March is always welcomed by all of those who fish West Central Florida. Invariably, this is the month where the weather turns the corner. Cold fronts that start up north have a harder and harder time making it all the way to Florida and, as a result, local waters warm and a greater variety of fish become active. Another phenomenon that happens every year, as summer approaches, is that more water moves back up into the northern hemisphere, making both our high and low tides higher. Higher high tides mean better redfishing and, like clockwork, March is the month when improved fishing for larger redfish begins.
After a January where an alarmingly low number of large seatrout were caught, February showed significant improvement and early trips in March indicate that quality trout fishing is back for the spring season. Limits are again the rule and the "just barely big enough" fish that were in abundance a month ago seem to have been replaced by the 18 - 20 inch fish that are the norm. Free lined select shrimp will always get the job done but with water temps now closer to 70 degrees than 60, white bait will become the bait of choice. Fishing with shrimp next to a boat that has white bait can be downright embarrassing...due to the trout's strong preference for the shiny sliver fish when it first shows up. Upon it's arrival, Tampa Fishing Guides will do whatever is necessary to have it in the live well each morning. There is no quicker way to improve inshore fishing success than becoming good at securing white bait.
Small redfish have invaded near shore waters in the last month. Tampa fishing charters may catch as many as thirty redfish per outing right now, but the vast majority of these fish are "rats" in the 15 to 17 inch category. For those intent on finding legal redfish, there are two approaches. The first of these is to work these "smaller fish" schools until a couple of fish just over the limit are caught. As redfish generally hang out in same size fish groups, if 17 inch fish are being caught, it's likely that there are a couple of fast growers in the school that have passed the legal mark. The other approach is to keep aggressively moving, trying a variety of spots. Hard work will eventually yield a good sized fish or two. Do remember that early spring redfish may still show a preference for crustaceans since they have been dining on small crabs for months now. This makes shrimp a go to bait at this time of year. Also, smaller redfish prefer shrimp. By the end of March, more larger fish are around and will eat a wider range of baits, including just about any cut fish bait.
The second half of March promises to bring in a host of other game fish. Yes, it's true that water may warm enough for snook to start eating although most Tampa Fishing Guides recognize that fishing for these tasty game fish will be hit or miss until they arrive on the beach later next month. Near shore fishing for Spanish mackerel, bonito, kingfish, black-tip shark and the occasional great barracuda represents a better bet. Once these species arrive, just miles off the beach, fishing action can be crazy. Ladling out a mixture of chum and live whitebait can create a feeding frenzy right off the transom and hook ups can be an every cast proposition on some of these Tampa Fishing Charters. Catching these speedy predators on light tackle is always an enjoyable experience.
For those looking for some off the water entertainment, there are numerous opportunities in March. Spring Training Baseball is probably one of the most popular activities. With the Blue Jays in Dunedin, the Phillies in Clearwater and the Yankees in Tampa, there are plenty of games to go see. For race fans, The Firestone Grand Prix will take place down in St Pete at the end of the month. If watching pro golf is of interest, the Valspar Golf Championship will be held at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor on March 9th through 15th.
The bottom line is that there is no good reason to stay inside now that March has arrived. Good luck and good fishing.