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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

West Central Florida Fishing Report, 1/19/18, Capt. Ray Markham

by on Jan.21, 2018, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA


There hasn’t been much going on offshore due to the inclement weather. Even nearshore waters have been fairly rough with the cold front pattern that’s been blowing out so many trips. However, Capt. Dylan Hubbard, out of Hubbard’s Marina (www.hubbardsmarina.com) reports decent action for the conditions near shore for anglers fishing with them. They only got out once this week, on Tuesday, but managed to get a handful of hogfish, grey snapper, lane snapper, porgies and black seabsss. Black seabass are excellent on the table and make an excellent fish sandwich.

Gag grouper are closed, but anglers working well offshore on one of the 39-hour trips out of Hubbard’s managed to catch some nice AJ’s on the special opening that closes January 27 at 12:01 a.m. They have another 39-hour offshore trip scheduled this weekend, and so far it’s a light load, so if you want to get out this weekend, here’s an opportunity to get on the boat where you might not be rubbing elbows with the guy next to you. Recent trips have brought in red grouper, scamp, kingfish, blackfin tunas, mangrove and yellowtail snapper, and triggerfish. However, the brief opening of triggerfish has ended.


The trout bite in most areas has been on fire. But the extreme cold of the past few days will probably slow things up until some warmth heats up the shallows in some of the bays. In the meantime, you’ll likely find some decent action in depths ranging from 4 to 6-feet where dark shallow flats drop off into channels and big potholes. Some exceptional action with suspending baits has been happening for those anglers tossing the 17MR MirrOlure MirrOdine, Unfair Lures Rip n Slash, or Rapala Twitch ‘n Rap. These lures will sit in the strike zone for great lengths of time until a fish decides to eat them. All that’s needed is a slight twitch of the rod to trigger a strike. Your best bet this time of year might be soft plastic CAL curly tail jigs with lightweight jig heads ranging from 1/8 to ¼-ounce or the same jig heads with soft plastic tails like the 3-inch CAL Shad, MirrOlure Marsh Minnow, or the Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad.

Winter cold makes most fish sluggish. But sheepshead are very active. They are preparing to spawn over the next couple of months or so and are feeding to put on weight for the spawn. Find them around most any pilings on docks, bridges, seawalls, and rock piles. A piece of fresh shrimp, clam, or oyster or a live fiddler crab or sand flea all work well. A 2/0 circle hook takes the work out of setting and makes for a higher ratio of hook ups.

Silver trout have made an appearance just off the beaches from Blind Pass to Clearwater along with a few whiting. Live shrimp cast beyond the surf have been taking these fish, but for some of the best action on silvers, get just off the beaches near the Blind Pass Drop and fish about the 14-foot depths there with tandem rigged jigs.

It’s been tough fishing because of the cold temps, but some of the anglers hitting Sarasota Bay are finding some bluefish, ladyfish, and trout. Capt. Rick Grassett is one of them. He’s been using CAL Jigs as well as some of the flies he ties for his fly anglers.

Capt. Dylan Hubbard reported some snook turning belly up that were either dead or stunned Thursday morning from the cold. As a reminder, snook season is closed and even picking up dead snook is prohibited.

Until water temperatures move way back up you’ll have to slow lure presentations down radically to get a bite. Shrunken strike zones mean you’ll have to get your lures closer to the fish without spooking them. So, longer fluorocarbon leaders just as light as you can make them without breaking off will be the name of the game now.


“Green fish”,(largemouth bass), are hunkered down in grass beds hoping to soak up some of the sun’s warming rays. Look for bass in deeper water and fish it slow. Crappie will be schooling in 6-to 10-feet of water on lakes Tarpon and Manatee. Bring some Missouri minnows and drift until you catch them. Chuck out a marker and keep your rods bent! ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655



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