The Glass Half Full.
Speaking of speckled perch, slow trolling in Crescent Lake near the mouth of Dunns Creek will give up some limits of fat specks. The fish haven't moved into the pads yet, but they are bunching together. Try tiny jigs tipped with minnows. After years of always trying to grab the biggest minnow in the bucket to go on my jig, I got schooled last year by a kid who was just as intent on getting the smallest minnow he could find.
Those anglers fishing near the pads on lakes like Crescent, Santa Fe, and especially Rodman Reservoir wilt have bigger fish on their minds. It's full on bedding time in the southern stretches of Northeast Florida. A few days of calm, warm weather will send big mama bass up on her bed to await this year's babies. While the fish are on the beds pitching a jig and crawfish may well do it.
On the inshore saltwater scene it's a great month to see a lot more redfish than you will catch. The water is clear, and seeing schools of reds on warm afternoons should be easy. If the water is still seriously cold, they wilt be up shallow where the water gets a little warmer. Finding them warm enough to be aggressively feeding is another matter.
Trout are another spring spawner, and the big mamas are starting to suddenly appear. Once again it's time to break out the lipped divers and surface lures late on warm afternoons.
Captain Tony Bozzella says every year, big trout get more savvy about what presentation it takes to get a bite. He says it seems every year the casts have to be longer and more precise. When he nears a spot where he suspects a fish over 5 pounds is hanging, he will make as long a cast as he accurately can, and then "zone in" on just what his lure is doing. He says 90 percent of the time a big trout-if it strikes at all-will strike a lure on the first cast she sees.
Offshore, it's all about the weather. There may be no better wahoo fishing in the U.S. than off Northeast Florida in March, but getting to them is a very iffy proposition. Seasoned wahoo pros want water warmer than 66 degrees and a building moon. Many anglers overshoot the fish. Veteran wahoo pro Tim Altman often starts high speeding as soon as he hits clear, warm water in 100 feet.
HUNTING For a growing number of North Florida hunters, Mar. 16 can't get here fast enough. That's the start of spring turkey season, and just about every management area around seems to have increasing numbers. However, Jennings Forest and Camp Blanding continue to lead the list of best WMA to take a bird. Youth turkey dates in our region are Mar. 9-10.
The secret is out. The best big sheepshead fishing of the year is offshore on wrecks in March. If you can get out, start on the wrecks as close to your inlet as possible, and keep working offshore. Generally speaking, dropping fiddlers, clams or crab knuckles will start out getting you bites from porgies, but after they spread the scent of bait around, the giant sheeps will move in. If the weather is calm for the El Cheapo on Mar. 9,lookforal0-pound-plusfish to come from a wreck 5 to 15 miles offshore. If it's rough it may be a good idea to focus on the Fernandina jetties. There are generally more fish and fewer boats.
MAR. 2: Florida Lure Anglers 5 Trout Tourney, Sisters Creek ramp
MAR. 8-10: Youth turkey hunt, Alachua County, Newnan's Lake and River of Styx
MAR. 8: Captains meeting for El Cheapo Sheepshead Tourney, May-port Clubhouse
MAR.9: El Cheapo Sheepshead Tourney, Mayport
MAR. 25: Florida Lure Anglers meeting, Mudville Grill
By Rick Ryals
Caption: Mallory Hendrtx caught what she called two "lovely butterball tripletails" using cuttlefish while fishing off St. Augustine.
Caption: It's time again for one of the region's most popular tournaments, the El Cheapo Sheepshead.