The Game Begins for Shallow Water Anglers
It’s officially Spring when, as the water temperatures continue to warm, redfish and trout begin to ever so slowly sneak away from their wintertime comfort zones and reach more deeply into the shallow back waters.
Finally, sightcasters with cabin fever emerge to fish the skinny waters once again, this time with consistency as many conditions converge to create a fish feeding frenzy.
Spring time tides begin to rise and Mother Nature ushers in a new shrimp migration to hide in the burgeoning grasses and moss of the shallow estuaries. Consistent water temperatures in the 70 and above range tell predators and bait that it’s safe to roam away from deeper areas and leave their semi-dormant state. Redfish move in large groups to feed on the emerging shrimp and bait populations in the shallow waters. Mixed within the big pods of redfish are pre-spawn trout, feeding up as well. Black drum and flounder come alive and complete the awakening, making March and April some of the most dynamic fishing of the year.
Just like a bear in a den during the winter, redfish and trout eat sparingly and conserve energy when the water temperatures are cold. But, as water temps consistently rise, the overbearing hunger drives the predators into the warm, shallow water where all life converges. Teams of redfish hungrily root along the bottom and through the sparse grass, chasing down hundreds of tiny shrimp and glass minnows. Birds follow and dive down from above, using the redfish as their scout. The cycle begins again for everyone and everything, waiting for the winter to come to an end.
The one caveat during this early time of Spring, however, is the constant threat of a closely approaching cold front from the North. Winds will howl as fronts try to come through without success. March can still be chilly, with longer periods of warm conditions, so prepare to move back and forth from a winter pattern to a spring pattern and back again until the approaching cold fronts no longer have an impact on the area.
Watch water temperatures closely, just as in the winter, to find the most consistently warm conditions. If cold weather drops the water temperatures drastically, fish will evacuate the skinny water and may be leery to return immediately. Fall back into a winter time fishing pattern until temperatures moderate and the sun warms the flats again.
“Matching the hatch”, so to speak, is very important in the spring. Everything in the system is small such as the new shrimp migration and tiny glass minnows; it’s an emerging estuary. Toss smaller flies and smaller lures to closely mimic the size of the food that is available for the predators to eat.
Natural colors are proven producers at this time of the year, such as white, bone, pumpkinseed and the like, mixed with chartreuse and pink accents. Whether flies or lures, these colors work great. Rainy, windy or cloudy days, add black or other dark colors to the above selection for more contrast and effect. Use small paddletail plastics on 1/16th ounce jig heads, or weedless and weightless, depending on the conditions. Topwaters, such as the Super Spook, Jr., small Skitterwalk or the louder X-Rap are great producers beginning in the spring. Fly casters toss the usual array of clousers in white and all of the natural colors. Go to a little smaller fly (#4 or #6) to mimic a tiny shrimp, with light bead chain eyes.
Keep an eye toward the sky, watching for early spring storms which can be very violent and dangerous. Make sure that every angler has a safety kit and be ready for any circumstance. In the rush to get out there to fish after a long winter, review all safety gear, VHS radios, GPS and first aid kits. Sting ray boots or guards are essential, (especially for kayak anglers), purchase a new PFD, flares and horn.
Spring is a great new beginning for most anglers and it can’t get here soon enough.
See you on the water!
Capt. Sally Black
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