This is the time of year we have been waiting for the last three months. The grasses will be reestablishing on the flats, the bait will be returning to the flats and the target species we yearn to catch will be in prime feeding mode. Snook will be coming in season, trout will be finding the grass flats, snapper will return and Spanish mackerel will follow. The low-quantity catches will be followed by many 40 to 60-fish days and the bay will once again be alive — if the winds agree.
The grasses in the bay will begin to regain their foothold within the bay and all the above mentioned will be at the anglers’ grasps for ample numbers of catches once again. It is the seasonality of things in the bay. As the grasses grow, the greenies will begin their transition back to the flats for their annual spawn activities. The trout will follow them back in, along with the shallow-water snapper. The snook will be posting back out on the exterior point of all the passes and tributaries from the backwater winter haunts.
Cobia may be found creeping around on the flats or beginning to hang on the cans, nuns, buoys and posts around Tampa Bay. Be ever weary of the tripletail on the deeper water structures. Large or jumbo shrimp are the best baits for these fish, especially when sight-fished.
Kingfish will start to migrate into the areas as the water temps begin to climb. These fish are much closer to the shore this time of year and can sometimes be caught just outside the Skyway Bridge. Sabiki up some live blue runners or large threadfins and troll very slowly on a stinger rig. Anywhere from the Skyway to the Whistle Buoy, marker 1 of the Egmont or Tampa Bay channel.
This is such an amazing time of year to be on the water, but be aware of the wind potential during March. It can be very hairy at times but yields some wonderful days on the water. The rule of thumb is to make a plan for fishing the day but always have a contingency. If offshore isn’t conducive to a safe adventure, always make a plan to shift to inshore. (A hard lesson learned.) We have all had those days.
When scouting for trout, please try and use the plastic artificial baits. They maintain a much better survival percentage after release than live bait does. Not to mention the hook-up ration is much better with artificial bait.
This is a great time of year to try your prowess at fly-fishing since there is very minimal surface grasses to impede the movement of the fly. My normal set up is 8-weight fly gear with a green deceiver fly. You can purchase them or try your hand at tying your own. I buy them because mine come out looking like something the cat threw up.
Get on the water and see what makes Tampa Bay so special!