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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Schooling redfish have been on rise

GO FISHING is a look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Ray Markham.

As if on cue, redfish schools are beginning to gather in inshore waters. Massive numbers of fish are being reported in numerous areas from Sarasota to Crystal River.

Locally, St. Joseph’s Sound has schooling fish in the upper slot. To the south, portions of Sarasota Bay at Long Bar, Buttonwood Harbor, Tidy Island and Sister Keys have schooling reds.

Bradenton anglers reported good redfish action at Price’s Key and Seven Pines near the mouth of the Manatee River. Terra Ceia Bay has several hot spots along with areas along the South Shore to Ruskin.

Across Tampa Bay near Fort De Soto around Tarpon Key, schools of redfish are hanging in the no-motor zones.

Over the next couple of months, redfish action should steadily increase, particularly for larger breeding-sized fish. This is a typical pattern. A number of natural baits work well for redfish, and reds aren’t that picky most times.

When fishing slows, cut mullet or ladyfish soaked on the bottom seems to appeal to a marginally hungry redfish. Live shrimp are hard to beat, but small crabs are a redfish’s dietary staple. Reds will hammer a live scaled sardine or threadfin herring at times.

We are having some excellent success with artificial lures as well. Spoons are a favorite, and with all the floating grass lately, a weedless model like the Eppinger Rex Spoon has been effective. When trying to locate scattered fish, I’ll prod the waters with a topwater lure if the surface is clear of weeds.

My favorite topwaters include the MirrOlure Top Dog or She Dog, and the Rapala Skitterwalk. Since reds normally feed on the bottom, the bulk of the fish I catch are on subsurface lures, and a jig or jerk bait are my best producers. The CAL Shad from DOA, CAL 5.5 Jerk Bait, and MirrOlure Lil’ John have consistently produced fish.

When fall settles in and waters cool, water clarity improves and fish become spooky. The DOA three-inch Shrimp in glow and gold color or just glow are my go-to lures. They land softly and are rarely refused.

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 via his website, www.CaptainRayMarkham.com; at [email protected]; or at (941) 723-2655.

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