Unpredictable Weather, Unpredictable Fishing, but Good Catches Are Possible
March ushers in some of the most unpredictable weather for coastal anglers. From stiff north breezes during cold fronts to the blustery south winds with enough force to blow your hat off, this month promises to be a roll of the dice on most days. There are, however, small windows of perfect weather that can save a fishing trip, especially if you can go on the spur of the moment. Let’s look at a few places to test out that theory this month.
Sheepshead will be spawning this month along the coast. Any structure that has a barnacle growing on it should be supporting sheepshead this month. Along the Alabama coast, the gas rigs of Dauphin Island and Mobile Bay qualify as excellent places to start. Getting your hands on the freshest dead shrimp available will go a long way towards putting sheepshead in your cooler.
“Any structure that has a barnacle growing on it should be supporting sheepshead this month.”
Sheepshead are actually very finicky feeders. The bite is very light and you’ll lose a lot of baits learning this. My suggestion is to lower your offering to the bottom near the legs of a rig. Then, slowly explore the water column about two feet at a time. If you feel anything resembling a tug, drop your rod tip slightly. Next, lift up slowly and if you feel any resistance at all …Set the Hook!
Sheepshead are also fond of fiddler crabs. Fiddler crabs take a little getting used to, but once you figure those out you can start stacking the cooler. Besides the rigs, you can find lots of sheepshead at Dauphin Island Bridge and over at the ferry dock at Fort Morgan.
Redfish will be on the prowl this month around Sand Island Lighthouse and the long sand spit semi-connected to it. A fresh piece of shrimp tossed out just off the beach will tempt the reds. MirrOlures with green backs and silver sides will also take the aggressive reds in the cuts. Gold Johnson Spoons are another excellent bait to tempt the bruiser redfish. Wade fishing, with the aid of some good chest waders, can be a great way to get ‘up close and personal’ with coastal reds.
Just offshore of Fort Morgan, around the close gas rigs, you can pick up a variety of species this month. All you need is some fresh dead shrimp to fish around the structure and you can encounter black drum, redfish, sheepshead and even some ‘early arrival’ Spanish mackerel. Fish on the bottom, moving around until you locate a school of fish. The real key will be to get the freshest shrimp you can find.
During March, good shrimp can truly be hard to find. Most bait shops have to rely on what’s available. During this time of the year, Florida pink shrimp is all that most shops can get. My experience with the pinks is that they are just slightly better than nothing! Searching for something fresher can make the difference, so try to find something better, even if you have to drive farther to get them.
“After catching some bonito, cut them into chunks and toss them behind the boat to attract the tuna.”
Mid-March usually features the first cobia of the season arriving to start cruising the beaches off Gulf Shores. A quick warm up is sometimes all it takes for the delicious brown fish to make an appearance. Cruise the beach looking for the big predators. If you spot one or more, cast an offering ahead and try to intercept the cobia.
While there are several opportunities available for offshore fishing out of Alabama in March, some anglers are making their planned trips to the Midnight Lump off of Venice, La. in search of the great run of tuna. Anglers first chum the waters over the lump with pogies to stir up the bonito.
After catching some bonito, cut them into chunks and toss them behind the boat to attract the tuna. Bonito chunks are also used for bait to catch tuna. By hiding a small hook inside a bloody chunk of bonito, you can fool the swarming tuna. Once the tuna school up behind the boat they can be fooled with poppers or other hard plugs.
Fishing the Midnight Lump is not for the novice angler. It would be best to make a trip with an experienced captain to ‘learn the ropes’ first. After a trip or two, you should be good to go on good weather days.
Bass take center stage this month in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Spinnerbaits will rule as the top bait for the plentiful bass going through the spring spawning ritual. Safety pin type spinners, such as a Beetle Spin will be popular choices in the grass-filled bays of the delta. Popular colors include yellow with a black stripe, black with a yellow stripe and solid white.
Another longstanding favorite with locals is a Snagless Sally. This inline spinnerbait has caught more than its share of delta bass. Popular Sally colors are yellow, yellow and black, crawfish, chartreuse and bruiser. Bruiser is a color combination of purple, black and blue. Any color of Sally should be fished with a plastic trailer to add more action. Chartreuse or white are both excellent trailer color options. You should know one more piece to the spinnerbait puzzle. A thin, long-shanked trailer hook will definitely improve your hook-up success.
March can be an iffy month as fish start to transition from their winter habits. Trying to figure out what the fish want can be tricky. Be sure to check the weather to avoid the stiff winds of March. Dress warmly and be safe.
I’ll see you on the water.