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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

West Central Florida Fishing Report, Gulf of Mexico/Tampa Bay–3/2/18 Capt. Ray Markham

by on Mar.01, 2018, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Weather changes are ahead of us for the weekend. The change will include some much cooler and needed temperatures. We just came off one of the warmest Februarys in recorded history. Our weather patterns have been more like late spring weather, but an incoming cold front could put us back on a normal track for this time of year.


Anglers are catching kingfish and Spanish mackerel, typical of springtime weather patterns, but we haven’t hit spring yet! Air temperatures in the upper 80’s and Gulf water temperature in the low 70’s has bait schools moving closer to shore and pelagics close behind. Most kings, however have been caught offshore on wrecks. But if you are looking for these fish, the incoming front will shift winds to the south and then around to the west and northwest after that passage. By the weekend, we will likely see northeast winds.

Thursday’s full moon may make the catching a little tougher, but improved tides will likely shake things up. Strong currents for anglers doing some bottom fishing will demand some heaver sinkers to pin baits down when currents are running at their peak. During the tide changes, currents will slow, making lighter sinkers the way to go. Just keep enough weight on to keep baits where you want them.

Trolling will be your best bet for locating fish on the move, and with this front on the way down, you can bet they’re going to move. Capt. Dylan Hubbard reported some excellent action aboard one of their 10-hour trips this week with 18 keeper kings being landed. The kingfishing for the next several day s will depend on how stirred up things get in the Gulf. Kingfish do not like turbid water and will run offshore to where the water clears. While bottom fishing, anglers out of Hubbard’s Marina caught some nice red grouper, good numbers of mangrove snapper, vermilion snapper, yellowtail, hogfish, and porgies. Some scamp were also in the catch this week along with blackfin tuna. For more information go to www.hubbardsmarina.com.

Triggerfish season reopens March 1 in the Gulf state and federal waters with some changes. The bag limit is decreased to one fish per person, and the minimum size limit is now 15-inches. Before fishing for triggerfish from a recreational vessel now you must sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey at the GoOutdoorsFlorida.com website.


Some excellent fishing with stronger tides associated with the full moon will be on tap for the weekend. All week long fish have been chewing, and plenty of snook were moving out of backwaters on to open flats to meet anglers for opening day of snook season on Thursday, March 1. With water temperatures in some areas hitting over 79-degrees it’s been game on with top water lures for some of the most exciting fishing going. Rapala Skitter V lures, Zara Super Spook Jr. and MirrOlure Top Dogs are getting blasted. I’ve been fishing the new DOA PT-7 and these big fish are taking the entire bait into their mouths. If not for the big single worm hook on the lure, it could just disappear. But this hook also allows for quick, easy release with little harm to the fish.

Redfish have been scattered, but some areas in the north Tampa Bay area and around Weedon Island have steady action with good reports. Spoons like the Eppinger Rex have been slamming reds wherever there are pinfish flashing on the flats. Some of these areas, like those in lower Tampa Bay around Tarpon and Indian Keys, and Weedon Island are no internal combustion engine zones and outboard motors are not permitted to be in the water. You must raise your lower unit out of the water and either drift, pole, or use a trolling motor to enter and traverse these areas. The areas are clearly posted, so there is no excuse when you are stopped and ticketed by the FWC.

Trout fishing has been on a steady rise along with better catches of larger speckled trout. Many anglers are reporting limits of trout but some of the best recorded catches have come from St. Joseph’s Sound and north to Hernando. Jigs and slow sinking or suspending plugs and hard baits have been working very well with several models of MirrOlures and Rapalas leading the way for big fish. Soft plastic lures like the Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad, CAL Shad and DOA Shrimp have been taking the lion’s share of take home fish.

Look for a cool down by the week’s end. The initial change could affect the fishing on a positive note but after a day after the front passes, things could moderate, so as conditions allow, get out and fish!


Bass fishing has been good, but with this incoming front moving south into the area by this weekend, the fishing along with the full moon might be even better. Look for the cooler days with a drop in water temperature to turn bass and crappie back on in area lakes and ponds. Topwater lures will make for the most exciting action. Poppers and sliders for fly anglers using fly rods in the 5 to 8-weight sizes will be a blast. Crappie fishing with jigs or Missouri minnows could be the ticket for an excellent home fish fry for the weekend.’ Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655



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