December 01, 2023
Capt. Ray Markham covers the fishing forecast from Aripeka to Longboat Key, including Hudson, Anclote Key, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Bradenton
December 1 - 3
The weeks around full moons seem to always have changeable weather. For sure fish are affected by the strong tides that are produced by lunar influences. Changes in barometric pressure can also be a major contributor to fishing action. Paying attention to the changes that are created by lunar cycles will give you keys to the feeding patterns of fish.
Rainy, stormy weather kept a lot of boats at the dock last week, but recent trips on the Gulf with Captain Brian Morgan have been very productive for anglers targeting hogfish. Nearshore waters from about 40 to 80 feet have given up good numbers of hogfish, white grunts, an assortment of snappers, and sheepshead. Live shrimp for most anglers have been the bait of choice for all.
Areas along the beaches continue to show some action with Spanish mackerel prior to the mid-week cold front that passed. The temperature drop will force another push of kingfish south if there are any more remaining to the north. Freezing temperatures from the Panhandle south to the Nature Coast will see to it. If you’re still looking for some kings, some of the deepwater wrecks might still hold some fish.
The activity seen in recent weeks with tripletail tells me a few things. First, these fish have moved into shallow nearshore waters in good numbers. It’s no surprise since stone crab season is well underway and crabbers are seeing a good haul of crab claws on these most recent storms. Stormy weather makes these crabs move. So, freshly baited crab traps also tend to attract marine growth and ace as a mini artificial reef, attracting baitfish and tripletail that move in to feed. With storms not far off on the horizon it also makes for a short ride to target some good table fare.
Cooler weather may slow the action temporarily, but fish will begin to chew again on the next warm-up. Many fish are still in the process of moving to their winter haunts, so you’ll continue to find fish on the move until the weather patterns begin to stabilize.
You can always count on seeing some bluefish slashing your baits and ripping some soft plastic lures. Capt. Rick Grassett of Sarasota has been having good success on recent trips around Sarasota Bay with both spin and fly anglers. Targeted fish include bluefish, Spanish mackerel, trout, pompano, and tripletail on Cal Jigs with Shad tails and flies.
Redfish are on the move with this weather change. Some of the big breeders are headed back offshore except for some of the warmer back bay areas. Look for shrimp, pinfish, and cut baits to work for the natural baits, but suspending and slow-sinking lures like the MirrOlure 18MR808 Heavydine and TTR26 MirrOdine to pick up some nice trout. Larger trout have been showing up along coastal areas with passes from Sarasota to Anclote Key.
Get out the sheepshead gear because that time is just about here. Greater numbers of sheepshead have been moving into the bays over the past few weeks. Judging by the photos of sheepshead being caught on the piers, around rock piles, seawalls, and docks, we will probably see some great action this winter as the cold fronts crank up. It’s a good time to pick some sunny days and find out where fiddler crabs are hanging out. Fiddlers and sand fleas have always been choice baits for sheepshead, but since beach renourishment began some years ago, the numbers of coquinas and sand fleas have both been disappearing on the shores of the beaches. Pompano eat both live baits, but Doc’s Goofy Jigs seem to work just as well as any live bait for them when these silver saucers are around.
I’ve had a few crappie reports in the past couple of weeks but with this cooler weather, speckled perch fishing action could just kick it up a notch. I like tossing tiny jigs for speckled perch. Vibe Runners and Crappie Tamers from Blakemore always do the trick with no muss or fuss with live wells and aerators to deal with. If you’re into live bait, Missouri minnows will be your best bet rigged on a #6 Daiichi red hooks. Paper-thin mouths of these fish can pull hooks easily, so a gentle lifting of the rod is all that’s needed to set the hook on these fish when using light wire hooks. If you’ve never taken a few specks home for dinner, I hesitate to tell you to now, because you’ll be hooked on them and then there will be fewer crappie for me. So, just leave them for me to catch. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!
Capt. Ray Markham