March is typically one of the busiest months for guides in Tampa Bay. Spring breakers flood our beaches, restaurants, and boats. The weather in March is some of the best, with sunny days, lighter winds, and temperatures into the 80’s. This March has unfortunately started with a looming red tide plaguing our coastline. Although red tide isn’t a new phenomenon to Florida, the severity of the blooms these last years has been alarming and to make matters worse, a bloom in February is extremely unsettling, as we haven’t even moved into our hottest months. This bloom has been traveling up the coast of Florida from the south and strong winds out the south these last few weeks have pushed it into the bay and down our beaches. Luckily, we have a northern wind spell coming through and that should help drive some of the bloom out of the bay. In regards to red tide and the poor water quality Tampa Bay is experiencing, it has lost 12% of its Seagrass since 2020 and since 2016, the bay has lost a staggering 27%.
The silver lining is the fishing inshore has still been great and at its worst times recently, the red tide in the bay has been “patchy”. I have run most trips in the last few weeks with clean water and hungry fish. I haven’t had a single livewell of baits die and I’ve only seen a handful of dead fish floating in open water. That’s not to say there aren’t worse areas experiencing it, such as marinas with little water movement and wind blown passageways, as well as residential coves that blow the dead fish into. However, fishing in the open with moving water has been clear and productive.
We’re seeing our typical spring shift in fish patterns with water temps in the mid 70’s. The snookare starting to transition towards the beaches and passes, redfish are moving onto the flats, spoil islands, and mangrove lines, Spanish Mackerel and Jack Crevalle are starting to flood the bay and nearshore grounds, threadfins are beginning to show up around the bridges, and bait is making its way onto the flats.
These next few months are historically some of the best fishing in Tampa Bay. Some of the biggest fish are caught during these months as fish are preparing to spawn for the summer and feeding aggressively both pre and post spawn. Small numbers Tarpon have already begun to show up and the crabs slowly began to flush on this recent full moon. March offers a month of great weather, good fishing, and bustling beach towns.
See you on the water,
Capt. Skylar Wilks