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Power Plays.

The one thing you can count on during cobia season is that the weather will be a little on the nautical side. On such windy days, the best bet will be inshore fishing for sheepshead or finding a spot on the beach, fishing for pompano. When the weather parts, it's time for the line to hit the dock and point the bow south or SW for tunas and wahoo.

March brings a little of everything weather wise. Some days it can be sunny and 75 with slightest of breezes, other days it can be in the low 50s with rain, wind, and high seas. The bait will begin to move in and just behind it will be the Spanish, kings and cobia. Some years the water is crystal clear just outside of the passes, while other years heavy rainfall to our north can cause for some muddy conditions.

My personal favorite thing to do in March is to find a private section of beach with clean water and set up a few rods for early pompano and whiting. The standard rig in our area is a two hook set rig with 10-pound fluorocarbon, small circle hooks and a pyramid weight on the bottom. Every cast does not need to be as far as you can get it. Sometimes on the rougher days when the sand fleas are thick, the fish will cruise right in the surf, capitalizing on the water movement to stir up bait. Staggering rods and fishing them at different distances from shore will help dial in the bite. As a pattern emerges, adjusting the other rods to be in the hot spot will double your fun. My favorite bait is a fresh dead peeled shrimp, but live or fresh dead sand fleas can work just as well.

Another great option is head to the bridges and jetties for sheepshead. These fish can be frustrating at times, but when they congregate for the breeding season it can be a blast. Bridges like Hathaway in Panama City, Destin Mid Bay Bridge, and 3 Mile in Pensacola are great places to find these fish prestaging for the spawn. Slip lead rigs like a Carolina rig or a knocker rig are ideal. I like to use a shorter leader around 1.5 to 2 feet and a 3/0 to 4/0 Kahle hook (small gold Eagle Claw hooks work great, too). I match the size of the weight to the depth and current. Typically the current is moving pretty good and the areas holding fish will be over 25 feet. Using a 2- to 3-ounce weight and thin diameter braid will keep your bait on the bottom and in the zone. These fish are a blast to catch, delicious to eat, and can also be easy to catch at times.

When most people think about pelagic fishing in March the first species that comes to mind is cobia. For me the first species is tuna and close second is wahoo. If the seas part and things lay down allowing for a decent window, plan to head SW to the rigs!

The tuna bite in March can be epic. Some years during March the fish can be shallow on the Lump. Other years, the fish will have moved on to the rigs. Either way the key to tuna success is being prepared.

Wahoo is another great option and often times don't require as long of a run. The deep ledges and rocks are always worth a shot, but this time of year my money is on the standing oil rigs along the shelf to our SW. Traditional wahoo lures will work well, but the best bet will be pulling diving lures like Rapala and Yo-Zuri.

HUNTING Blackwater WMA has a youth turkey weekend Mar. 9-10 and a turkey season Mar. 16-Apr. 21 (except in the Field Trial Area). Blackwater Hutton Unit has also has youth turkey weekend Mar. 9-10 but has spring turkey dates Mar. 16-18, 29-31 and Apr. 12-14. At Blackwater Carr Unit, small game season ends Mar. 3.

BEST BET

The best bet in March will be heading to the passes and bridges for sheepshead. Look for the fish to hold tight to the bottom and close to the structure. A tight-tipped inshore rod with a stout backbone is ideal, especially when paired with thin-diameter braid. A live shrimp is hard to beat but fiddler crabs will work too. In the ideal world you would want to have both. Some days they bite one a little bit better the other. Look for fish to hold around jetties, sea walls, bridges, and deeper docks.

PANHANDLE SCENE

MAR. 1: Gray triggerfish season opens

MAR. 2: Polar Plunge, Destin, Special Olympics Florida fundraising swim, PlungeFL.org

MAR. 9-10: Youth turkey weekend, north of SR 70

MAR. 16-APR. 21: Spring turkey season, north of SR 70

By Chaz Heller

gotmfishingcharters.com

(850)529-8655

Caption: Out of Pensacola, Dillon (with Tuna), Bo (with largest mahi). Marry Carol and Jason Perry had a great day fishing at the Spur.

Caption: Spring turkey season opens in the region mid-month.
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Title Annotation:Panhandle
Author:Heller, Chaz
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Mar 1, 2019
Words:853
Previous Article:March On.
Next Article:Spring Crossings.
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