GO FISHING is a look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Ray Markham.
Tarpon continue to put on an awesome show of power in Tampa Bay and along the Gulf, but prime targeted fish provide some mighty fine eating right now. Pompano are running the bars, passes and around the edges of grass flats. Mangrove snapper have moved into near-shore and inshore waters in big numbers that are targetable, and the window for red snapper is open briefly for those who make a long run into the Gulf to find them.
Few fish inshore have been held in higher esteem for their table fare than the Florida pompano. Back in the 1950s and ’60s you would find pompano on the menu of some of the best restaurants in the state. Orlando resident Chuck Heddon, family member of the famed Heddon Lure Company, fished with me last week on lower Tampa Bay targeting trout, redfish, flounder, mangrove snapper, snook, black sea bass, red grouper and whatever else was chewing. Tossing CAL Jigs with Shad tails, Heddon added a pompano to our growing catch of flounder, black sea bass, trout, redfish and others.
A member of the jack family, the pompano fights hard, much like the permit and jack crevalle, but typically average only about 2 to 3 pounds, with an 8-pound, 4-ounce fish the state and world record. Permit and jack crevalle commonly reach weights to 30 pounds or more. Offshore wrecks can hold permit now.
American red snapper can be found in depths usually greater than 80 feet, but Florida’s Middle Grounds are a mecca for these tasty fish. Unfortunately, the season ends only nine days after it opened June 1. Local captains Steve Papen, Dave Mistretta and others are targeting them with success. Mangrove snapper, in the same family, are smaller, but many folks think they are just as tasty, and they are right here in local waters of Tampa Bay.
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.