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Fish Don't Get A Holiday

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On: Fri, Nov 28, 2014 at 11:31AM | By: Captain Ray Markham

Capt. Ray Markham with a big flattie (flounder) caught on a CAL Jig with a

What do fishing guides do on their days off? I can't speak for everyone but most of the time, I go fishing, for my own enjoyment, and sometimes take a friend along. But this holiday weekend I’m going to kick back, relax, and watch fishing shows and some football on TV. However, for those who still plan to get out on the water with friends and family there certainly are some great fish to be caught. Fish don't get a holiday and get to take off from working for a living. They continually must work for food. The action has been up and down due to the weather, but it's been mostly steady. Trout fishing seems to be off from the norm, but the majority of the fish we caught were in about 6-to 8-feet of water. We’re seeing better numbers of sheepshead beginning to show up on the flats, with some black drum around docks. One report this week had mangrove snapper piled up at the Skyway Bridge, but we didn’t target them. There are also still a few pompano being caught near the Bulkhead at the mouth of the Manatee River, but with winter weather just ahead, their days here are numbered.

The cold front that’s on us for Thanksgiving weekend may slow the action for some species like snook where the season comes to a close at the end of this month. Your best bet to land a snook right now might be to run up toward the headwaters of rivers like the Manatee River and hit the deep bends in the river. Fort Hamer has long been kind of a dividing line between where FWC says saltwater ends and freshwater begins. But if you fish there for bass and catch and keep a snook, you need to have saltwater license. Conversely, if you're looking for snook and catch a bass, you'll need to have a freshwater license to possess the bass.

But if you're looking for something a little less finicky to feed, redfish, flounder, and trout have been around and willing to tighten our lines. Fishing in lower Tampa Bay this week, anglers aboard my Action Craft flats skiff, the Flat Back II caught snook, trout, redfish, loads of ladyfish, and good numbers of flounder. Big reds rewarded us early in the week with close to a dozen fish caught in the mid-thirty inch range and several right at the top of the slot. No undersized reds were boated. We used a combination of lures including the DOA Shrimp, CAL Shad in both 3 and the new 4-inch sizes, the Eppinger Rex Spoon, and the MirrOlure Marsh Minnow and Lil’ John soft plastic baits with good success. We had flounder to 22-inches.

Water temperature rebounded in the big way by mid-week over last week by reaching just over 74 degrees down in Terra Ceia Bay. That’s a 25-degree increase over the previous week’s water temperature in some parts of the bay. This weekend the temperature should be back down but on the beginning of another upward trend. This Yo-Yo trend, as I call it, is part of the acclimation period for fish to get used to the incoming cold weather that winter will present. It gives fish a chance to prepare themselves for the cold and triggers a feeding response in them to make them put on body fat that will help ward off extreme cold weather that may be on the horizon.

Freshwater anglers are finding good catches of crappie early this year, so that’s an option. The best bet in saltwater offshore is gag grouper since the season comes to a close in the next week, and inshore will be to target both redfish and flounder. They are the most plentiful and tops on the table, and after a stretch of turkey leftovers, a welcome change on the table.

Capt. Ray Markham specializes in light tackle fishing with artificial lures and charters on lower Tampa Bay out of Terra Ceia. He may be reached via his website,, or at(941) 723-2655for charter.


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