As ditties go, we’ve all heard better.
But it’s an old ditty, and ditties don’t grow old unless there’s some truth woven through the stanza.
First, your reminder …
Now take a look at that 10-day forecast. West and southwest winds as far as the weatherman’s eye can see.
Well, except for Sunday and Monday, which will see temps back down to the mid-70s with northeast winds. If you’re new around here, some locals will try convincing you those two days are what we call spring.
Yes, by Tuesday, you might be fooled into thinking we’ve returned to early summer — not the Speed Stick and Gold Bond days of “actual summer,” but warm nonetheless. But guess what, spring returns by the end of next week and we find that annual sweet spot of mid-70s around noonish and mid-50s at dark-30.
With west winds! Granted, some days those west winds will flex and blow the hoodie over your eyes and present their own challenges, but by and large we should be headed into that time of year when we all can catch fish.
Pompano and big whiting are taking the surf-angler’s mind off the nearby tractors and dump trucks. Big near-shore rays tell us the piggy-backing cobia are doing their thing and itching for a fight if you dare tempt them with a hunk of blue crab. Sheepshead are still hanging out inshore — long enough to secure their Florida homestead exemption, is the theory.
On the westside in the St. Johns and its many lakes, speckled perch (or crappie, if you prefer) are plentiful and trophy bass aren’t at all uncommon.
Consider it the Florida fisherman’s Mardi Gras, minus the hurricanes and those other types of beads.
If you keep up with this weekly roundup, you’ll notice the seasoned contributors rarely talk about their shutouts. That’s because, along with knowing the and , they’ve learned the — and about half the year, the is in the general vicinity of sunrise if you’re an early riser, or sunset if you can stand the skeeters.
But right now and in the coming weeks, the is largely a Whenever you’re ready, the fish are ready.
Sure, you can still jinx it by setting up your skillet and grease before you even head to the docks or boat ramp. But frankly, if you can’t catch fish in a Florida March, you must not be living right.
Still, there are worse ways to spend a springtime day than chucking shrimp, shiners and fiddlers to man’s long-ago fellow sea dwellers.
From the inlet to the south and north, the intracoastal has been offering the full menu to the lucky and/or educated.
“Big drum and reds at the inlet; I’ve still been using select shrimp or half of a blue crab,” says Capt. Jeff Patterson (Pole Dancer).
With the weather warming quite a bit (noticed?), it’s not unusual to find a big bin of fiddler crabs at the bait shops. The fiddler plays the sheepshead’s favorite tune. But Capt. Jeff says he’s still doing better with live shrimp.
He also seconds our motion for permanent west winds, if anyone in charge is listening. One occasional drawback of west wind is what it does to the river’s water level. Capt. Jeff said he’s witnessed some “negative tides” recently, where the high-tide level is actually lower than the normal low tide.
“I was down toward the inlet checking my stone-crab traps, and I saw one guy’s trap completely on dry land,” he says.
Looking ahead at the wind forecasts, with the exception of Sunday and Monday, he likes the absence of any N, NE, E or even SE.
“Anything with a W in it,” he says, is preferred.
Lordy, Art Mowery sure filled the in-box with a lot of pictures of big reds and black drums from down around Oak Hill. “Great day on the water,” he understated.
Our favorite fly-fisherman, Geno Giza, a seasonal angler from Pennsylvania, likes to tie together Mother Nature and the goings-on just under the water’s surface.
This past week, his educated eye has focused on the wonderful dragonfly, a beautifully ancient creature. They’re swarming, Geno says.
“Besides eating a ton of mosquitos, they signal that it’s time to fly-fish earlier in the morning as the bigger fish hunker down by mid-morning,” Geno says. “Also, early-morning wading or boating isn’t hindered by winds. Whiting, pompano, and snook continue to be eager strikers, but are on the smaller size.”
Occasional contributor BJ Taylor (Southern Bred charter) checks back in after being away several weeks, and for good reason.
“This week, the surf fishing has been on fire,” BJ says. “I’ve been hearing about and seeing pompano from Jacksonville to South Florida with the main body being from Daytona to Juno Beach, using live sand fleas, shrimp, fresh clams, all flavors of Fishbites and Fish Gum.”
That’s right, he said sand fleas. Small to mid-sized are starting to show their funky heads in the Ponce Inlet area, with bigger offerings an hour or more south.
“Other catches in the surf have been big bull whiting and sheepshead near the inlet area,” BJ says. “Along with bluefish and of course the sharks.”
Ike Leary (Granada Pier) says his fishing pier has been hit-and-miss, but also hears about the big happenings with surf anglers. “On fire,” he confirms.
Marco Pompano measured the surf this week at 72 degrees. “The fish are really loving that,” he says.
He’s among those limiting on pompano and is also seeing some rather large whiting these days.
To the north a bit in Flagler Beach, Capt. Mike Vickers (Hammock Beach Bait & Tackle) echoes the news from the south, while also saying they’re seeing trout in the surf, along with reds, blues and blacks (drum). Oh, and sharks.
Yep, the sharks are apparently stepping up their prowl, judging from the pictures forwarded along by Dustin Smith and his NSB Shark Hunters.
Capt. Mike trots out his own ditty, an ancient verse he’s adapted for the angler instead of the bird-watcher, and somewhere, Ogden Nash is contacting his copyright attorney.
“Spring has sprung, the grass has riz; I wonder where the fishes is.”
Right now, it seems, they’re here and there one day, there and here the next.
“The fish are starting to move,” Capt. Mike says. “Sheepshead are moving off the flats and out of the creeks, the reds are literally all over the place this time of year, and bigger mangrove snapper are showing up in the river.”
It’s not like there’s zero work involved, however.
“The trick is finding them,” he says. “One day a spot will be on fire, the next day there’s not a fish to be found, so plan on covering a lot of water.”
Capt. Mike is also hearing about near-shore cobia as well as healthy porgy pods out there.
Halifax Sport Fishing Club
The HSFC will play host to George Poveromo at its March 16 meeting. Pretty big deal, actually.
George is producer and longtime host of the Salt Water Sportsman seminar series, touted as the nation’s longest running educational course on fishing. It’s in its 35th year.
Every month, the HSFC opens its doors for a free seminar on some aspect of the angling life, and since the price is perfect, you might want to give it a whirl.
If you’re looking for more info on all things Halifax Sport Fishing Club: HSFC.com
Hook, line and clicker: Send us your fish pics
We want to see your most recent catch. Email your fish photos to [email protected].
Please include first and last name of angler(s), as well as type of fish (we’re occasionally stumped). All are included with our online fishing report, and some occasionally make the print edition.
Do I need a fishing license?
You can find all the license info, including exemptions, on Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission website: MyFWC.com. But the basics are: No: If you’re 65 or older, 15 or younger, you don’t need a license. No: If you’re fishing with a licensed guide or charter boat, both of which purchase commercial licenses that cover their customers. Yes: Most everyone else, including visitors from other states. Yes: Even if you’re a shore-based angler (shoreline, dock, pier, bridge, etc.). However: The shore-based license is free . . . But: You still need to register for that free license.
Where do I get a license and what does it cost?
Many bait shops sell licenses, as do the bigger retailers (Bass, Dick’s, Walmart, etc.). Florida’s FWC uses a third-party site for buying or renewing fishing licenses: GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. The cost: $17 for an annual license. Don’t forget: Whether you’re fishing fresh or saltwater, you need the specific license. Freshwater and saltwater licenses are both $17 annually.
I’m here on vacation, do I need a license?
Yes you do, and they’re also available at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or certain bait shops and big retailers. Cost: $17 for three days, $30 for seven days, $47 for a year.Also: Non-residents need to purchase that license even if they’re just fishing from shoreline or shore-based structures. (Florida residents need that license, too, but they’re free.)