GO FISHING is a look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Ray Markham.
Bring your foul-weather gear fishing this weekend.
There is a 50/50 chance of precipitation, so a hand-held VHF radio with a weather channel might come in handy.
It’s tuneup time for gag grouper. Monster gags are being pulled up on Middle Grounds spots by anglers making the long runs. Catch-and-release action has been hot. The gag grouper season reopens Tuesday in state and federal waters. The gulf grouper aggregate bag limit is four fish, meaning no harvester can retain more than four gulf grouper in any combination of species.
Zero bag limits for captain- and crew-for-hire vessels apply to gag, black and red grouper only. Anglers looking for red grouper can find them beginning at about 50-foot depths southwest of Pinellas. Look for cheese bottom, which is fairly flat with holes in lime rock. Watch the recorder for a show of fish. Typically, you’ll find them where sand meets the rock.
Wreck and reef prowlers are abundant, as noted by veteran guides such as captain Jonnie Walker of Bay Walker Charters out of Sarasota. He has been running charters for four decades, working inshore waters, near-shore and offshore wrecks and artificial reefs in the Sarasota area. In the past couple of weeks, he has seen a variety of fish caught. Kingfish, sharks, barracudas and permit have been hoisted aboard his charter boat.
Inshore waters still hold small-fry bait, just a little more than an inch long. If you’re an artificial lure enthusiast, scale down lure sizes to match the hatch for trout, redfish, snook and whatever else you would normally target with live baitfish. The CAL 3-inch Shad, MirrOlure Soft Dine and MirrOdines are perfect imitations of what’s out there.
The flats south of Pinellas Point and on the Clam Bar are holding big trout. Live shrimp or DOA shrimp under popping corks work well here. Target flounder, pompano and permit in Pass-a-Grille Channel or Bunces Pass. Bridges and beaches are holding snook. The DOA TerrorEyz works well here, but fly anglers might have the best shot on the beaches with glass minnow fly patterns.
Captain Ray Markham specializes in light tackle fishing with artificial lures and charters on lower Tampa Bay out of Terra Ceia. He can be reached at (941) 723-2655, firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website at www.CaptainRayMarkham.com.