Mississippi and the outdoors just go together, mostly because residents throughout the state understand how much fun it is to go hunting and fishing, particularly fishing since the Magnolia State has so many excellent lakes and rivers for folks to pursue all manners of water creatures.
Lake Chotard Crappie
When it comes to early season crappie fishing, there is no better location than Lake Chotard, a Mississippi River oxbow located inside the levee about 20 miles north of Vicksburg.
The river stage and water clarity are of little concern on Chotard in January. As such, it's possible to catch large quantities of nice slabs by pinpointing schools of shad with sonar. The crappie can often be found underneath or near these concentrations of shad at depths from 15 to 20 feet.
But if that doesn't work, try fishing the bottom at depths between 25 to 35 feet deep. Rig up with black/chartreuse, black/silver or crawfish colored jigs every 15 inches with a 1-ounce weight on the end of the line. Bounce the lead weight off the bottom, while slowly drifting down the steep banks of Chotard.
Chotard Landing Resort (601-279-4282) can provide the latest crappie fishing information for Lake Chotard.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lake Calling Panther in Copiah County offers great cold-weather largemouth bass fishing. Dropping large shiners along the main creek channel is the method of choice at this time of year. And for top-notch striped bass action, check out Pickwick Lake in the northeast corner of the state. Trolling deep-diving crankbaits along the edges of the river and stream channels yields the best results.
Okhissa Lake Largemouth Bass
Recognized as the Magnolia State's premier largemouth bass factory, Okhissa Lake is located in the heart of the Homochitto National Forest near Meadville. This 1,200-acre lake has more than 39 miles of shoreline and an incredible amount of structure. With everything a bass needs to grow big, Okhissa is a lunker largemouth haven.
Okhissa Lake stretches approximately two miles from north to south, has an average depth of 31 feet and is over a mile wide at its widest point. Soft-plastic lures and jigs fished around structure are most productive. However, medium-running crankbaits can also produce late-winter strikes along the dam.
For more information about fishing Okhissa Lake, contact Bruce Prudhomme, district ranger with the National Forest Service (601-384-5876).
OTHER OPTIONS: February is one of the best months to catch smallmouths on Pickwick Lake. Focus on the mouths of creeks with Shad Raps, tube baits or 5-inch curly-tail grubs. Lake Washington, located just south of Greenville, is one of the Magnolia State's premier February crappie lakes. Trolling live minnows and jigs tends to produce the biggest slabs on this Mississippi River oxbow.
Bayou Pierre White Bass
White bass provide the hottest springtime fishing action available in Mississippi, and there is no better time and place to pursue these vicious fighters than during their annual spring spawning run up Bayou Pierre near Port Gibson.
Follow the mass exodus of schooling fish as they make their way up Bayou Pierre to be in on the action. The best bet for finding these giant schools of fish is to target sandbars, runouts and areas where the murky backwater meets the clear current from upstream. Although white bass will attack most any lure, they find small rattling crankbaits in shad or crawfish colors irresistible.
OTHER OPTIONS: Grenada Lake has long been considered one of the top crappie lakes in the country. The hot lures for crappie are pink or black/chartreuse jigs tipped with minnows. Those who prefer big largemouth bass should check out Natchez State Park Lake in Adams County.
Big Black River Flathead Catfish
For big flathead catfish, trotlines and the Big Black River is a perfect pair. Each spring, floodwaters cause the Big Black to flow out of her banks, which allows foraging catfish to move into the flooded timber in large numbers.
Catfish anglers take advantage of this feeding frenzy by setting trotlines in likely spots along the main channel. Live goldfish, shiners and pond perch are the baits of choice when a boatload of flathead catfish is the objective.
Great catfishing can be had the entire length of the Big Black River. However, caution is advised since the Big Black River is always potentially dangerous, especially during the spring floods.
OTHER OPTIONS: Excellent speckled trout fishing can be found by wade-fishing the barrier islands along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And don't forget that redear sunfish will be moving onto their beds in farm ponds across the Magnolia State. Crickets, worms and even soft plastic spinnerbaits fished in the beds will yield fantastic catches.
State Lake Bluegill
Bluegills are by far the most popular sportfish in the Magnolia State and definitely one of the most abundant. All 19 of the state fishing lakes operated by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks are great choices for bedding bluegills. Bream fishing is best a few days on either side of the full moon, and while crickets are the bait of choice, jigs and flies (such as the Bream Killer) can be deadly when fishing active bream beds.
Some of the better state fishing lakes for bream include Lake Mary Crawford in Lawrence County, Lake Claude Bennett in Jasper County and Tippah County Lake near Ripley. A complete list and description of all the state fishing lakes can be found by logging onto www.mdwfp.com.
OTHER OPTIONS: Neshoba County Lake near Philadelphia has been one of the most productive big bass lakes in the Magnolia State in recent years. And despite the heavy fishing pressure, Sardis Lake remains a good choice for crappie this month.
Eagle Lake Hybrid Striped Bass
While trolling is often a last resort for many anglers, it is without a doubt the most productive method for catching hybrid stripers on Eagle Lake. Located just north of Vicksburg, this horseshoe-shaped oxbow is hybrid striper heaven. Starting in late spring, hybrids school up in deeper water, and slow trolling deep-diving crankbaits is how successful anglers get lures down to where the fish are located.
Although silver/blue, silver/black, white/yellow and fire tiger diving Rapala Shad Raps or Bill Lewis Rat-L-Traps are the preferred color schemes, the real key to enticing a bite is getting the lure down to the fish in the deep holes along the outer banks of Eagle Lake.
OTHER OPTIONS: Shark fishing heats up outside the barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico. Drift fishing by the shrimp boats using a large bonito for bait is very productive. For those seeking a little more excitement and danger, hand-grabbing flathead catfish on the upper Big Black River is reaching its peak this month.
Natchez State Park Lake Largemouth Bass
Most anglers don't think about mid-summer as being prime time for largemouth bass, but most anglers haven't fished schooling bass at Natchez State Park Lake (601-442-2658) in July. This 230-acre lake near Natchez is a perfect spot-and-stalk bass lake. Just sit back in the boat and wait for the smaller bass to start boiling the surface of the lake as they push the many schools of shad to the surface.
Then sneak close enough to the feeding frenzy to make a cast. While topwater lures will catch the smaller bass, anglers need to get deeper to catch lunkers. Try a 5- or 6-inch shad-colored, soft-plastic swimming jig to catch a bass in the double-digit class.
OTHER OPTIONS: Head north for some of the state's best summertime smallmouth action at Pickwick Lake. Gigging flounder in the shallow waters along the beach at Horn and Ship Island is also popular this time of year.
Bay St. Louis Redfish
Some of the best late-summer redfishing to be found is in the waters around Bay St. Louis. With many deep holes and deeper channels, this area attracts large numbers of big redfish. Wade fishing and shore fishing can be productive for those without access to a boat. While Bill Lewis Spin-Traps and gold spoons are very productive, be sure to carry a few live croakers.
OTHER OPTIONS: Although few anglers take advantage of the opportunity, fishing for monster alligator gar in the deep holes along Bayou Pierre is an incredible experience. Heavy saltwater gear and a chicken quarter are all that's necessary to entice a bite from one of these giants that can tip the scales more than 100 pounds and reach lengths exceeding 6 feet.
Largemouth bass fishing on Aberdeen Lake in the Tenn-Tom Waterway can be productive for anglers who know how to fish the ledges near deep water. Crankbaits are the lure of choice along these ledges this time of year.
Barrier Islands Cobia
Cobia begin moving back into shallower waters as the Gulf of Mexico starts to cool down. They can often be located along the Gulfport Ship Channel that runs between Horn and Ship Island, hanging out around the dredged channel walls marked by the channel buoys. T
he old bait-and-switch method works great on big lemonfish. Locate them by throwing a heavy chartreuse jig, then switch to a live eel hooked up like a Carolina rig and drift fish along the channel markers.
OTHER OPTIONS: Escape the late summer heat by largemouth fishing at night on Eagle Lake near Vicksburg. Topwater baits fished around the numerous lighted piers and boathouses on the Mississippi side can yield nice catches of largemouths. Farther to the south, big speckled trout can be caught on live croakers around oyster beds, range markers and "fish havens" in the waters around Gulfport.
Mississippi River Blue Catfish
October is the ideal time of year for catching giant blue cats on the Mississippi River. Use heavy fishing gear, as some of these monsters can weigh well over 100 pounds. Large chunks of skipjack herring or big shiners are the baits of choice. Concentrate on the deep holes, especially behind rock dikes that are 60 to 100 feet deep to hook a really big blue cat. Fortunately, good fishing holes can be found the length of the big river.
Contact the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg at 601-631-5000 for more information.
OTHER OPTIONS: Great white bass fishing can be had on Grenada Lake during this time of year. For hot autumn crappie action, check out the lower portion of Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson.
Gulfport Ground Mullet
Most saltwater anglers have probably never thought of ground mullet as a sportfish, but these small fish are as easy to catch as they are delicious to eat, with a flavor that is very similar to speckled trout. Also known as whiting, these small fish usually weigh less than a pound. However, anglers can catch hundreds in a short period of time around oyster reefs and "fish havens" in 10 to 20 feet of water. The bait of choice is any cut bait or shrimp.
OTHER OPTIONS: Big largemouth bass are what attracts anglers to Trace Lake in Pontotoc County. Crankbaits work well on the deeper points, while topwater lures and worms are effective in the grass and along the shallow banks of this lake. Along the Gulf Coast, the speckled trout action heats up this month as they migrate out of the Gulf and into the marsh, gorging on brown shrimp along the way.
Pearl River Spotted Bass
The Pearl River is by far the best spotted bass fishery in the Magnolia State. Whether fishing above or below the Ross Barnett Reservoir, the results should be the same. With the onset of colder weather these fish become more active and 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. Just remember to think smaller when it comes to lures for spotted bass.
OTHER OPTIONS: With the winter drawdown on Enid Lake, crappie should become more concentrated and easier to locate. Find schools of crappie with sonar and try a minnow on the back of an orange/chartreuse or red/chartreuse jig. Though few anglers take advantage of it, December is a great month to catch nice fat flathead catfish on the Yazoo River.
Remember flatheads are not very opportunistic feeders, preying almost exclusively upon live fish, such as bream, shad, skipjack, minnows or other catfish.
These, of course, are only a few of the many options available across the Magnolia State to anglers. Now it is time to start planning which one to try, or even to try and find your own.