January 26, 2017
There is some great fishing to be had throughout the Magnolia State for all manner of species, both freshwater and salt. In fact, choosing where to fish can be difficult, but here are 36 places and species, by month, anglers should consider hitting this year.
JANUARY - Albemarle Lake Crappie
It is nearly impossible to discuss the attributes of Albemarle Lake without including its connected twin, Lake Chotard. According to members of the Magnolia Crappie Club, these sister lakes are as good as it gets for cold-weather slabs. Located inside the levee, both of these ancient oxbows are just a short, 20-mile drive north of Vicksburg.
In early January, most of the crappie caught on Albemarle and Chotard can be found in the 15- to 20-foot depths underneath large concentrations of shad. However, if this tactic isn't working, experts recommend fishing the bottom at with multiple jig riggings tied every 15 to 18 inches up the line. The preferred technique is to bounce lead weight off the bottom while slowly drifting down the steep banks of the two lakes. Some of the more popular jig colors include black/chartreuse, black/silver and crawfish.
OTHER OPTIONS: Nestled in the heart of the Homochitto National Forest near Meadville, Okhissa Lake is a great choice for cold weather largemouth bass fishing. For some striped bass action, trolling deep-diving crankbaits along the river channel edges of Pickwick Lake is about as good as it gets.
FEBRUARY - Calling Panther Lake Largemouth Bass
Located just off I-55 at the Crystal Springs exit, this 512-acre lake is a favorite of anglers in the Jackson Metro area. While Calling Panther Lake is not very large, it offers a wide variety of fishing options for trophy largemouths. Calling Panther Lake's erratic shape produces a total length of shoreline that is comparable to a lake nearly three times its size. It also harbors an abundance of standing and fallen timber and numerous deep creek channels, offering anglers a unique fishing experience. The thick standing timber in the lake provides an intimate feel while maneuvering boats in and out of the many small openings.
According to Ricky Blakeney, Lake Calling Panther manager, a black/blue jig with a flipping blue trailer is the lure of choice this time of year. However, the lake record largemouth for Calling Panther was a 15.4-pound monster caught by James Allen of Crystal Springs on February 26, 2011, using an over-sized shiner along the main creek channel.
OTHER OPTIONS: February is prime time for giant smallmouth bass on Pickwick Lake. Focus on the mouths of creeks with Shad Raps, tube baits, or 5-inch curly-tail grubs. Lake Washington near the small Delta town of Glen Allan is a top pick for crappie with large minnows fished deep.
MARCH - Bayou Pierre White Bass
Whether called sand bass, rock bass, bar fish or silver bass, white bass provide incredible springtime fishing action in Mississippi. And there is no better place to pursue these ferocious 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 Big and Little Bayou Pierre to spawn is the most productive technique, fishing along the sandbars, runouts and where murky backwater meets clear current from upstream. Even though white bass will attack most any lure, small rattling crankbaits in shad or crawfish colors are the most productive lures.
OTHER OPTIONS: Grenada Lake is nationally recognized as one of the top crappie lakes in the country. The hot lures are pink or black/chartreuse jigs tipped with minnows. Or head to Neshoba County Lake near Philadelphia for largemouth bass.
APRIL - Mississippi River Flathead Catfish
Trotlines and the mighty Mississippi River are the perfect combination for giant flatheads. Each spring, floodwaters cause the Big Muddy to get out of her banks. When this happens, foraging flatheads move into the flooded timber in large numbers. Setting multiple trotlines in likely spots along the main channel is the most productive method to take advantage of this feeding frenzy, using live bait such as goldfish, pond perch, shiners and bullhead catfish.
OTHER OPTIONS: Located near Ripley, Tippah County Lake offers excellent bank fishing for redear sunfish, using crickets and worms in the beds. April is also a great month to wade-fish the barrier islands for speckled trout along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
MAY - Lake Perry Bluegills
Nestled in the DeSoto National Forest near Beaumont, Lake Perry is hard to beat for bluegills. Although it encompasses only 68 acres, this lake has three fishing piers and plenty of shoreline suitable for fishing. According to Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks fisheries biologists, gravel beds that attract fish were built within casting distance of the banks and piers, and stringers of bluegills averaging a half-pound are common.
Fishing is best a few days on either side of the full moon. And while crickets are the bait of choice, jigs and flies can be equally deadly when fishing active bream beds.
OTHER OPTIONS: Despite heavy fishing pressure, Sardis Lake is a good choice for crappie this month. Largemouth bass fishing on Ross Barnett Reservoir is reaching its peak.
JUNE - Eagle Lake Hybrid Stripers
Slow trolling deep-diving crankbaits is the most effective technique for catching big stripers on this horseshoe-shaped oxbow, located just north of Vicksburg. Starting in late spring, big hybrid stripers school up in deeper water. While silver/blue, silver/black, white/yellow and fire tiger colored diving Rapala Shad Raps or Bill Lewis Rat-L-Traps are the preferred color schemes and lures, the key is getting the lure down to the fish in the deep holes.
OTHER OPTIONS: Speckled trout fishing heats up in the Gulf of Mexico near Waveland. Live shrimp and croakers fished from the piers can be surprisingly productive. Handgrabbing flathead catfish on the upper Big Black River is reaching its peak for those seeking an unconventional and exciting fishing method.
JULY - Natchez State Park Lake Largemouth Bass
Summer isn't when most anglers consider being prime time for lunker largemouths. However, most anglers haven't experienced schooling largemouths at Natchez State Park Lake in mid-summer. This 230-acre lake near Natchez is a perfect spot-and-stalk bass lake. Just sit back in the boat and wait for bass to start boiling the surface of the lake as they push the many schools of shad to the top, and cast.
"Although topwater lures will catch the smaller bass near the surface, you need to get deeper to catch those lunkers," said Don Hynum. "I prefer a 5- or 6- inch shad-colored soft plastic swimming jig for bass in the double-digit class."
OTHER OPTIONS: Head south to experience some great nighttime flounder gigging in the shallow waters along the beach at Ship Island and Horn Island. The smallmouth action on Pickwick Lake is outstanding this time of year and should also be considered.
AUGUST - Bay St. Louis Redfish
Some of the best late-summer redfishing can be had in the waters around Bay St. Louis. With an abundance of deep holes and deeper channels, this area attracts large numbers of big redfish. And wade and shore fishing can be productive. Bill Lewis Spin-Traps, gold spoons and soft-plastic jigs are usually the most productive lures, but carrying a few live croakers certainly wouldn't hurt.
OTHER OPTIONS: Target tripletail around crab pot trap markers in the shallows of the Mississippi Sound with live shrimp under a cork. Following extensive renovations, Lake Tangipahoa at Percy Quin State Park near McComb offers awesome catches of bluegills from shore or boats.
SEPTEMBER - Barrier Islands Cobia: Barrier Islands
As the waters in the Gulf of Mexico start to cool, cobia begin moving into shallower water. They can be found along the Gulfport Ship Channel that runs between Horn and Ship Island. Cobia hang out along 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.
OTHER OPTIONS: Largemouth fishing at night on Eagle Lake near Vicksburg is a great way to take a break from the late summer heat. Big speckled trout can be caught on live croakers around oyster beds, range markers and "fish havens" in the waters around Gulfport.
OCTOBER - Mississippi River Blue Catfish
October is the prime month for tightlining giant blue cats on Old Man River. And since some of these river catfish can weigh well over 100 pounds, it would be wise to use heavy fishing gear. Large chunks of skipjack herring or big shiners are the preferred baits. Concentrate on deep holes, especially behind rock dikes 60 to 100 feet deep, to hook a really big catfish. Good fishing holes can be found the length of the Mississippi.
OTHER OPTIONS: Some great white bass can be found at Grenada Lake. And with the cooler water temperatures, crappie on Arkabutla Lake near Hernando heats up as crappie return to their fall feeding-frenzy patterns.
NOVEMBER - Gulf Coast Marsh Speckled Trout
November is the transition period when speckled trout start moving out of the Gulf and into the marsh. As temperatures drop during the month, these fish continue to move farther into the marsh gorging on brown shrimp to build up fat reserves for the winter. This is the month to catch some of the biggest trout of the year. An abundance of 2- to 4-pound speckled trout can be expected.
The majority of light-tackle inshore guides prefer artificial lures for fall specks. They have good success with slow-sinking and topwater MirrOLures. When it comes to soft plastics, favorite colors are chartreuse, glow, purple and electric chicken attached to a 1/4-ounce jig. The presentation of choice is a slow retrieve or 14 inches under a popping cork.
OTHER OPTIONS: Although ground mullet are often overlooked along the Gulf Coast, but these small fish are as easy to catch as they are delicious to eat. Anglers can catch hundreds on cut bait or shrimp in a short period of time around oyster reefs and "fish havens" in 10 to 20 feet of water. The white bass action couldn't get any hotter at Sardis Lake. Target them on points where they can be found in large schools waiting to ambush migrating shad.
DECEMBER - Homochitto River Spotted Bass
The Homochitto River is one of the best, spotted bass fishing destinations in the Magnolia State. With the onset of colder weather, these fish become active in the clear water of the upper Homochitto. Spots can be found in large numbers staging along shallow sand and gravel bars adjacent to deeper pools of water. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits tend to be the most productive lures. Just remember that smaller lures are more effective when it comes to spotted bass.
OTHER OPTIONS: Although not many take advantage of it, this is a great time to catch some fat flathead catfish on the Yazoo River. Just keep in mind that flatheads prey almost exclusively upon live fish, such as bream, shad, skipjack, minnows or other catfish. Also, the winter drawdown on Grenada Lake makes for some outstanding crappie fishing. So for those anglers who enjoy catching, and then eating, delicious panfish, this is a great option.