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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

West Central Florida Fishing4Cast, January 5-7 2018, Capt. Ray Markham

by on Jan.05, 2018, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA


Kicking off the New Year, frigid weather will make for some tough fishing conditions this coming weekend. A real concern is for the welfare of snook. Many areas have seen low 50’s water temperatures and they are sure to drop even more, putting snook at risk of freezing to death. Under these conditions, it’s best to leave these fish alone until waters warm back up. A bitter flashback of the freeze of 2010 and the snook kill is on the minds of a lot of folks. Fish stunned by the cold may not be dead. Leave these fish alone. A reminder for all that snook season is CLOSED and taking of any snook, dead or alive, is prohibited and is considered poaching. Report violations to FWC’s Wildlife Alert Program at 1-888-404-FWC. To report a fish kill, call 1-800-636-0511.


Weather conditions for the weekend don’t look good. Seas may begin to settle, but based on the reports at mid-week, time spent on the water will be uncomfortable at best this weekend. I would suspect a big temperature drop in the shallows out to 60-feet or so, will likely move gags back out deeper and slow the remaining species. But since gag grouper closed the last day of December, it may not matter to folks anyway. Some decent size red grouper should be available beyond 80-feet. Some fresh cut bait will be your best bet for these fish. A combo of cut sardine and cut squid puts out some scent that attracts fish. Triggerfish can get in on the feast if you’re out there. A brief season opened January 1 and only runs through January 15th, but it may give you an opportunity or two to target these tasty fish.

Greater amberjacks have reopened for a brief time through January 26th. For those who don’t have the boat to get out where these fish are, the 12-hour Extreme Trips, running Wednesdays and Sundays for the month of January out of Hubbard’s Marina, are experts at producing these hard fighting reef donkeys. Go to www.hubbardsmarina.com for information on hopping aboard.


Prospects for inshore fishing this weekend are not good and conditions will be very difficult at best with water temperatures plummeting over the week. Cold that moved into the Suncoast are putting a major damper on the bite. Don’t waste your time getting out at the crack of dawn. Fish metabolisms will be shut down until the water begins to warm, but when you do get out, fish live or artificial shrimp, like those from DOA Lures. Work all baits very slowly. Bucktails or jigs with soft plastic curly tails have a lot of action even when sitting on the bottom if there is just a little bit of current. Rigged on a light jig head an eighth ounce or lighter in tandem will allow these lures to fall slowly and trigger strikes from lethargic fish. Smaller baits will likely be more effective. One of the top producing lures much of the year is the MirrOlure MirrOdine. The line of lures has expanded to include a mini version of the lure as well as the “Heavy Dine”, a smaller profile that sinks deeper than the original to get down to the bottom third of the water column where most fish will likely be. Slow, in-your-face presentations will be the best way to entice fish to eat, even if not hungry, but the key to catching fish now is to keep the lure in the very small strike zone as long as possible.

Sheepshead are possibly the most cooperative fish during foul cold weather. Sheepies have been moving into bays and along beaches on artificial reefs lately. A hard blow toward week’s end will stir up nearshore waters, possibly making it unfishable, but area docks, bridges, piers and seawalls are prime spots for sheepshead fishing from now through March. These fish are getting fatter as they prepare to spawn. The average sheepshead will be in the 1- to 3-pound range, but you can expect to find some around 5 to 7-pounds inside the bays now. Smaller baits like a piece of fresh shrimp, clam, oyster, blanched sand flea, barnacle, or fiddler crab are all excellent baits, especially when rigged on small #2 circle hooks. The key to using these hooks is to avoid a hard hook set. Just reel when you feel the fish taking the bait. Use only enough weight to get the bait down and keep it in place. Areas with current may be best fished on or around the slack tide.

Winter trout like this pair held by Lynn Manzella of Apollo Beach, can be caught on the Deadly Tandem, a tandem rigged curly tail combo from DOA Lures.

Strong north winds blowing water out of the bays create pools of deep water where there are potholes and channels. If you have access to some of these deep water spots, you’ll likely find a wad of fish Trout have been moving in on the flats in bigger numbers lately. This is normal for the winter months. They are fairly hearty and can stand cold weather better than many species. Anglers aboard my boat have been catching some nice trout and some flounder as well. Like most all other species, a slow presentation on the bottom has been most productive.


This cold snap will slow things down on freshwater as well as salt, but bedding bass may move off and on the beds with weather changes. Crappie fishing is taking off. As we get more consistent cool weather patterns, these fish will form larger and larger schools, making them easier to target. Lake Tarpon has always produced good catches of crappie, a.k.a. speckled perch. Walsingham Reservoir is also a good location for specks. Missouri minnows are possibly the top natural bait for these fish. An assortment of soft plastic jigs is deadly on them as well. Bass Assassin makes a huge variety of small crappie tails. Another popular lure for specks are Hal Flies.

CB’s Saltwater Outfitters Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing School-Jan 20, 2018

CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, 1249 Stickney Point Rd, Sarasota, FL will have an Orvis-Endorsed fly fishing school on Sat, Jan 20, 2018. Located on Siesta Key, named Best Beach in America, the school will cover fly casting basics, line control, shooting line and the roll cast. Instructors, Capt. Rick Grassett and Capt. Ed Hurst, will also cover leader construction, fly selection and saltwater fly fishing techniques. The course, designed for beginning and intermediate fly casters, will focus on basics but also work with intermediate casters on correcting faults and improving casting skills. Cost for the school, which will run from 8:30 AM to 2 PM, is $175 per person and includes the use of Orvis fly tackle and lunch. Contact CB’s Saltwater Outfitters at (941) 349-4400 or info@cbsoutfitters.com to make reservations.
It may be a good time to catch up on your fishing shows on the DVR or rig some tackle, clean your reels, or possibly even get out and go hunting. Whatever you do, be safe and have a very happy and productive New Year. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655



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