Celebrating the (T)ides of March


March 2017 article for Big Bend Coastal Angler Magazine                                                                  by: Gary Droze


While the Ides of March in 44 BC turned out to be rather a bummer for Julius Caesar, nowadays they can spell great fortune for “roamin’” anglers who plot the assassination of big fish in the St Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Take a stab at the springtime St Marks Refuge offerings in salt, brackish, and fresh waters. Here are some of my favorite examples of each…

Salt: Horns Creek. Boat access is best from the Lighthouse ramp. Head east past the lighthouse for two miles and hang a left. Once into Horns, look for two significant bends in the first half mile. They will reward thorough exploration. Warning: like many tidal creeks, Horns is fairly shallow at the mouth. Stay alert for fast-dropping tides around the new or full moon, to avoid getting stuck on the horns of a dilemma. Or dodge that risk by targeting Horns Creek for a low-tide wading expedition. Park at the bathrooms off Lighthouse Road, and hoof it along the levee for 5 minutes (past Tower Pond), then scramble across the salt marsh flats for another 10. When you spot an alligator…you’re there! Tip: wading anglers who pick a day when low tide is near zero can hike almost the entirety of Horns Creek and often find spring redfish, trout, and sheepshead gathered in Horns’ holes.

Brackish: Deep Creek Levee. The canals on both sides of this bike-friendly levee trail offer redfish and largemouth bass action to bank anglers, and occasional mullet bonanzas to cast-netters who possess a sixth sense about unseen oyster bars that lie in wait to devour weights. These canals hold fish throughout the tide cycle; seek out a spillway that begs for topwater tossings just as a high tide starts to drain in the evening. Tip: because the high levee bank elevates angler profiles and spooks fish, a stealthy approach is paramount when targeting these skinny canals. I’m often on my knees when casting from these banks (passersby assume I’m praying for success; of course they’re right).

Fresh: East River Pool. From March 15 to October 15, this lunker-holding gem is open to boats powered by trolling motors or elbow grease. It gets a good deal of pressure, but still manages to kick out numerous bass over five pounds, no doubt due to a combination of plentiful cover and lots of forage species (poor mullet can’t catch a break from harassment, even in fresh water). Tip: dense brush makes bank fishing on the pool’s west side a rough go, but whopper bass lurk there.

A great culinary aspect of fishing the St Marks Refuge in March is that almost anything you catch can be diced into fryable chunks, perfect for adding life to a Caesar salad.