By Greg Stamper
March especially late March is the month when things start to warm back up. We look forward to watching the water temperatures begin to slowly warm and with that, the fishing gets better. Patients is still important early in the month as we wait for the water to warm up above 74 consistently. Spring is in the air which opens a bunch of options for fishermen.
Early in the month we’ll still be fishing for the cold weather fish like sheepshead, trout, mackerel, etc. Sheepshead will continue to be found both in the backcountry as well as on the nearshore wrecks and reefs in good numbers. Trout don’t seem to mind the cooler water and should be consistent over the grass flats in 2 to 4 feet of water. Throwing D.O.A. shrimp either tied to a popping cork or thrown by itself to get your share of spotted sea trout. Redfish will certainly be available and can be plentiful, caught on everything from cut baits to top water artificials. Redfish can be really good on the right tides this time of the year, so plan to target them when the waters moving in or out of the backcountry well. Fishing the passes when the water isn’t silted up can also be productive in early March. Pompano, mackerel, jacks, baby shark and the last of the bluefish will be available on jigs tipped with shrimp worked aggressively.
Later in the month assuming we don’t get any strong cold fronts, Spring time begins. This is the beginning of awesomeness for South Florida. Snook, redfish, permit, tarpon, and other fun things begin to show up as bait schools begin to travel from the South. Snook my favorite fish to target but not kill, get on the move this month. Snook will be fattening up as the water warms and be found in great numbers at times. The sure way to catch them is with live baits of several varieties. Baits such as pilchards, pinfish, threadfin herring, and pig fish all work excellent freelined on a 2/o or 3/o circle hooks with 30-40lb fluorocarbon leader. Fly fishing for them can be a challenging way to spend your day. Fly-fishing for the little ones isn’t too tough if your accurate with the cast. The big boys however can humble even a seasoned angler rather quickly at times. Lastly throwing artificial lures both soft and hard can give an angler a fun day and other species as well.
Tarpon being something South West Florida is known for, starts up now through December and can be targeted many ways in lots of areas. The big fish typically move in to begin their spawn April through June, however fish in the 100lb class and below are showing up now. Tarpon will show up along bridges, in the rivers, and both near the beaches as well as out several miles. Targeting these fish can be done both day or night depending on what Mother Nature deals us. Depending on the size of the tarpon your targeting, leader size can go from 20lb for the juveniles “10-30lbers” all the way up to 80lb for the monsters. Hooks will vary depending on what your targeting but in general I move up to a heavier hook strength from size 4/0 up when I believe the fish will be at least 100lbs. We’ll target them with crabs, threadfins, grunts, and other small baits both freelined and corked at times. Tarpon will eat plugs, big jigs, and soft plastics as well. Standard heavy spinning gear is most popular and anything that can hold 400 yards of line is recommended for the big ones.
Cobia, permit, tripletail, and a variety of reef species fishing just keeps getting better in March. Targeting all these species is doable, so having set ups all ready for them is a good thing. Cobia will usually just wander up to you while approaching wrecks so having a bait ready to go when coming off plain is important. Tripletail may be spotted as you run out to somewhere, and permit can often be seen tailing in places as they feed on crustaceans.
Captain Greg Stamper
Snook Stamp Charters