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Capt. Tommy Thompson's Saltwater Angler's Guides

Tag: west central

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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