Spring is here, that means the flats will start to come alive once again. March is one the best months for anglers looking to complete the inshore slam. Snook, redfish, and trout will all be looking to congregate on the flats in search of baitfish. With water temps rising, fish will need to feed more as their metabolism increases. The primary bait source that these fish feed on are scaled sardines, or pilchards. The flats provide an excellent habitat for these small baitfish, and when they show up, the predators are not far behind.
Snook Fishing in March
The snook will start to work their way from the backcountry waterways and residential canals to stage up along the flats. Virtually any stretch of mangrove shoreline will provide snook with areas to stage up and wait for baitfish to pass by. Live chumming with baitfish is a technique used to coerce the snook out of the mangrove roots so they can be hooked and then it’s up to the angler to win the battle as the snook will try to dart right back into the woven overhanging jungle of the tree roots. Snook are protandric hermaphrodites, meaning they change from male, to female. This transition usually happens when the fish reaches 26” to 30”. The big females can grow to 48”. Snook are fun to catch, and give the angler a series of runs and jumps.
Fishing For Redfish in March
Redfish will be roaming the flats together and can often be seen following the mullet schools picking off any crustaceans disturbed by the mullet. They feed primarily on shrimp, worms and crabs but again, with the influx of the baitfish, they will turn their focus to the pilchards in the spring. Sometimes we run across schools of redfish that we can chum up and get them to stay in one area feeding while we cast into the madness. Other times we see the fish spread out working an area on a flat around an oyster bar and the approach becomes a little different. Either way redfish give a powerful fight for the angler on light tackle in skinny water. They do not jump like the snook, but they will give long runs. It is not uncommon to be catching redfish in the slot, 18 to 27 inches, and out of nowhere an overslot fish eats and that reel sings a little louder.
Trout Fishing in March
Trout are going to be sitting on the edges of the flats during the spring. We like to look in depths between 3 and 5 feet with good grass patches. The deeper grass patches allow the trout to use the grass as cover and attack bait fish swimming above. A lot of anglers will target trout using topwater plugs, and can provide some exciting action fishing them this way. Once the fish are located they can be chummed up just like the snook and redfish. A common practice for us is fishing them with a bobber 18 inches above the bait. This is not for the angler to see when they get a bite, it is more to keep that bait in the strike zone and prevent that bait from tangling itself in the grass. Trout typically range between 13 to 20 inches, but as with fishing, bigger ones sometimes surprise us.
What else is biting?
Other species like cobia, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper, ladyfish, sharks and spanish mackerel will also be targeting these baitfish. If we are chumming up fish and a school of jack crevalle swim by, hang on! They provide anglers with a powerful fight with their streamlined body shape and big forked tail. Sometimes curious sharks or cobia will inspect the action, and that can be a shock when you are catching trout, and all of a sudden your rod tip is doubled over.
Clearwater Fishing Report for March
March fishing can be awesome here in Clearwater. It’s a sign that our short winter season is over, and we can all get back to fishing for these awesome gamefish. The warm salt air leaving the dock is a feeling that all fisherman can relate to. It is like our pregame warmups. Some days we pull up to the first spot and the fish cooperate and are ready to party. Some days the fish makes us fishermen work for it. Luckily for us, we are pretty good at this and most times we prevail.