Mid-Coast Bays: March 2024

Mid-Coast Bays: March 2024
Jessica Jackson and Bruce got into some good redfish action on a chilly weather day.

Change is on the way and I’m not talking only about the weather. After a review of population sampling data and conducting a series of public meetings, the TPW commission has decided to implement new spotted seatrout regulations. Effective in mid-March, the daily limit will be reduced from 5 fish to 3 fish. The retention slot will become 15 to 20-inches. It will also allow one of the fish in the bag to be a trophy of 30-inches or longer. Personally, I agree with this new regulation, especially since we recently lost a good number of trout on the middle coast due to freezing weather back in January.

Some anglers may not be happy with this, but if keeping fish for dinner is important to you, I would remind that along with three trout, you can still keep three redfish, five drum, five sheepshead, and five flounder… and that’s a bunch of fish dinners!

Numerous people have asked whether the new limits will hurt my guide business and my instant reply is; “Not one little bit!” I have worked hard in my 22 years of full time guiding to insure my clients receive a day of learning first and foremost. Teaching people to catch fish while keeping it fun is my favorite part of my job. I like to think that the wealth of fishing knowledge I willing provide and fun attitude is what has kept my client list growing.

Let’s move along to fishing. March weather can be fickle. What’s that old saying…In like a lion and out like a lamb? Well, it’s true. Average temperatures are warmer than February with lows around 52° and highs averaging 74°. March also provides awesome topwater fishing, and who doesn’t love explosive surface strikes?

Before going any farther I want to recommend tying a loop knot on all surface lures. I like the loop knot because it gives the lure far greater freedom of motion in the presentation. It’s called “walking the dog” and is easy to learn, especially if you can watch somebody who has already mastered it. There are also many tutorials available online, just do a search for “walking the dog.” Smaller plugs are easier on the wrist and forearm; I usually have my beginners start with a Super Spook Jr. or a Skitter Walk.

Long casts are essential when fishing shallow water where fish can spook easily. I always recommend maintaining visual contact with the lure in order to make sure it is “walking” correctly and not fouled with floating grass. “Walking” is accomplished by simultaneously twitching the rod tip and reeling slack. You may feel awkward at first but don’t give up, skill is only developed through practice.

There will be times when the fish will only “blow up,” which means a near miss. Just remember to avoid setting the hook until you feel the weight of the fish on the line. In reality, most times, the fish will do the hook-setting for you. If it seems you are not receiving strikes as often as you hope, try varying the speed of the retrieve and include pauses of a few seconds. If that doesn’t work, it might be time to switch to a soft plastic or some other lure. I often tell my clients there are days when topwaters are better fish locators than fish catchers. But look what you have learned; switch to another type of lure and start catching them!

If you were to look in my tackle box you would notice that I prefer surface plugs in natural baitfish colors. One big exception would be the bone color. I’ve never seen a baitfish this color, but trust me, they work.

As I mentioned earlier, smaller topwaters like the Super Spook Jr. and Skitter Walk are not only easier to use but also the better choice when conditions are calm. I prefer the quiet “tic, tic, tic” of these smaller ones compared to the larger and louder lures. However, when the surface is choppy, I will be quick in opting for the MirrOlure Top Dog or She Dog in hopes of gaining more attention from potential redfish and trout in the turbulent surroundings.

The best way to fall in love with topwaters is in leaving one tied on long enough to learn why so many of us rave about them. If you are quick to give up after just a few failed attempts, then you are missing out on one of the most intoxicating ways of catching fish.