January 26, 2018
By Cliff Covington
JANUARY - CHOTARD LAKE/ALBERMARLE LAKE CRAPPIE
This pair of sister lakes are hands-down favorites when it comes to early season crappie fishing. These old Mississippi River connected oxbows are located inside the levee about 20 miles north of Vicksburg.
The majority of crappie caught at Chotard and Albemarle in January are found in the 15- to 20-foot depths. But when this tactic isn't working, experts recommend fishing the bottom at depths from 25 to 35 feet with multiple jig riggings tied every 15 to 18 inches up the line. The preferred technique is to bounce the 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: Lake Calling Panther Largemouths: Located near Crystal Springs, Lake Calling Panther offers outstanding cold weather largemouth bass fishing. Pickwick Lake Striped Bass: For superb striped bass action, check out Pickwick Lake in the northeast corner of the state.
FEBRUARY - OKHISSA LAKE LARGEMOUTH BASS
Okhissa Lake is the premier largemouth bass factory in the Magnolia State. Located smack in the middle of the Homochitto National Forest near Meadville, this 1,200-acre lake has over 39 miles of shoreline, an abundance of structure and everything a largemouth needs to grow big.
Okhissa Lake has an average depth of 31 feet, stretching approximately two miles from north to south, and is over a mile wide at its widest point near the lagoon. Soft plastic lures and jigs fished around structure is most productive. However, medium-running crankbaits can also produce late-winter strikes along the dam.
Other Options: Pickwick Lake Smallmouths: February is one of the best months to catch big smallmouths on Pickwick Lake. Lake Washington Crappie: Located at Glen Allan, Lake Washington is one of the state's premier February crappie lakes.
MARCH - BAYOU PIERRE WHITE BASS
Whether called sand bass, rock bass, bar fish or silver bass; white bass provide the hottest springtime fishing action in Mississippi, and there is no better time and place to pursue these ferocious fighters than during their annual spring spawning run (usually late March) 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. Find these giant schools of fish along the sandbars, runouts and where the murky backwater meets the clear current from upstream. Although white bass will attack most any lure, small rattling crankbaits in shad or crawfish colors work best.
Other Options: Grenada Lake Crappie: Located in north-central Mississippi, Grenada Lake is likely the top trophy crappie lake in the country. Neshoba Lake Largemouths: Find giant largemouth bass in Neshoba County Lake near Philadelphia.
APRIL - MISSISSIPPI RIVER FLATHEAD CATFISH
For big flathead catfish, trotlines on the Mississippi River are the perfect tactic. Each spring, floodwaters cause the Big Muddy to get out of her banks. Foraging flatheads 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. Live bait, such as goldfish, pond perch, shiners and bullhead catfish are preferred when a boatload of Mississippi River flathead catfish is the objective.
Other Options: Barrier Island Speckled Trout: April is a great month to wade-fish the barrier islands along the Mississippi Gulf Coast for speckled trout. Farm Pond Redear Sunfish: Redear sunfish will be moving onto their beds in farm ponds across the Magnolia State.
MAY - STATE LAKE BLUEGILLS
Bluegills are popular sportfish in the Magnolia State, as they are 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. And while crickets are the bait of choice, jigs and flies can be deadly on bream beds.
The top picks for state-run bream lakes include Jeff Davis Lake, Lake Monroe, Lake Calling Panther and Prentiss Walker Lake. A complete list and description of all the state managed lakes can be found at www.mdwfp.com.
Other Options: Sardis Lake Crappie: Despite heavy fishing pressure, Sardis Lake is a good choice for crappie. Ross Barnett Reservoir Largemouths: Largemouth bass fishing on Ross Barnett Reservoir is reaching its peak.
JUNE - EAGLE LAKE HYBRID STRIPERS
Although trolling is often a last resort for many fishermen, this technique can be very productive for big stripers on Eagle Lake. Located just north of Vicksburg, this horseshoe-shaped oxbow is hybrid striper heaven. Starting in late spring, big hybrid stripers school up in deeper water, and trolling deep-diving crankbaits is the most effective method of catching them. While silver-blue, silver-black, white-yellow and fire tiger are the preferred color schemes, the key is getting the lure down to the fish in the deep holes.
Other Options: Barrier Island Shark: Shark fishing heats up outside the barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico. Big Black River Flatheads: Handgrabbing flathead catfish on the upper Big Black River is reaching its peak for those seeking unconventional adventure.
JULY - EAGLE LAKE LARGEMOUTH BASS
Most anglers don't consider the heat of the summer as being prime conditions for lunker largemouths. Mainly anglers who haven't fished schooling largemouths at Natchez State Park in July. This 230-acre lake near Natchez is a perfect spot-and-stalk bass lake. Just sit back and wait for smaller bass to start boiling the surface of the lake as they push schools of shad to the top. Then get close enough to the feeding frenzy to make a cast. While topwater lures will catch the smaller bass, get deeper to catch lunkers. Try a 5- or 6- inch shad-colored soft plastic swimming jig for a bass in the double-digit class.
Other Options: Pickwick Smallmouths: The smallmouth action on Pickwick Lake in northeast Mississippi is outstanding. Horn/Ship Island Flounder: For saltwater action, head south for some great flounder gigging in the shallow waters along the beach at Horn and Ship Island.
AUGUST - BAY ST. LOUIS RED DRUM
Some of the best late-summer redfishing to be had is in the waters around Bay St. Louis. With many deep holes and deeper channels, this area attracts large numbers of big redfish. And wade fishing from the shore can be productive. Bill Lewis Spin-Traps and gold spoons are usually the most productive lures, but carrying along a few live croakers certainly doesn't hurt.
Other Options: Aberdeen Lake Largemouths: Late summer largemouth bass fishing is very productive on Aberdeen Lake in the Tenn-Tom Waterway. Trace Park Lake Bluegill: Good catches of bream can be had at Trace Park Lake near Tupelo for anyone that doesn't mind drowning a few crickets.
SEPTEMBER - BARRIER ISLAND COBIA
As the waters in the Gulf of Mexico start to cool, cobia begin moving back into shallower water. They can be found along the Gulfport Ship Channel that runs between Horn and Ship Island, hanging out around the dredged channel walls marked by channel buoys. The old bait-and-switch method works great on lemonfish. Locate them by throwing a heavy chartreuse or pink jig, then switch to a live eel rigged Carolina style and drift fish along the channel markers.
Other Options: Eagle Lake Largemouths: Take a break from the late summer heat by largemouth fishing topwaters around lighted piers at night. Gulfport Speckled Trout: Big speckled trout can be caught on live croakers around oyster beds, range markers and "fish havens."
OCTOBER - MISSISSIPPI RIVER BLUE CATFISH
October is a prime month for catching giant blue cats in Old Man River. Since some of these monsters can weigh well over 100 pounds, it is 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, that are 60- to 100 feet deep to hook a really big catfish. Good fishing holes can be found the length of the Mississippi.
Other Options: Grenada Lake White Bass: Grenada Lake offers some of the best white bass fishing to be had during this time of year. Lake Lincoln Crappie: Thanks to an abundance of natural cover, Lake Lincoln near Brookhaven is a prime fall crappie hotspot.
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 water and air temperatures drop, these fish move farther into the marsh gorging on brown shrimp. Their internal clock tells them to start feeding heavily in order 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, having 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: Gulf Coast Mullet: Although ground mullet are often overlooked along the Gulf Coast, these small fish are as easy to catch as they are delicious to eat. Yucatan Lake White Bass: White bass can be caught on many of the state's numerous oxbow lakes. Yucatan Lake near Port Gibson is one of the most productive.
DECEMBER - PEARL RIVER SPOTTED BASS
The Pearl River is one of the best spotted bass fisheries in the Magnolia State. Whether fishing above or below the Ross Barnett Reservoir, the results will be 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 that smaller lures are more effective when it comes to spotted bass.
Other Options: Enid Lake Crappie: With the winter drawdown of Enid Lake, the crappie in this flood control reservoir are more concentrated and easier to locate. Yazoo River Flatheads: Although not many take advantage of it, this is a great time to catch some nice fat flathead catfish on the Yazoo River.