What's hot: Warmer weather and, more important, warmer water are starting to inspire improved feeding patterns in inshore species such as spotted sea trout and redfish. This year's long-lasting cold put a damper on the inshore bite for some time, but with each warmer day, the action has become better. Even relatively cold-tolerant fish had disappeared from the flats of the North Suncoast. Last week, the temperature on the flats hit 60 degrees. Although that's still at least 10 degrees below normal, we did have improved action from trout, reds, black drum and sheepshead.
Getting on track: In normal years, mid March can be one of the best periods to fish. Things are behind schedule now, but if the cold fronts stay away, we could be back on track in a week or two. We have been fishing winter patterns, which include using artificial baits and live shrimp. Jigging the deeper grass flats of the mainland coast with scented soft plastics has produced the fastest action with numerous small- to medium-sized trout. The cold killed many of the resident jacks and ladyfish whose sporty interruptions we once took for granted.
Good catch: Our best redfish action has come from docks and other structures. Soaking shrimp beneath docks has provided reds as heavy as 7 pounds, black drum as big as 12 pounds and sheepshead. Migratory fish such as Spanish mackerel and scaled sardines haven't been seen, but as winter's grip fades, all of that should change.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.