I n March our part of the world is coming out of the winter “down” period for many outdoor endeavors—including coastal fishing. Although we still have another month or so before early spring and wet wading returns, a sunny day can still be comfortable.
Such a day could even be productive, depending on the fisherman’s goals and expectations. As the old saying goes, “Even a bad day fishing is better than …” but most of us might like to feel a pull at the end of the line to go with the simple pleasure of just being outdoors near the water.
Unfortunately, March is a slow month for saltwater fishing here. Some trout and reds, and probably more flounder, will be caught by anglers fishing slow and steady in deeper holes with aromatic dead bait.
The big draw in both size and numbers, though, will probably be black drum. Big drum like blue crab portions best, although they can be taken on cut bait and with large dead shrimp—even better with Sea Bobs, which are sort of an oversized and very ugly shrimp.
Boat fishermen can stretch their fun with drum by using lighter tackle, as these big cousins of the redfish are rather lethargic and not usually noted for making long, reel emptying runs. Where there are no dock pilings or jetty rocks to cut line, they can be subdued—in time—with light gear.
At boat side or when fought to a pier or the rocks, they will strain your line, but since most should be released anyway, this is not that much of a problem. Smaller drums are not bad table fare, but the large specimens are not really worth fooling with.
Especially when using light tackle, circle hooks are the best bet on big drum, largely because they do not require a hard hook set. Circles are more difficult to remove from a live fish, but a non-stainless hook does not last long if the line simply is cut as close to the fish as is practical.
Depending a lot on temperatures, just about any of our normal fish might be encountered in March, along with more unusual catches such as pompano. You never really know what might be available unless you give it a try.
The real problem with March is that this month is known for wind. Wind is a problem more often than a blessing to coastal fishermen. A strong north wind empties the bays and coastal streams, pointing to the beachfront and passes as the best possible bet for fishing.
An east or northeast wind sets up currents running parallel to the beach, which is bad for long rod fishermen trying to hold bottom with their baits. Wind also plays havoc with tides at times—as much or more so than moon phases. Although it can be uncomfortable, windy conditions favor fishing from piers, jetties, or rock groins.
Various management issues still cloud the offshore fishing scene, and March is perhaps a good time to be carefully considering such things—as there won’t be a lot of actual offshore fishing going on. There is still hope for a switch to state management of red snapper in the Gulf, although there is well-organized opposition to such a move.
A very real danger is the current administration in Washington pushing for more “Marine Monument” areas—no fishing zones in reality—as an attempt to create some sort of legacy for the sitting president.
Because fishing has been an important part of my life for a very long time, I worry that the reduction of catch limits and fishing seasons might be an attempt to sort of ease us out of our favorite sport. This is why I try to advocate fishing for less popular species. These species are not subject to such restrictions, but can still provide sport and a reason to be on the water.
I sort of lost that battle with the (endangered) triggerfish, but other fish such as bluefish, Spanish mackerel, even jack crevalle and bonito (little tunny) can be a lot of fun to catch. A few are good eating, and so far no feel-good group is trying to stop us from fishing for them.
Go fishing whenever you can, and let your political representatives know how you feel about it.
Location: Beachfront piers, and rock groins, jettied passes give anglers on foot a chance to reach deeper water and usually get past the problem of winds.
Species: Speckled trout, reds, some flounder and pan fish might be found, but black drum are what March is most noted for.
Best Baits: Live bait works, but so does smelly dead bait. For drum, quartered blue crabs, fiddler crabs, or sea bobs might be best.
Best Times: Although March is a tough month for bank fishing, watch the tides and beware of the effect strong winds can have on them. Fishing under lights is worth a try almost any time of year, but action may not be real fast.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]