The first week of March began with strong winds that really hampered fishing, but by mid-week the winds subsided to a tolerable level that allowed anglers to register some good catches.
Sea trout continue to get bigger and more widespread each day as we move into their prime spawning season. Fish over 20 inches are common and were reported throughout our inshore waters. From grass flats on either side of the Sanibel Causeway, Capt. Gary Clark is catching trout in good numbers with many fish over 18 inches and a few up to 22 inches. Pompano, bluefish, mackerel, and small sharks were also caught in 3 to 6-foot depths while casting Redfish Magic white shad tails or working live shrimp under a popping cork.
Capt. Cliff Simer reports above average size trout in northern Pine Island Sound, where it was often fairly easy to limit out on fish 18 inches and above on average. Most fish were caught on live shiners while fishing sand potholes on the rising tide. Simer also reports boating several redfish up to 26 inches and snook while fishing shorelines in south Matlacha Pass, also on live shiners at the top of the incoming tide.
Jacob Kopp of North Ft Myers completed his inshore slam (snook, redfish & trout) with this fat 29-inch redfish. It was caught and released near Bokeelia while fishing with his father and brother on a trip with Capt. Bill Russell.
Other anglers found trout scattered over the flats in north Matlacha Pass between Indian Fields and the channel where drifting while casting Gulp or DOA shrimp accounted for lots of undersize fish with a decent mix of keeper size. In Pine Island Sound, grass flats north of the power lines, east of Fosters Point at Captiva, and around Useppa Island and Cabbage Key held good trout concentrations according to several anglers. Live shrimp, shiners or small pinfish under popping corks, Gulp or DOA shrimp under rattling corks, and chartreuse or white shad tail on 1/4 ounce jig heads were the best choices for obtaining a cooler of tasty trout filets. In all areas the key was locating clean water for a good bite.
A big range in tides allowed redfish anglers to take advantage of some very low tides early in the mornings and some decent highs in the afternoons. On the morning lows, redfish were sighted pushing wake on the skinny water east of McCardle Island in Matlacha Pass, near Murdock Point west of Cabbage Key and across Charlotte Harbor in Turtle Bay. Top baits included live hand-picked shrimp rigged weedless, gold spoons and top water lures, including the Sebile Stick Shadd. On the afternoon high tides redfish were found in the same areas, plus the Keys in the northern sound under the mangroves. Live shiners, pinfish, and Gulp Shrimp took redfish varying in size from 16 to 29 inches over the last stages of the incoming and beginning of the falling water.
On my boat, fishing was a little tough early in the week after the cool front but picked up nicely as the week progressed. With the water climbing over 70 degrees baitfish including shiners and thread herring are showing up in good numbers and the game fish are responding. Trout fishing is good, look for plenty of action with fish averaging 13 to 17 inches over bottom in 4 to 7-foot depths. Spanish mackerel, bluefish and small cobia are also mixed with the trout in these areas, as mentioned earlier, look for the cleaner water. For the larger trout, look more to the areas where you might target snook or redfish.
Speaking of snook, they are really turning on with the warmer days. We had a couple afternoons with fun action on catch-and-release snook, plus mid-slot redfish and large trout without moving the boat
Only a week into the month and I keep hearing "it's the windiest March I have seen here" or "it sure is windy." I don't know how it works around the rest of the country, I've only lived in Matlacha, but I can tell you, as a rule, March is our windiest month, always has been, and I'm confident will remain that way for a long time. So, yes, we have encountered some windy days recently, but that's nothing new or unexpected for those that have fished these waters for an extended length of time. You just need to "Deal with it," that's what I do, I adjust where and how I fish accordingly, and believe it or not you can catch some pretty good fish, even on the windy days.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.