Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fly Fishing Forecast for March 2019
There should be good action with reds, trout and snook in skinny water in March as the water warms and baitfish become more plentiful. Look for Spanish and king mackerel, cobia, tripletail and false albacore (little tunny) in the coastal gulf. Night snook fishing in the ICW should also be a good this month.
Snook and reds remain closed on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has enacted a temporary modification of regulations for reds and snook, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook are catch and release only in that zone until May 10, 2019. Full details including exact boundaries can be found at http://myfwc.com/news/news-releases/2018/september/26/comm-red-tide/ . In addition, FWC has also added trout over 20” to the closure in the same area.
This should be a good month for snook fishing at night around lighted docks and bridge fenders in the ICW. Small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, usually work well at night since glass minnows are the predominate baitfish. Focus on shadow lines where light meets dark and fish strong tides for the best action. Although snook may also be found in rivers, creeks or canals in March, they will also start to move onto shallow flats, particularly on sunny afternoons when it’s warm. I like wider profile flies, like my Grassett Flats Minnow, Deceivers and EP flies, for snook on the flats.
Look for early season tarpon that may start to show in backcountry areas. These are usually adult resident fish that are making their way out of rivers and creeks. They may be “laid up” or rolling on deep grass flats, on edges of shallow flats or along bars when it is calm. An accurate cast may result in an explosive strike! Look for them in areas of Sarasota Bay, lower Tampa Bay or in Gasparilla Sound on some of the same deep grass flats where you find trout.
Reds should be more active as the water warms and baitfish become more plentiful. Higher tides, as we head into spring, will allow them to spend more time feeding in shallow water. Look for them over shallow grass, along mangrove shorelines and around oyster bars when the tide is high. You should find them in potholes and along sand bars when the tide is low. Fly anglers should score with my Grassett Flats Minnow fly, fished on a 12’ or longer leader. When using a long leader be sure you are able turn it over, otherwise you’ll need to shorten it until you can. The butt section should be at least 50% of the total length of the leader and stiff enough to transfer energy from your fly line to the leader.
You might also find reds around docks when the tide is low. Look for deep water under docks with a good tidal flow for the best action. A clear intermediate sink tip fly line with a weighted fly and a 6’ leader should work well for dock fishing. In addition to reds, you might find snook, flounder, sheepshead, jacks and more around docks.
You may find big trout in skinny water in many of the same places that you find reds. Blind cast seams where grass meets sand or focus on light colored bottom, in potholes on top of sand bars, where you may be able to sight fish them. I release all big trout (over 20”), since they are usually females that are often filled with roe. FWC has also added trout over 20” to the emergency closure on the west coast of Florida through May 10, 2019. These fish are important to the health of our fishery.
You should also find trout plentiful on deep grass flats along with Spanish mackerel, blues, flounder or pompano. I like to make a series of drifts, casting ahead of the drift with an Ultra Hair Clouser fly tied on a long shank hook and fished on a clear intermediate sink tip fly line to locate fish. Also look for birds, bait showering out of the water or boils on the surface that will indicate fish feeding below. When mackerel and blues are around, you may need to add 6” of 40# to 60# fluorocarbon or wire to your leader. Fly poppers also work well when blues and mackerel are around and may help locate them by attracting them from further away. Flounder may be found on sand or mud bottom areas on both shallow and deep grass flats or around docks. Pompano may skip on the surface when you drift or run past them, giving their location away. Fish deep grass flats with a mixture of grass and sand and a strong tidal flow for the best action.
You may also find Spanish or king mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia or tripletail in the coastal gulf this month. Look for diving or hovering terns to find Spanish mackerel or false albacore feeding on the surface. Small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow or Ultra Hair Clousers fished on an intermediate sink tip fly line, will work well for them.
Run crab trap lines at various depths to find tripletail or cobia around crab trap floats. Fly anglers should score on tripletail with lightly weighted flies with weed guards. I like a shrimp pattern for tripletail. Cobia may also be swimming on the surface as they migrate from south to north following warmer water and baitfish. Large, wide profile flies, like Deceivers or EP flies would be good fly choices for cobia. In the absence of any fish on the surface, check out one of the many artificial reefs or natural hard bottom areas that may hold baitfish and predators. Drift over structure and cast weighted flies on fast sinking fly lines to get deeper in the water column to catch them.
Flats and coastal gulf fishing are usually good options this month. I like to check the coastal gulf when conditions are good, since you could find something really good happening there. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!
Capt. Rick Grassett
Orvis-Endorsed Outfitter Guide
CB’s Saltwater Outfitters-2011 Orvis Outfitter of the Year
FFI Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
www.snookfin-addict.com , www.snookfinaddict.com and www.flyfishingflorida.us
(941) 923-7799 (office)
Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fly Fishing Forecast for February 2019
Trout and redfish should be good shallow water options this month. You may also find trout along with blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano and flounder on deep grass flats. Look for sheepshead, flounder, reds and more around docks. Catch and release night snook fishing around lighted docks in the ICW may be a good option if it’s not too cold. Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and cobia may show up in the coastal gulf by the end of the month depending on conditions.
Snook and reds remain closed on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has enacted a temporary modification of regulations for reds and snook, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook are catch and release only in that zone until May 10, 2019. Full details including exact boundaries can be found at http://myfwc.com/news/news-releases/2018/september/26/comm-red-tide/ .
Since snook are temperature sensitive, I won’t target them following strong fronts when water temperatures dip below 60 degrees. However, I have had some great night trips catching and releasing snook on flies in the ICW at night this time of year. Since larger baitfish aren’t that plentiful this time of year, snook will gorge themselves on glass minnows and shrimp. Small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, Grassett Shrimp or Shrimp Gurglers will all work well.
You may also find snook in rivers, creeks or canals this month. Fishing may be good in these areas on a blustery day when it isn’t fit to fish anywhere else. I like wider profile flies in these areas due to the baitfish that may be found there. Fly anglers should score with baitfish patterns, such as Lefty’s Deceiver, EP flies or my Grassett Deep Flats Bunny, fished on a sink tip fly line. Fish the deep spots, usually in bends in the river, for the best action.
You might find reds in potholes or along the edges of bars and shallow flats when the tide is low. As the tide rises, they will feed higher on shallow flats, particularly on sunny afternoons. Fly anglers should score with lightly weighted flies with weed guards on floating lines with 10’-12’ leaders. My Grassett Flats Minnow fly is my “go to” fly for fishing skinny water. You may also find big trout in skinny water in the same places you find reds. The same flies and techniques that you use to target reds will work for big trout in those areas. I release all trout over 20” since they are usually females and I feel that they are important to the health of our trout fishery. Big fish, spawn big fish!
You’ll also find trout on deep grass flats and silver trout may mix with them on deep grass flats close to passes. I like flats that have a good mix of grass and sand and good tidal flow. Flats that are close to passes are often good choices unless the water is dirty. Following fronts, silted up water will cover deep grass flats close to passes, often affecting fishing in those areas. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with weighted flies, like my Grassett Deep Flats Bunny or Ultra Hair Clouser flies, on sink tip fly lines to locate trout. Once you’ve located them you can shorten your drift or anchor on them.
In addition to trout, you may also find blues, Spanish mackerel, flounder or pompano, depending on water temperature and conditions, on deep grass flats. The technique to find them is the same as for trout, although there may be other clues. Pompano may “skip” on the surface when you drift or run past them giving their presence away. When that happens, set up a drift upwind of where you saw a pompano and cast ahead of your drift. Blues and Spanish mackerel may force bait out of the water or feed on the surface. You may need to add heavy fluorocarbon or wire when blues and mackerel are mixed with trout on deep grass flats. I like to use Ultra Hair Clouser flies, tied on long shank hooks leaving a portion of the hook shank exposed as a bite guard, when toothy fish are around.
Fishing docks is another good option this time of year, especially when the tide is low. You might find reds, sheepshead or flounder under docks. I like docks that are deep (3’ or more) and have a good tidal flow. Fish the end of long piers to find the deepest water. Also, look for big boats moored on docks or on boat lifts, which is also an indication of deeper water. Older docks with lots of barnacle and oyster growth usually hold more baitfish and predators. I like weighted flies, like Clousers, fished on sink tip fly lines when fishing docks. Be sure to let your fly get down close to the bottom and strip with a distinct pause to keep it low in the water column.
There may be some action in the coastal gulf by the end of the month with Spanish mackerel, king mackerel and cobia depending on conditions. When the water warms to the high 60’s to low 70’s, these fish will move into our area from the south as they migrate north. Look for Spanish mackerel on the surface or in passes. Cobia may be swimming on the surface, around buoys, channel markers and crab trap floats or over structure.
February can be a tough month to fish. With frequent fronts and cool water, fish aren’t always in an eating mood. If you’re able to pick good tides combined with favorable weather conditions, you should be successful. If you don’t have that luxury, you might do better by sleeping in and fishing later in the day when it’s warmer. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!
Capt. Rick Grassett
FFI Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
www.snookfin-addict.com, www.snookfinaddict.com and www.flyfishingflorida.us
(941) 923-7799 (office)