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Weekend Fishing 4Cast for West Central Florida

By Ray Markham Posted on June 24, 2020

A week of calm weather and settling seas has allowed anglers to run well offshore for big grouper and red snapper. Tarpon anglers working the evening outgoing tide have seen fewer fish than during the last full moon period.

OFFSHORE/ NEARSHORE

One would think that with the gentle breezes and calming seas this week, every angler with the gumption for getting offshore could do it and have some banner catches to show for it. Well, at least part of that is true.

For some, they say big water equals big fish, and from the looks of some of the fish hitting the docks this week, there is truth to the saying.

Big gag grouper, as well as red snapper over 20-pounds, were brought in and many were well over that size. Overall, a variety of snappers are being caught in good numbers right now.

Mangrove Snapper, Red Snapper and more

The next full moon will likely see a huge gathering of mangrove snapper as they begin to spawn. Night fishing trips will capitalize on this fishery. Capt. Dylan Hubbard’s party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass reported good action with vermilion and lane snapper while fishing from 60-to 100-feet of water off Pinellas. There were also some nice mangrove snapper caught. But Hubbard says these leader-shy fish might chew a little better with downsized tackle under the 30-pound class they used for most other snappers. Cut threadfin herring, squid, and live shrimp were the top-producing baits there.

Some of the best red snapper catches were coming in depths ranging from 150-to 250-feet of water, although good action was seen at 120-feet. Red snapper season for recreational anglers on not-for-hire vessels closes at the end of the day June 25th. The season for federally permitted vessels ends at the end of the day August 1.

Snapper and grouper caught on a recent party boat trip out of Hubbard’s Marina in John’s Pass on Madeira Beach.

Weekend Fishing Forecast for West Central Florida by Captain Ray Markham

Scuba divers have reported thermoclines offshore from about the 90-foot depth and beyond where the water temperature is much cooler, running at as much as 10-degrees cooler than the shallower depths. Look for these temperature breaks to hold fish, particularly on large relief and structure. The change in temperature might also make fish more actively feed.

For those fishing beyond 100-feet, catches of dolphin, a.k.a. mahi mahi, have been coming in this past week. So, heading out to that area might dictate bringing a variety of tackle to match the fish targeted. Most of these fish are “chicken” dolphin, or small fish running around 20-inches or so, but there have also been some nice ones caught in the mix.

It’s Tarpon Time!

Tarpon running along the beaches have been busy chasing down baits. The late afternoon/ evening out-going tide this week has dropped nearly 3-feet of water from the peak afternoon high tide to the bottom of the tide after sunset. This strong falling tide has been carrying loads of shrimp and crabs out of Tampa bay and passes along the coast where tarpon have been lining up for the buffet to feed.

Good numbers of fish have been caught and released as well as numerous fish jumped. Artificial bait users have done very well with these fish using DOA Trolling Model Baitbusters, the DOA jumbo Shrimp, MirrOlure Catch 2000, and MirrOlure 37MR49 MirrOdines. Up inside Tampa bay around the bridges and backwaters as well as up inside some of the creeks and rivers, the DOA TerrorEyz has been hammering the small tarpon. The single hook baitfish imitation is a terrific lure in strong currents where it maintains an upright swimming action that’s irresistible to small tarpon.

Buoys and channel markers in the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel have been holding a few tripletail as well as the occasional cobia. Cobia have been taking pinfish and eel or snake imitations such as the Berkley Power Eel and the DOA Sna-Koil rigged on jig heads.

Capt. Ray Markham with a bonnethead shark caught on a CAL Jig with a Shad tail in lower Tampa Bay.

INSHORE

Snook fishing has really taken off this week. The night bite has been excellent around bridges and passes. Points on the flats on the late afternoon falling tide have been hot spots for linesiders that wait and ambush predators being swept with the tide.

Anglers walking the shorelines on the beaches early in the morning with a fly rod can take advantage of the snook that feed in the trough where the sand meets the water. Casting nearly parallel to the shoreline several feet out from the sand and stripping a small white fly like a Clouser Minnow or even a sand flea or crab imitation will rarely be refused and result in hook-ups. Glass minnow patterns are also an excellent choice both hear and for night dock light fishing for snook. In the lights, you’ll also find some quality trout feeding along with some ladyfish.

Pompano, Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel

 Action on lower Tampa Bay has seen a few pompano, some bluefish, scattered Spanish mackerel, spotted seatrout, redfish, quite a few sharks, and a few flounder. Most catches have come on either some kind of jig or on live shrimp fished under popping corks in 3-to 5-feet of water around patches of grass. The Fort Desoto area has seen some pretty good snook and trout action near Bunces Pass. The numbers of boats in or near the pass makes for some difficult fishing at times, especially when tarpon anglers are anchoring up in the pass. On calm days anglers working their way outside the pass and heading south along the beach will find some tarpon milling around and even a daisy chain or two.  

Spanish mackerel are making their way into bays and on deep grass flats. Casting Gotcha jibs around the channel markers in the bay can also produce some nice macks, but if you just can’t locate a school of surface-striking fish, break out some medium spinning tackle and rig up a few spoons like those from L.B. Huntington Drone or the silver Clark Spoon. Rig them with a 4-foot mono or fluorocarbon leader testing about 30-to 40-pounds to help prevent break-offs and also increase the number of bites over the use of wire leader.

Lake Seminole in Pinellas County is loaded with bass like this 3-plus pounder.

FRESHWATER

The heat is on, and area lakes have been pushing the mercury up close to the 90-degree mark. Few rain showers have been in our area this week, so until they resume, possibly by the late week or early in the weekend, things will have to be done slowly. Pitching worms to heavy cover in Lake Seminole in Pinellas County will probably get good results, but the best bet might be an early morning topwater just before the sun comes up above the horizon. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!

Catch a Charter with Captain Ray

Captain Ray Markham, Backwater Promotions
(941) 723-2655 • [email protected]
www.CaptainRayMarkham.com • (941) 228-3474

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