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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

West Central Florida Fishing Report, 1/26/18, Capt. Ray Markham

by on Jan.26, 2018, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Changes for cobia are coming next week. Beginning February 1, 2018 the recreational and commercial bag limits for cobia in Gulf state waters will be the same, reducing the commercial limit from two to one fish per person and reducing the recreational and commercial vessel limit in Gulf state waters from six to two cobia per vessel, per day. The minimum 33-inch size limit is unchanged.

Breezy weather for the weekend will challenge some boaters along with greater changes for rain on Sunday. Check the weather before you go and if you do go, leave a float plan with someone.


Breezy weather continues through much of the weekend as it has for much of the past couple of weeks. A low pressure area in the Gulf may move up the Florida coast bringing wind and rain for Sunday. But the past week has allowed a day or two for anglers to get on the water. Cold conditions, however, have dripped water temps to levels that slow the bite wherever you are. Under these situations, fresh cut bait seems to produce best, since fish don’t have to chase a bait down to eat it.

Nearshore options have been limited due to cooler water temps, but Capt. Dylan Hubbard reports a fairly decent hogfish bite. A few lane snapper have been caught, but the best action has been on the all day trip with fair action on the half days.

Hubbard’s 12-hour Extreme trips offshore have crushed the amberjacks; however, the weather hasn’t allowed many trips. Some big red grouper have been caught in 150-to 200-feet of water. Some nice scamp grouper are being pulled in as well. Last weekend’s 39-hour trip was killer. The loaded the boat with AJ’s including on tipping the scales at just over 100-pounds, caught by Roger Poulin. The boat landed with porgies, red and scamp grouper, mangrove, vermilion, yellowtail, mutton, and dog snappers along with tuna. The next 44-hour trip is slated for February 2. For info on hopping aboard, go to www.hubbardsmarina.com.


Cold water temperatures have made for a tough bite. But still, persistence pays off when trying to put a few fish in the boat. Flounder fishing has been tough. Most fish have been small and barely legal, but if you concentrate on working lures on the bottom you’ll find them. Look near passes where there is moving water. Tides should pick up by next Tuesday’s full moon. With north winds, expect some exceptionally low tides. This will be a prime time to do some exploring and find those potholes on the flats that will hold trout and possibly redfish. Bring a camera to document bottom irregularities like oyster bars, debris, rocks, and rubble for future reference.

Some larger trout are moving in and out of the bays in waves. Reports say the last of the outgoing tide has been the most productive. Jerk baits like the CAL 5.5 and the Zoom Superfluke in pearl or glow colors are working best for the big gators. MirrOlure’s new 37MR49 MirrOdines, the largest model, have been taking some monster trout.

Big trout are being caught up in Clearwater and Dunedin near the passes and on the south sides of the spoil islands near Honeymoon and Caladesi Islands. CAL Deadly Tandem Jigs are working well along with MirrOlure TTRCH twitch baits for the larger fish. An assortment of suspending models of Unfair Lures is doing a good job.

Sheepshead fishing has been good. This is the normal time of year for this species to crank up and get chewing. They will be spawning next month and into March. The tail end of the outgoing to slack tide is best for these fish. Knocker rigs with just enough weight to hold baits down are productive. Fiddler crabs, shrimp, and sand fleas are top baits, but barnacles, clams and brined oysters also work well. Some anglers find small circle hooks effective. A 2/0 size seems to work well.

Some reds are showing up again for anglers fishing the Fort Desoto area. Wade fishing around the maintenance shack has been productive for redfish, trout, flounder, and sheepshead using live shrimp under popping corks. Weedon Island and Master’s Bayou off Gandy Bridge are holding some nice reds. Anglers fishing live shrimp or whitebait, when you can get it, are doing well in these areas.

Most anglers have held off targeting snook due to the cold water conditions, since these fish don’t fare well in the cold. But several reports say some monster snook are holding up in Riviera Bay in the deep holes and around Big Island in the upper Tampa Bay.

Last weekend’s Old Salt Johnny Kellar Tournament showed that Tampa Bay still holds some monster black drum. Several near the 40-pound class were hoisted on the scales. Look for the bay bridges to hold these fish, primarily the Gandy and Howard Franklin.


Its’ time to dust off your flipping sticks and hit the freshwater lakes for some spawning bass. Big bass will be found in the shallows fanning beds on warmer sunny days. Creature baits like salamanders, eels, and snakes that are a menace to bedding bass will be great lures to toss at these fish. Males that will be protecting the beds will attack these baits whether they are hungry or not, just to protect their territory. Bad weather tends to move fish off the beds, but with next Tuesday’s full moon approaching, look for some good action on the beds after the front passes that will approach us on Sunday. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655



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