Regardless of the time of year, Mississippi offers anglers some hot prospects for fast action. Here's a look at 36 great destinations for the coming seasons. (Febraury 2006)
All throughout Mississippi, exceptional fish lurk in lakes and rivers, and in the Gulf of Mexico. Some may weigh a few ounces; others can tip the scales at more than 100 pounds.
The picks for each month that follow are just appetizers designed to whet your appetite for the angling feast awaiting you in the Magnolia State for 2006!
Back Bay Biloxi
When the water cools down and baitfish and shrimp are in the marshes, these battlers of the inshore Gulf of Mexico spend a lot of time cruising the Back Bay area.
Fish any areas that are particularly muddy or grassy. The mouths of drainage ditches or the areas around boats, piers and breakwaters attract the bait that bring in the redfish.
Any bait that resembles a shrimp or minnow works fine. Since redfish have mouths suited for grubbing in the mud, baits that can go down several feet work best.
The biggest red I've caught in the area weighed more than 11 pounds, but most of the redfish that swim these muddy waterways are 3 pounds or less.
Options: Hunt for schools of white bass hanging in deep holes at the mouths of fast-running streams that drain into Enid Lake. They're fun to catch on ultralight rigs with sparkling spinners.
At 6,700 acres, Bay Springs Lake offers plenty of room for targeting wintertime saugers. They should be biting on this Tenn-Tom poll this month.
The pre-spawn action for papermouths can be great on this old oxbow near Vicksburg. Serious anglers put limits of crappie in the boat this month.
Try drifting, or running the trolling motor, with several lines out, keeping them at differing depths between 10 and 16 feet down. This is a live-bait fishery, so bait up with medium-sized live minnows.
A likely area on which to concentrate is just off Australia Island. The slabs usually stage here before heading to the shallows to spawn.
Options: On warm, sunny afternoons, target largemouths along the shallows of Pelahatchie Bay, where the water warms up quickly. Working spinnerbaits among the lily-pad stems is a promising pattern.
Stick around Bay Springs Lake for another month to target the spotted bass. They like cool water and so will congregate 20 to 30 feet down.
Gulf Oil Rigs
The first signs of the early-spring migration of cobia appear around the oil rigs off the Magnolia State this month. Look for these streamlined fish cruising around the structure, or even coming out to meet your boat.
The fish can run to 50 pounds, so heavy tackle is needed. Eels are hard to beat as bait, but if they're not available, try cutting soft-plastic tubing into 6- to 9-inch lengths.
When you see cobia, toss one of these lures in front of them, or let it float slowly downward near the legs of the oil platform. There's a lot of fight in these fish, so be prepared for a pounding.
Options: Slow-trolling around structure can pay off with hookups on largemouths waiting for the world to warm. Lake Monroe near Aberdeen is a likely destination for this action.
For early crappie, visit Lake Washington. At the first of the month, troll for them in 6 to 10 feet of water; by month's end, they'll be on the bed at the bank.
Lake Bogue Homa
Though this snag-studded reservoir can challenge your casting ability, it gives up some lunker largemouths this month.
Braided line works best at Bogue Homa when you're targeting the stumps and downed trees. Plastic lizards or soft-plastic jerkbaits fished on a slow fall usually draw strikes. Topwater tube jigs and buzzbaits also get attacked early and late. Color and flash are important attributes for a lure here.
Options: In Mississippi River oxbows in the southern half of our state, crappie are beginning to head towards the shallows. Lake Mary in Wilkinson County is a good place to start your search for the slabs. Live bait works best.
Backwaters of the Pearl River hold some survivors from prehistory: bowfins. Find shallow, muddy spots without much current and run a light-colored spinnerbait through the water to attract these rugged living fossils.
The feisty males are great fun to catch as they guard their plate-sized nests in the shallows. If you spot one nest cleared out of the grass near a point on Columbus Lake, more are surely nearby. Since the fish are striking at lures to confront threats to their territory, color and shape are irrelevant.
Jigs or inline spinners work equally well. Go with the lightest line that you can comfortably fish -- 2-, 4- and 6-pound can all work well for these Tenn-Tom Waterway panfish.
The maximum number of fish will be bedding come the first full moon of the month.
Options: Carp grow big, and are fun to catch. Use a stiff rod with heavy-test line, or they'll break off. Favored baits are bread mixed thoroughly with peanut butter and cheese and other dough-ball concoctions. Drop the bait in front of the fish in backwater areas off the Tallahatchie River this month.
Gar can also provide excitement along the Big Black River in May. Get a 6-inch piece of nylon rope, unbraid it, and tie it on the end of your line. Fish it like a jerkbait; when the gar strike, their teeth tangle in the rope.
Ross Barnett Reservoir Tailrace
If the water in the impoundment is high and water is being released downstream, the newly flooded areas in the tailrace provide excellent fishing for crappie. Food, abundant in the ordinarily dry fringe areas, draws the papermouths to shore. Use your trolling motor to get back in the pockets that hold fish.
Crickets or small jigs can be worked through likely areas around trees and in rootwads. Since these fish are very wary, stay back and fish as much area as you can before moving the boat.
When you catch a slab, work that area over thoroughly to find the rest of the school.
Options: A Coleman lantern and a couple of gigs are all you need for an exciting flounder hunt along the Mississippi beaches and barrier islands. Start about dusk, spotting the fish in the ring of light.
Cracks in the rocky bluff shores of Pickwick Lake are apt places for targeting channel cats this month. Look for water 4 to 6 feet deep.
Grenada Lake Tailrace
By midsummer, most fishing has slowed down in the Magnolia State's tepid waters. But the moving flow in the Yalobusha River below Grenada Dam is cool enough to keep them feeding.
Among the fish here are white bass. They run less than 2 pounds, but they're plentiful. Toss small jigs or inline spinners to fool them.
The state-record white, a 5-pound, 6-ounce specimen, came from the Grenada Lake tailwater back in 1979. There are no size limits for the fish; you may creel 50 per day.
Options: Wade-fishing for speckled trout along the coastal barrier islands, especially Horn Island, is rewarding. Fish an outgoing tide, preferably early in the morning or late in the afternoon; look for schools of finger mullet. Toss soft-plastic baits in motor oil or tequila sunrise colors.
Another fish worth targeting around the shallower oil and gas rigs on the coast this month is gray (or mangrove) snapper. Shrimp or cut squid will often attract their attention.
Mississippi's creeks and smaller rivers are usually down to trickles between pools in August. Locate one with plenty of shade and some deeper pools, because it'll probably be a hotspot for largemouths. Black Creek in George County is one of the best.
Dress lightly and put on an old pair of tennis shoes, and you'll be geared up to do some wading for these creek bass. Beetle Spins, Tiny Torpedoes and Crickhoppers are good lure choices. Move slowly to keep from spooking the fish, but also to keep an eye out for any cottonmouths or other snakes.
Expect to encounter bass in the 12- to 14-inch range. You may be surprised by a 3- or 4-pounder!
Options: Catfishing along the Mississippi River offers the whole family a great fishing trip. Get four or five heavy rods with good line, 3/4-ounce sinkers and chicken gizzards or livers for bait. Pick out a sandbar and settle in for some channel catfish fun.
Bluegill fishing in farm ponds provides some of the summer's most dependable action. Cane poles, bobbers and a can of worms will do the trick.
Big hammerheads, blacktips and makos move into shallower water as boaters and tourists start to thin out in the fall. To hook and hold these behemoths you need heavy rods, big reels with a good drags and lots of 100-pound-test line. Terminal tackle should include a minimum of 10 inches of wire leader and a hook that can withstand lots of tooth-gnashing. Hook on a big mullet or hardhead catfish and troll it slowly behind the boat. Adding a lot of chum to the water can speed up the action.
Makos and blacktips are noted for their aerial antics, but expect the hammerheads to be the largest catches. You may have to invest an hour in boating a big one!
Options: Drifting slowly down the Okatoma Creek in Covington County in a canoe offers ample opportunities for casting to fishy-looking spots. Expect to catch redbreasts, bluegills and redear sunfish.
Up north, the largemouths in Tunica Cutoff are feeding despite the heat. Hit the cooler water along steep banks for more bites.
Kemper County Lake
After a summer of lazing around Kemper County Lake and waiting for supper to come to them, bass start bulking up for the winter, feeding voraciously.
Work along channel edges and other underwater structure. Buzzbaits are effective late in the day; dark-colored spinnerbaits work when the water is stained; crawfish patterns usually produce strikes any time. Orange, chartreuse and silver are effective lure colors, particularly if they have hints of blue and red.
Big fish are real possibilities this month. The lake-record largemouth tipped the scales at 14 pounds, 4 ounces!
Options: Fly-fishing for bluegills in the lily pads is a fun adventure, and Pelahatchie Bay on Ross Barnett Reservoir provides plenty of that kind of habitat. Use a rubber spider amid the pads.
Fish at night off the Long Beach breakwater for black drum this month. A small crab or shrimp fished on bottom may produce a 50-pound fish!
These toothy fish are great fun to catch and good to eat (despite their bones), and are found in plenty in most Mississippi River oxbows -- Lake Lee in Washington County being no exception.
Pickerel fight hard, regularly jump and provide a real tussle on ultralight equipment. Having a wire or heavy-duty leader is a good idea, since they can shred monofilament quickly. Use flashy inline spinners, spinnerbaits or crawfish-pattern crankbaits in shallow water late on warm afternoons.
Most pickerel weigh only 1 to 2 pounds, but if you hook a larger one, it'll be all you can handle. Have some needle-nosed pliers ready to avoid the teeth as you get the critter off the hook.
Options: Offshore fishing for king mackerel at Pascagoula can be quite profitable in November. Heavy equipment is very important, since 30-pound "smokers" aren't uncommon.
Crappie, usually deep by this time of year, will hit spoons and minnows around bridge pilings by night at Sardis Lake.
Gulf Artificial Reefs
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has information and GPS coordinates for many of these artificial debris piles, all of which should hold some red snapper this month. The key is finding a calm day for the fishing.
Use stout equipment, wire leaders and heavy weights. Bigger red snapper are usually below 50 feet and you need enough weight to sink the bait quickly to avoid smaller bait-stealers at shallower depths. Expect to catch a mixed bag of queen, vermilion, gray and red snappers. Live menhaden, cut baits or squid usually turns the trick on these bottom fish.
Options: Fish live shad deep at Grenada Lake to find suspended largemouths during the cooler weather of December.
Slow-troll minnow imitating lures for walleyes in deep water off rocky shores on the pools of the Tenn-Tom Waterway this m
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jill Easton is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Mississippi Game & Fish. She makes her home in Long Beach, on the Magnolia State's Gulf Coast.