01 Nov The Reel Deal
Ray Markham spends his days chasing the bay’s bounty – snook, trout, redfish and flounder, along with tarpon and cobia in season. He can’t remember a time when he wasn’t on the water. “My family had a cabin up on the Chassahowitzka River and from the time I was a week old, my dad just tossed me in a boat,” says Markham, a respected fishing guide in Tampa Bay for 20 years. Born and raised in Gulfport, Ray literally grew up on the bay, fishing for trout, scalloping, catching filefish and seahorses to sell to the local aquarium, and racing sailboats. “You could walk out in the bay and pick up a washtub full of scallops in twenty to thirty minutes – the water was crystal clear.”
Markham didn’t set out to become a fishing guide; he wanted to be a marine scientist. He got his captain’s license only after repeated requests to take folks out on the water to test fishing gear. One trip led to another — and to a livelihood.
Did you know? Almost all snook over 30 inches are female. Some males change sexes at about that size to ensure the survival of large, egg-bearing females that are most critical to snook survival.