In both fresh and saltwater the word transition gets thrown around quite often. If there ever was a transitional pattern, March is certainly a month with a lot going on. Depending on how soon or late the water starts warming and forage starts to arrive, will determine where to concentrate your efforts. Our local year round population of redfish, sheepshead, speckled trout, whiting and sea bass will all be biting very well…somewhere. Migratory species such as cobia, triple tail and sharks should start to trickle in towards the latter part of the month.
One of Georgia’s most sought after species; the speckled trout will certainly be one of the most transitional fish this month. If the water temperature stays below 58 degrees, continue to concentrate your efforts in 6-18 feet of water. The periods around either side of low tide as the water slows should be prime feeding time. Smaller profile soft plastics like the D.O.A C.A.L curl tail, sinking hard baits, and live shrimp drifted on an adjustable float rig should all produce. If possible, down size your baits and work them very slow, on or very near the bottom. Limit your search to smaller creeks, rivers and tributaries that hold deep water. The sounds, ICW, and open water will just not offer the comfort for trout yet. If we have a substantial warming trend, trout will move out to more open water and begin to feed shallow, especially at the higher tide stages. Trout tend to have a westerly movement on our coast in the cooler months, so don’t be afraid to try drops closer to the I-95 corridor. The further reaches of the St. Mary’s, Satilla, Little Satilla, White Oak, Turtle and Altamaha systems will all hold good numbers of trout this time of year. Many savvy anglers catch redfish, sheepshead and striped bass in these areas too.
March is typically a month when the larger sheepshead show up both inshore and nearshore. There will be a lot of fish exceeding the 8 lb. range brought to the scales this time of year. On the nearshore wrecks, try to avoid days or tide stages during the day when the current is ripping, or moving fast. Many anglers get frustrated on the wrecks trying to fight thru black sea bass and oversized red fish, which is not a bad problem to have on some days. The best strategy to locate the sheepshead is to move around until you find a piece of structure that is holding them. The wrecks are made up of different levels of relief and material, and often sheepshead will isolate in small areas. Once you find a spot holding these striped bandits, mark it and guard it with your life. You should be able to record two or three spots per trip. You may be surprised at what you will find on these smaller pieces of structure as trophy sized summer trout, flounder, cobia and trigger fish will also separate themselves from the hordes of sea bass.
Red fish, as always will seek shallow water. Typically during the cooler months, reds will feed pretty hard during low tide in the back of creeks and mudflats. As the water warms, and bait such as mullet, small crabs, blue crabs, mud minnows, and shrimp become more active, you may find red fish feeding at the top of the tide, over mudflats. I particularly like mudflats that have a lot of shell and sparse grass. Take your time, and work slowly and quietly along these areas and you may even be able to see redfish cruising or even crashing baits. Once you spot activity, you can usually anchor the boat quietly, and fish that area. The schools should not be broken up yet, so if there is one, there should be quite a few more.
For those close enough to fish the jetties at the mouth of the St. Mary’s this month, the fishing should be some of the best of the year. Over slot and slot redfish, sheepshead, whiting, black drum, and sea trout will all show up at this rocky fish magnet. In fact, black drum in the 20-80 lb. are quite common. Favorite baits for black and red drum are blue crabs. Simply pop the top off the crab and remove the legs. The joints where the legs were removed make a great place for hook placement. You can pin either half or a quarter of the crab on the hook, and send it to the bottom, anywhere in the vicinity of the rocks.
Finally, March usually signals the beginning of the whiting run. Usually the deeper holes in front of the King and Prince on St Simons Island will be one of the first places the whiting show up. A good rule of thumb is 14-20 ft. in depth. If the beaches are rough, check the same depth in the rivers and sounds.
By Tim Cutting