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Where to Fish in March

Say goodbye to the winter doldrums with a bent rod by chasing one of these favorite species this March. Here's where to score.

For North American anglers, March is the cruelest month. After a winter of short days and long, cold nights, the water temperature is warming and fish are slowly returning to their spring playgrounds. While other people hide inside, intrepid anglers brave March’s famous furious weather to catch the season’s first fishing.

Northeast Atlantic Cod and Haddock

Atlantic cod
Atlantic cod Diane Peebles illustration

Cold winter water brings cod and other deep ground species to nearshore live bottom, dropoffs, mussel beds and wrecks. Using a fishfinder, I search the bottom for fish and bait marks. I position the boat upcurrent from the marks and make short drifts over the target area. Using a slow-pitch rod and reel setup, I drop a sand-eel imitation such as a butterfly-style or flat-fall jig. Fishing a slowpitch jig is all about the slack in the line as the jig flutters down. A reel with high gear ratio loads the rod with fewer turns of the reel handle. When I’m fighting a fish, I keep the rod tip low and let the fish run against the high-power drag until it slows down. — Captain Jack Sprengel, East Coast Charters, Point Judith, Rhode Island

Mid-Atlantic Red Drum

red drum
Red drum Diane Peebles illustration

Bull red drum arrive with the lambs of March. When the water hits 60 degrees, the fish move onto the shallows and into the surf along Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The classic rising tide on the flats scenario plays out for early season red drum. The fish patrol the shallow shoals and surf zone looking for warm water and crabs emerging from the mud. Search for the fish with side-scan sonar while keeping a lookout for drum schools swimming just below the water. When the fish pop up, cast a large swimbait and work it slowly along the bottom. If the sun is too low for sight fishing, anchor along a shallow shoal or sand bar and soak a live crab on a fish finder rig. Tidal current is crucial, my favorite time to fish is a tide change at sunrise or sunset. — Ric Burnley, Cape Charles, Virginia

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Carolinas’ Bluefin Tuna

bluefin tuna
Bluefin tuna Diane Peebles illustration

The best time to target giant bluefin tuna is right after the commercial fisherman fill their quota and leave. The main body of fish is still there but the crowds are gone. Huge schools of giant tuna require a lot of food, so the fish are going to be where the cold green water pushes up against warm blue water and crosses the edge of the continental shelf. I don’t want a multiple hook-up situation, so I only put out four 130-pound class rods. I deploy two skirted ballyhoo and two naked, then set the lures 450 feet behind the boat. The heavy rod and reel allow me to set the drag to 45 pounds and crank the fish to the boat. When I hit the top shot, I push the drag up to 60 pounds and I either turn him or pop his head off. —Captain Billy Maxwell, Tuna Fever Charters, Oregon Inlet, North Carolina

Florida’s Reef Fish

gray mangrove snapper
Gray mangrove snapper Diane Peebles illustration

In early spring, shrimp move inshore and predators set up on the bait conveyor belt. Before I hit the water, I pick up two 10-pound blocks of chum and 10 dozen shrimp. I run along the beach to one of the patch reefs in 20 to 40 feet of water and anchor the boat. I deploy a bag of chum and rig a spinning rod with a ¼-ounce jig. Run the hook through the bottom of the shrimp’s head and out the horn just ahead of the brain. Cast the shrimp into the chum slick and let it hit bottom. After I have my fill of bottom fish, I replace the jig with a short length of light wire and a single hook baited with a live shrimp. Flatlining the wire rig into the chum slick, I catch Spanish mackerel and king mackerel. — Captain Abie Raymond, Go Hard Fishing, Miami, Florida

West Coast White Sea Bass

white sea bass
White sea bass Diane Peebles illustration

Target trophy white sea bass on squid nests, deep structure, kelp beds and cobblestone beaches. When the squid are running, anchor on the edge of a nest in 90 to 120 feet of water and fish with a live squid on a dropper-­loop rig. Another option is fishing kelp beds. Find an area where the current is running into the kelp and anchor the boat up-swell. When the current is pushing down the kelp, anchor the boat and suspend a live mackerel over the kelp. In late March, head to the islands and look for a beach with a mixture of cobblestone or sand and kelp. If the current is running into the beach and the water is milky, drop anchor. Fly-line a live squid in the current to connect with big sea bass cruising the shallows. —Howie Strech, of Newport Vessels, La Jolla, California

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