March 2016 Fishing Forecast.
“Beware the Ides of March” a Sooth Sayer once warned Caesar, but nowadays we look forward to the arrival of mid March. Generally speaking by the 15 th of this month we are well into our Tarpon season here in Islamorada, this year we may be just seeing the first trickle of the Silver King into our waters. A much cooler than normal Winter so far here in the South has delayed the push of Tarpon back it seems. Not to worry campers because they will soon be here and they will be hungry! The upside of this cooler Winter has been that the patch reef action on the Atlantic side of the Keys is on fire, the Northerly winds don’t affect the nearshore waters and those with skiffs and bay boats were cashing in on some of the best reef fishing action that we’ve seen in many Winters. The Gulf waters have been the scene of some good battles as well and there is more to come.
Nearshore, Inshore or what ever you want to call it, the patch reefs that lay within 2 miles or so of the Islamorada area are home to some of the best and most consistent fishing around. Its also simple fishing, get yourself two boxes of chum, 10 dozen live shrimp and a 10 - 15 pound spin outfit with a smooth drag and head out. Rigging is simple as well, I prefer using braided line in the 10 - 20 pound class along with a selection go 15 - 30 pound Fluorocarbon leader material (8 feet or so long) to this I tie a knocker rig and a circle hook in the #1 to 1/0 - 3/0 size in light wire. There are times I prefer a colored jig head in 1/8 - 3/8 ounces in stead and the color ranges from white, red or chartreuse, water color and the fish’s mood determine the color. Set up anchor away from the reef, up current and draw the fish out with chum. Now just work the water column over from top to bottom and hold on tight, everything from Cero mackerel to mutton snappers will show up behind the boat. As far as bottom features goes, look for rough bottom on your fish finder and look for off colored water.
The cooler Winter has hampered the action in the backcountry for some, the colder water temps on the flats has moved Redfish and Snook off the flats and into deeper water, those who have switched gears and went looking in the drainage channels and the island moats are cashing in on some good action, add to it the fact that some huge Black Drum are to be found in the deeper water and you are going to stay busy. The bait of choice is Shrimp and shrimp look a likes, worked low and slow to the bottom. On cooler mornings you will find slower action due to the colder water coming of the flat if you are fishing channel edges on the last of the Falling tide. Move away and use your electronics to find the warmest water possible, even a few degrees of warmth will trigger a bite in the back. Once the tide begins to flood the shallows work back to the flats where the Sun warmed the mud and dark bottom, here you can find feeding fish.
The Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay come together along the Western border of the Everglades National Park and it is here that you can really cash in on the wide variety of fish that can be found out back. Spanish mackerel are always a favorite out that way, 8 - 10 feet of off colored water and some current flow is what you need and then just fish it like i mentioned you do on the patch reefs. Here you will get into the macks, snappers, Pompano, Cobia, sea trout and sharks. Keep a 15 - 20 pound spinner rigged and ready for a school of big Cobia to crash your party out there too, they will eat pinfish, shrimp, crabs or a bucktail thrown in front of them. I like taking a 10 inch Blue Runner and putting it out behind the boat about 100 - 150 feet on a Kingfish rig and float, in no time a smoker Kingfish or shark will gobble it up. Don’t be surprised to load a 50 pound King doing this or even a giant Cobia.
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