MARCH IS STILL A transition time on the upper Texas coast, with water temperatures just beginning to warm enough to encourage fish feeding activity.
Inshore fishing will be slow, for the most part, for popular species such as speckled trout and flounder, while redfish are probably more likely to be encountered. Generally, deeper spots in bays, passes, and coastal streams will be best, and the most productive fishing will be done SLOWLY.
This means using bait that attracts mostly by scent, and soft plastic artificials crawled slowly over a soft bottom, where fish can seek some shelter and relative warmth compared to open water temperatures.
One activity that can generally be worth pursuing in March will be what remains of the black drum spawn, which normally begins in February. Boaters can try for big drums along the inside of the Galveston jetties, and sometimes in parts of the ICW as it crosses the bay. Although they’re not “flashy fighters,” black drum can be large—sometimes over 50 pounds. These fish require fairly heavy tackle for consistent catches.
Of course, a lot of exciting “sport” can be had trying to wrestle a big drum on light tackle. They are seldom kept for food, so “losing” a few because of tackle limitations is not a big worry.
Drums are also taken from beachfront piers, in the passes, and sometimes in coastal river outlets. I have occasionally caught drum and even sheepshead around nearshore oil production platforms in winter. This is also an area worth trying.
Cooler weather is usually a good time to look for sand trout and other coastal species in nearshore Gulf waters. Snappers will be mixed with the sandies—sometimes of legal size. An occasional grouper will be mixed in, too.
Deeper waters faurther from shore can be very good for red snappers and groupers—and even a surprise ling at times. Bluefish can be abundant in cool Gulf waters; and they do come to the Texas Gulf to spawn in winter.
Blues are very aggressive in cold water and will hit artificials eagerly. They will also savage snapper baits to the point of being annoying at times.
Personally, I like bluefish. They fight hard for their size class, aren’t shy about taking baits of various types, and are not bad eating when freshly cleaned. Blues will congregate around oil rigs, offshore buoys and channel markers. You’ll find them as well at jetties and rock groins in the surf.
At times, bluefish will also school in the surf. Because they are so aggressive and strong, they are great sport on light tackle. They’re a very popular species among sportsmen on the Atlantic coast, but Texas anglers mostly seem to overlook bluefish—or consider them a “trash” species.
I doubt they could ever be as important a sport species here as they are on the East Coast. However, they are one fish that can make the “winter-time blues” a much more pleasant time period!
Location: Shallow bay waters will tend to still be cool, so deeper spots will hold more fish. Beachfront piers extend just far enough into the Gulf to serve this endeavor, as do the relatively protected waters between jetties. Other favorable spots include inside passes to the Gulf—natural or man-made—and the outlets of streams and rivers to the Gulf. Reef areas will be promising on days of warmer temperatures and good sunshine. Deep stretches of coastal bayous and rivers are sometimes very good.
Species: Trout and redfish, along with croaker, will be the most sought this month, except for when the big black drum are in late winter spawn.
Bait: Live bait will be hard to come by, even if you catch your own. Mud minnows may be more easily located, and will work well on most species. Fresh dead bait in the form of shrimp, squid, and baitfish such as finger mullet can be good. Artificial lures, especially soft plastics, are worth a try, and there are scents available to make them seem more “life-like.”
Best Time: Air temperature is not as much a factor, and water temps will be cool. Night fishing under lights can be good for attracted bait species—sometimes VERY good.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]