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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Go Fishing

Mangrove snapper are on the upswing

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

Sometimes fish that normally are caught offshore move inside bays and become targets for anglers who might otherwise never get a shot at them. This is true of cobia and mangrove snapper.

Anglers during the past several weeks have seen an influx of mangrove snapper on just about every rock pile or spit of hard bottom in Tampa Bay. Occasionally you’ll find mangos in the shallows, but rarely in the backcountry where Jim Green, of Wesley Chapel, hit a 17-inch mango while fishing aboard the Flat Back II with me.

We ran north toward Bishop’s Harbor to look for snook, trout, reds, flounder and whatever else we could find. Redfish were not to be found, but we were surprised when Green hooked up with this nice mango on a MirrOlure Lil’ John. I’ve caught plenty of snapper around the channel leading into Port Manatee but rarely inside backcountry waters.

Cobia that typically roam offshore wrecks and reefs often follow rays inside the bays to forage for one of their favorite foods — crabs. Nicknamed crab-eaters, cobia love blue crabs, but will often eat pinfish, eels and shrimp.

Loads of crabs, pinfish and shrimp are in the bays, making easy pickings for cobia. Strong tides like we have this weekend will flush crabs out of Tampa Bay. Expect this kind of food-mover to draw predators that eat crabs. Tarpon and cobia will be the main predators, but look for big black drum to feed as well.

Hot spots in the upper Tampa Bay area include Courtney Campbell Causeway and the Gandy and Howard Frankland bridges. Bring heavy artillery if you expect to land these fish around structure. Night fishing just after sundown should produce some excellent results.

Captain 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 at www.captainraymarkham.com, at ray.markham@gmail.com or at (941) 723-2655.

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