Even though it’s most likely we’ll see a couple cold fronts in March, we’re moving into what should be winter’s last blast. As with last month, negative morning tides dominate much of the calendar providing opportunities to fish the incoming as the sun warms the flats. As a result, I’ll stick to the same patterns I worked in January.
Last month, while hunting the backcountry working my way up tidal flows I kept finding redfish and snook against lee sides on the sand in small coves and dead ends. They were definitely in the warmest most comfortable spots that I found. Spots that I wouldn’t be able to access on low water but were navigable riding the incoming tide. Barely navigable I might add, in fact I was poling as the sand was rubbing the hull.
I’ll split my time between the east side south of Punta Gorda and Gasparilla Sound and Turtle Bay. In Punta Gorda, access is easy from either Ponce or Laishley Park. The ramp at Placida provides the best access to Gasparilla Sound. Because of the shallow conditions, the fish are a bit on the wary side. With a bright sun, they’re on even higher alert.
To adjust, I’ve downsized my tippet as well as my flies. For example, my total leader length is nine feet. I’ll go from 25 to 20 to a 15-pound tippet using a blood knot between three-foot sections. For flies, I like #1 or #2 un-weighted baitfish or shrimp patterns. They hit the water softer.
For anglers that can’t access these areas, there are other opportunities. Outside the backcountry on the grass flats spotted sea trout will be active. Two to four feet is best and just about anywhere adjacent to the intracoastal is a good bet. Pompano will be abundant on outside bar systems. I’ve always found the best bite on hard bottom like that off Cape Haze Point.
Spanish mackerel and bluefish will also be on the bars as well as chasing bait around channel markers and artificial reef systems. Sheepshead are just about everywhere. In particular, piers, docks, bridges, and artificial reefs fish the best. I’m even seeing them all over the flats.
Lastly, when you need to get out and the weather is a bit intimidating there are always the docks within the canal systems. Moreover, there’s plenty to go around without having to stray too far from the ramp. Between the Boca Bayou within Boca Grande, the Charlotte Harbor and Port Charlotte canals, and Punta Gorda Isles there’s lots of ground to cover. I’m not a big fan of fishing in someone’s back yard; but if you have company in town, it may be your only shot. With this being said, please be courteous and careful casting up under these platforms.