March is a month of transition as we bid a fond farewell to some of our wintertime visitors.
The king and Spanish mackerel embark on their voyage northward. We normally enjoy some of our best mackerel fishing this time of year, as they are prevalent on both sides of the highway.
Live baits, such as pilchards, ballyhoo or shrimp, are your best bet. Fish the bait on a jig head retrieved erratically through the chum slick to draw the most strikes. A short trace of #4 wire will prevent bite-offs from these toothy predators.
We’ve enjoyed steady sailfish action this year, with two or three caught on most trips targeting them. The highly productive areas are those at the color change where the water goes from greenish to blue. This is typically in 120 to 180 feet of water. Pilchards, goggle eyes and small bluerunners fished on a kite is your best strategy.
If the fish gods are smiling upon you, you may encounter a few dolphin and blackfin tuna mixed with the sailfish in the same depths.
Snapper, snapper, snapper!
Our prime target during March is snapper, with yellowtails, muttons and lanes readily available on the reef.
The secret to success for snapper fishing is copious amounts of chum. As the snappers’ metabolism increases in the ever-warming water, they require heaps of food to hold their attention.
This time of year, we typically find the yellowtails anywhere from 60 to 80 feet deep. Small cut baits or shrimp drifted back in the slick produce good results. Light line, fluorocarbon leaders and small hooks are essential.
Muttons are often mingling in the slick with the yellowtails. You will need slightly beefier tackle and bigger baits to catch them. You can also fish live baits on the bottom around our artificial reefs in the Marathon area. Or, if you’re privileged to have some wreck numbers in 100 to 250 feet, you’re sure to bring these pink beauties into the boat.
Porgy and hogfish
We’ve lately been seeing large amounts of porgy and hogfish biting very well in Hawk Channel, along with all the snapper species we expect to find in this venue. Hawk Channel is a great back-up plan if the reef action isn’t what you were expecting. Shrimp is your bait of choice.
The Seven Mile Bridge and the banks in Florida Bay are shark-central this time of year. Blacktips and spinners are beginning to migrate back up north. We also have bulls and lemons in large numbers, and the occasional hammerhead makes an appearance as well.
Catch-and-release shark fishing on light tackle is fun for all ages and abilities. If you’d also like to bring home dinner, there are mangrove snappers and Spanish mackerel for the catching in the same areas. Cut baits, ballyhoo and pinfish will do the trick.