March is finally upon us. Let’s all put winter behind us and welcome spring with open arms. We will see less fronts, longer days, and warmer waters. As the bait makes its way in the bay, get ready and hang on. We should be in store for another off the hook spring. Most of our inshore species will be in the transitional stage coming out of their winter time patterns. The pelagic species will be following the schools of bait.
Trout season should still be going strong. February had some good days and some slow days. The trout I have been fishing seem to be on the move. One day you can be fishing a school of 100 fish, the next day, nothing. The key is to keep moving to locate the fish. The best way to locate fish is to use artificial baits. A D.O.A CAL with 1/8 ounce jig head will cover a lot of ground. Also Gulp! jerk bait rigged weedless will do the trick. Experiment with color. If you have a favorite color and are catching a good amount, try a color you wouldn’t normally use. You may be surprised by the results. Live shrimp still is hard to beat. 20-25lb Berkley Fluorocarbon leader with a #1 Daiichi circle hook is an ideal rig.
The mackerel started to show up the last month. Look for it to get better as more bait pushes into our region. The spanish mackerel bite last year was outstanding. I’m not sure if it was any better than years past, but I know for a fact I fished for and caught more mackerel than I ever have. With the snook bite being nonexistent, the spanish mackerel made up for it. They are good fighters on light tackle and also have decent table fair if cared for properly. Make sure you put them on ice right away and eat them fresh. The usual spots will hold fish…Skyway Bridge, ship channel, artificial reefs, range markers and any hard bottom. Live white bait (if available) is bait of choice but shrimp will work.
Redfish should start to get more consistent this month. We have been catching plenty of rat reds but anything bigger has been tough to come by in our region. On low tides, fish the potholes. I know you have heard this before but it works. When you are talking about a difference in a few inches, in relative terms, that’s a huge change in depths. It’s a numbers game for me. The more potholes I work, the more my odds go up. I prefer artificial when searching the potholes. You can cover a lot of ground fast. I have been experimenting with colors and Gulp! 4” jerk bait in Nuclear Chicken has been producing well. New Penny and Natural are always go to colors. I like to rig them weedless with a 4/0 Daiichi Butt Dragger weighted hook.
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We all know that snook season will NOT open this month. It was set to open, but with the emergency closure it will remain closed until after the spawn in September. If you do target them, please handle each fish with extreme care. Sheepshead bite should continue to be good throughout the month. Look for early season king mackerel around the Skyway and adjacent ship channel. Don’t be surprised to see some early season tarpon show around the bridge. Whitebait and threadfins should start to show up at the bridges and piers soon, so get that bait net and livewell ready!