August 31, 2011
From Corinth and Tunica to Biloxi and Pascagoula, the Magnolia State holds a wealth of fishing options. Here's a look at three dozen of the best.
By Robert H. Cleveland Jr.
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In the Magnolia State there is no end to the variety of options available to the avid anglers. From bass to catfish, and bream to crappie the state is full of great fishing destinations.
How about saltwater fish? Well, this one we have to qualify. We know they are plentiful off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico, but what we don't know at the time this story was written are the lasting effects of the BP oil spill of 2010. In fall the trout, redfish, king mackerel and even sharks were biting. We just don't know about the future. For the most part, we have left them off our calendar.
Largemouth Bass - Lake Bogue Homa
Our first recommendation is based more on history, and the success that the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks has had when it renovates, restocks and reopens one of its state lakes to fishing. Bass fishing explodes in those lakes from Day 1, and improves for a couple of years.
Lake Bogue Homa at Laurel was reopened in May 2010 and began producing good numbers of quality Florida largemouths, but this is a lake that historically has been better in the winter. The MDWFP cut a lot of new channels and gave old ones new definition during the renovation. Fish those drops and also along the new dam for big bass.
Another option for January is a similar situation for largemouths, only a few years older. Lake Okhissa near Bude in the Homochitto National Forest is a U.S. Forest Service lake in its fourth year. Its bass are peaking and they are plentiful.
Any of the Mississippi River oxbows still connected to the river provide excellent crappie fishing, despite their reputations of being dead during the winter.
Crappie - Lake Chotard
Our No. 1 choice for the coldest month of our winters is crappie fishing in Lake Chotard north of Vicksburg. Magnolia Crappie Club president Paul Johnson is one of the fishermen responsible for opening the door to this type winter oxbow crappie action.
"For years they told us you can't catch fish there in the winter, and guess what? They were wrong," Johnson said. "Locate the fish with your fish finder, pin-point their depth and you can catch them on a fairly dependable rate."
Lake Bill Waller is an excellent choice for the second month, and again, this is a recently renovated lake where the original stocking of Florida largemouth bass is still growing. Fish in excess of 10 and even 12 pounds are showing up in surveys. Another pick for February is on the Gulf Coast, fishing the coastal rivers for speckled trout that migrate into the bays for the winter. The Pascagoula River is a good bet.
Largemouth Bass - Ross Barnett Reservoir
Finally we get to head north, and our first stop in March is at Ross Barnett Reservoir for largemouth bass. What makes it good for bass in March there is that many areas of shallow flats with pad stems are adjacent to deep waters.
"They start moving up to feed on a pre-spawn pattern and you can start hammering the buck bass in early March and the bigger females in mid to late March," said Pete Ponds, a BASS Elite Series pro from Madison. "Learn how to throw a swimming lizard on an 1/8-ounce weight, and reel it back through the stems like slow-rolling a spinnerbait. They will kill it."
Target the Rankin County side of the upper, main lake, to the north of the islands.
Head to Lake Washington near Glen Alan for the best pre-spawn crappie action. All you need to know is to fight the urge to get into and around the cypress trees. Stay out about 50 to 100 yards and drift with several poles offering a minnow-and-jig combination in water 6 to 10 feet deep.
Farther north, go to Enid Lake, launch and run up the river from the main lake. Look for white bass in the channel. Deep holes hold the biggest schools and the action is nonstop.
Crappie - Ross Barnett Reservoir
If you are thinking spawning crappie for April, go to Ross Barnett Reservoir, which year-in and year-out is Mississippi's best spawning crappie lake.
"You can bet the house on it. The peak of the spawn on the main lake will be a day or two either side of tax day," said Rabbit Rogers of Brandon, the lake's foremost crappie authority, regarding April 15. "The exact day varies by moon phase and water level, but it will be in that window. Depending on the water level, you will want to fish either the stumps in 5 to 6 feet of water, or, if there is enough water, move up into the flooded grass on the Rankin County side to fish the sawgrass and pad stems."
Grenada Lake is the current "in spot" for crappie fishing, but still ranks as No. 2 to Barnett Reservoir. Follow the creeks back as far as possible and fish any flooded cover, like grass, brush, trees or stumps in 4 feet of water and less.
Our first bream pick is for redears at Trace State Park between Tupelo and Pontotoc in northeast Mississippi. Look for bed-dimpled bottoms of coves in the smaller of the park's lakes.
Bluegill - Lake Okhissa
We're headed back south to Okhissa again, and this time for bedding bluegill on the new and full moon in May.
"When we designed this lake we built over 600 gravel beds for bream," said Rick Dillard of the U.S. Forest Service. "They are in obvious places, like points and cove banks, and they are in not so obvious places, too, where you may have to smell out the fish."
Lake maps with bream bed locations are available from the Homochitto National Forest headquarters in Bude.
We can never leave out the catfish action on the bluff banks of Pickwick Lake in the far northeast corner of the state in May. Channel cats move up on the rocks below those banks to spawn in the cracks and other cover. Follow the cracks down the banks and fish near them. Nightcrawlers are all you will need with light tackle to fill a cooler.
Our next choice takes us to the Tenn-Tom Waterway at the Columbus Pool for outstanding post-spawn largemouth action. The big fish are still shallow. Find a wind-blown bank and use a white spinnerbait with just a grub and
White Bass - Lake Ferguson
It may have been the best kept fishing secret of 2010, but word did get out after the fact how good the white bass action was in June on Lake Ferguson near Greenville.
"Probably had the best white bass fishing ever in Ferguson and it lasted the entire month," said Clyde McGee of the Sportsman in Greenville. "My son and I wore them out on crankbaits. You could find them easy enough feeding on the surface, but you could also just fish the sand bars and points."
The Sportsman in Greenville is the best place to get the latest local fishing information. Check them out at 1511 Highway 1 South or call (662) 335-5018.
Back at Barnett Reservoir the striped bass activity peaks in June when the fish move up on the edge of the river channel out from the Lost Rabbit development on the Natchez Trace side of the lake. Also check many of the shallow 10- to 12-foot flats near the river in the lower main lake.
Trolling the edges or the flats with Bandit 200 crankbaits will work unless you see the fish on top feeding. Then anything will catch them.
Also in June, Calling Panther Lake near Crystal Springs is hot for channel catfish. They move up on the points and shallow flats to spawn around timber. Limit catches are a common occurrence.
Gar - Little Tallahatchie River
Summer is here, it's hot and gar are up on top at below Sardis Lake dam on the Little Tallahatchie River. You can't help but find them because they are steadily rising and gulping oxygen for their swim bladders.
Take some nylon rope, run it through big swivels and then wrap it with nylon thread to secure it. Fray the ends, and you've got all you need. Well, you will need some extremely good muscles. These fish will wear you out.
When the gar strikes it tangles its teeth in the frayed rope and the battle is on.
On the Mississippi coast, go to the Back Bay in Biloxi and fish for black drum when there is good tide movement. Look for at least a foot of tidal change and fish the falling phase.
Cut mullet is the best bet. Cast it from the bank as far as you can launch it. Drum move up to feed on whatever the falling tide delivers. Fish up to 50 pounds are possible and pretty frequent.
The last pick for July is Barnett Reservoir on those same 10- to 12-foot flats that held the stripers in June. They now are full of channel cats and tight lining with nightcrawlers is a blast.
Crappie - Sardis Lake
This month grab your crappie trolling gear and hit this north Mississippi reservoir."August is the time for trolling for big crappie with crankbaits on the main-lake points and channels," said Ron Garavelli, Fisheries Chief of the MDWFP. "People come from all over just to try this, and it works."
The hotter it gets the more the demand for electricity to run air conditioners goes up. At Pickwick Lake, that means current generated by the turbines at the dam. That moving water also means a great smallmouth bite on humps along the river channel.
White bass reappear on our calendar, and this time it is in the Mississippi River proper. Find the jetties and dikes, and then look for little breaks were water rushes through and over the rocks. Those little flows hold schools of white bass. Cast grubs and crankbaits for fast action.
Channel Catfish - Mississippi River
The Mississippi River in September is red hot for channel catfish action. A fun way to target them is running some jugs down the current.
"The inside bends of the river produce the best action," said Sidney Montgomery, a long-time river angler. "Toss your jugs out at the top of the bend, go to the opposite end of the bend, where there will be a sandbar, and park your boat. Fish with rods and reels, with cut shad, until the jugs arrive and then go back and pick up the jugs with fish."
On the upper end of the Tenn-Tom Waterway is Mississippi's undisputed spotted bass hot spot, the Bay Spring Pool. The spots here are plentiful and big and in September they are stacked on the deep main-lake points. Toss out a plastic worm with at least a 1/4-ounce weight to reach them.
Also target the schooling bass action on the Tenn-Tom down at the Aberdeen Pool. Check out the main river points, then the secondary points in the backwater areas.
Spotted Bass - Bay Springs Pool
Good in September, Bay Springs Lake is even better in October for its spotted bass. The cooler temperatures begin to pull the shad up higher on the points and even into the backwater coves. The spots move up on the points and secondary points.
"If you can find the points with timber in 10 or 12 feet, you can find the spots," said Larry Pugh, the state's assistant chief of fisheries and a resident of nearby Tupelo. "That pulls them up to crankbait depth."Other Options:
An October bass trip to Calling Panther Lake turned into a heck of bluegill trip for us in 2009 when we found a couple of boats anchored in 12 feet of water near the dam. They were too busy reeling in big bluegill to talk. Redworms on the bottom is the ticket.
Back on the coast, due to the dry dog days of September the largemouth bass activity picks up in the coastal river bays. The salinity level drops and bass move a little farther down the rivers where an inline spinnerbait or a buzzbait can get their attention.
Crappie - Okatibbee Lake
This pick will probably surprise you. But pack your crappie trolling gear and head to the Meridian area to Okatibbee Lake at Collinsville.
"Outstanding fall trolling for crappie on the edge of the creek channel in shallow water on the upper end," said James Thomas of Meridian. "Once everybody starts hunting, the pressure is off the fish and they respond with a heck of a bite."
Thomas said a jig-and-minnow combination on two or three poles worked along the edge of the creek drop off in 6 to 10 feet of water will produce a limit of 1- to 1 1/2-pound fish.
"No monsters, just a lot of good fish," he added.
This month the Jordan River system is full of striped bass. Find a clean sandy bank and toss a crankbait along it.
Okhissa Lake has the best deep-water bream fishing available in Mississippi in November. Fish with worms in 20 feet of water on points.
Bluegills - Jeff Davis Lake
Jeff Davis Lake, a pond managed by the MDWFP, offers excellent winter bluegill fishing. Fish nightcrawlers on the bottom with light spinning gear, trying to keep the bait in 10 to 12 feet of water adjacent to the creek channels. The fish stay deep this month, but move shallow to feed.
Oxbow crappie fishing is heating up on Albermarle Lake It's located near Vicksburg and connected to Lake Chotard by a long channel. This old oxbow holds a lot of fish on its upper end in December. Look for suspended schools in 10 to 20 feet of water.
Finally Lake Okhissa has largemouth bass stacking on the edge of the creek channel in the upper end of the lake. Use a drop-shot rig or the shaky head worm to fool them in the 20- to 25-foot depths.