There are few areas where the saltwater fishing is better than along the Mississippi/Louisiana coast.
By Greg McCain
Quality fishing abounds along the hundreds of miles of coastline in Mississippi and Louisiana adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico.
The rivers, marshes and estuaries are go-to spots for inshore or near-shore species, but the potential for good fishing continues to multiply when piers, bridges and beaches are added to the equation.
Redfish and speckled trout remain prize quarry, but bonus catches of a variety of species salvage trips if reds and specks are not cooperating. Subtle changes in tactics lead to other potentially hot action, including black drum, tripletail, snapper, flounder, jack crevalle, sharks and even the occasional tarpon.
The area boasts over 400 miles of coastal shoreline, but that total compounds many times over when considering the thousands of acres adjacent to the coastline. While much of the fishing still takes place from boats, opportunities to fish from the beach, piers or a small craft are also possibilities.
“There are so many places to fish along our coastline that it’s hard to just pick a few locations,” said veteran guide Sonny Schindler (www.shorethingcharters.com). “We are very blessed with so many places, and the fish tend to cooperate just about year ‘round.”
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While many locations in Louisiana and Mississippi boast excellent fishing, the section of the Mississippi River from Venice to Port Eads is typically as good as it gets. Anglers gauge conditions — water level, water clarity, tide and wind — to determine where to fish along the roughly 30-mile stretch of river and surrounding areas.
“In June, in a typical year, the river should be starting to fall and the water starting to get clean, meaning the fish should be starting to move toward the passes,” said guide Jason Catchings (www.jasoncatchings.com). “They will move inwards and get on the edges of the marsh. Find that area of green water and you will find the fish.”
Catchings, who manages the fishing operations at Port Eads Marina (porteads.com) in addition to owning his own charter services in Venice, Hopedale and Grand Isle, says the late spring through the summer months is a great time to target both speckled trout and reds with either conventional tackle or fly-fishing gear.
“Many people come to fly fish for the big bull reds, but also big jacks and sharks on the fly,” Catchings said. It’s definitely a fly-fishing destination.”
Plenty of fish are available using conventional tackle, with fish holding on points, in drains and around Roseau cane patches.
“Depending on the day, we could be using popping corks with a 1/4-ounce. jig head and plastic,” Catchings said “We could use a gold spoon or a topwater like a Shimano Orca popper or a Coltsniper, a walking bait with rattles.”
John Burrell manages the Port Eads Marina facility as President and CEO of the High Adventure Company. While Burrell operates hunting and fishing lodges around the world, he finds that the angling adventures encountered around Port Eads surpass any other fishing destination.
“It’s the most epic fishery that I have ever had the experience of fishing anywhere in the world,” Burrell said. “The opportunity to catch giant bull reds and speckled trout limits immediately is unparalleled.”
The Biloxi Marsh is a massive area shared by Louisiana and Mississippi. Technically in Louisiana waters, the Biloxi Marsh offers a wide expanse of oyster reefs, grass flats, drains that snake to the interior of the marsh, and openings or lakes on the interior.
“For June fishing, it’s a very popular area, probably the most boats we see all year,” Schindler said. “The weather is usually pretty good with not much tropical threat. The fishing is at its best. The trout and other fish are gorging on everything. You don’t have to be a seasoned veteran saltwater angler to catch a lot of fish in the Biloxi Marsh in June.”
One of Catchings favorite approaches is to locate oyster reefs just off the islands and fish to the points and around the edges of the islands.
“That’s one of the mistakes that I see people make,” Catchings said. “They get up on top of the points. They really need to start 100-150 yards off the points and fish from outside in. Also, don’t just fish the points. There might be five or six fish holding there but 30 or 40 in the pockets between the points.”
Catchings targets those fish with much the same tackle and lures, both conventional and fly, as he does in the Venice/Port Eads area but does make a few concessions to the clearer water. The water is generally cleaner so fluorocarbon leaders are a must, using smaller jigs, down to 1/8-ounce heads. He also goes with more natural looking colors.
Schindler says the areas that hold baitfish produce some chaotic action. While trout and reds remain the target species, other fish move in and out.
“When you find the birds and its trout under them and not the catfish, mackerel or bluefish, a simple popping cork rig with 2 feet of leader and a soft plastic under it is all you need. It doesn’t matter the color on those days. They will hit a bare hook on those days when they are charged up.”
While certain areas in Louisiana are perhaps more widely recognized destinations, Mississippi offers equally good potential.
While Schindler visits Biloxi Marsh frequently, he says the reef system developed by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has created an exceptional near-shore fishery just off the Mississippi Coast, accessible by just about any type of craft
“The easiest stuff and pretty consistent in June — everything is good in June, the best month of the year — is the near-shore reefs off Hancock County and Harrison County,” Schindler said.
Other man-made reefs to consider are Taylor, Jailhouse, Bayou Caddy, and Pass. Coordinates for these and more are available at www.dmr.state.ms.us/index.php/marine-fisheries/artificial-reef/73-inshore-reefs.
“There are about 60 of them from state line to state line,” Schindler said. “You can see them from the beach. We see kayaks out there almost daily. You can fish them in a 12-foot skiff if the weather is right.”
While both artificials and live bait produce well, Schindler typically uses shrimp or live baitfish under a Boat Monkey popping cork, focusing on drifting the rig along current lines. He uses heavy, 40-pound fluorocarbon leaders to combat the abrasive rocks and rubble and also the bigger fish that frequent the reefs.
“It might be a big trout one cast or a big red the next,” Schindler said. “We also catch plenty of sheepshead, black drum, small mangrove snapper, juvenile cobia and sharks.
While the reefs provide a veritable buffet of different species, Schindler says that visitors to the area can take advantage of the reef system even if they don’t have access to a boat. Anglers fishing from the Garfield Ladner Pier in Waveland can reach some of the reefs that surround it. The pier attracts anglers from both Mississippi and Louisiana — it’s located only a few miles from the Slidell — as well as tourists looking to sample the fishing.
To the east around Biloxi and Ocean Springs, guide Mike Adams (www.goincoastalcharters.com) takes advantage of the reef system and other hard-bottom areas to catch inshore species.
He usually cruises the beach areas looking for trout and reds, but also encounters many other species as well. Speckled trout in the 5- to 7-pound range are common in the late spring and through the summer.
“There are a lot of inshore rock piles and oyster reefs where you can target the trout with live shrimp under a cork,” Adams said. “A croaker free-lined on the bottom will get you a bigger fish.
According to Adams, many anglers also wade-fish up and down the Ocean Springs and Biloxi beaches, as there are many old oyster reefs and piling that hold trout and redfish. Most folks use live shrimp, but plastic imitations also work.
At times, Adams sight fishes from a tower on his boat. From the tower, one of his specialties is locating tripletail around fixed or floating structure.
“I’m mostly near shore looking for anything floating, any type of pole in the water from a PVC to a channel marker, or any type of floating debris,” Adams said. “From May on, I’m pretty much going to be up in the tower. If I see it, I’m going to it.”
The hard-fighting tripletail is one species that acclimates to anything floating in the water. Adams targets them with a live shrimp rigged under a slip cork. The slip cork allows him to adjust bait depth quickly based on the situation. If he spots a fish, he places the bait just under the surface. If he’s fishing a channel marker with 20-foot depth on one side, he can easily adjust for fish holding deeper.
Regardless of the destination along the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines, premier fishing potential awaits. Whether the target is a big red on the fly, a speckled trout under a cork or another species, the region offers just about anything required by the coastal angler. Sample one or more places. The only difficulty is choosing the best location.