Climatologically speaking, March has been a very bizarre, cold and windy month. The strongest cold fronts of the year seemed to keep pushing through one after the other, keeping temperatures low and winds blowing. On Saturday morning, the air temperature at Port Manatee was 53 degrees. The water temperature was a brisk 60.6 degrees.
On Thursday morning, air temperatures at the Port were an unseasonably cool 41 degrees. That brought water temperatures down to 54 degrees.
This is unusual for March, a month during which average water temperatures start around 67 degrees on the first of the month and end near 73, according to historical data at Egmont Key. Bradenton itself averages 77 degrees for a high temperature for March. Only one time did we hit 80 degrees, which was back on the 10th of March.
For a historical perspective, here are water temperatures taken from Tampa Bay station SAPF1 on April 1st at midnight during the past seven years.
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n 2007 -- 75 degrees.
n 2008 -- 74 degrees.
n 2009 -- 77 degrees.
n 2010 -- No data (about 70 degrees from my records).
n 2011 -- 77 degrees.
n 2012 -- 79 degrees.
Currently, Baynews9.com has Gulf water temperatures at 61 degrees and Bay temperatures at 66 degrees. That's more like January than April.
What this has done is make fishing difficult. It's hard to get a pattern when weather is constantly changing. Dropping water temperatures tend to turn fish off instead of turn them on. Many guides have felt the pain, canceling charters due to bad weather, even though March is often a very busy month.
Here is the bright side: The last of the strong cold fronts should be behind us. Water temperatures will soar into the 70s during warm, sunny days, and fish will be aggressive and hungry!
The question: What will you target when everything is feeding?
Redfish and trout will continue to be the best target on the flats. Trout have continued to be large around the area. Capt. Chris Wiggins landed a mammoth 30-inch trout this past weekend. Many other anglers have caught fish in the upper 20-inch range by fishing deeper grass flats and potholes around Terra Ceia and Miguel Bay.
Pompano also have made an appearance on the flats. Look for schools to be hanging around the Longbar and Middlegrounds areas of Sarasota Bay. They're a good target while water temperatures are still a bit cool.
I'm excited for what is about to come for offshore fishing. Most kingfish seasons kick off around the daylight savings time change and end around Easter. This year, it hasn't even started. When water temperatures warm quickly, there will be a large concentration of fish off our coast.
There is a good chance they will hang closer to shore as beach waters warm quicker. When Gulf water temperatures get back into the 70s, the kings will be running.
Red grouper season kicks off on April 1st, as well. Keeper-sized fish have been as shallow as 40 feet.
Tarpon, yes tarpon, should also start their northern migration this month along the west coast. Last year was a down season as we were plagued by westerly winds, so many anglers are anxiously anticipating their return.
April is going to be a great fishing month. Beautiful weather is on the horizon, and hungry fish will be waiting.