As of this writing, March 12, 2015, the days are getting longer and water temperatures are climbing. We recently had several days in the 60 and 70’s with plenty of sun. We have received reports of surface water temps in the low 60’s, promising, but there is still a large volume of water nowhere near those highs. Where are the best places to find these higher temps from top to bottom? Shallows of the tidal rivers, creeks, and marshes of the waters surrounding Morehead City. Regardless of where those flounder, trout, or drum wintered in the estuarine waters, they will all be seeking the comfort of the daytime warmed waters and the food source these same locations attract. With that being said, shallow waters with dark colored substrates warm up the quickest and windward banks will accumulate sun warmed surface waters throughout the day. As such, concentrating your angling efforts to afternoons in March will result in fishing the warmest waters of the day. You're not necessarily going to explore new waters in March, but instead of casting at that secondary creek mouth over and over like you did in November or high summer, maybe make a few more casts toward the sun warmed flats formed by one of that creeks point. This time of the year, the comfort of warm water may not coincide with bait so check out some of those sun soaked shallow muddy bays, you might be surprised what you find milling around in the areas warmest waters.
Shallow doesn't always mean against the bank. In the larger creeks, there is water 2-4 foot deep that are soaking up sunlight 100's of feet from shore. Don't get caught up in beating the bank, turn around and fire away. Bait is generally harder to come by at this time of the year, and unless you purchase it from the tackle store, you can stick with artificials as their presentation generally allows the covering of more water. Colder waters generally require slow retrieves, so start out slow and and speed up until you find what the fish prefer. No secrets on lure types, the same as you would fish any other time; plastics or gulp on 1/8 and 1/4 oz heads, MR-17s, spinnerbaits, minnow jerkbaits (especially suspending models), with topwaters starting to pick up fish later in the month. Despite slower retrieves, don't dally, cover water, and pay attention to where you’re getting bites and bypass unproductive area types.
Moving toward the ocean, warming March waters will bring tasty sea mullet and hard fighting grey trout into Beaufort Inlet and the adjoining waters of the port and turning basin. Drifting high low rigs or speck rigs tipped with bloodworm, shrimp, gulp, or fish bites using 1-3 ounces will tempt both of these members of the croaker family. Sea Mullet schools aren't always easy to mark on the fishfinder so cover water with your drifts and once you find them, mark that location on your gps and stay with them. Try bottom bouncing a 1-2 ounce casting/jigging spoon like a jig fish or sting silver around the areas hard structure like bridges, port wall, submerged rocks, and docks with deep water access for more grey trout action. The best fishing for trout and sea mullet is generally the last few hours of the incoming tide through the first few hours of outgoing tide.
Moving into the ocean, March offers shots at chopper bluefish, false albacore, and some keeper sized sea bass on the nearshore reefs (less than 60 feet) as the waters warm into the 50's. Look for the blues to be along the beaches and shoals of the inlet and capes. Trolling plugs and spoons will allow you to cash in on these hard fighting fish and if thick enough they may offer a casting opportunity. For the purpose of this forecast, nearshore, false albacore could be encountered anywhere from along the beach to the nearshore reefs. If the fish are spread out, trolling #0 clark and drone spoons along with deep diving yozuri crystal minnows gets the nod, but keep a casting spoon or two at the ready in the event the fish are thick. As the month progresses the likely hood of encountering atlantic bonito increases and the same tackle and tactics used for false albacore will dupe these speedsters. Keeper sized sea bass will grow in quantity on nearshore artificial reefs starting in winter and moving into spring. Use squid or gulp tipped bucktails, jigging spoons, or high low rigs to tempt this fine table fare. Nearshore artificial reefs cover a lot of area and contain many different substrate types so check the whole area out remembering sea bass frequently suspend so the best action might be 20 feet above that sunken barge. 1-3 ounce weights should cover your needs and if anymore is required to keep contact with your bait or maintain a vertical presentation, the conditions are more than likely not conducive for the fish to feed.
March is a transition month that can feel like February one minute and April the next, but if offers the years first chance to shake that cabin fever and get out on the water for some piscatorial pursuit. Don't wait for the years first reports, make the years first reports!