Typically the later part of March is a transition month when water temperatures rise into the mid 70’s and winds slack off enough to make trips offshore a little more enjoyable. Unfortunately this month we are a little behind. Right before this last front things looked to be on track for an early season run for the king mackerel, as many of the near shore reefs and wrecks were holding large schools of both Spanish sardines and kings. The deep waters are feeling the effects of the cooler than normal water temperatures also with mid 60 degree temperatures in water as deep as 200 feet. This means that although the palegics like Wahoo, Black-Fin tuna and Mahi- Mahi will take their time traveling up from the south, they should remain here for a little longer during the summer months. High winds are not helping in the planning of many offshore trips, but if your schedule is flexible enough you can still get offshore when that small window appears. Grouper fishing will continue to be very productive in most depths in the next couple of months. The same areas in 50-70 feet of water that were holding good numbers of gag grouper before the closure are still holding fish. Moving a little deeper offshore in the 90-120 foot depths we are finding huge schools of Red Snapper on just about every ledge or pothole. Since these snappers are closed to harvest it is best to do everything we can do to make sure that we do not catch these fish. One technique I use often is deploying the larger live baits on these spots, instead of frozen baits. Most of the snappers in this depth are in the 5-7 lb. class and they have a hard time trying to eat live bait that is 5-6 inches long. With record high fuel prices trips to the true deep-water areas are few and far between. Fishing in depths of 160-220 feet is consistent most of the year but springtime fishing in these depths is shaping up to be outstanding. The large male gags can be found on many different types of bottom, but the large ridges that run north to south in these depths have been holding many quality fish. Amberjack will start their push offshore to the deep water, as the temperature gets warmer. Most of the areas that have been holding numbers of larger fish in the 30-50 lb. class are now holding large numbers of smaller fish in the 10-15 lb. class. The inshore waters have already started to heat up. Snook fishing in the passes in the past two weeks has been outstanding, with most of the fish taken at night on live pilchards, around the lights. Moving water is key as this moves the baitfish off of the flats and stacks them up around structure. Pompano have been very consistent right on the beach, but the larger concentrations of these fish can be found in areas like the mouths of John’s Pass and Pass-a-Grille. Look for areas with swift moving water on top and a large sandy drop off on the edge of the channel on the bottom. These fish can be taken with small yellow or white jigs, tipped with a small piece of fresh shrimp. Large schools of redfish have moved into our area. On the lower tides the fish are hanging on the drop-offs close to the oyster beds. As the water rises these fish will move up on top of the bars. These reds can be caught on many different baits but the smaller pinfish is hard to beat. Some of these schools have as many as 100 fish in them. Mullet is a great indication that the reds are around, as these fish cohabitate together. With so many fish in a small area it is imperative to be as quiet as possible, because spooking one fish may cause the entire school to run.
Water Temp: 68