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West Central Florida Gulf Fishing Report, Capt. Ray Markham, 3/23/18

by on Mar.22, 2018, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

The official first day of spring was this week, and for much of the Suncoast it was under stormy skies with threats of tornadoes. Tuesday, the day before, had a foggy start that cleared out early in the afternoon, giving way to sunny warming skies that turned on a good bite for the last day of winter. It’s predicted to be clear but just a bit cool on the water so you can look for some fishy action to heat up your weekend.

OFFSHORE/NEARSHORE

Action in offshore and nearshore waters can be dependent on several things, and two factors stand out this time of year. Cold fronts that bring high winds stir up water and create turbid conditions that make it more difficult for baitfish and predators to breathe. Gills that draw oxygen out of the water have issues in turbid conditions. Recent weeks with fronts passing about every 6 days or so, have created those conditions, forcing many species to seek greater depths where cleaner water exists. Pelagic species like Spanish and king mackerel follow bait schools and the bait will move deep on offshore wrecks. Blackfin tunas continue to be caught on Hubbard’s Marina’s 39-hour deep water trips along with a variety of snappers and groupers. Captain Dylan Hubbard, of Hubbard’s Marina noted a slower bite for most species they targeted on the shorter trips that fish nearshore.

Cold fronts can also drop water temperatures in the shallower nearshore waters. Fish that remain in these depths experience a noticeable slowing of metabolism, making for diminished appetites. During periods of prolonged cold, fish that are in these depths will move deeper where temperatures are more moderate and will also see an increase in metabolism, making them look for food again.

At mid-week this week, wind predictions with a northerly direction will blow up to 20-knots but will come down by the weekend. Cooler nights in the 40’s are predicted through Friday with a slow warming trend by Sunday. As we get toward that time frame you can expect better conditions for both nearshore and offshore fishing.

INSHORE

Fishing has been tough inshore with recent fronts dropping water temps into the mid- 60’s. Fog, at times, has created navigation issues for inshore anglers and cool, windy, foggy mornings have been uncomfortable on the water. Many anglers are reporting a very slow bite for redfish, and in some areas guides report seeing fish that just plain won’t eat. Capt. Rick Grassett, out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key reports this scenario from Sarasota to Boca Grande. Capt. Grassett said that they are on fish that just don’t eat. I’ve seen the same thing while fishing areas of the South Shore of Tampa Bay all the way down to Anna Maria Sound. While red tide down south may contribute to this, I’ve also seen it while fishing lower Tampa Bay on the South Shore and Fort DeSoto area where no red tide is being reported. Snook fishing, on the other hand, has been quite good. Capt. Grassett has been running night snook trips with fly anglers and having good success with some of his glass minnow patterns. Trout fishing for his anglers has also been fair in the deeper grass areas of Sarasota Bay.

Anglers aboard my boat are having good action, mostly past the noon hour when temperatures approach the afternoon peak. Snook and trout seem to turn on when water temperatures approach the 70-degree mark. I’m having good success with CAL Jigs with Shad tails and on topwater MirrOlure Top Dogs with trout up to 28-inches. These bigger fish have been tough to come by in many areas, and quite a few guides are reporting mostly small fish under the minimum 15-inch limit. I’ve also been racking up some respectable numbers of trout on some of the Tidal Surge lures as well as many of the Paul Brown lures.

Anglers fishing Pasco and Hernando waters, where there is less fishing pressure, note good action for trout with DOA Deadly Combos with the DOA Shrimp under the float in areas ranging from 3-to 5-foot depths. Areas with sparse grass and sand bottom or with potholes are seeing the best action with larger trout. But the largest trout seem to be holding in the shallows where sun heats the water. The best of these spots are sheltered from wind too. These conditions promote warmer clean water that isn’t turned over and stirred up or cooled by the wind.

In the John’s Pass area, Capt. Dylan Hubbard reported some of the anglers fishing behind the marina catching good numbers of nice sheepshead, black drum, and some big flounder around the jetties and behind their docks. Live shrimp have been the most available bait. When we get some consistent sunny days you can expect to see some fiddler crabs back in the bait shops.

FRESHWATER

Cold windy days have made it tough on anglers doing some bass fishing. But for those who tough it out, some nice fish are being caught. Rattling crank baits like the Rat-‘L-Traps or square bill crank baits are go-to lures for many anglers in the spring when bass are active around structure or hydrilla, but on warmer sunny mornings, look for bass to move up on the shorelines around lily pads and grassy areas. If water temperature nudge up around the 80-degree mark many of the soft plastic frog patterns will produce well here, and big bass hammer these baits in the spring. After fronts many times jerk baits or stick baits like several of the Strike King suspending KVD or Rapala jerkbaits excel. Working these lures with an erratic sharp twitch can trigger strikes in post-frontal conditions.

Eric Bachnik, owner of L & S Bait Company that includes the lines of MirrOlure, Paul Brown Lures, Iland Lures, and Tidal Surge lures, fishes the Bay Area Bassmaster’s series with his daughter, Shelby, who’s a very accomplished angler as well. Shelby says one of her top producing lures right now is the Phenix Pro Series spinnerbait in a 3/8-ounce blue shad with a matching grub added. Her recent observations may indicate that bass have spawned and are in a post-spawn pattern. Some of the areas Eric and Shelby fish are holding shad by hydrilla beds. Here, she may throw the spinnerbait, a square-bill crank bait or even a ½-ounce chrome/blue back Rat-‘L- Trap, while her dad prefers the MirrOlure Lil’ John XL rigged Texas style on an Owner worm hook.

There are many schools of thought on lure choices and there are dozens of effective lures, depending on the given situation. Give some of these lures a shot and see if they don’t produce for you. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

Ray.markham@gmail.com

www.CaptainRayMarkham.com

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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.

OFFSHORE

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.

INSHORE

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!

FRESHWATER

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

Ray.markham@gmail.com

www.captainraymarkham.com

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West Central Florida Fishing Forecast, Capt. Ray Markham, 1/9/18

by on Feb.07, 2018, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Finally, a stable weather pattern with warmer days and lighter winds has been around this week, setting up the weekend for some great fishing opportunities.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

While I didn’t get many fishing reports from last week, I’d say that a lot of anglers were still waiting it out for the winds and seas to settle. This week has been another story with the weather but still very few reports and with the good weather this week I’d say folks are too busy fishing to send reports, but that’s a good thing! Just a reminder, that anglers are always welcome to send their fishing reports to me along with photos identifying anglers in the photos and any details of your catch.

Water temperatures in the Gulf remain quite cold in the low 60’s in depths out to about 15-miles but that hasn’t stopped Spanish mackerel from making a run at the beaches and inshore waters. Good action has been seen from Sarasota to Pinellas on nearshore waters this week and with a continuation of the warm weather pattern through the weekend, I would expect to see an even greater improvement. The predominant baitfish along the beaches has been glass minnows that the mackerel have been feeding on. Anglers looking to catch mackerel can troll #0 or #00 Clark Spoon Squids on flat lines and #1 or #2 planers to cover depths that these fish have been running in along the beaches. This will cover top to bottom from about 20-to 25-foot depths. For live baiters, anchoring up and deploying some glass minnow chum blocks like those manufactured by Aylesworth’s Fish and Bait under the Baitmaster’s Village Pride label, these chum blocks will draw mackerel to the boat and keep them around. Live shrimp or scaled sardines on long-shank hooks may be good bets rigged with 6-foot 30-to 40-pound fluorocarbon leaders on a light to medium spinning outfit spooled with a couple hundred yards of 10-pound braid or 15-pound mono. If a swivel is used, make sure it’s coffee colored or black and the smallest ball bearing swivel you can get. Sampo and Sea Striker Billfisher brands are some good ones that come to mind. Watch your bottom machine and look for hard bottom. This is where you’re likely to find the most action. But if you don’t have a bottom machine, look for stone crab floats in the Gulf and nearshore waters. These are usually found over rocky or hard bottom areas.

Hogfish continue to be in the catch for guys working depths from 30-to 80-feet. This fish that was once rarely targeted by anglers and considered top table fare by all was mainly targeted by spearfishers and a few anglers in the know. But with the advent of the internet and seminars at just about every fishing venue, this fishery has opened up and an increase in pressure has been noted by both anglers and rule-makers alike. Continued pressure and social media presence will likely result in more attention to and perhaps restrictions for hogfish. The species has been under observation by fish management for the past several years and extensive studies have already resulted in some changes. Currently the Atlantic state and federal waters have a regularly scheduled season closure effective through April 30, 2018, including all state waters south of Cape Sable in the Gulf, around the tip of Florida, and up the Atlantic coast. In West Central waters of the Gulf we currently have a 5-fish bag limit with a minimum size of 14” measured to the fork. Non-stainless circle hooks that are not offset are required when fishing for hogfish in Gulf state waters. Hogfish populations in our area able appear to be stable.

If you’re getting out to at least 100-feet of water, red grouper may be on your hit list. Some fairly good catches of red grouper are being caught west of the Sarasota/ Manatee County shores starting at that depth. The party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina continue to report good catches of red grouper along with an assortment of mangrove, lane, vermilion and a few other snappers.

INSHORE

Water temps inshore make a huge difference in the bite. Sometimes the temperature changes with the tide, and since the Gulf waters are cooler than the bays and inshore waters, the bite can be affected not only by the hours of sunlight but also the direction of the tide, whether it’s incoming or outgoing. Watching your temperature gauge on your boat is the best idea. If you don’t have one, an inexpensive pool thermometer hung over the side will give you an idea. This week, I’ve noted temperatures swinging from 71-degrees down to as low as 63-degrees in Tampa Bay waters and the surrounding backcountry areas. The warmer areas not only produce more fish but can even make for a topwater bite from trout, bluefish, ladyfish, and snook.

The South Shore of Tampa Bay from Apollo Beach to the Manatee River has been productive for anglers doing some trout fishing. Redfish have also been caught. Small schools of reds have been noted but many of these fish have been very spooky in the shallow clear water on sand where these fish have been holding. Long casts with fluorocarbon leaders are important for consistent catches and to avoid spooking the fish. Capt. Rick Grassett of Sarasota reported good action with trout, redfish, Spanish mackerel and bluefish over the past week for his fly and spin anglers fishing Sarasota Bay, nearshore Gulf waters and the lower Tampa Bay area. Contact Rick for more details via his website www.snookfin-Addict.com or through CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key.

Anglers aboard my boat, the Flat Back II have seen some good action with trout over the past couple of weeks. We managed some nice redfish on CAL Jigs with Shad tails and a few flounder along with limits of trout on MirrOlure Marsh Minnows, TTR MirrOlure hard baits, and CAL Shads. Bluefish continue to cut off our catches of trout. Jacks and ladyfish also provide more rod-bending action. With rising water temps in some of the backcountry areas we’re even seeing some action on topwater prop baits like the 5M and 21LS MirrOlures with both snook and trout.

The most consistent depth for trout action has been 3-to 4-feet. Bottomed out tides in the holes are holding these fish. Reds have been shallow and holding on yellow or white sandy areas. CAL Jigs with shad tails and MirrOlure Lil’ John’s have been productive.

FRESHWATER

The warmer weather this past week has really triggered the bass spawn in the West Central area. Anglers fishing Lake Tarpon, Lake Manatee, Lake Seminole and the Walsingham Reservoir have all reported catches of bass around the perimeters of the lakes. The top producing lures have been “creature-style” baits. Lizards, snake imitations, and similar lures are producing well now. Bass hanging just off the beds where depths drop are responding well to rattling crank baits like the Rat ‘L Trap in silver with a blue back and the Rapala Shadow Rap. Assorted soft plastics in the June bug color are working well for anglers flipping around the bushes and in heavy cover. It’s a great time to be on the water. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

Ray.markham@gmail.com

www.CaptainRayMarkham.com

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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.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

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.

INSHORE

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.

FRESHWATER

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

Ray.markham@gmail.com

www.CaptainRayMarkham.com

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

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

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

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.

INSHORE

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.

FRESHWATER

“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

Ray.markham@gmail.com

www.CaptainRayMarkham.com

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

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

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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.

OFFSHORE

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.

INSHORE

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.

FRESHWATER

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

Ray.markham@gmail.com

www.CaptainRayMarkham.com

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Capt. Ray Markham’s Florida Sportsman Fishing4Cast- West Central- December 22-24, 2017

by on Dec.22, 2017, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

A string of beautiful weather days should allow holiday anglers to get on the water if desired. However, with the first day of winter arriving on this Thursday, the 21st, don’t expect to see anything that feels like winter. Go with what you know according to the water temperature.

OFFSHORE

As we approach the gag grouper closure at the end of the month, anglers are finding these fish in as shallow as 10-feet of water from inside Tampa Bay all along the beaches. A good rule of thumb is to find some hard bottom or structure where you may find stone crab traps. You may do double duty here as tripletails are also being taken on the crab trap floats and lines that mark the traps. Live pinfish with a trimmed tail to slow the baitfish down have been top baits for gags. DOA Shrimp or the live version rigged on a light jig head or under a popping cork with a 2-foot leader will take these tasty fish. While gags are found shallow this time of year, you’ll also find them well out into the Gulf.

Kingfish have slowed with the water temperature drop in the Gulf. The temperature has dropped into the lower 60’s but with this warm weather, it could bring surface temps back up to bring in some Spanish or king mackerel again. Bait schools scattered on the last cold front, but could re-group again by the weekend.

Although the bite has slowed, anglers continue to find some hogfish despite the temperature drop. Anglers say downsizing tackle is the secret. Using small-to-medium size live shrimp on 15-pound class tackle with a long fluorocarbon leader will get it done, but patience is the key. Hogs are somewhat shy and wait to chew as all the other reef fish feed. Be prepared to lose a lot of bait, as everything eats a live shrimp.

INSHORE

The recent warming trend has snook stalled that were moving into the backcountry. Look for them on points and over dark bottom adjacent to channels. Water temperatures back on the rise approaching the 70’s will make topwater lures effective again, but jigs will out-pace them. The 3-inch CAL Shad has been my top producer for catch and release snookin’.

Redfish have been tough lately, but doable. Smaller jerk baits have been deadly. The MirrOlure Lil’ John rigged on a light jig head has been a top producer of reds laid up on shallow backwater flats and in potholes on sandy bottoms. Where I’m still finding pinfish, both the Eppinger Rex Spoon and MirrOlure MirrOdine 37MR49 have been hit. The new MirrOdine is the largest model they make, and I’m replacing the hooks with slightly smaller and lighter hooks to make the lure buoyant so I can work it in 6-inches of water. If pinfish or sardines are present, USE THIS LURE! You won’t be sorry.

Trout fishing has taken a big swing upward. Look for these fish in potholes on the low tides. Coming off this past Monday’s new moon have produced some exceptionally low tides, pushing these fish into the holes and channels.

Flounder are making an appearance again around passes and on sand bottom where it meets shell, grass, rock, or a change in depth. Jigs worked slowly on the bottom are hard to beat.

Pompano have disappeared, but a brief showing near Bunces Pass might reveal that more fish remain in the area. Doc’s Goofy Jigs have been a go-to bait here in yellow with a pink teaser.

FRESHWATER

Bass fishing has been taking off. Anglers fishing spinnerbaits at Lakes Tarpon and Seminole report good action with white or white and chartreuse colors. Crappie fishing should improve as the weather cools again. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

FWC APP

The new FWC Fish/Hunt FL app for your phone is an amazing resource. Download it and you’ll have all the up to date information on rules, regulations, and some very good information on how, when, and where to hunt and fish.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

Ray.markham@gmail.com

www.CaptainRayMarkham.com

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Florida Sportsman Online West Central Fishing4Cast, 12/8/17, from Capt. Ray Markham

by on Dec.08, 2017, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Finally, the weekend ahead will see some cooler temperatures. These temperatures will be quite a bit cooler than the near record highs we’ve been seeing recently. Look for falling water temperature to slow down metabolisms of fish, making the necessity of slowing your presentations with artificial lures and smaller baits, both natural and artificial, more important.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

The clock is ticking down on the closure of gag grouper at the end of the month. Now’s the time to get out and take advantage of the nearshore action with some big rod benders. Anglers are reporting taking the minimum 24-inch and larger gags in as shallow as 15-feet of water. Gags can be caught in lower Tampa Bay exiting the bay in the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel on the sloping rocky channel. Trolling has been a deadly effective method for these fish. An assortment of big jigs with soft plastic curly tails and plugs like some of those from MirrOlure, Rapala, Mann’s are the norm. Lures that have small lips are best trolled behind planers or on downriggers. Controlled depth fishing with downriggers is the most effective method. Vance Tice of St. Petersburg has these methods down to a science. While he ventures out into the Gulf for some big gags, his forte is Tampa Bay trolling. For information on these trolling techniques, Tice may be reached at (813) 787-8712.

Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass in Madeira Beach reported his Extreme 12-hour trips landing gag grouper approaching 40-pounds! These monster gags have been caught on the 39-hour trips, but with gags moving shallower, the 12-hour Extreme trip has been exceptionally productive for bottom fishers. The gag action has been so hot, that Hubbard’s has added two more 39-hour trips, on December 15 and December 19. Hubbard commented, “The gag bite has been off the charts to say the least the Dec 1st 39 hour had nearly 60 fat keeper gags along with scamp, red grouper, mangroves, yellow tail and more! Tuna are being caught on the trollers and flat lines too.” If you want to get in on the action, book your trip now with Hubbard’s at www.hubbardsmarina.com.

Nearshore action with tripletail has been very good. Most any kind of floating object, piling, channel marker, or stone crab trap float can hold these fish. Approach the structure quietly with a light to medium power rod with a live shrimp, jig, or artificial shrimp, like those from DOA Lures, rigged on a popping cork and about two feet of leader and cast to it. If there is a fish there, and you don’t see it, it will generally rise to the occasion.

INSHORE

Water temperatures that have been in the low 70’s for several weeks will see a dip in the mercury this weekend as a cold front moves south through the Suncoast. Adjust your retrieve, slowing it down. Work the lower third of the water column for the majority of the species you target. Snook season closed last week, but catch and release action will continue as these fish move into the backcountry, into residential canals, and up rivers and creeks. Look for slow moving baits like the DOA Shrimp to get some top action from these fish.

Coming off last Sunday’s big moon, tides have been lower than the norm, but with northerly winds expected for part of the weekend, you will continue to see some low water and can also expect fish to move into the potholes that this low water creates. Trout fishing will be like shooting fish in the barrel. Jigs, like the CAL Shad and MirrOlure Marsh Minnow will take flounder, trout, redfish, snook, bluefish, and many others. Just work them slowly. Curly tail jigs provide more action than most any other with just a little bit of current. Light jig heads that fall slowly will trigger strikes from lethargic fish.

Good numbers of bluefish have been chomping at trout in lower Tampa Bay. These vicious fish can chomp a keeper trout right up to the gills in one bite. Be prepared to lose some jigs when you get on the water and bring plenty of replacement tails.

Redfish action seems to have slowed lately. With lower than average low tides, look in channels where a flat dumps water off areas with oyster bars to find a few reds.

Sheepshead continue to show themselves in greater numbers as they prepare for the late winter spawn in February and March. Most area seawalls, docks and anywhere where barnacles grow and crabs gather will hold sheepshead. Rock piles along the coast and in Tampa Bay, and the Gandy and Howard Franklin Bridges are known big sheepshead attractors. Live fiddler crabs, oysters, blanched sand fleas, clams, and most any mollusks make good bait for these fish.

FRESHWATER

Capt. Angie Douthit, guiding on Lake Okeechobee, reports the water level is still higher than normal, but some great action from spawning bass and crappie has been taking place. A variety of lures is working for both, but bass have been hitting slow rolled spinnerbaits and topwater lures worked very slowly. Some of Capt. Douthit’s anglers have been catching some monster tropy bass.

Crappies are hitting minnows slow trolled around edges of grass beds. The action will increase as cold fronts move south. To book your exciting and productive day of fishing for bass and crappie call 863-228- 7263. Be sure to check out Capt. Douthit’s website for all the latest client photos, fishing reports, accommodations, what to bring, etc. at www.southfloridabassfishing.com. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

Ray.markham@gmail.com

www.CaptainRayMarkham.com

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Florida West Central Fishing 4Cast, Floridasportsman.com, 11/9/17 by Capt. Ray Markham

by on Nov.11, 2017, under Bradenton and Sarasota, St. Pete Beaches, TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore, Tampa Bay, West Shore and St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs

Coming off last weekend’s full moon, anglers posted a variety of reports ranging from brisk action on Spanish mackerel, kingfish, and gag grouper to trout, pompano, and snook. The action this weekend may be a little threatened by an incoming cold front that may kick up seas and blow beginning Friday. Pay close attention to the weather and make sure all your safety gear is in order if you decide to head out.

Tom Tait with a nice pompano, caught on a CAL Jig with a grub tail while fishing with Capt. Ray Markham aboard the Flat Back II.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Gag grouper are where you find them right now. Water temperatures in the Gulf are beginning to cool and gags are slowly moving toward shore. Long runs to 125-foot depths are still producing some big gags for anglers, but just inside Tampa Bay, the Ship’s Channel is producing some nice fish for both trolling and bait-soaking anglers. To the north, Hernando anglers are finding gag grouper on shallow rock bottoms in depths ranging from 8 to 15-feet of water. These shallows allow for some topwater lure action. Larger crank baits like the Bomber Long A and or the slow sinking MirrOlure 77M twitchbait are excellent at this depth range. For anglers trolling depths from 25-to 40-feet, the Mann’s Stretch series in the model made for the depth fished are very good as is the MirrOlure 111MR 25+ and 113MR lures in orange with gold sides can troll up some nice gag and red grouper.

Mike Mahoney, of T. A. Mahoney Co., Inc. in Tampa trolled up some nice gag grouper in 35-to 45-feet of water in the bay this week. Mahoney was trolling inside the bay using a #3 planer with bright colored lures his green and pink plugs caught the largest gags they pulled out of the bay. Mahoney and some of the area’s top guides will be speaking at next weekend’s Reel Animals Fishing Show at the Florida State Fairground’s Expo Hall. On hand will be one of the nation’s top outdoor writers and former outdoors editor for the Tampa Tribune, Frank Sargeant.

Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina reported some ‘extreme’ action aboard this week’s 12-hour extreme trip. Anglers boated a 40-pound gag grouper and broke off a handful more that would have made the 40-pounder look small. They also broke off a huge wahoo that was estimated at 90-pounds. On their 44-hour trip, anglers whacked the snapper on the full moon. Mangrove, yellowtail, and lane snapper bit all night. Cobia and tripletail action was non-stop, according to Hubbard. This time of year is right for fishing and there’s no better time to book a trip. Go to http://HubbardsMarina.com for more information.

Anglers fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key reported steady action along the beaches with fly anglers catching little tunny, i.e. false albacore or bonito, Spanish mackerel, and tripletail.

INSHORE

The flats from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs have seen some better trout over the past few weeks. Many anglers are reporting upper teen sized trout being caught on live shrimp under popping corks and on DOA Deadly Combos. Snook fishing seems to have slowed a bit in the area, but anglers continue to catch redfish in the Palm Harbor area around oyster bars on the flood tides using whitebait and gold spoons.

Look for the weekend’s slower tides to slow the action somewhat, but you can use the wind to your advantage by setting up between pinch points where wind blows through an area, producing an ambush area for predators.

FRESHWATER

Anglers reported some good bass fishing action on the lake at Walsingham Reservoir in Pinellas County. Using the new DOA PT-7 bass to 5-pounds were landed here. The large worm hook on the lure allows the lure to be cast into and around structure where these large bass are hiding. Give one a try. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

Ray.markham@gmail.com

www.CaptainRayMarkham.com

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Reboot the Fishing Calendar–Capt. Ray Markham, April 22, 2016

by on Apr.23, 2016, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Most years I’d be looking at the calendar on my computer about now and I’d be thinking that we should be getting toward the tail end of kingfish season. This year has been different. It seems we have had a blast of fish running up from the south just this week. Sure kings will be around most of the year, but when the spring run is on, usually fish come from the Key’s northward in waves as waters warm. But this past winter was quite warm, so I might have expected an early run with an earlier ending to the bulk of the fish migrating north.

Usually about mid-March I start seeing tarpon moving out of the Manatee River and backcountry waters. These are mostly resident fish that spend winters as well as the rest of the year here. But I had not really seen that many fish. The real onslaught of poons traditionally shows up on the beaches in May. With only a week or so away from May, I’ve finally seen a decent showing of tarpon. Much of last week and the weekend had been difficult fishing due to high winds, but once the winds laid down, we started to see some tarpon roll. This early showing could have something to do with the fact that the full moon falls on Thursday, April 21st. Migrations of fish as well as spawning rituals are known to occur around full moons and new moons. So, if I was glancing at the fish calendar trying to see what should be going on, things might be a bit out of whack.

A look at the calendar on April 30, the last day of the month, will reveal that it’s the last day of snook season. Snook on the West Coast close for the summer. But with the full moon on the 21st, that out of whack calendar may see some snook spawning in the passes. That would be nearly a month early, but as a rule, snook begin spawning from around the full moon in May and run through September. However, with as many big snook as I’ve seen near the passes and on barrier islands over the past couple of weeks, I wouldn’t doubt it if these linesiders just might be lining up to begin an early spawn.

One change on the calendar for May 1 in the northwest region of the state is that the redfish bag limit will drop back to one fish per angler from two fish, with an 8 fish boat limit. The region south of Fred Howard Park, called the south region, remains as one fish per person but with an 8 fish boat limit as well.

Prime time for mangrove snapper is generally around June or July, but how about all the big mangos doing the tango in Tampa Bay right now? Just a short hop off the beaches and now you’re into 5-pound mangos in April!

Yes, it’s April, and yes, the fishing calendar seems a bit messed up. But the next time you pull up an old boot while fishing, throw it back, because it’s time for a re-boot.

Capt. Ray Markham specializes in fly and light tackle fishing with artificial lures, charters out of the Tampa Bay area, and may be reached via his website at www.CaptainRayMarkham.com, email at ray.markham@gmail.com, or at (941) 723-2655 for charter.

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