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West Central Florida Forecast

West Central Florida Forecast
West Central Florida Forecast

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. Contact info: RAY.MARKHAM@GMAIL.COM; 941)228-3474; www.CaptainRayMarkham.com


Action Spotter Podcast


May 17-19 Report

large tarpon
Tarpon action off Anna Maria. (Photo courtesy of Capt. Jason Stock)

With some rain predicted toward the weekend, a slight cooling of area waters can invigorate fish inshore, leading to a good bite. Offshore anglers will have to pay close attention to weather buoys offshore to ensure that conditions warrant safe fishing. With Memorial Day approaching on May 27th, it’s a good idea to double-check all your safety equipment on your boat such as the dates on your flares and fire extinguishers, PFD’s and their serviceability, anchors, lights, horns, etc. Many boats will be boarded for safety equipment checks during this Memorial Day holiday weekend by FWC and Sheriff’s Marine Units. If you are uncertain of your safety equipment, call your local Coast Gard Auxillary and request a complimentary safety inspection.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

It seems no matter where you go, you could be in the midst of some great action. The West Central Region has seen some good weather at times and those times have been productive for anglers getting out. Amberjacks have been chewing and now that the season is open, anglers are taking advantage of it and getting plenty of exercise catching these hefty brawlers. Most boats are finding limits of these fish as well as permit, blackfin tuna, mangrove, lane, vermilion, and yellowtail snappers when the seas allow.  Red grouper are also in the catch with some really fat ones coming from depths ranging from 100 to 130 feet west-southwest of Pinellas.

While stone crab traps are mostly out of the water now, tripletail are still around. It may take some time looking around but finding some floating debris or objects offshore or in nearshore waters might be the key to finding some tripletail right now. Running the swim buoys along the beaches can be productive early in the day before boat traffic and swimmers get out. Live shrimp rigged under a popping cork might be your best bet for live bait, but a small jig such as a DOA TerrorEyz or artificial shrimp suspended under a cork will also work well. The TerrorEyz suspends and sits horizontally under the cork and looks natural.

There are still plenty of Spanish mackerel along the beaches and up inside Tampa Bay. You’ll find them wherever you can locate bait pods. The occasional flash of bait on the surface can indicate Spanish that are actively feeding and forcing the bait to the surface. Just off the beaches, you may still find plenty of kingfish. Some may be seen skyrocketing into the air while chasing bait. Trolling Huntington Drone spoons with a trace of wire leader will get bit. Spoons come in a variety of sizes, Choose the size that best resembles the size of bait you’re seeing. You can also Sabiki up bait to use live bait. Catching some blue runners will be a bonus bait for big kings. Slow-troll them as slowly as you can go and hang on with a light drag set.

successful fishing trip
Captain Morgan's Fishing Adventures out of St. Pete never disappoints.

INSHORE

Size and bag limits for trout seem to be working in our West Central Region. We have been seeing multiple-year classes of fish, and most recently anglers are catching some much larger over-slot gator trout in the mid to upper 20-inch range. Careful handling and releasing these over-slot fish will ensure that these big breeders can produce plenty of fish for next season. On days when water turbidity is present, the DOA Deadly combo works very well along the channel edges heading out to Fort Desoto and Pass-A-Grille. Good numbers of trout are being caught in Sarasota Bay as well just inside Longboat Pass around Jewfish Key and Sister’s Key. TTR26 MirrOlures and 27MR MirrOdines have been hot lures in the area. An early morning topwater bite can fire up with the MirrOlure Duke Dog around Long Bar in Sarasota Bay for trout and redfish. Fishing jigs on the drop-offs for trout and pompano. Doc’s Goofy Jigs have been a consistent producer here as well as along the beaches in 15-to20 feet of water just outside Blind Pass for whiting, trout, pompano, and Spanish mackerel. Similar action can be had around Anclote Key where some larger trout have been caught recently. Honeymoon Island has been holding some nice reds and snook. Tides will be a bit slower this weekend so work passes or pinch-point areas where water movement might be best.

Anglers fishing Joe Bay just north of the Skyway are finding some nice snook, redfish, bluefish, and trout. Tarpon have been plentiful from Port Manatee down to the Bulkhead and at Bean Point. Good action with poons on dead baits fished on the bottom for many anglers have them securing some ladyfish, mullet, or other bait to cut and fish on the bottom. But for anglers tossing artificial lures, skip the natural bait and the hassle of catching and keeping it alive and go with the DOA Trolling Model Baitbuster, especially around the Skyway Bridge and areas off Rattlesnake Key, and Emerson Point. Don’t overwork this lure. Allow it to sit in the current with minimal movement other than an occasional raising of the rod tip slowly and letting the lure fall if you are working depths ranging up to 20-to 40 feet. HANG ON! Big fish will nail it on the drop.

FRESHWATER

We’re finally getting some rain this week, which will likely cool area ponds and lakes down a bit. Water temperatures were getting too warm for this time of year, but fish were enjoying the temporary cool down. Bass will get active early in the day and around sunset with topwater lures like the Rebel Pop-R, chuggers, and prop baits like the Devil’s Horse.

Bluegill and other assorted panfish get active this time of year around the edges of lakes, ponds, and rivers. Crickets, grasshoppers, worms, grubs, and assorted fly imitations will fill a cooler quickly with bass and these scrappy panfish. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later.

Capt. Ray Markham
RAY.MARKHAM@GMAIL.COM
(941)228-3474
www.CaptainRayMarkham.com


PREVIOUS REPORTS

May 9-12 Report

Coming off the new moon this week we’ve seen some brisk tides and good action inshore and near shore for tarpon and snook. There’s been a consistent bite offshore as well. Look for some action around the major and minor solunar periods.

Recommended


snook
Capt. Ray Markham with a juvenile Tampa Bay snook caught on a DOA Baitbuster

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

It’s been a potpourri of fish being caught offshore and in nearshore waters. Amberjacks, limits of red grouper, mangrove, lane, yellowtail, and vermilion snappers, porgies, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, hogfish, Almaco jacks, cobia, blackfin tuna, and permit have all been caught along with sailfish thrown in for good measure. To say that the Gulf of Mexico is hot would be an understatement with some great fishing. There is something at just about any depth you choose to fish, and with greater amberjacks now open, there is another target to aim for.

Concentrating on small ledges and breaks will often be more productive than the big relief that everyone seems to fish. These small ledges will hold fish that get overlooked by anglers who are running at speed while heading offshore. If you didn’t spend some time targeting tripletail and watching your bottom machine in the process and don’t already have a big book full of numbers of some great spots to fish, you might be SOL. When stone crab season was open, crabbers would drop traps on hard bottom—the same bottom that grouper, snapper, and others tend to hang around. An easy way of getting some productive areas to fish is to mark areas around where these traps are located during the season. You only have about 5 or so months more to wait for the next stone crab season to open.

greater amberjack
Landing big amberjacks will let you know what kind of shape you're in. This one caught on one of Captain Morgan's Fishing Adventures out of St. Petersburg.

INSHORE

I don’t know if you can say tarpon are an inshore or nearshore species. I guess it just depends on where you find ‘em and they are scattered everywhere from several miles offshore, to the beaches, and way up inside Tampa Bay. Juvenile poons can be found in brackish water up rivers and in many ponds adjacent to bays. These fish have been hugely active this week as we come off the new moon this past Tuesday. Excellent moving water late in the days has been flushing some crabs and shrimp out of the bays where tarpon are waiting to chew. The Skyway Bridge has seen a lot of action for anglers soaking dead shad on the bottom. Technically these baitfish are menhaden, but lots of locals call them shad. On the Atlantic coast, some call them bunker or pogies. But knowing exactly what you are fishing with can mean the difference between a hot bite or one that’s on the cool side. These fish have preferences of what they eat at times and in some cases, the tide and where they are located dictate what they eat.

Catch-and-release snook fishing has been productive. Two areas to target right now will be around and in passes, and along the beaches just outside the passes. Walking the beaches in the morning before the bathers get out might get you a fish or two, but the early morning sun being low on the horizon will make sight-fishing snook in the surf difficult. As the sun gets higher in the sky these fish become much easier to see in the surf. Remember, if you can see them, chances are they can see you as well, so it’s always best to keep a low profile. Casting to these fish is as easy as casting to the area where the water meets the sand. This is where you’ll find sand fleas when a wave laps up on the shore. This is one forage that snook are seeking here along with small baitfish. Fly anglers can do very well fishing for snook. Many of the small baitfish found in the surf are too small to cast with a spinning rod, and using small glass minnow patterns will work exceptionally well here. But anglers tossing lightweight jigs like a 1/8th oz. jig head with a CAL Shad soft plastic body on a spinning rod will work well. A 2500 or 3000-size spinning reel with a 10-to-15-pound braid and 25-pound mono leader will handle average size snook that you’ll find in the surf.

Pompano are still being caught up and down the coast near passes and along sand bars. Doc’s Goofy Jigs have been the top pomp-getter with yellow, pink, and orange colors being top producers. Anglers working deeper areas of passes are doing well with DOA TerrorEyz lures with 3/8 oz. heads. Gold, root beer/ gold glitter, and golden bream colors have been effective.

Trout fishing in the northern reaches of the West Central Region has been very good, with anglers catching mid-twenty-inch trout using MirrOlure MirrOdines during the day and in low light conditions, topwater lures like the 7MRS MirrOlure or the new MirrOlure Duke Dog walk-the-dog style lure. The spoil islands that run from Dunedin to Anclote Key have been holding some nice specks.

Redfish populations have not been that great in the area, however, some areas hold small schools of fish. Weedon Island has some slot fish if you like boat traffic, but just north of that south of Gandy in Master’s Bayou, you can find some reds in the backwaters that are in a sheltered area that’s fishable even on windy days. Gold spoons like the Eppinger Rex Spoon have been effective.

FRESHWATER

Bream fishing might be thought of as a sport for kids, but in reality, there are some feisty bream, bluegill, shellcrackers, and other panfish that put up a pretty good fight on a cane pole, a fly rod, or on ultra-light gear. Small lures like those from Roadrunner that might be used for crappie will also work well here. For fly rods, tiny poppers, foam spiders, worms, and other insect patterns work well.

While some may not look at panfishing as a challenge, all fishing doesn’t have to be a challenge, but for all, it can be relaxing. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham
RAY.MARKHAM@GMAIL.COM
(941)228-3474
www.CaptainRayMarkham.com


May 3-5 Report

You just can’t beat Mother Nature. Her wind machine just doesn’t ever seem to run out of power. Windy conditions have made it difficult for many anglers to get on the water. But diehard tournament anglers have thrown caution to the wind to take a chance on winning some big bucks or prizes.

king mackerel
Team Wood Butcher, Overall winning team in the 31st Annual Old Salt Spring King of the Beach Tournament.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Kingfish was the name of the game anglers this past weekend were playing. In windy conditions with gusts over 25 knots, 436 teams challenged the weather to compete for money and prizes in the 31st Annual Old Salt Spring King of the Beach Tournament. Overall, the sizes of fish were smaller than anticipated, with the top five fish in the 40+ pound class and the next 12 in the 30-pound class, but good numbers of fish were weighed in in both the kingfish and Spanish mackerel events. In the overall division, the winning team was Captain Bob Strawhecker’s Wood Butcher with a 49.20-pound kingfish to take this tournament’s crown for the 31st Annual Spring King of the Beach winners. The Traveling Angler division saw two 40-pound class fish. The Single Engine winner, Ryleigh Ann had a 42.87-pound king, and the Ladies Division winner was All Jacked Up with a 43.48-pound king. High Activity managed to top the scales in the Youth Division with a 22.08-pound kingfish. In the Spanish Mackerel Division, there were several 4-pound class fish, but Simply Hooked took the top honors with a 4.98-pound Spanish mackerel.

Fishing well offshore, anglers on the long-range trip out of Hubbard’s Marina saw some rough weather, particularly on the trip back in with a strong headwind and uncomfortable seas, but the group of anglers who braved the weather managed to bring home some decent catches of a variety of fish. Red grouper, porgies, mangrove snapper, lane, and vermilion snappers were in the catch. Due to the sea conditions trolling for kings, wahoo, tune, or anything else was out of the question. Much lighter winds are predicted for this coming weekend along with some calmer seas.

May 2nd stone crab season closes, which means that traps will begin getting pulled from the water over the next few days. Those portable fish attractors will be gone, and tripletail that would hang on these will be looking for other types of flotsam or surface structures to hang on. Look for things that have marine growth to hold these fish. Channel markers, bell buoys, and swim buoys should not be overlooked as potential attractors for tripletail.

boatside tarpon
A boatside tarpon Capt. Rick Gross out of Bradenton successfully landed.

INSHORE

Even with the breezy conditions, anglers have been finding areas that are protected enough to catch feeding fish. Trout seem to turn on in windy weather. Noisy surface plugs like MirrOlures with rattles, propellers, flash, or with some exceptional action can trigger strikes from big trout. Areas around Fort Desoto and Bunces Pass have produced some slot-sized trout pretty regularly for the past several weeks. Areas near the passes are holding snook. Snook will also hit the same lures during periods of inclement weather but may also go for soft plastic lures like the CAL Shad or DOA Shrimp. These lures will work well in areas where there is some cleaner deep water where snook may hang closer to the bottom. Anglers fishing in calmer areas may find suspending lures like the MirrOlure MirrOdine effective.

As we get toward the week’s end, we should see some calmer weather.  Sunday, tides will begin to pick up as we approach the new moon on Tuesday, May 7th. This will make for some optimal tides for tarpon, snook, trout, redfish, and most any inshore fish. If you’re a night fisherman, fish can be actively feeding on the night of the full moon.

This tends to slow the morning bite because fish will not be hungry right away. The afternoon outgoing tide about 2/3 of the way down and approaching sunset, I have found to be consistently productive around that minor solunar period.

FRESHWATER

woman angler with bass
Rhoda from Illinois with a fat largemouth bass caught on a guided trip on Okeechobee with Capt. Angie Douthit.

If you missed out on the crappie bite, it doesn’t mean you should stop fishing. Bass are off the beds, and crappie fishing has indeed slowed, but bass in their post-spawn are ravenous. Anglers are catching some mighty big largemouth bass lately throughout Florida. Shellcrackers, bluegill, and many other panfish are on the beds and chewing like crazy. Capt. Angie Douthit, who guides on Lake Okeechobee says the bluegill and bass bite has been stellar. Bluegill are spawning in the shallows and will continue throughout the summer and into early fall. She says if you want to avoid the summer heat, now’s the time to book your fall trip on the Big O for some memorable action with trophy bass, and constant action with bluegill with either live bait or artificial lures. She does it all. For a fun time on the water Capt. Douthit may be reached at (863) 226-7263. Check out her website at www.southfloridabassfishing.com or on her Facebook page at facebook.com/southfloridabassfishing. ‘Til then… I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham
RAY.MARKHAM@GMAIL.COM
(941)228-3474
www.CaptainRayMarkham.com


April 25-28 Report

Heading into the weekend with the Old Salt Spring King of the Beach Tournament on tap out of Madeira Beach, anglers can expect Easterly winds of about 10 to 15 knots with occasional gusts to 20 knots. It’s kingfish weather!

Other tournaments are underway and more are to come. The 90th annual Suncoast Tarpon Roundup is right around the corner for your planning in this esteemed tournament that is one of the longest running tournaments of its kind in the country.

blackfin tuna
Blackfin tuna caught on Captain Morgan's Fishing Adventures out of Marine Max in St. Petersburg.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

If king fishing is your game, the nearshore waters might have perfect conditions for it this weekend. Predicted Easterly winds will lay seas down near shore making for some nice slow trolling of big live baits. The event kicks off Thursday night at 200 Rex Place in Madeira Beach with the anticipation of more than 500 boats entering the tournament for king and Spanish mackerel.

By executive order, FWC will reopen greater amberjack for recreational harvest in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico from May 1 through May 31 consistent with the federal season.

If you plan to fish for greater amberjack or other specific reef fish species in Gulf state or federal waters from a private recreational vessel, you must sign up for the State Reef Fish Angler Designation (annual renewal is required). As a State Reef Fish Angler, you could be selected to receive a mail survey component of the State Reef Fish Survey.  By participating in the State Reef Fish Survey, you are improving recreational data that is used to provide optimum recreational fishing opportunities in Florida. To learn more about the State Reef Fish Survey, visit MyFWC.com/SRFS or sign up today for your no-cost designation at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

Offshore waters are working some magic with pelagics like wahoo and blackfin tunas being caught. Sailfish have also been in the mix according to reports. It’s that time of year, and the action is only heating up. Water temperatures and fish migrations are getting right for bluewater trips in the 120 to 200+ foot range.

Mangrove, vermilion, and lane snappers are all being caught along with some porgies. Lots of red grouper continue to hit the decks as well, with the larger fish out beyond 100 feet coming up on live pinfish and a combo of sardines and squid.

spanish mackerel
Spanish mackerel are terrific light-tackle targets.

INSHORE

It might be worth a last-ditch effort to bag a snook before the season closes at the end of the day on April 30. These fish have been feeding heavily in preparation for the spawn which they will be undergoing throughout the summer months right up through September. Passes, points, and areas with good water flow with baitfish present will be your best bet for catching a legal fish. Only one fish is permitted per angler between 28 and 33 inches on the Gulf Coast. Thursday and Friday this week will have the best tides for snook fishing. Late afternoon, the outgoing tide level is predicted to drop about 3 feet in the Tampa Bay area. It varies up and down the coast, so check your local tides. Lures like the new Berkley High Jacker, MirrOlure MirrOdine, and the DOA TerrorEyz are all proven snook lures. Boat docks with lights and lighted bridge fenders will attract snook, trout, and others. When fishing the passes, jigs that get to the bottom and some of the heavier DOA Baitbusters and Swimming Mullet are the ticket to catching some monster linesiders that live to feast on the bottom. Heavier tackle like 50-to 65-pound test braid with 50-to 80-pound leader might be required to get some of these big fish away from the structure they hang around.

Good trout action continues from Sarasota to Anclote Key in water depths ranging from a foot to 4 or 5 feet wherever you find grass patches, potholes, and some water flow. The DOA Shrimp is exceptional for trout, especially when drifted with the current.

Redfish, bluefish, and cobia have shown up on the flats sporadically. If you can find some mullet schools, you might find redfish. Bluefish seem to be wherever you find bait schools. Cobia have been seen following rays on the flats, feeding on crabs, shrimp, or small baitfish kicked up by the ray’s wings.

90th ANNUAL SUNCOAST TARPON ROUNDUP

suncoastroundup poster
2024 Suncoast Tarpon Round Up

Celebrating 90 years of tarpon fever, the Suncoast Tarpon RoundUp will again kick off their charitable tournament series this year at the Harbor Master at Bay Pines Marina on May 4th. A separate Tune-Up Tournament will be held on May 18th. The Tournament series begins June 8 with two legs plus the Finale Day winding up on July 20th. An additional Legacy Tour runs from June 30th through July 6th. The event also has a Juniors Tournament. For more information, go to www.suncoasttarponroundup.org or text or call Tournament President, Dave Travis at (727) 639-7203.

FRESHWATER

Water temperature in lakes, ponds, and even in rivers in some areas is on the rise. Most bass have completed their spawning rituals. Bluegill are taking a turn. You’ll find spawning bluegills around the shallow perimeters of lakes and rivers where a small depression has been created by fish fanning their beds with their fins. This is a great time of year to catch some of these scrappy fish on ultra-light spinning or spin-casting gear. Small Roadrunner lures tailored for the crappie folks will find these small jigs perfect for a multitude of panfish as well as some chunky largemouth bass. Whatever you catch on ultralight gear you’ll find a bend in your rod and a scrappy fight on your hands. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham
RAY.MARKHAM@GMAIL.COM
(941)228-3474
www.CaptainRayMarkham.com


April 18-21 Report

Looking ahead toward the weekend, anglers can expect an increase in moving water brought about by the upcoming full moon next Tuesday, the 23rd. Snook are already flooding out of backcountry areas in preparation for the spawn. They will feed ravenously around this period.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

king fish
A little trolling action on a private charter aboard the Hub can produce some spectacular action with kingfish.

Running well offshore to depths between 140 and 170 feet of water has been productive for anglers trolling for pelagics like wahoo and blackfin tuna. Nomad Lures, Rapalas, and several types of MirrOlures and Iland Lures have been productive. On the way out, anglers trolling LB Huntington Drone Spoons are catching a variety of fish from kingfish and Spanish to wahoo.

Bottom fishing has also been exceptional for red grouper, vermilion snapper, mangrove snapper, and a variety of other fish. While red grouper can be caught in depths typically starting at about 60 to 80 feet, larger fish are generally coming from depths of 100 feet and greater. A variety of baits are being eaten by bottom fish. Pinfish seem to always produce decent catches of fish, but threadfins, live shrimp, or frozen squid, and cut baits like cigar minnows, sardines, and others will all produce at the right time. Capt. Dylan Hubbard reported good numbers of big mangrove snapper weighing up to about 8 pounds on some recent trips on their party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass. Hogfish numbers have slowed but are still available if you want to put in the time. Tripletail are always an option if you find any kind of flotsam or markers in the Gulf.

Artificial reefs have been holding permit and cobia. Having live crabs in your life well will be a bonus if you find either of these two species where you fish. Both will gobble up crustaceans in a heartbeat. A silver dollar size crab is perfect for a permit, and cobia will take any size you offer.

If you’re fishing just off the beaches, there are a plethora of species available. Good numbers of Spanish and king mackerel have flooded the region. If you’re a tournament angler, try and catch some big blue runners for bait. But don’t ignore whatever is out there. Menhaden are also baitfish that can’t be ignored. Find bait schools and you’ll likely find both. Tarpon have also been cruising the waters off Sarasota, Bradenton, St. Pete, Clearwater, and Anclote Key. Following not too far behind are sharks. Several different varieties have been seen. It’s wise to keep hands out of the water when releasing fish here during the summer months when so many sharks are looking for an easy meal from a stressed fish being released.

INSHORE

sea trout
Alan Sugar of Michigan with a Sarasota Bay trout caught on a CAL Jig with a shad tail while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett

Trout fishing has definitely taken an upswing in action over the past few months, and while some much larger trout have been caught in the past month and a half, we are still seeing good numbers of small trout being caught. That’s a good sign that fish are spawning and beginning to replace some of the fish lost to 4 years of red tide fish kills.

Some fantastic catches have been coming on topwater lures and lures that suspend. Berkley’s new saltwater Choppo lures are making a big splash with their large prop and are attracting some big snook, trout, and redfish. The new Berkley HighJacker lure has a baitfish profile that has been a productive surface walking/diving lure for trout and snook. MirrOlure’s Duke Dog, last year’s winner of the Best Saltwater Hard Bait at ICAST, has been putting a hurting on big snook, trout, and reds. It’s the ideal time for topwaters. But don’t put away those suspending baits. We had some excellent success with 27MR MirrOlure MirrOdine XL suspending baits for redfish, trout, snook, bluefish, and even a few flounder.

Greater numbers of tarpon are showing up around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and approaching next Tuesday’s full moon should make for some banner action with good moving water. The late afternoon falling tide will be the one to target for poons. Look for areas with good current flow that will carry blue crabs out with the ebbing tide. Dip a bunch of them up with a crab net and go fish!

FRESHWATER

It’s funny how when the wind comes down a bit people take off for the water. Some of these “less than perfect” days with marginal winds piping up can be hugely productive for post-spawn bass around the perimeters of lakes. Rattling crankbaits like the Rat L Trap are good search baits and will root out schooling bass. For areas with good bottom structures like rocks and stumps, a square bill crankbait generally produces some good fish. One of my favorites though are poppers and chuggers such as the Rebel Pop-R and the 12LS18 from the local L & S Bait Company.

One of my favorite springtime freshwater targets is bream. Bluegill, stumpknockers, red ears, or whatever panfish you have, are some of my favorite fish to target with a fly rod and some small poppers or foam spiders. They are a blast to catch and give a pretty good tug on the line when they turn sideways. Give it a try! ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham
RAY.MARKHAM@GMAIL.COM
(941)228-3474
www.CaptainRayMarkham.com


April 10 Report

The weather seemed to be moderating somewhat after last week’s blow at mid-week, but here we go again. We aren’t out of the woods yet with some more breezy weather before spring settles down. Just pick your days to get on the water to make sure you can do it safely.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

The bite was on for anglers fishing aboard Captain Morgan's Fishing Adventures out of Marine Max in St. Petersburg this week. Capt. Brian Morgan said they boated a solid fat six-man limit on the red groupers, 40 huge vermilion snappers, a half dozen almaco jacks, a couple of mangos and a half dozen lane snappers. It was a great haul for a handful of guys.

Increasing numbers of Spanish and king mackerel are showing up along the beaches and out to about 60 to 80 feet of water, according to reports this week. The Old Salt Spring King of the Beach tournament, scheduled for April 25 through the 27th is in high gear registering anglers for the big money event to be held at 200 Rex Place in Madeira Beach.

The clock is ticking down toward the Old Salt Fishing Foundation's 31st. Annual Spring King of the Beach Tournament April 25-27 in Madeira Beach. For more information, go to oldsaltfishing.org.

Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina out of John’s Pass reported a banner catch of fish on their recent 39-hour party boat trip. Some big red grouper, mangrove snapper up to about nine pounds, plenty of vermilion snappers, and some porgies. The trolling wasn’t conducive to much success with pelagics due to the high seas. But some calmer weather ahead should produce some of these fish.

INSHORE

High winds and some rough weather are bad combinations for getting on the water in small boats unless you have some honey holes in protected areas. Gusty winds have made getting on the water and fishing hit-and-miss lately for some anglers, but there have been some decent trout to catch lately with good numbers of fish showing up well into the 20-inch class. MirrOlure 94MR21 Top Dogs have been productive for me on the flats while fishing grass patches in 2 to 5 feet of water in lower Tampa Bay and portions of Boca Ciega Bay.

Good catches of redfish of assorted sizes have come from upper Tampa Bay where Capt. Bucky Goldman has been putting his clients on them as well as a pretty good snook bite.

Capt. John Gunter, of Off the Hook Charters out of Ellenton recently sighted a rare sawfish. These fish are having some very difficult issues lately and are critically endangered. Anglers who do observe one of these fish are asked to report all sawfish observations (healthy, sick, injured, or dead) to (844) 4-SAWFISH (844-472-9347) or sawfish@myfwc.com. Report abnormal fish behavior and fish kills to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Fish Kill Hotline at (800) 636-0511 or MyFWC.com/ReportFishKill.

Catch-and-release snook fishing has been good for anglers targeting these fish. They are beginning their spawning and continue throughout the summer months. Anglers are urged to handle these fish gently and release them as quickly as possible to help prevent release mortality. Natural bait users should use circle hooks to prevent gut-hooked fish.

The pompano action that was seen up and down the coast for a while has slowed. Catches continue to be reported by anglers fishing Doc’s Goofy Jigs around the passes at Big Sarasota Pass, Longboat Pass, Bunces Pass, Pass A Grille, and Clearwater Pass.

FRESHWATER

Bass fishing remains steady during the post-spawn period. Good action is being seen with spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and early morning/ late evening topwater lures like the new Berkley Drift Walker 90. Despite being sold as a saltwater lure this 3 ½ inch, 3/8-ounce surface walker is an easy walking lure that produces well in both fresh and saltwater. The tail-weighted design makes for good casting distance and has a slim profile for subtle sound and finesse presentations. From bass to redfish, the Fusion 19 3X anti-rust treble hooks are sturdy enough for any lunker you hang. Give ‘em a try. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Capt. Ray Markham
RAY.MARKHAM@GMAIL.COM
(941)228-3474
www.CaptainRayMarkham.com


April 4 Report

Heavy weather moving into the Suncoast at mid-week should move through the area before the weekend. Tides will be affected by next Monday’s new moon with some very low lows and some extremely high tides. Hopefully, the wind machine calms down.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

Red Grouper
The angling crew aboard Captain Morgan's Fishing Adventures out of Marine Max in St. Pete. once again slammed the red grouper.

It was a bumpy ride but Capt. Brian Morgan of Captain Morgan’s Fishing Adventures out of Marine Max in St. Petersburg and crew ran out, did some bottom dropping and boated six limits of red grouper along with some lane snapper, and called it a day. Bottom fishing has been on fire lately but windy days have kept a lot of boats at the dock and turned a few anglers a different shade of green than normal.

More and more reports are coming in with kingfish catches. Spanish mackerel have been here for several weeks but are pretty predictable now. Trolling might be the easiest method of catching them by dragging spoons like those from Clark and Huntington Drone. Using either downriggers or planers at various depths will allow you to cover greater portions of the water column. A flatline out the back of the boat is a must. Don’t be too surprised if that same spoon you’re pulling hooks up with a kingfish. There have been kings caught from the beaches to well offshore. Light drags and rods with light tips but a moderately stiff mid and butt section are best for kingfish. Twenty-pound test mono gives some shock absorbency to your rig as these fish hit hard and fast, and the shock can rip the hook from the fish’s mouth. Let the fish run and leave the drag set without tightening it. As fish take more lines out, greater drag is put on the line as it’s pulled through the water.

Nearshore waters out to about 100 feet continue to produce hogfish a few triggerfish, mangrove snappers, lane, and vermilion snappers. Shrimp will catch them all.

INSHORE

young man holds red drum
Capt. Bucky Goldman put a family on some nice reds. This beauty was one of several backwater fish caught.

While days like we had at mid-week this week will make you want to settle back on the couch with a good movie, dangerous weather with tornado warnings and high winds with rain don’t come every day. But it always pays to be mindful of the weather before you decide to hit the water. Good numbers of trout are being caught and those caught vary in size from 10 to 26 inches. That’s a fantastic sign that we are seeing multiple-year classes of these fish. They are prolific spawners, spawning as many as six to eight times per year throughout the year. If we continue to practice catch and release and minimize what we take home, this fishery could be back on track within the next couple of years here in the Tampa Bay area.

Redfish action has been pretty spotty around the Suncoast with some areas having zero action and others fair-to-good action. Bait schools are beginning to show up in greater numbers, so those slinging whitebait will likely tap the resource as soon as it’s available. But if you want to find these fish, follow the bait.

Snook fishing has been smoking hot for anglers catching and releasing these fish. The season for them is closed throughout the late spring and summer months while they spawn. New and full moon periods will find them mostly in passes but there are many other spawning areas where these fish traditionally go to spawn.

Pompano action that has been hot over the past month or so continues for anglers targeting them. Doc’s Goofy Jigs have produced fish consistently around the Tampa Bay area and up and down the coast as far north as Panama City as well as on the Atlantic Coast.

Keep eyes peeled for cobia on the flats. These fish have started to trickle into Tampa Bay and adjacent areas, perhaps migrating with tarpon coming up from the south. These fish have been known to travel together.

FRESHWATER

largemouth bass and fishing pole
This 5.5-pound largemouth bass was caught on 4-pound test mono on a Roadrunner Buffet Rig by Capt. Ray Markham.

Post-spawn bass fishing is underway in many areas along the Suncoast. While they can be caught on a variety of jigs, worms and hard baits, I find Rat L Traps very productive around schooling bass. For those fish laid up around shorelines and in potholes surrounded by grass or vegetation, I have found a popping bug on a fly rod the best tool to place a popper in a small area and to be able to pick up and re-present if necessary. Inexpensive starter fly rod combos are available for under $100. Pick one up and give it a try. After your first catch, I’m sure you’ll be hooked! ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later.

CHAD DAY MEMORIAL 6th ANNUAL FISHING TOURNAMENT and CHARITY EVENT – April 20-21, 2024

fishing tournament poster
Chad Day Memorial Fishing Tournament, April 20-21.

For the 6th year, this Sarasota-based charity event and tournament will be held with $6,000 in tournament winnings up for grabs. It’s a boat tournament with up to 4 anglers per team. Details and registration are available on their website at ChadDay.ProFishingTournaments.com.

Capt. Ray Markham
RAY.MARKHAM@GMAIL.COM
(941)228-3474
www.CaptainRayMarkham.com




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