by Capt. Rachel Cato
I will try to keep this month’s forecast brief. Are you ready to go catching instead of fishing?! How can I keep it brief when there is so much happening this month? Bait is the #1 thing I think about in March because all winter (winter meaning maybe all of 6 weeks, thank you Florida!) that’s what keeps me going. The anticipation of bait showing up, getting the nets back out and catching those beautiful, magical shiny gifts from the fish gods. March generally has the magical water temperature holding in the 70’s degrees which warms up and increases the fish’s metabolism. Water clarity is generally really good and clean so using lighter leader 20#-25# will produce more fish. I’ll adjust the hook size according to the bait. Small bait around 1/0 then as the bait gets larger I’ll go up to a 3/0. Strong water current and sun helps to turn the bite on when the water is cooler. Trout start to flood the deeper grass mixed in with mackerel and ladyfish. Using a 30# leader will prevent most cut offs, but a longer shank hook is better for mackerel.
Snook and Redfish are still catch and release only through May. Snook start to stack up and in the transitional areas feeding and moving toward their summer spawning grounds. Redfish will be caught along shorelines with oyster beds and thick mangroves with schools of mullet nearby. Mangrove snapper is still one of my all-time favorites to target because they are excellent table fare and fairly easy to catch. Black drum and sheepshead will still be caught if using live shrimp around structure. Typically, schools thin out when the water temperatures increase. Using weighted hooks with cut shrimp or live is the best bait. White grunts will also eat shrimp and so thick it’s hard to catch anything else – a cheaper bait is cut squid. Best plan is to go try to catch bait then start fishing and choose areas with signs of current and life.