Capt. Pete Rapps
Typically, the month of March brings some of the best Speckled Trout fishing our area has to offer. If you can find areas where you have grass on one side of the boat and sand on the other, you could certainly get into some fun fishing! In these areas you can fish the same flats for both Speckled Trout and Pompano. Try casting out a 3/8 oz bucktail style jig tipped with very small fresh shrimp pieces (cut a shrimp into 6-8 pieces). The Trout will be in 3-5 feet of water in the grass, and the Pompano will be in the same depth of water in the sandy areas. Let the jig bounce in the sand a little to get the Pompano interested.
Redfish will continue to be a good fish to target this month. For your best chance, bring some live shrimp with you and some of your favorite popping corks. Fish for them on the incoming tide around oysters or hard bottom. I really like to target them in areas that are 3’- 4’ deep and where the tide is moving the water nicely. Set your popping cork to get your shrimp about 1’ off the bottom. About every ten seconds, give the cork a good “pop”… enough to make a small splash. The sound you are trying to mimic is that of a fish feeding on the surface. We call it “ringing the dinner bell.”
Sheepshead can be found in deeper holes and drop-offs against the mangrove roots in the rivers and near shore areas. I like to live line ashrimp on a small 2/0 circle hook into these likely areas. Sheepshead fishing is an “art” of it’s own that requires a lot of discipline and finesse. When you feel a nibble, forget that natural born instinct to set the hook! Let him nibble! Reel in a half a crank, let him nibble some more! Keep reeling in a half a crank or so until you feel him grab that shrimp and run the other way. It takes a lot of patience and discipline, but once you get the finesse down, the fruits will come. If you ever thought about getting an electric fillet knife, now is the time. Sheepshead are thick skinned, spiny, have big ribs and are perfect candidates for cleaning with electric knives.
Offshore, look for Permit and Cobia as the water warms. Permit will gladly accept a small 1” live crab on a 4/0 circle hook. Cobia will hit many types of jigs and bait like a large bucktail jig with a rubber tail, many top water plugs, plastic eels, and live bait like Pilchards, Pinfish, Thread Herring, and Mullet.
Snook will be a fantastic sport fish to target in March, especially later in the month as the water warms up and they begin to head out of the deep back country on their annual migration back to the outside. Get that cast net out and gather some good live Pilchards (“Snook Candy”) and head into the back country. We are getting some pretty good Snook on the incoming tides right now. Be sure to get them back in the water and released after a quick photo.