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 25-27

The dark moon this weekend will have tides running hard. A temperature drop into the negatives, after sunset, will follow the big high tide in the afternoons. Look for light winds with a chance of rain in the forecast.


Action offshore was varied this week. A few reports of cobia around wrecks along with barracudas and sharks have been noted. But grouper fishing took the spotlight all around. Both red and gag grouper were hauled in from depths ranging from 55-to 150-feet of water.

Capt. Steve Papen, of Seminole, reported catching a variety of fish including mangrove snapper, gag and red grouper, scamp, tuna, cobia, margate, red snapper, and amberjacks. AJ’s are closed through the remainder of this month, and red snapper are closed beyond the end of this year.

Capt. Dave Mistretta of the Jaws Too was tarpon fishing just off the beaches. An angler hooked up with a big tarpon only to have a giant hammerhead shark eat the fish. The summer run of tarpon brings a variety of big sharks into the area, and many of these sharks follow schools of tarpon and prey on them. It’s not uncommon for sharks to chase down fatigued tarpon, spent from being caught, and eat them. Even healthy fresh tarpon meet this unfortunate death. But the bottom line is that anglers should match the tackle to the fish targeted, and with tarpon averaging 125-pounds and many times hitting 200-pounds or more, heavier tackle will allow the anglers to put more pressure on the fish to land it in a reasonable amount of time. A fight lasting longer than a half-hour wears the fish down and reduces its ability to flee from an attacking shark.


Jim Green of Wesley Chapel with a backwater snook caught on a MirrOlure Lil' John in lower Tampa Bay while fishing aboard the Flat Back II out of Terra Ceia with Capt. Ray Markham.

Tarpon fishing continues to be good along the coast. Capt. Rick Grassett out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key reported his fly anglers getting numerous shots at tarpon and jumping or landing several over the course of the week. Capt. Bryon Chamberlin of Tampa has been hitting numerous tarpon over the past several weeks. Chamberlin consistently finds good numbers of fish off Anna Maria and almost exclusively catches them on flies. Fly fishing for tarpon is an extreme art and skillful anglers may have the best shot at fooling these big fish since flies can imitate live bait as well as any lure, and a skillful caster who can lay a fly in front of a silver king stands a good chance of a hooking up. Winds with a south westerly flow, as predicted for the weekend in the Tampa Bay area, will be light. But the direction of the winds coming off the Gulf will create some wave action that sometimes makes the fishing more difficult. The fact that winds will be light will be the saving grace here.

A good chance for showers on Saturday should make anglers mindful of thunderstorms that can pop up at most any time. Three people walking the beaches on Ft. Myers during a thunderstorm this week were struck by lightning resulting in one dead and the others seriously injured. You don’t want to be the tallest point anywhere, and particularly on the water during a thunderstorm.

The new moon Friday will produce some exceptionally high afternoon tides followed by a rapid dropping level that should create some heavy feeding zones for ambush feeding fish. You can expect snook to feed around these periods. Areas nearest passes and beaches where snook will be spawning will have some of the largest fish, but backwater snook will be mostly smaller male fish. This has been evident in many of the backcountry areas we fished this week. In fact, trout were smaller as well. Look for the morning incoming tides to make up a strong bite for larger trout. Some big gator trout are being caught on the flats near Bunces Pass, at Pinellas Point, in St. Joseph’s Sound around Dunedin, and south of Sister’s Key in Sarasota Bay. Topwater lures fished early should be productive. The DOA Deadly Combo fished around potholes near Tidy Island and Long Bar in Sarasota Bay will produce some action. Drifting either the 3-inch or 4-inch DOA Shrimp with the tide in the passes and along the beaches should produce some big snook. Catch-and-release is required for these closed-season fish.

Watch for cobia on any kind of structure like crab trap buoys and range or channel markers inside the bays. Any kind of artificial reef or hard bottom can be holding mangrove snapper right now. Good numbers of fish are being caught on MirrOlure Lil’ Johns and DOA Shrimp. Live-baiters are catching them on small-scaled sardines and live shrimp.

Scalloping north of the Pasco/ Hernando county line has been excellent this year, with limits being reported by nearly all who take the time to collect these tasty mollusks. Fishing the incoming tide for trout and redfish off Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Rivers is good for anglers using CAL Jigs with Shad tails, 5.5 CAL Jerk baits and the MirrOlure Lil’ John. When the tide turns to go out and temperatures soar, it’s time to hit the water for some scallops. Remember, if you are required to have a fishing license to fish, you will also need that license for scalloping. Don’t forget your dive flag!


Heavy rains wash insects off the banks and overhanging trees around lakes and on rivers. Small worms, crickets, and spiders spilling into the water make easy forage for bluegill and other panfish. Fly rodders have an excellent shot at some fast action during and after rainstorms with flies that imitate these insects. 3-to 5 wt. fly rods are good all-around sizes for bream and bass. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!








EMAIL Ray {941-228-3474} www.CaptainRayMarkham.com

  • 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! http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/groupers/

    • 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? timf248@yahoo.com

    • 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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