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The fish are getting hungry! - March 2024 Fishing Report

young boy on fishing charter holding speckled trout
Speckled Trout - Kid's Fishing Charter Fun!

For us salty dogs, March is known as a transition month – meaning fish are coming out of their docile winter patterns and getting more active. Many species are in a bit of a migratory mode, seeking out warmer water that holds bait where they will aggressively feed. Read on for our detailed March 2024 Fishing Report...


Inshore fishing has remained solid and will only continue to improve as the water warms up. While it’s still early in the year to target flounder, there are a few that decided to stick around through winter and as always make for a fun catch. In early March, those seeking to catch schooling red drum should look on the mud flats during the warmest parts of the day when the species will be cruising for an easy meal. Additionally, drum can also be found tailing in the marsh grass, generally close to drop-offs where they transition during the falling tide. Using fresh shrimp on a Carolina rig or a jig with a small paddle tail, fished slowly, will entice the bite.


Speckled trout are also still up in the creeks, but as the water warms, they will begin working their way down to the mouth of these creeks as they feed into main channels. You may have to move around a bit to find them, but once you do, the action will be steady. Live shrimp fished on a

popping cork is a great option as well as the same setup with a voodoo shrimp. Mirrolure MR17 is a great option to cover water, just remember to fish these baits slowly since the water is still on the chilly side.


Nearshore fishing has started gaining momentum and as the month goes on it will really come to life. Lucky anglers may start to run across schools of big red drum starting their move up the beach and if you find them it will be game on, and the fishing will be fast and furious. As the water temps increase into the low 60’s, the Atlantic bonito will show up and not only are they fun fighting fish they are one of the tastiest fish in the ocean. If you are hunting bonitos, look for birds in 20- to 40-feet of water where you will see them working the bait. I recommend trolling Clarkspoons on a #1 and #2 planer with a 30-foot leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon. I personally prefer Yozuri pink/silver diving baits when trolling for Bonito (other methods include casting jigs, crankbaits and in some cases topwater plugs). Towards the end of March, the first Spanish mackerel begin to show up and can typically be caught with a similar method as bonito mentioned above.


Offshore fishing this time of year tends to be more productive than

big yellowfin tuna caught on catherine anne sportfishing boat
Captain Steele Park Fishing Charter Catch

inshore/nearshore efforts because of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. For fishermen seeking out the pelagic species such as wahoo, blackfin, and yellowfin tuna, you’ll generally find action around a temperature break/edge located over underwater ledges or structures. This time of year, I prefer to troll a

mixed spread to capitalize on the multiple species present.


In March and April, wahoo become more prominent in our fishing grounds for which I highly recommend using wire for these toothy critters. I will typically fish a planer rod with a #8-#12 planer and a big Hawaiian eye lure or weighted Bluewater Candy lure and a ballyhoo. My flat line baits and short rigger baits are all wire rigs with skirts and ballyhoo, while my long rigger and “mousetrap/shotgun” bait will be smaller bait rigged on 40-feet of 60# fluorocarbon wind-on leader. Sea Witches in blue/white, pink/white will get bites from the tunas and another great option is to use small cedar plugs and tuna feathers set way back from the boat - 200-300 yards in some cases.


beautiful photo of southport nc
Beautiful Southport NC (Photo Credit: Dana Zeron)

If the troll is slow, vertical high-speed jigging on the Gulf Stream ledges (such as steeples, same ole hole, blackjack, 100/400) will produce huge amberjacks, blackfin tuna, and grouper. Those seeking to find some tasty table fare will find black seabass anywhere from 60- to 100-feet of water. A basic two hook bottom rig with 5–7-ounce weights and squid will get you all the fish you are seeking from deeper waters. The ledges around the Frying Pan Tower also produce well this time of year and yield vermillion snapper (often referred to as beeliners), as well as various species of grouper. If you are after grouper, a knocker rig or 3-way swivel grouper rig with cigar minnows are my go-to methods.


As I mentioned earlier, March is the transition month and as the month progresses, the fishing will do nothing but get better.


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