Even though it’s only March, and the majority of redfish are still in their big winter schools, there are already some fish being seen tailing on the flats! That’s probably because Bay Street Outfitters (843-524-5250) in Beaufort is seeing inshore water temperatures warmer than they have ever seen at this time of year, and so fish are doing things that usually don’t happen until later in the season. [If there is going to be one this year] the cobia run may not be too far off.
While the giant winter redfish schools certainly haven’t totally broken up, a sure sign that winter isn’t too far in the past, the fact that fish can now be caught on most every stage of the tide (when weather allows fishing) is a sure sign that things are progressing. During the cold months fishing can be pretty much limited to sight fishing on the lower stages of the tide. That is certainly a pattern that can still work, particularly in areas where there is clean water. Because of significant freshwater inflows the water is pretty stained/ tannic, which is affecting bait selection (addressed below). While certain groups of fish are willing to eat on a given day, right now there are a lot of schools that may be pretty picky on that same day. If one group of fish isn’t “happy,” it is often worth moving on to less choosy fish because the contrast between hungry schools and passive schools is pretty extreme right now. The dropping tide can also be good, particularly when water and bait are coming out of the grass, and on the rising and into high tide fish can be found tailing in the short grass.
Baits, lures and flies will all catch fish, and on the bait side mud minnows are tough to beat. There aren’t really any shrimp around right now, but chunks of crab are probably also starting to work as temperatures warm up. On the artificial side Gulp! baits as well as shallow, suspending twitch baits like Mirrolures will catch fish, and on the fly crab patterns in dark colors have been best because of visibility in the tannic water. Blacks, purples, browns and navy/ dark blue flies have all worked well.
While a lot of anglers will probably plan redfish trips around certain tides, Bay Street Outfitters reports that there is no doubt that trout are feeding best at light changes. That is, around dusk when light is fading – but particularly in the morning when the sun is coming up – the fishing has been best. To catch the best AM bite anglers need to get on the water before the sun comes up. In these low-light conditions there has been a good topwater bite on plugs like floating Mirrolures, and some redfish are also being caught the same way.
For anglers unable to fish the low-light periods trout can still be caught, particularly on the dropping tide. Trout don’t mind sitting in moving water to feed and whenever there is current being created over a shell bar, or water is being pulled over a drop, it is worth fishing. Popping corks with a mud minnow or just a Gulp! shrimp/ curly tailed grub fished on a ¼ ounce jighead will catch fish.