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Tag: Tampa Bay

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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Florida Sportsman West Central Florida Fishing 4Cast–Capt. Ray Markham

by on Mar.03, 2016, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Moderate weather has been the norm of late. Even with mild fronts making it down to the Suncoast, it’s not been cold out. Water temps are back on the rise and there is the first push of pelagic fish at hand. Go fishing!

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

For anglers looking to put some meat in the box, Spanish mackerel are beginning to show up on the beaches and near most passes from John’s Pass south. Keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground; because now that we’ve seen some Spanish come over the gunnels you can just about expect kingfish to start to show on offshore wrecks. We have a mild front that should come in some time on Friday bring some wind that will kick up seas and dirty the water, that will put a king in the mackerel action but once it clears and the water cleans up, look for some kings and Spanish to show. If you head out of Tampa Bay and follow the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel all the way out to the Whistler, somewhere along the way you’ll find a good show of bait. That’s where you’ll want to look for kings. Time’s Square is another good location for early arrivals of kingfish.

It’s almost tournament time again and the 25th Annual Suncoast Kingfish Classic is just about a month away. The long-running tournament promises to bring out some of the best kingfish anglers in the southeast. Slated to run April 7 through 9 at John’s Pass Marina, the tournament is a favorite local event that draws some of the top kingfish anglers in the country to vie for the $20,000 first place prize. A discounted early entry fee for those who get in before the April 1 early entry deadline may be incentive enough for those who are already checking their rod guides, changing line, and twisting up some leaders to prepare for kingfish season. If you’re around April 28-30, the Old Salts will be cranking up their mack daddy event, the 2016 Old Salt Spring King of the Beach Tournament where anglers will be fishing for some big jack…no not crevalle, but $50,000 for the top angler in the Madeira Beach event. This big buck tourney has been known to draw big crowds to enjoy the festivities and witness some big kings being weighed in.

If bottom dropping is your bag, anglers working shallow to 50 or 60-foot depths are finding it slow going and have reported some red grouper, catch and release red grouper, and some tasty grunts. To elevate the lowly grunt the Old Salts have come up with the Great American Grunt Hunt slated to run down the road May 12 & 14….details to follow.

INSHORE

Spring is just a few weeks away and lucky us! We will be springing forward with our clocks March 13 so we will have sun setting an hour later after that date. A variety of things have been going on inshore. Snook season reopened on Tuesday with the expected lackluster start. Water temps have been slowly climbing with the recent warm weather but on opening day in the ICW near John’s Pass it was 68.5-degrees. Not really cold but just warm enough to get a few fish to eat in that area. We caught several under slot fish near there.

Redfish action has been good, with good numbers of fish bending rods in the upper Tampa Bay region and in the ICW near Dunedin. Spoil islands and mangrove shorelines in the area are producing reds in the mid-slot on live pinfish and cut baits. Tampa Bay anglers are scoring with the Eppinger Rex Spoon that is about the size of white bait that’s on the flats and around the Sunshine Skyway. Steady action in Terra Ceia with trout and reds has been the norm. A few flounder continue to mix up a day’s fishing there. Bluefish in lower Tampa Bay are keeping anglers on the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers busy as well as the Spanish mackerel. Gotcha Jigs, Diamond Jigs, and Clark Spoons are the top meat getters for mackerel there. Bigger trout are coming from Sarasota Bay waters just inside the passes. Capt. Rick Grassett’s anglers have been tossing an assortment of flies for ladyfish, jack crevalle, trout, and redfish in that area. Grassett’s night trips for snook have been productive with good numbers of fish being caught on fly around dock lights and bridge fenders.

For those who just love to eat fish, there’s none better than a pompano, in my opinion. For anglers targeting them, they are getting several fish per day around the Gandy Bridge, and in the Fort Desoto area near Bunces Pass. Pass-A-Grille can also be a hot spot for pomps at times. The original Doc’s Goofy Jig continues to be the top lure for pompano but anglers fishing live sand fleas and fiddler crabs find fishing productive for them as well.

FRESHWATER

Bass anglers continue to show some big bass being caught from area ponds. Bedding bass around lake perimeters are hitting an assortment of soft plastic lures. Lizard and eel type imitations and just about any of the creature baits that are available are getting the most attention. Crappie fishing continues to be good on Lake Tarpon. With the warmer weather, though, the schooling action could break up. Continue drifting for specks with Missouri minnows or crappie jigs suspended at different levels to find the schools and concentrate on those areas.

News Channel 8 Outdoor Expo & Boat Show this weekend!

Come out and join us at the WFLA News Channel 8 OUTDOOR EXPO & BOAT SHOW at the Florida State Fairgrounds March 4, 5, and 6th for some great family fun. If you want to learn some secrets for catching more fish on artificial baits, I’ll be on stage speaking Friday night at 6:30, Saturday at 5:30, and Sunday at 1 P.M. on a variety of inshore fishing topics using artificial lures. This is where you want to be this weekend if catching more fish is what you want. Some of the top guides in the area will be there to share. Come early and enjoy all the fine speakers and check out what’s new in the fishing game. The biggest names in fishing will be on hand giving seminars and answering questions all weekend long. The list of fishing celebrities includes Capt. C.A. Richardson, Mark Nichols from D.O.A. Lures, Capt. Geoff Page and Capt. Rick Murphy, Capt Scott Moore, Capt. Billy Nobles, Capt. Glenn Taylor and many more. All kinds of boat manufacturers, fishing tackle distributors, and lure manufacturers will be on hand along with many other great outdoor companies to assist you in catching more fish. Reel Animals and Bull Bay Rods Pro Staffer Miss Chasten Whitfield will also be there helping kids learn to throw the cast net and tie knots so bring the whole family out to the News Channel 8 Outdoor Expo & Boat at the Florida State Fair Grounds March 4th, 5th and 6th! Details: http://wfla.com/outdoors-expo-boat-show/
Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham

(941) 723-2655

Email: ray.markham@gmail.com

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Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota & Terra Ceia Bay, FL Fishing Report for 2/28/2016

by on Feb.28, 2016, under Bradenton and Sarasota, TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Anglers fishing with me on my Action Craft flats skiff the Snook Fin-Addict, out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, caught and released snook at night in the ICW near Venice on flies, trout and ladyfish in Sarasota Bay on flies and trout and redfish in Terra Ceia Bay on CAL jigs with shad tails during the past week. The best action was with snook at night and on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay with trout and ladyfish.

Jerry Poslusny, from Palmetto, FL, fished the ICW near Venice with me on Monday night. He caught and released more than 20 snook on my Grassett Snook Minnow fly. We were in a good weather window between fronts and with a good tide, snook responded well by gorging themselves on glass minnows and they ate our flies just as well.

Keith McClintock, from Lake Forest, IL and Jack McCullough, fished the Terra Ceia Bay area with me on Tuesday. We worked edges of bars and backcountry areas where they had some action with trout and a red on CAL jigs with shad tails. The next 2 days were blown out as a front passed and the wind blew 20 to 30-mph on Wednesday and Thursday.

Frank Zaffino, from Rochester, NY, and his son, Frank, from Pittsburgh, PA, fished Sarasota Bay with me on Friday. With the wind still at 15 to 20-mph out of the north, we headed south into Roberts Bay where they had steady action catching and releasing ladyfish and trout on Ultra Hair Clousers and my Flats Bunny flies.

Ryan Pflugner, from Sarasota, fished Sarasota Bay with me on Saturday. I found some big trout in skinny water and he had good action sight fishing them. He caught and released a couple of over slot trout and had some shots at others on my Grassett Flats Bunny fly. With bright sun and crystal clear water, it was fun to watch the trout eat a nicely presented fly!

I will be at the News Channel 8 Outdoors Expo & Boat Show (http://wfla.com/outdoors-expo-boat-show/), at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, next Sunday, March 6.  Formerly the Frank Sargeant Outdoors Show, the show is now hosted by Capt. Mike Anderson of the “Reel Animals” TV show and is the largest outdoors show in Florida. I’ll be giving a presentation on the main stage at 11:30 AM on “Fly Fishing the West Coast of Florida”. I’ll also be at the DOA Fishing Lures booth giving my friends Mark Nichols and Capt. Ed Zyak a hand, so stop by to say hello and check out the latest from DOA.

Look for reds and big trout mixed with mullet schools or cruising shallow flats and edges of bars in Sarasota Bay and backcountry areas of Charlotte Harbor and lower Tampa Bay. Catch and release night snook fishing around lighted docks and bridges in the ICW with flies and DOA Lures should be a good option. Trout, bluefish and more should also be a good option on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay.

Tight Lines,
Capt. Rick Grassett
IFFF Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
www.snookfin-addict.com, www.snookfinaddict.com and www.flyfishingflorida.us
E-mail snookfin@aol.com
(941) 923-7799

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Season opener bite for snook could be hot with warm weather- By Ray Markham

by on Feb.26, 2016, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

The calendar still says winter but this past week might make you think that spring has sprung. Changing weather conditions will dictate what you need to do to stay on feeding fish. I marked water temperatures in a variety of shallow water venues from Old Tampa Bay to Mullet Key that pushed the mercury up over 75-degrees. That’s the kind of water temperature you might see in late March, and what I saw this week could be previews of coming attractions to the Bay Area. Warm shallows turned snook on and pushed Spanish mackerel in on the edges of the Gulf and just inside passes from Charlotte Harbor all the way up to John’s Pass. Next week’s warming trend could make Tuesday’s season opener for snook productive and also trigger a run of both king and Spanish mackerel.

The front that moved in at mid-week is moving quickly and will clear the state in short order, but not without a quick drop in temperature. With air temperatures nudging the 80-degree mark on Tuesday, and the prediction for Wednesday and Thursday to take a steep dip perhaps into the 40’s in the Tampa Bay area, fish will undoubtedly head for deeper water. The shallows of the flats will likely look like a ghost town until water temperatures move back up with next week’s warm up.

Capt. Rick Grassett, of Sarasota, and his anglers have been fishing the Venice area at night with fly rods working dock lights and bridge fenders catching and releasing as many as 20-snook a night. Water temperatures have been in the upper 60’s. Most affected by this quick drop in air and water temperature will be snook, effectively putting a halt to the bite temporarily.

The sheepshead bite has been outrageous this week, coupled with the spawning full moon and the incoming cold front. The bite turned on and fired up sheepies that were reported up to 10-pounds. These monster striped convict fish are cooperative even in cold and inclement weather.

If fresh water is your preference, take a page out of Shelby Bachnik’s book and head for Lake Tarpon. Bachnik has been working the lake in about 10-feet of water with crappie jigs and small minnows, catching good numbers of slab crappie. These freshwater panfish are prized for their tasty white fillets and can be found in lakes like Tarpon that offer some protection from the elements. Bachnik says look for the north end of the lake to be productive.

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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Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota & Gasparilla Sound, FL Fishing Report for 1/23/2016

by on Jan.23, 2016, under Bradenton and Sarasota

Anglers fishing with me on my Action Craft flats skiff the Snook Fin-Addict, out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, caught and released snook, trout and redfish on CAL jigs with shad tails in Gasparilla Sound and trout and ladyfish on flies in Sarasota Bay during the past week. Cold air and water, wind and rain were an issue, causing the cancellation of a couple of trips.

Keith McClintock, from Lake Forest, IL, fished the backcountry of Gasparilla Sound near Boca Grande with me on Tuesday. A very low tide and cool water had snook concentrated in a few spots. He had good action catching and releasing about 10 snook to 27”, trout to 20” and a red to complete his slam on CAL jigs with shad tails.

Dick Striano, from MA, fished Sarasota Bay with me on Thursday. We worked deep grass flats where he caught and released ladyfish and trout on Ultra Hair Clouser flies fished on sink tip fly lines. The best action was close to passes where water temperatures were more stable.

Look for reds and big trout mixed with mullet schools on shallow flats and edges of bars in Sarasota Bay and backcountry areas of Charlotte Harbor and lower Tampa Bay. Trout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and more should be a good option on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Catch and release snook fishing around lighted docks and bridges with flies and DOA Lures should also be a good option as long as water temperatures don’t dip too low.

Tight Lines,
Capt. Rick Grassett
IFFF Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
www.snookfin-addict.com, www.snookfinaddict.com and www.flyfishingflorida.us
E-mail snookfin@aol.com
(941) 923-7799

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Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fishing Report for 12/19/2015

by on Dec.20, 2015, under Bradenton and Sarasota

nglers fishing with me on my Action Craft flats skiff the Snook Fin-Addict, out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, caught and released snook and jacks in the ICW near Venice at night and bluefish, Spanish mackerel and false albacore in the coastal gulf on flies during the past week.

Bill Rhodes, from Hernando Beach, FL, fished dock lights in the ICW near Venice with me on Monday night. He caught and released a few snook and jacks on my Grassett Snook Minnow fly and a couple of other glass minnow patterns. We fished the coastal gulf in Sarasota the next day and found tough conditions with a big swell and sea fog. He caught and released a tripletail on a fly and had a couple of other shots before we pulled the plug due to the poor conditions.

Anna Maria Island winter resident, Bill Morrison, fished the coastal gulf with me on Thursday. Fish were fired up due to an approaching front and he had good action catching numerous bluefish, Spanish mackerel and a couple of false albacore on Ultra Hair Clouser flies.

False albacore, tripletail, Spanish mackerel and more should still be a good option in the coastal gulf when sea conditions are good. Catch and release snook fishing around lighted docks and bridges with flies and DOA Lures should also be a good option. Look for reds, snook and big trout mixed with mullet schools on shallow flats and edges of bars in backcountry areas of Charlotte Harbor and lower Tampa Bay.

Tight Lines,
Capt. Rick Grassett
IFFF Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
www.snookfin-addict.com, www.snookfinaddict.com and www.flyfishingflorida.us
E-mail snookfin@aol.com
(941) 923-7799

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Tampa Bay Fishing Report, 12/11/15, Capt. Ray Markham–“Fishing away from red tide is outstanding!”

by on Dec.12, 2015, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Anyone who knows me or has heard me talk about fishing over the past few weeks probably heard me mention red tide. Make no mistake about it, red tide is affecting our fishing where the bloom is present and on the periphery of where it is located. The key to catching fish is to move away from the red tide bloom and the outskirts of it. Healthy fish continue to eat and put on a normal rod-bending show.

Flashing back about ten years, red tide nearly decimated our fishery. In the lower Tampa Bay area, spotted seatrout never fully regained the population of big fish or numbers of fish we had back then, but it was still acceptable to people outside of the fishing capital of the world. While snook populations took it on the chin along with numerous other species, most did survive the ordeal only to be hit by a series of days with hard freezees about five years ago. Nature’s damage can be devastating, but add unethical anglers who kill fish by improper handling or keeping illegal sizes or numbers of fish are other issues.

Recognizing the signs of red tide are the first steps toward finding healthy areas that support active fish. Start with the internet and check out information from the FWC at http://myfwc.com/REDTIDESTATUS. This will give you general areas that are affected. Observation is the next step. Signs of red tide can affect your eyes and breathing along with producing dead fish, but not always. Wind blowing from the direction of the red tide can push dead fish to the perimeter of an affected area or areas that are free of the toxin. If you see or smell it, move. Fish in perimeter areas can be affected but still alive, and act as you might if you are sick and not eat.

Good fishable areas show signs of life and active feeding. The areas that I have fished recently that were good have bait in the area as well as mullet schools. Mullet are late moving out to spawn, but areas around John’s Pass and the ICW up to Indian Rocks produced trout, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, flounder, redfish, snook, and Spanish mackerel. Middle to upper Tampa Bay north of Piney Point to Apollo Beach had exceptional action with snook, trout, redfish, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish, and even cobia. The rest of Tampa Bay north to Double Branch was normal with no signs of red tide.

Red tide will move fish and push them to unaffected areas if they escape. By noting the signs and differences of both good and bad areas, you will catch fish.

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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Fronts ease the Suncoast into winter–By Ray Markham

by on Dec.05, 2015, under Siesta Key to Boca Grande, St. Pete Beaches, Tampa Bay, East and South Shore, Tampa Bay, West Shore and St. Petersburg

With less than three weeks remaining in the fall season, reflecting back will reveal that this has been one of the mildest on record. Warm air and easterly winds for nearly a week have made fishing for kingfish and Spanish mackerel just off the beaches a doable task. Plenty of big Spanish were caught but kings have been scattered. Captains Ryan Farner and Chris Turner of St. Petersburg will host a final kingfish tournament called the Bitch of the Ditch that will run Saturday out of Billy’s Stone Crab on Tierra Verde. The interesting twist is that this event has boundaries from Egmont Key to up inside Tampa Bay. The weekend will have a mild cold front easing into the area shifting winds and fish, but this front should push more kings southward to the area. Predicted winds won’t be as high as last week’s front, but changing wind direction will also change tide levels that will affect where you’ll find fish on the flats and in the bay. The Saturday weigh-in at Billy’s Stone Crab should provide interesting results.

Coming off the quarter moon this week, we won’t see the big swings in tides that we saw during last week’s full moon. Looking at the comfort zone chart for fish, the majority of fish that swim in our waters prefer water temperatures in the mid-seventies, right where Tampa Bay is presently situated. Tides won’t be moving that fast, so positioning yourself where wind blows between islands or at the mouths of small bays where there are narrow openings can speed up the water at that point, making an ambush location for snook, trout, flounder and more.

Some of the largest snook of the year have been caught this past week coming off the full moon. Most fish were caught in brackish water, meaning these fish were moving up rivers or creeks to the headwaters for the winter. Snook season closed this week along with gag grouper, making both species off limits for take-home. However, catch-and-release action for snook will bend some rods and make some smiles. Flounder continue to give anglers something extra to target. Look for sandy areas with good water flow. Reports from John’s Pass and the Pass-A-Grille area have been consistent productive areas.

If you’re fishing inside Tampa Bay and adjacent waters, look around all the channel markers and range markers in the bay for cobia, Spanish mackerel, and tripletail. All three species have been caught here this week.

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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Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fishing Report for 10/31/2015

by on Oct.31, 2015, under Bradenton and Sarasota

Anglers fishing with me on my Action Craft flats skiff the Snook Fin-Addict, out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, caught and released snook and trout in Sarasota Bay and tripletail and Spanish mackerel in the coastal gulf on flies during the past week.

Fly angler Ron Race, from MI, fished the coastal gulf with me on Monday. With an ESE wind, we were surprised to find a 4’-5’ swell with a chop on top making for very tough conditions. Despite the tough conditions, Ron hooked up a couple of times with false albacore and tripletail before it became too tough to handle.

Conditions were much better on Thursday when Steve Kost, from Lakewood Ranch, FL, fished with me. We fished Sarasota Bay dock lights where he caught and released a couple of snook and trout on my Grassett Snook Minnow fly. We checked the coastal gulf after daylight and found that conditions had improved and it was fishable. He had good action catching and releasing 7 or 8 tripletail on a shrimp fly pattern.

My brother, Kirk Grassett, from Middletown, DE, fished the coastal gulf with me on Friday. We had good action catching and releasing Spanish mackerel and tripletail on flies. False albacore were moving fast and were tough to get on but there was good action with mackerel and tripletail.

Action with tripletail, false albacore and Spanish mackerel should be a good option now in the coastal gulf when conditions allow it. You may find trout, Spanish mackerel, blues and jacks on deep grass flats. Snook fishing around lighted docks and bridges close to passes with flies and DOA Lures should also be a good option. Look for reds, snook and big trout mixed with mullet schools on shallow flats and edges of bars.

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Capt. Ray Markham’s Tampa Bay Fishing Forecast, 9/4/15

by on Sep.04, 2015, under TAMPA BAY AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

There is hardly an inshore fish that garners as much excitement and attention certain times of the year than the snook. This past Tuesday’s season opener that runs through November is typical. A late night drive by most bridges or piers near passes or barrier islands revealed numerous anglers standing under the stars with a full moon shining brightly. There were anglers at most locations and in some spots they were standing elbow-to-elbow, all vying for the linesiders that were staging up in the lights by the bridge fenders to feed.

One top snook spot was at the John’s Pass Bridge. The tide was rising until the wee hours of the morning when it turned to head back out. Somewhere near sunrise, the water movement was rushing out of the pass, taking with it crabs, mullet, scaled sardines, shrimp, and a load of other assorted baitfish. While some anglers opted for a live pinfish or cut bait anchored on the bottom, others dropped heavy buck tail jigs or a DOA TerrorEyz to the bottom around the pilings in hopes that a snook would slam the bait. By morning’s end, most anglers connected with fish.

The beginning of the season is traditionally the easiest time to catch big snook. Many of the larger female fish are thin by comparison to their pre-spawn size, and are ravenously hungry. With the spawning period behind most, these fish will now be on a mission to pack on the pounds, and over the next two weeks, right through the new moon phase, they will feed with reckless abandon. Less wary than perhaps at any other time, they are prime targets for catching. Dropping their guard and normal defensive instincts, these fish will chew. But with snook stocks still at questionable levels in some areas, many anglers are continuing to release all snook, regardless of their size. It’s a personal choice, but overall, snook scientists say that the stock is healthy and harvesting snook is ok.

Many fish will begin moving in from the beaches and back into the bays were they will stage up on points and around oyster bars to set up areas to ambush their prey. Wherever there is good water flow, you’ll find snook. Some of my top producing artificial lures right now are the new MirrOlure Cracked Glass Series MirrOdine, the CAL Shad, DOA Shrimp, Sebile Stick Shad, and Zara Spook. Each will work different portions of the water column, and imitate whatever forage the snook are feeding on at the time.

Capt. Ray Markham specializes in 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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