With temperatures in the 70s by day and 50s by night, the first part of March has provided ideal fishing conditions for many coastal species across the Nature Coast and after St. Patrick’s Day, the arrival of the migratory species will really pump up the volume for anglers.
March is the classic month for the arrival of Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Tripletail, and especially Cobia along the waters of Crystal River and Homosassa, and with the water temperatures of the Gulf already approaching the low 70s, these species should be showing up right on schedule this year.
Cobia which are the most sought after pelagic species along the Nature Coast typically travel anywhere from along side our oysters bars to a few miles offshore, usually moving south to north in the spring. They often swim just below the surface, making them exciting sight-fishing targets.
Cobia are often called “Ling,” and their preferred prey are small baitfish and crabs. Anglers will find the best baits are often live pinfish about 6 to 8 inches long; they’re often available at area bait shops throughout the spring and they are definitely available in March and April. Live pigfish and small catfish also do well, and soft plastics that imitate all these also catch fish, though live bait usually produces the best results.
One lure that’s as good as the real thing at times is the pre-rigged Savage Lures Mullet, which has an amazing swimming action and is available in a variety of sizes. The LiveTarget Mullet and Pinfish, both soft plastics, also do well. These baits are usually always available at Pete’s Pier Marina, Sodium Fishing Gear, or Ed’s Bait and Tackle in Crystal River.
The most common tactic for successful anglers is to get out on the water at daybreak and chum structures such as rock piles, channel markers, and even oyster bars. The scent of fresh chum has the ability to draw in a hungry Cobia from a great distance. Often staggering baits and positioning them at a variety of depths will yield the best results.
Remember Cobia can get huge, as the Florida state record is over 130 pounds. Though these giants are rarely seen these days due to fishing pressure, the fish grow fast, and Cobia over 40 pounds are not uncommon. For that reason, stout gear is the ticket and an 8-foot medium-heavy spinning rod will provide lots of backbone when paired with a 4000-sized spinning reel and 40- to 50-pound-test braid.
Talk about fun!! Who doesn’t like clear water and sight fishing? March is historically one of the best months of the year to target tailing Redfish in the backcountry waters of Crystal River and Homosassa. After an overly long period of winter weather our Nature Coast Redfish are hungry and are on the hunt. Shrimp, small crabs and bait fish will continue to be on the menu and anglers will often find that Topwaters lures especially when thrown early in the morning or late in the evening will be a fun way to generate a violent strike.
For those anglers looking for a challenge with a fly rod this month, stalking skinny water Redfish should be high on the list. With clear water comes weary fish but those anglers that can gently place a shrimp fly in the strike zone of a hungry fish should find instant success. Downsizing gear and equipment is a must this time of year and where most anglers prefer throwing large flies with 8-9wt gear, I prefer to throw small shrimp flies in the size 6 range with 6-7wt gear. As the old saying goes “size matters” and to successfully fool Redfish this time of year any added advantage will put anglers in the drivers seat towards a bent rod.
Capt. Kyle Messier