Florida State Fairgrounds March 4, 5, and 6th for some great family fun. If you want to learn some secrets for catching more fish on artificial baits, I’ll be on stage speaking Friday night at 6:30, Saturday at 5:30, and Sunday at 1 P.M. on a variety of inshore fishing topics using artificial lures. This is where you want to be this weekend if catching more fish is what you want. Some of the top guides in the area will be there to share. Come early and enjoy all the fine speakers and check out what’s new in the fishing game. The biggest names in fishing will be on hand giving seminars and answering questions all weekend long. The list of fishing celebrities includes Capt. C.A. Richardson, Mark Nichols from D.O.A. Lures, Capt. Geoff Page and Capt. Rick Murphy, Capt Scott Moore, Capt. Billy Nobles, Capt. Glenn Taylor and many more. All kinds of boat manufacturers, fishing tackle distributors, and lure manufacturers will be on hand along with many other great outdoor companies to assist you in catching more fish. Reel Animals and Bull Bay Rods Pro Staffer Miss Chasten Whitfield will also be there helping kids learn to throw the cast net and tie knots so bring the whole family out to the News Channel 8 Outdoor Expo & Boat at the Florida State Fair Grounds March 4th, 5th and 6th! Details: http://wfla.com/outdoors-expo-boat-show/
Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

Email: ray.markham@gmail.com

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