Mississippi Fishing, 2008: Best Bets

Mississippi Fishing, 2008: Best Bets

Regardless of the species or the area of the state, something's biting every month in the Magnolia State. Check out this fully scheduled calendar of action for this year!(February 2008).

Cliff Covington.

Fishing is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the Magnolia State. Our mild climate promotes an excellent year-round growing season for the state's game fish, and great angling opportunities abound for 12 months of the year.

Whether you prefer rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, bayous and marshes, or the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you can find an endless supply of possibilities to get hooked on fishing.

Let's take a look at a few of the options available to Mississippi anglers for the coming year.

JANUARY

Crappie

Lake Chotard

When it comes to early season crappie fishing holes, none is better than Lake Chotard, a Mississippi River oxbow located inside the levee about 20 miles north of Vicksburg.

Forget the river stage and water clarity on Chotard in January. It is possible to catch huge quantities of really large slabs by using your sonar to locate schools of shad. The crappie will be underneath or near these concentrations of shad. They usually are found at depths from 20 to 25 feet. If that doesn't work, try fishing the bottom at depths from 25 to 35 feet deep.

Rig either white or orange "glow-in-the-dark" hooks 15 inches apart and a 1-ounce weight on the end of the line. Bounce the lead weight off the bottom as you slowly drift down the steep banks of Chotard.

The folks at Chotard Landing can provide you with up-to-date fishing information by calling (601) 279-4282).

Other Choices: Located near Crystal Springs, Lake Calling Panther offers great cold-weather largemouth bass fishing this month.

For some superb striped bass action, check out Pickwick Lake in the northeast corner of the state. Trolling deep diving crankbaits along the edges of the river channel is the most productive method.

FEBRUARY

Largemouth Bass

Okhissa Lake

Recently opened to fishing, Okhissa Lake is the newest largemouth bass factory in the state. Located in the heart of the Homochitto National Forest near Meadville, this 1,200-acre lake has more than 39 miles of shoreline and an abundance of structure. With everything a largemouth needs to grow big, many expect the next state record to be pulled from its waters in the near future.

Okhissa Lake has an average depth of 31 feet, stretches approximately two miles from north to south, and is over a mile wide at its widest point. Early reports indicated that soft plastic lures and jigs fished around structure are most productive. However, medium-running crankbaits can also produce late-winter strikes along the dam.

Tim Reed, District Ranger with the National Forest Service is the contact person for more information about fishing Okhissa Lake. Call him at (601) 384-5876.

Other Choices: February is one of the best months to catch big smallmouth bass on Pickwick Lake. Fish the mouths of creeks with Shad Raps, tube baits or 5-inch curly-tail grubs.

Located at Glen Allan, Lake Washington is one of the state's premier February crappie lakes. Live minnows fished deep tend to produce the biggest slabs.

MARCH

Blue Catfish

Mississippi River

For big blue catfish, trotlines on the mighty Mississippi River are the perfect combination. Each spring, floodwaters cause the Big Muddy to get out of her banks. Foraging catfish move into the flooded timber in large numbers.

Catfish anglers take advantage of this feeding frenzy by setting multiple trotlines in likely spots along the main channel. Chicken livers, cut skipjack, live goldfish and pond perch are the baits of choice when a boatload of Mississippi River catfish is the objective.

Cliff Covington.

Great catfishing can be had the entire length of the Big River. However, caution is advised since the Mississippi River is always potentially dangerous, especially during the spring when it is rising. (Cont.)

Other Choices: No longer a secret, Grenada Lake is likely the top trophy crappie lake in the country. The hot lures for slabs at Grenada are pink or black-and-chartreuse jigs tipped with minnows.

But if largemouth bass are what you want, Okhissa Lake in Franklin County continues as the hands-down winner this month.

APRIL

White Bass

Bayou Pierre

Whether you call them sand bass, rock bass, bar fish or silver bass, white bass provide the hottest springtime fishing action available in Mississippi. There's no better time and place to pursue these vicious little fighters than during their annual spring spawning run on Bayou Pierre near Port Gibson.

Following the mass exodus of schooling fish as they make their way up the bayou to spawn is the most productive technique. Your best bets for finding these giant schools of fish is along the sandbars, run-outs, and where the murky backwater meets the clear current from upstream. Although white bass attack most any lure, small rattling crankbaits in shad or crawfish colors work best.

Other Choices: April is a great month to wade-fish for speckled trout on the barrier islands along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

But don't forget that redear sunfish are moving onto their beds in farm ponds across the Magnolia State. Crickets or worms fished in the beds yield fantastic catches of shellcrackers.

MAY

Bluegill

sState Lakes

Bluegills are without a doubt the most popular sport fish in the Magnolia State and definitely one of the most abundant. All of the state lakes operated by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks are great choices for bedding bluegills. Fishing is best a few days on either side of the full moon.

While crickets are the bait of choice, tiny jigs or flies like the Bream Killer can be deadly when fishing active bream beds.

Some of the better state-run bream lakes are Lake Ma

ry Crawford in Lawrence County, Lake Perry in Perry County and Lake Mike Connor in Covington County. A complete list and description of all the state managed lakes can be found by logging onto www.mdwfp.com and linking to State Lakes.

Other Choices: In case you haven't taken the hint, Okhissa Lake is a great largemouth bass lake any month.

Despite the heavy fishing pressure, Sardis Lake is a good choice for crappie this month.

JUNE

Hybrid Bass

Eagle Lake

Although trolling is often a last resort for many fishermen, I have found it to be very productive for big hybrid bass on Eagle Lake. Located just north of Vicksburg, this horseshoe-shaped oxbow is hybrid striper heaven. Starting in late spring, big hybrids school up in deeper water, and trolling deep-diving crankbaits is my best method of catching them.

While silver-and-blue, silver-and-black, white-and-yellow, and fire tiger hues of diving Rapala Shad Raps or Bill Lewis Rat-L-Traps are the preferred color schemes, the key is getting the lure down to the fish in the deep holes.

A great source of information on Eagle Lake fishing is Hadad's Outdoor World in Vicksburg. Call them at (601) 636-5102.

Other Choices: Shark fishing heats up this month outside the barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico. Drift-fishing behind the shrimp boats using an 8-pound bonita for bait is very productive.

Hand-grabbing flathead catfish on the upper Big Black River is reaching its peak this month for the not so faint of heart.

Cliff Covington.

JULY

Largemouth Bass

Natchez State Park

Most anglers don't think of midsummer as prime time for lunker largemouths. But, then again, most anglers haven't fished schooling bass at Natchez State Park Lake in July. This 230-acre impoundment near Natchez is a perfect spot-and-stalk bass lake.

Just sit back in your boat and wait for the smaller bass to start boiling the surface of the lake as they push the schools of shad to the top. Then all you have to do is get close enough to the feeding frenzy to make a cast. While topwater lures will catch the smaller bass, you need to get deeper to catch those lunkers. Try a 5- or 6- inch shad-colored soft-plastic swimming jig if you want a bass in the double-digit class.

More information can be had by calling the Natchez State Park office at (601) 442-2658.

Other Choices: Gigging flounder in the shallow waters along the beach at Horn and Ship islands is popular this time of year.

Or if you prefer, head north for some of the state's best smallmouth action at Pickwick Lake.

AUGUST

Redfish

Bay St. Louis

Some of the best late-summer redfishing to be had is in the waters around Bay St. Louis. Having many deep holes and deeper channels, this area attracts large numbers of big reds. If you don't have a boat, wade fishing and fishing from the shore can also be productive.

Bill Lewis Spin-Traps and gold spoons are usually the most productive lures, but carrying along a few live croakers never hurts.

To book a day of charter fishing redfish in the Bay St. Louis or Gulfport areas, contact Capt. John Green at Thrill Seeker Charters at 1-888-625-5516.

Other Choices: Largemouth bass fishing at Aberdeen Lake on the Tenn-Tom Waterway can be productive for anglers who know how to fish the ledges near deep water. Crankbaits are the lure of choice.

Good catches of bream can be had on crickets or redworms at Lake Jeff Davis near Prentiss.

SEPTEMBER

Cobia

Barrier Islands

As the waters in the Gulf of Mexico start to cool, cobia begin moving back into the shallower water. They can be found along the Gulfport Ship Channel that runs between Horn and Ship islands. These fish hang out around the dredged channel walls marked by the channel buoys.

The old bait-and-switch method works great on big lemonfish. Locate them by throwing a heavy chartreuse or pink jig; then, switch to a live eel hooked up like a Carolina rig, and drift-fish along the channel markers.

To book a cobia charter fishing trip, contact Capt. Barry Deshamp at Nine Ball Charters. The telephone number is (228) 669-1162.

Other Choices: Take a break from the late summer heat by largemouth fishing at night on Eagle Lake near Vicksburg. Topwater baits fished around the numerous lighted piers and boathouses on the Mississippi side can yield nice catches of bass.

Big speckled trout can be caught on live croakers around oyster beds and range markers in the waters around Gulfport.

OCTOBER

Blue Catfish

Mississippi River

October is the prime month for catching giant blue cats in Old Man River. Use the heaviest fishing gear you can find. Some of these monster catfish can weigh well over 100 pounds.

Cliff Covington.

Large chunks of skipjack herring or big shiners are the preferred baits. Concentrate on the holes that are 60 to 100 feet deep, especially those downstream of rock dikes, if you want to hook a really big catfish. Good fishing holes can be found the length of the Big River.

The locations of these rock dikes, as well as a forecast of the river stages, is available by contacting the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg at (601) 631-5000.

Other Choices: The best white bass fishing to be had on Grenada Lake is during this time of year.

Thanks to an abundance of fish attractors and fishing piers, Eagle Lake near Vicksburg is a prime crappie hotspot.

NOVEMBER

Ground Mullet

Gulfport

Most saltwater anglers have probably never thought of ground mullet as a sportfish. But for those who know, these small fish are as easy to catch as they are delicious to eat (their flavor's very similar to speckled trout's).

Also known as "whiting," these fish usually weigh less than a pound, and you can catch hundreds of the delicacies in a short period of time around oyster reefs and "fish havens" in 10 to 20 feet of water.

The bait of choice is shrimp, but any cut bait can also work. To top it off, you can keep all you want because there is no creel limit on ground mullet.

Other Choices: Located in Pontotoc County, big bass are what attracts people to Trace Lake. Crankbaits work well for the big fish on the deeper points, while top-water lures and worms are more effective in the grass and along the shallow banks.

White bass can be caught this month on many of the state's numerous oxbow lakes. Target them on hard bottom ledges and boat ramps.

DECEMBER

Spotted Bass

Pearl River

When it comes to spotted bass fisheries in the Magnolia State, the Pearl River is the best. Whether you choose to fish above or below the Ross Barnett Reservoir, the results are about the same.

With the onset of colder weather these fish become more active. They can be found in large numbers staging along shallow bars adjacent to deeper pools of water. Crankbaits and soft plastics tend to be the most productive lures. Just remember to think smaller when it comes to lures for spotted bass.

Other Choices: With the winter drawdown of this flood-control reservoir, the crappie in Enid Lake are more concentrated and easier to locate.

Although not many take advantage of it, this is a great time to catch some nice fat flathead catfish on the Yazoo River. They prey almost exclusively on live fish such as bream, shad, skipjack, minnows or other catfish.

Find more about Mississippi

fishing and hunting at:

MississippiGameandFish.com/"

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