With more than 50 years of fishing in Mississippi, I find it incredible that to still find a different, entertaining and productive style of angling with each new season.
I credit that to my ability to find happiness in catching anything that bites my hook and the abundant opportunities we have in the Magnolia State.
The number of fish we can keep often is mandated by law, but the limit of fish we can catch is controlled only by our imagination.
With that in mind letâ€™s fill in our calendar with a year of action.
Lake Bill Waller
Our year starts on Lake Bill Waller, 168 acres of bass producing water that could be home to Mississippiâ€™s next state record largemouth. For sure itâ€™s home to many fish exceeding 15 pounds already.
Itâ€™s hard to doubt, with its history. Waller produced a run of 12- to 15-pound fish for a decade before having to be closed for renovation of the water control structure in 2003. It was fixed and restocked in 2004. By the time it reopened in 2007, biologist samplings were already turning up 10-pounders. Those fish are now seven years old and nearing their peak.
In January, Waller bass are deep unless there is a warming trend. Then they move up shallow and feed like crazy. Swim baits and suspending jerkbaits are deadly, but never overlook a jig-and-pig.
The harsher the winter weather the better the bite for suspended crappie on Mississippi River oxbows. Forget tracking river levels. Just use good electronics to locate schools of shad and fish around them with jigs or a jig-and-minnow combo.
The upper end of Okhissa Lake in Homochitto National Forest near Bude is another good bass destination in January. Find the creek channel and use a drop-shot worm rig to catch fish. You can also try deep roadbeds.
What was good enough for a No. 2 ranking in January moves to the top of the list in February â€” crappie on an oxbow lake. This month we can be more specific. The hot spot is Lake Chotard north of Vicksburg.
Once thought to be impossible to catch in winter, the improvements in fish-finding electronics have opened the door to slab crappie by the bunches.
â€śWhat we didnâ€™t know was that big schools of forage fish, like shad, were constantly suspending deep, and that those schools of shad would attract schools of game fish,â€ť said Paul Johnson, former president of the Magnolia Crappie Club and an avid winter oxbow fisherman. â€śOnce we were able to see those huge bio masses, we started putting it together.â€ť
What is particularly pleasing is that the average size of fish is big.
February bass fishing at Lake Calling Panther is the No. 2 selection. Giant largemouths are usually caught on live bait in the late spring and summer, a lot of quality bass are caught on warm February days on spinnerbaits.
For numbers of February bass, itâ€™s also hard to beat Barnett Reservoir near Jackson. Light spinnerbaits or swimming lizards work here.
We may be letting the cat out of the bag here, but Okhissa makes the list again and this time for crappie. Okhissa not only has the popular species, but they are thriving.
â€śI know thereâ€™s a lot of people whoâ€™d prefer I not answer that question, but, yes, Okhissa has become a great crappie lake,â€ť said Rick Dilliard, fisheries biologist for the National Forest Service in Jackson. â€śTheyâ€™d prefer it remain a secret but you canâ€™t keep crappie a secret. Not when itâ€™s as good as Iâ€™m being told.â€ť
Reported catches of slab crappie started circulating late last summer but the peak of the action was in March, when the fish moved up to spawn at depths of 3 to 6 feet. Red and white jigs were popular choices, but there were as many variations as there were fishermen. The keys are locating areas where fish spawn, and finding banks close to any of the creek channels with good cover.
Also this month, Enid Lake is hot for white bass. These feisty game fish form big schools and migrate out of the lake up the river and stack on sand bars.
Or you can head to Neshoba County Lake near Philadelphia for largemouth bass. Take some soft plastic craw worms and fish the edges of vegetations in the man-made upper lake channels. Work the grass if itâ€™s warm, but let the bait go deep on cool days.
Ross Barnett Reservoir
The No. 1 crappie destination for the spring spawn has to be Barnett Reservoir. It offers the best combination of quantity with quality in the state.
In 2010, the hot spot was the riprap along the dam in the early part of April. Strong southerly winds made it the only fishable area for a good bit of the month. But, once that action subsided the upper lake was the place to be. The stumps in 5 feet of water around the many old lakebeds are always hot. Once the water is above the 296.5 foot level, the focus moves to standing sawgrass with flooded root masses in the shallows on the east side of the lake.
For more slab action this month head to Grenada Lake. A 3-pounder is a possibility.
April is a good time to go to Pontotoc and Trace State Park to fish for bedding redear sunfish. Crickets fished in the coves are hard to beat for these shellcrackers.
Please visit page two for the top spots for Mississippi fishing for May, June, July and August