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

January 13-15

Florida-if you don’t like the weather, wait awhile and it’ll change to the weather you like. This time last weekend we were coming off a string of warm days that pushed the afternoon temps up on the flats to 78-degrees in some spots. A couple of days later, the mercury plummeted into the 30’s to our far north with lows in the southern West Central Region in the 40’s. That dropped inshore temps into the 60’s in the south and 50’s in the north, but for this weekend, we’re looking at sunny skies again with air temperatures back up into the 80’s. This is what I call the Yo-Yo effect. These extreme ups and downs affect inshore fishing more than the offshore bite, but both are affected to a degree, so-to-speak. As fish readjust to the changes, so should you if you expect to catch a few fish. The big full moon on the 12th will get the tides and currents changing water in the bays in a big way. Look for some negative lows and very high tides, and don’t get caught in the backcountry on falling tides unless the draft on your boat is super skinny.


According to the majority of the offshore guys I spoke to the past few days, fishing in less than 100-feet of water took a hit this past week with the last cold front. The front piped up winds, brought some rain, stirred up water, raised seas, and lowered the water temperature. Anglers overall this week reported a slow bite as seas began to subside and waters cleared. By the weekend the Gulf will be in much better shape for fishing with the sunny warmer weather with lighter easterly winds.

Anglers continue to report catching fair numbers of tripletail along the beaches while working the swim buoys, crab trap floats, channel markers, and any kind of floating debris. Live shrimp have been working well. Artificial lure enthusiasts have been catching them on DOA Shrimp and Berkley Gulp Shrimp.

Grouper digging efforts along with catches slowed this past week with the lousy weather. Gag grouper that are closed to possession, slowed and continue to be the most cooperative beyond 100-foot depths, however, reports this week had some anglers catching fair numbers in 50-feet. Red grouper efforts centered in the 80-foot range continue to be fairly good.

Hogfish continue to be in the limelight as more and more anglers target this fish with greater success. Targeting hogfish has been most productive beginning in 30-feet of water and out beyond 125-feet. Good numbers of fish are being taken between 45 and 60-feet. Live and dead shrimp are producing good numbers of these fish, and some anglers say sand fleas are their preferred baits, both live and blanched and frozen

Prior to the last cold front, kingfish and Spanish mackerel were both being caught in the Gulf on nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs, but when the front came in and stirred up the water along with dropping temperature, these fish disappeared. Spanish will likely come back as the bait moves back in on the beaches with easterly warmer winds.

A big surprise by some has been that amberjacks have been caught in much shallower water than normal. Reports of some big AJ’s being caught in the 50-to 65-foot range brought a big surprise for all fishing there.


Efforts directed toward big trout have been successful by many anglers working waters from Clearwater to Anclote Key. The areas surrounding the spoil islands are producing good numbers of specks ranging in the upper slot size and some well over the 20-inch max. Slow-sinking lures like the TTR and TT series from MirrOlure in CH, CFPR, and 11 colors are producing impressive catches of yellow mouth trout. Several of the new single hook versions of the Rapala X-Rap slow-sinkers are also garnering catches of big trout. North of Tarpon Springs, anglers fishing Paul Brown Devils and Soft Dine suspending twitch baits along with MirrOdines are scoring big trout. Trout up in that northern region around Hernando beach are holding on rock piles in 4-to 6-feet of water. Most all areas continue to report good catches of trout on the DOA Deadly Combo. Despite red tide to the south in Sarasota Bay, Capt. Rick Grassett and his anglers are finding some nice trout on the Combo and shrimp from DOA.

Redfish have been tough in the southern part of our region from south Pinellas to Venice. Patchy red tide continues to make for hit-and-miss action for some anglers with the bloom moving fish to unaffected areas. Some areas with light concentrations of red tide will hold fish with little to no appetite. Moving to find fish that will eat is your only option here. North Pinellas anglers are reporting some excellent catches of redfish on the Heddon Zara Super Spook Jr. Tampa kayak angler Pam Wirth reported catching reds in 1-to 4-feet of water on the bone color while working waters just south of Pasco. Targeting areas where darker bottoms heat the water will produce the best action. Also, those northern areas that have fishing pressure will make for better fishing for all if anglers respect each other by maintaining some distance from each other while fishing. Weekend warriors and inconsiderate guides are both to blame. There is plenty of productive water out there, so give each other some distance while fishing.

The flats are also holding some larger bluefish these days. These fish can be vicious at times, slashing baits, lures and fish you already have hooked on your line. Care should be taken when unhooking these toothy fish to avoid their teeth. We’ll usually catch ladyfish and jack crevalle along with the blues in the same areas. Jigs worked quickly will produce all of these fish. For those who target ladyfish to catch as bait, it’s easy catching right now. Cut ladyfish make good baits for most species of fish both inshore and off.

A few reports of flounder moving in have been noted around some areas. Targeting them where there is good moving water and sandy bottoms with grass, shell, or gravel patches might be your best bet for catching some flatties. Quarter ounce jigs with soft plastic tails like the CAL Shad work well. Live shrimp on knocker rigs will also produce some action when fished on the bottom.


Crappie fishing has taken an upswing in action by anglers reporting from Lake Manatee and Lake Tarpon. Both areas have reports of some schooling activity for specks and increased catches of fish. Missouri minnows and small crappie jigs and Road Runners have been top producers of specks up to a pound. It’s a good time to go wet a line for specks! ‘Til then… 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…?

    • t mc

      I caught a mako off the st pete pier in july chuming mackeral..

  • 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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  • Carlos Capote Jr

    Whats your idea on this red tide comin to shore from Tampa south to john pass ? in the coming week… ????

    • diesel hall

      red tide was 4 or 5 miles off shore in the pinellas area around dunedin clearwater and palm harbor red tide is currently headed north from us

  • Ssnakeman85@aol.com

    does anyone know where the bait is holding around skyway? going this weekend…

  • t mc

    I have been catching nice sized marlin off madeira beach this week.You need to wade in to the surf a bit to get a good cast.Best results on sardines…

    • Dick


  • t mc

    salmon fishing was good on the anclote river last weekend

  • Ben Ford

    Heading to St Pete Beach 1st week of Oct. Anybody ever bottom fish off the jetty at Blind Pass? Any surf fishing tips?

  • WorkingIrish

    Great report! I always look forward to the Fishing4Cast! Thanks

  • harold

    Due to an accident in 2010,have not had the boat out in 4 years.Back on my feet now and want to go offshore from longboat key.Would be forever grateful to anyone who would share some productive gps# for me.

  • Steve

    Any good beach fishing around Clearwater beach in February. Staying a month there. I am a fresh water guy from Michigan. Can you cast from the beach and catch anything. Top water of casting lures tips would help. Thanks Steve from frozen Michigan

    • steve

      no it sucks for fishing’

  • jim

    hi I am looking for fishing with me. I am 73 love to fish from my kayak. somewhere near crystal river inshore. please call me I live in inverness. 912 342 9592

  • Michael Marti

    New to area Have a 26.5 Prokat w twin Yamaha 150s ,would like to meet people that like to fish use my boat your knowledge .Clearwater area .. any idea’s Michael 314-220-8896

  • Steve Jonas

    Where can you rent a small fishing boat in the Clearwater area for bay type fishing.

  • Lester Mcmanaway

    Bringing my boy down for some saltwater action next week, he’s 6 and I’m hoping to show him a good time. We’re used to the great Lakes up here and I’ve only fished Florida once on a charter years ago. I’m bringing my own boat down, don’t plan on traveling more than 5 miles from shore give or take. Any advice for a newbie?

  • Chris Monroe

    Hudson creek area caught two keeper trout several shorts lots of catfish one Cobia popped off at the boat all caught on popping cork 1/8 ounce jig head and gulp or small pinfish

  • captrod13

    I was station in St pete while in the guard over 10 years ago. Heading back with the kids to visit some friends. Being that I’ll be on St Pete beach i was hoping someone could turn me onto the bite. Don’t really need much just some advise on where we can get some action from shore…thanks


    Anyone have any tips on blue fish near Boca Ciega Bay or in the Gulf nearby?