Whether you prefer the subtle tap of a ten-pound tautog or the blow of a grander black marlin crashing the trolling spread, the early spring action has something for every angler. March finds fish on the go with migratory tarpon returning to southern Florida, thick schools of striped marlin cruising the blue waters of La Paz, Mexico, and cobia fattening up for their big swim north. Be sure to check regulations before heading out.
– Joe Cermele
BEST Kona, Hawaii Plenty of dolphin, ranging from schoolies to bulls, feed heavily off Kona at this time of year. Anglers score big on the troll, but light-tackle aficionados and fly fishermen can get in on the action by working weedlines and floating debris.
RUNNER-UP Florida Keys Fishermen heading out off the Keys will find loads of dolphin of all sizes just offshore.
BEST Ocean Springs, Mississippi The backwaters around Ocean Springs provide great chances for reds when temperatures fluctuate heavily. Dropping fresh-dead shrimp in deep holes is a sure way to deceive a few hard-driving bulls.
RUNNER-UP Riviera, Texas Anglers won’t find any shortage of trophy reds in Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay near Riviera, Texas.
BEST Biloxi, Mississippi Anglers are sure to strike it rich around the oil rigs of Biloxi, Mississippi, where kingfish feed. Slow-trolling ribbonfish baits or live hardtails on downriggers around the rig legs is a proven tactic to score big.
RUNNER-UP Key West, Florida Smoker kingfish continue to slam plugs and live baits in the waters just off Key West.
BEST Orange Beach, Alabama Stout cobia cruise within casting range in these Gulf waters, just below the surface, and provide plenty of excitement to anglers. If the fish dive, a quick restart of the engine will often draw them back to the surface.
RUNNER-UP Florida Keys Cobia chase baitfish, such as cigar minnows, in nearshore waters before their northern migration.
BEST Wachapreague, Virginia The wrecks just off Wachapreague are a hotbed of tautog action. When fishing with live crabs, anglers are wise to trim off the legs and claws to improve the chance of a solid hookset.
RUNNER-UP Rehoboth Beach, Delaware As water temperatures rise, ‘tog move inshore on this Mid-Atlantic haunt.
BEST Ilwaco, Washington Large Chinook salmon start to arrive in the lower Columbia River, in Washington, during the early spring. Anglers can up the ante and produce more strikes from kings by trolling flashers ahead of spoons.
RUNNER-UP Seattle, Washington Salmon in the Campbell River near Seattle go on a feeding tear in late March.
BEST Florida Keys March sees the first run of migratory tarpon on the Florida Keys flats and around bridges. White bucktail jigs are versatile lures that fool tarpon feeding at almost any depth. For a guide to fishing bridges, check out page 98.
RUNNER-UP Charter guides lead fishermen to tarpon in the waters of the Everglades backcountry.
RUNNER-UP The blue water around La Paz in Mexico stays thick with striped marlin throughout the spring, but March is a peak month. Bow-casting live baits and lures to surface-feeding fish often yields more stripie strikes than trolling.
RUNNER-UP The land down under plays host to a consistent run of trophy striped marlin.
RUNNER-UP Wading the flats of Ascension Bay can put anglers within sight of slab-sided permit. When in doubt, fly fishermen should cast crab-imitating patterns that match the color of the bottom.
RUNNER-UP Permit cruise the coral shoals of Belize, making them easy targets-well, easy as far as permit fishing goes.
BEST Ixtapa, Mexico It’s tough to beat the excitement of watching a giant roosterfish plow after a topwater lure in the waters off Ixtapa, Mexico. If a rooster misses your lure, don’t stop your retrieve; these fish are known for their follow-up attacks.
RUNNER-UP Costa Rica Fish nearshore waters where aggressive roosterfish prowl in search of schools of flying fish.
BEST Isla de Coiba, Panama A grander black marlin can stop your heart when it explodes on a trolling spread off Isla de Coiba, in Panama. Pulling whole tuna baits weighing up to 20 pounds in the spread is a reliable way to entice these fish.
RUNNER-UP Costa Rica The run off Costa Rica stays hot through April and offers chances at huge black marlin.
All illustrations: Florida Department of Conservation. By Diane Peebles. Except Tautog: Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries: King Salon, Roosterfish and Black Marlin: Emily Damstra.