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West Central Florida Weekend Fishing 4Cast

Aripeka to Longboat Key
Includes Hudson, New Port Richey, Anclote Key, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Bradenton

July 18-20

After a week of blazing tides coming off the full moon, fish have to be tired from chewing. A great week of fishing will likely be followed by more of the same despite lower tides.


A 39-hour trip produced numerous red grouper, gag grouper, and mangrove snappers for anglers fishing aboard the head boat out of Madeira Beach at Hubbard's Marina. This happy angler hoists a nice red grouper for show.

Bottom fishing reports from anglers working in depths ranging from 20-to over 200-feet of water have one common thread. The fish chewed! Nearly all depths fished were holding fish, although the deeper depths were holding larger fish. Capt. Steve Papen and his anglers reported banner catches of scamp, red grouper, and gag grouper working 225-feet of water out of Madeira Beach. Capt. Dave Mistretta fishing on Jaws Too reported similar action lining up monster gags, reds, and mangrove snapper. The party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina fishing the 39-hour trip boated some big gags and red grouper as well. Scattered kings continue to be caught.

Bottom fishing wasn’t all that was going on this week. Jeff Martin, of Bradenton fishing with friends managed to find good numbers of Spanish mackerel, grunts, and grouper as well west of Anna Maria.

Anglers working nearshore and offshore artificial reefs continue to find permit and cobia early in the day. Crabs are top baits for both species. Consistent catches are coming from the reefs off Bradenton and Sarasota from 7-miles out.

Big schools of baitfish in nearshore waters had little tunny blitzing the bait. Feeding frenzies were reported and nearly any kind of jig, spoon, plug, or live bait tossed into the melee was met with a drag burning, line sizzling run.


Good action up and down the coast was reported this week on the waning moon. Huge afternoon high tides put snook and redfish back up inside mangrove islands and shorelines to feed, making for some slow fishing from about noon through 5 p.m. when the strong outgoing tide forced fish back out of the bushes. As waters dropped out to the negative levels fish dropped off the flats into channels and sought deeper potholes to hang until water levels began rising again. This made for some incredible opportunities to fish for concentrations of snook, trout, redfish, flounder and others.

Tarpon fishing was good from Sarasota to Tarpon Springs, according to reports. Capt. Rick Grassett out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key reported jumping and landing several tarpon while fishing coastal waters off Sarasota. Afternoons have been hot, not just for the temperature but for tarpon anglers fishing around the Skyway Bridge and out to Anna Maria.

Redfish action has been spotty. Good numbers of fish were reported being caught around the Little Manatee River and on the South Shore around Cockroach Bay early and late in the day. Gold Eppinger Rex Spoons, CAL Shads, MirrOlure MirrOdines and soft plastic Lil’ Johns produced excellent results for anglers tossing these fakes.

Mangrove snapper action inside Sarasota and Tampa Bays was excellent this week and should continue into the weekend. Target them around most any structure with a small live shrimp or whitebait. Scaled sardines are just getting to the point of being large enough to use for bait. Most are around 2 1/2-inches, but there are schools of some bigger bait if you look hard. Most of the larger baitfish are in deep water, but occasionally are forced to the surface by bluefish, mackerel, jacks, and ladyfish. Watch for fish breaking the surface followed by birds diving on the remains after a blitz.


Big bass were caught around the full moon, but some fast action was also reported from anglers working area ponds for bluegill, shell crackers, and an assortment of other sunfish. Red wigglers, earthworms, crickets, and even small bits of hot dogs were used to catch these panfish and some bass. Fly rodders were having a blast on 3-wt. rods with small poppers. These fish are great sport on fly. For those interested in learning the sport, there are several clubs in the West Central area that not only teach casting but also the art of fly tying. Pinellas anglers can look up to find out information on the club. They meet the third Thursday night of each month. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya’ later!








EMAIL Ray {941-228-3474}

  • Ray Markham

    For all who caught a typo…the winter Solstice began December 21, and not December 2.
    Capt. Ray

  • Jeff

    Excellent report. Thank you for doing this.


  • Matt

    REd grouper opens in federal waters as well from what i read on the FWC site… correct me if im wrong please lol the ticket is not worth it!

    • Travis

      Capt. Ray is a creek fisherman, and doesn’t know

  • Travis

    The grouper opening is in State and Federal Waters.

  • Matt


  • steve

    what about any nice shark in the clearwater area…?

  • Jim

    What can you expect to catch in St. Joseph Sound off the piers in Dunedin?

  • bb1955

    What about the east central report on the west central report!

  • Jacob

    Why isn’t there a report for last weekend?

    • Florida Sportsman Editor

      Jacob, there was a mixup when the editor posted the reports (myself!) but the new report for this weekend will soon be posted, by 5 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned!

  • pitbull hug

    I can’t believe more anglers do not comment on this board…. Thanks for your weekly reports Capt. Ray! Surf fishing, just south of Clearwater beach, has been on fire. Plenty of flounder, fat whiting, specks, butterfish, black drum and young sharks have been keeping my rod bent! My wife gets her sun tan and I get to fish…. You don’t always need a boat to enjoy a good day of fishing! Cheers

    • Craig

      Pit bull, heading to longboat key next week. Were you spin casting in the surf with lures or throwing something out there on the bottom.

      • pitbull hug

        Both actually. I took two dozen shrimp out and fished the bottom. Ran out of shrimp and nailed the flatties and specks on a Gulp bait resembling a greenback. Don’t have the exact name in front of me but you probably know what I mean. Good luck out there! I’m headed out today too…. weather is perfect

  • mark

    Hi all, Can someone tell me what exactly is “whitebait”? is it any type of small bait fish such as pinfish or finger mullet? Is all this considered whitebait?

    • flatback

      White bait is a common name for a scaled sardine or pilchard. There are numerous baitfish that are mis-named, but the true name for a whitebait is a scaled sardine.

  • wvmthree

    Good news! We will be fishing around the Skyway and the Egmont Key reef tomorrow!!

  • Cam

    Heading to Anna Maria Island this weekend. Any good pier action over there? Hoping the macks are out!

  • Guest


  • Tim

    Heading to St. Petes beach July 11-19. Planning on doing some surf fishing and hitting the Desoto piers. Any suggestions?

    • Flat Back

      Tim, if you’re surf fishing, you will likely find some snook on the beach for catch and release fishing. There’s always a chance of finding some pompano there too. Not hearing many mackerel reports lately, but it’s always worth a shot. Bring some Gotcha Plugs, Diamond Jigs or some kind of casting spoon if you’re casting from the piers or beaches for mackerel. For the pomps, try a Doc’s Goofy Jig in yellow or yellow and white with a pink teaser.

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