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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.


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.


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.


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



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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.


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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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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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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655



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Chilling thoughts for winter fishing–By Capt. Ray Markham


Fish have to deal with the cold every day during winter. But being cold-blooded, cold weather doesn’t have the same effect as it does on humans. Living in sunny Florida, most of us don’t give much thought to the possibility of developing hypothermia. But with winter weather finally upon us, dressing appropriately for being on the water can be a matter of life and death, particularly if you fall into the water. The body loses heat 25-times faster in water than it does with exposure to the air. This is all the more reason to wear a personal flotation device in the event you do fall overboard.

Cold fronts that have been hitting us at about a weekly basis or more often have been driving the water temperature downward for the past couple of weeks. Sitting in the mid-sixties now, and with wind on the water, the wind chill factor drops the ‘feels like’ temperature even more. It’s important to dress in layers of clothing. Shivering is probably the first sign of the onset of hypothermia as the body core temperature drops. It’s better to have more clothing than you need, since you can always remove some as the days warm up.

Find areas out of the wind. Those spots will be more comfortable for both you and the fish. Warmer areas will also mean that fish appetites will be on the rise. Unlike cold-blooded creatures, we still need to eat on a regular basis. Fish eat when they feel hungry or the opportunity presents itself. Sheepshead are working the pilings around bridges, docks, piers and around most any structure. Most recently flounder are appearing in holes on the flats on these negative tide days. Dragging CAL Curly tailed jigs across the holes slowly will catch flatties. With the falling water temperature, snook are moving up inside the rivers. All of the Tampa Bay’s rivers are holding snook. Look for the power plants in the area to produce a plume of warm water around the outflows. Apollo Beach and Anclote Key both produce warm water on the coldest days. The most recent weather prediction is for the coldest days yet this winter to be the first part of next week. Cobia, snook, trout, pompano, sharks, ladyfish, jacks and more will be found around these plants. Warmer water will move up to a half-mile away from the power plant on still days.

Fish extra slow during cold weather and remember to dress for the occasion to stay comfortable and keep warm. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

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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Tips For Crowded Holiday Fishing in Tampa Bay–Capt. Ray Markham

by on Dec.25, 2015, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Every year I try to leave time around the holidays open for some things I want to do, and to get caught up on the others I never seem to have time for, but inevitably, there are folks who come in town on vacation, see how nice the weather is, and suddenly think….”let’s go fishing!” Well, the onslaught of calls is underway, and at times I take some unplanned trips, but the truth is, it can get mighty crowded on the water during the holidays. With the weather at record high temperatures on these beautiful days, the desire to go bend a rod is even stronger.

Fishing has been outstanding, and the full moon that pops up tonight on this Christmas night will create some strong tides that will undoubtedly make fish eat. Water temperature is very warm for this time of year and there is still plenty of baitfish in the bay. Red tide is spotty and is only affecting certain areas of the lower bay. Snook season is closed but run up any of the rivers, like the Alafia, Little Manatee, Manatee, Anclote, or most any of the deeper creeks and you’ll find a load of snook that are in the process of moving toward their winter haunts. Live shrimp or artificial shrimp like the DOA work exceptionally well. Whitebait, greenies, and pinfish for the natural bait users will get the job done as well. While it’s only catch and release for these fish right now, they will give you a lot of action and can be released with little or low mortality when handled minimally and released correctly.

Redfish have been blowing up topwater MirrOlures in the upper bay area. Portions of the flats around Rocky Creek and Double Branch all the way to Safety Harbor have been holding schools of upper-slot redfish. We’ve been nailing them on CAL Jigs with the 3-inch Shad tail in all colors that contain night glow. The Eppinger Rex weedless spoon has also been deadly on these reds and is especially good when there is a presence of small pinfish on a flat.

Flounder action around the mouth of Tampa Bay seems to have picked back up as the red tide moves away from the area. Good action with some nice sized flatties is to be had for anglers working the nearshore artificial reefs just off the coast of Pinellas.

Kingfish and Spanish mackerel are still out around Egmont Key Shipping Channel for anglers looking to troll up some fish for the smoker.

Regardless of what you want to target, look for some company on the water and remember to keep your distance from other anglers and respect their space, and they will respect yours. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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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Red tide posing problems in portions of Tampa Bay and south By Ray Markham

by on Nov.27, 2015, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

As much as I hate to report this, red tide has again reared its ugly head, stretching from Charlotte Harbor to north Manatee County and parts of the south Pinellas beaches. For charter captains in Charlotte, Sarasota, and parts of Manatee County this has been a real problem keeping bait alive for the live baiters. But on the positive side, bait dying in the livewell is like the proverbial canary in the coal mines. Dying bait instantly tells you to move. But for anglers like myself who fish strictly with artificial lures we have to look for other signs that the toxic bloom is around.

Fish move when the first signs of red tide show up. But not all fish move in the right direction. Some head into back bays and get trapped by the bloom and die. Others remain in schools and die. My first indication is the obvious—dead fish. But when I’m seeing fish but finding that I detect eye or breathing irritation, I move. While fish may be there, the bloom seems to turn the bite off for fish that are present. The old adage of never leave fish to find fish doesn’t apply here. While even healthy fish don’t always bite, if I find irritation and presence of fish I move to find fish without sensing the irritation.

On recent trips down around the Bulkhead and the mouth of the Manatee River we’ve been on schools of redfish, trout, snook, and have caught good numbers of flounder. Mullet schools were jumping everywhere. But on a day following one of those good trips, the area looked like a deserted wasteland. It wasn’t until I moved well up into Tampa Bay that we found more feeding fish. Joe Bay, Bishop’s Harbor, and the South Shore areas seemed to be unaffected and we continued catching fish there with no signs of the red tide there.

I had similar results in areas while fishing off South Pinellas around Fort Desoto. Schooling redfish around Conception Key were there one day and gone the next, and irritation of my eyes was my indicator that the algae bloom may be present. Moving north, the John’s Pass area was in good shape, and fishing that area produced good numbers of redfish, trout, snook, and flounder. Poking my head outside the pass, we caught bluefish and Spanish mackerel.

Noting the signs of a red tide problem may keep you from wasting your time in affected areas that are marginal for killing fish, yet still support life. Fish caught in areas of red tide are ok for consumption as long as they appear to be healthy otherwise. Updated information on red tide can be found at http://myfwc.com/REDTIDESTATUS. To report a fish kill, call 1-800-300-9399.

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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Tampa Outdoors Expo & Boat Show Feb. 27-March 1, 2015

by on Jan.28, 2015, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Hosted by the “Reel Animals”
When: Friday, February 27 through Sunday, March 1, 2015
Where: Florida State Fairgrounds
(east of Tampa at intersection of I-4 and U.S. 301)

Times: Friday, 1:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
Sunday, 10:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.

Admission: Friday: FREE for all ages, courtesy Southern Chevy Dealers
Sat.-Sun.: $8 ages 13 & up; Kids 12 & under FREE
Website: http://www.wfla.com
Miscellaneous: 140,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space plus major outdoor displays
Dozens of seminars on four stages including “Wear it Florida” Safe Boating Stage
Interactive activities include kids’ fishing derbies on Saturday and Sunday.
More than 150 exhibitors and outdoors dealers

Participating Sponsors: Chevrolet, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Thunder Marine
The Expo is produced by WFLA News Channel 8, Tampa.

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Tampa Outdoors Expo & Boat Show Feb. 28-March 2, 2014


The Outdoors Expo & Boat Show has been a “can’t miss” spring tradition for generations of boaters, fishermen, hunters, and those who love the outdoors. This year will be no different, as we offer great shopping bargains, expert speakers, and hands-on activities for our attendees of all ages.

A shopping extravaganza and boat show in a family-friendly country fair atmosphere, the Expo boasts 140,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space plus outdoor display areas and lakes. We feature more than 150 exhibitors. Whether your passion is boating, saltwater of freshwater fishing, cast netting, fly fishing, hunting, or kayaking, the News Channel 8 Outdoors Expo and Boat Show is the place for you.

Hosted by the “Reel Animals” TV Show
“The Reel Animals,” and Captain Mike Anderson is back for the second year hosting the show. Of course they have been entertaining our attendees for years on TV and on the radio.

Captain Mike has been fishing and competing in tournaments on Tampa Bay and Florida water for more than 20 years. A Wisconsin native and Air Force veteran, Mike has been guiding on the west coast of Florida for more than 12 years and specializes in back country fishing for tarpon, snook, redfish, and trout.

The “Reel Animals” TV show airs on WFLA-TV News Channel 8 as well as nationally and in Canada. More than 85 million households can tune into the “Reel Animals Fishing Show.” In addition, Captain Mike hosts radio programs on Saturday and Sunday mornings on Tampa stations WFLA 970 and WDAE 620 respectively.

The “Reel Animals” have spoken at the Expo for years, and their exhibit booth is a popular place for attendees to hang out and “talk fishin.”

Special Guests and Activities

Chuck Devereaux, a veteran of the B.A.S.S. tournament series and an accomplished teacher and speaker returns this year to lead four seminars daily at the Bass Aquarium Stage. Besides general bass fishing tips, Chuck will discuss which baits to use and how to use them to fish like a pro.

The Chevrolet Main Stage, Wear it Florida Safe Boating Stage, and Captain Joe Fishing stage will feature dozens of renown anglers discussing topics ranging from fishing with artificial baits to flats fishing techniques. Whether your fishing for reds, tarpon, snook, bass or crappie, our experts know where and how to “land the big one.” We even have a session on the “A,B,C’s of Fishing for Kids.”

Speaking of kids, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Fishing Derbies conducted by “Get Reel” are back again on Saturday and Sunday. Volunteers help kids bait their hooks, cast and reel in their catches on a small stocked lake behind the exhibit halls. There are grand prizes for the largest fish caught over the weekend in this catch and release contest. However, all kids receive goodie bags for participating.

Each day, we will also feature cast net demonstrations at the lakes.

Admission and Hours

Admission to the Expo is FREE FOR ALL AGES on Friday, February 28, courtesy The Tampa Tribune. Admission for ages 13-and-up is only $8.00 on Saturday and Sunday. Parking at the Fairgrounds is six dollars.
Show hours are 1:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-7:00 p.m. Saturday; and 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday. The State Fairgrounds are located east of Tampa near the junction of I-4 and I-75.


Vendors will offer great deals on boats, personal water craft, ATV’s, fishing tackle, hunting gear, resorts and lodges, canoes and kayaks and other outdoors-related items. In addition to the special discounts, Expo visitors will get their first look at many new products.
Non-profit fishing, hunting and conservation groups – including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Coastal Conservation Association, and the Florida Guides Association will be on hand. Whether your favorite pastime is fishing for bass, kings, grouper, snook or redfish; or hunting turkey, deer, or ducks, you’ll find the right club or organization with experienced members and volunteers eager to share their expertise with you.

Contact Info

For more information visit the event website at www.tampaoutdoorexpo.com


Presenting sponsors include The Tampa Tribune, Chevrolet, The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Thunder Marine and Captain Joe Fishing.

Kristen Hasara, 813-225-2774
Expo Director, WFLA-TV

– See more at: http://www.thefishingwire.com/story/311871#sthash.DeZs2sDw.dpuf

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Florida FWC to Meet in Tampa, Feb. 12-13, 2014


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet Feb. 12-13 in Tampa. The meeting, at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, 4500 W. Cypress St., Tampa Airport – Westshore, starts at 8:30 a.m. both days. The public is invited and will be provided opportunities to speak.

Highlights of the agenda include:

  • Discussing issues relating to fish and wildlife conservation and, on day two, fishery management council updates.
  • Possible rule adjustments for a few St. Johns River boating restricted areas.
  • Proposed hunting and fishing rule changes to increase sportsmen’s opportunities at FWC-managed areas.
  • A decision on implementing new sea cucumber harvesting regulations.
  • Deciding whether to remove a recreational bag limit prohibition for captain and crew of for-hire vessels seeking certain Atlantic reef fish.
  • Presentation of a red snapper draft rule to set the 2014 recreational fishing season in Gulf waters.

For the full agenda: MyFWC.com/Commission, select “Commission Meetings.”

Can’t attend meeting in person? Follow live coverage on Twitter @MyFWC and join in the conversation by using tag #FWC2014. Link: https://twitter.com/MyFWC.

Also check the Florida Channel (www.thefloridachannel.org/) for possible live webcast times. – See more at: http://www.thefishingwire.com/story/310680#sthash.sq6WInyo.dpuf

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