by Captain Michael Manis
Typically, even though we do get some cold snaps in March, this should be our last cool month and our last shot at extreme low tides. I’ll spend most of my time targeting redfish and spotted sea trout. Both of these species adapt well to cooler conditions and spotted sea trout out on the grass flats are easier to work in the wind. Mangrove shorelines don’t always set up putting the wind at your back and if you’re throwing fly the wind is always the elephant in the closet.
Small fly patterns work well this time of year due to the limited available prey species. The scaled sardine or pilchard that is so prevalent most of the year have moved to deeper water looking for more stable water temperatures. As a result, our predator species are forced to rely on local prey species like killifish, crabs, and shrimp. For example, I like a #1 or 1/0 clouser or kwan pattern.
If possible, I like to work the low water out on the open flats first thing in the morning looking for trout as the fish have no choice but to group up in the deeper depressions or holes. As the tide begins to come in, I’ll make my way into the backcountry and begin looking for redfish along the shorelines. It’s important to get back there before the water gets too high as they’re easier to sightfish. When the tide gets up, they move tighter to the mangroves and blend in well. However, keep in mind, they do tend to lay up out in the open this time of year and many times I’ve caught myself looking towards the shoreline only to find the fish set up outside the skiff.
I’ll spend some time along the harbor’s east side but plan to work mostly in Pine Island Sound. Towards the backcountry the water has been clean and the fish appear to be healthy. First thing in the morning on low water, access is difficult so the boat traffic and pressure is minimal. That changes in the afternoon. Also, if it does warm up towards the end of the month, just off the shallow grass flats is a good area to spot early season tarpon.
Pompano are here and it’s not unusual to see them skipping boat wakes. Outside the bar along the lower end of the West Wall is a good place to look as well as the hard bottom off Cape Haze Point. Here, it’s hard to beat a 1/4-ounce Nylure jig.
Sheepshead are everywhere around structure. Trestle and dock systems are good choices. A piece of shrimp or fiddler crabs are the bait of choice.
Just like last month, if you need to get out and the wind is relentless canal systems are an option. They hold lots of fish. Keep in mind, you’re fishing in someone’s backyard so be respectful while skipping up under those docks.
Until next month, good tides.
Captain Michael Manis
Punta Gorda Fly Charters