Anna Maria Island Fishing Report March 20, 2024

Fishing around Anna Maria Island this March can be categorized as hot and cold. 

With temperatures reaching into the mid 80s on most days, many inshore species are beginning to creep out of their wintertime haunts to feed on the bait schools that are migrating into Tampa Bay and the surrounding waters.

Since these fish have been on a limited diet over the winter, you can bet they’re ready to eat. Rising temps and a smorgasbord of baitfish available, creates the perfect recipe for great action on the water. 

Snook and trout as well as schools of redfish can be found on the flats. 

Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and ladyfish can be found slashing through the bait schools in the middle of Tampa Bay. Needless to say, there is plenty of good fishing to be had.

But wait a minute. 

Hit the brakes. 

Another cold front, a late one, approaching from the north. 

Temperatures drop overnight into the 50s, causing a drastic cool down of the shallow inland waters where we target our inshore species. 

And then lockjaw sets in when water temperatures drop 10 degrees overnight. 

You can bet the fish are going to shut down. The shock of the cool water can make it hard to find fish, and if you do find them, there’s a good chance they’re not going to be in the mood to eat. 

In these scenarios it’s best to plan on taking a day off of fishing. Give it a couple of days for the front to pass and let things warm up again. 

If you just can’t wait to get out there, or if it’s the only day you have, you better pack some patience. 

You can probably go out and catch a few fish but don’t expect a banner day on the water.

Of course there’s the old saying, a bad day on the water is better than a good day at work. Which I can sympathize with, although I work on the water, so this scenario doesn’t apply to me. 

As for fishing in March, you pick your days to maximize your chances for a successful day and avoid the cold fronts if possible. 

Those cooler days are great for another outdoor activities and to be honest, we need to enjoy the cooler days as relentless heat of Florida summer is right around the corner.

On my Just Reel charters the inshore bite is starting to be quite good around the cold fronts. Snook fishing is heating up along with water temps. On some days I’m seeing as many as 30 snook being caught on a half-day trip. 

Spotted seatrout are following suit, although nailing them down has been slightly challenging. Some days are good in one spot and then not so good in the same area a couple days later. 

Spanish mackerel are beginning to arrive on the deeper flats, among the trout, which is adding some unexpected thrills to the bite. You can also add some bluefish in the mix, which are quite as a handful on light spinning gear. 

Lastly, I’m picking up a few redfish here and there while targeting snook.