Of course, I remember the Christmases I received my first BB gun, my first .22 rifle and my first .410 shotgun. But today, I can recall almost every fishing trip my dad took me on during Christmas breaks. Most of the trips produced plenty of fish that we took home and ate during New Year's through February. However, the most-important part of each trip was the time I had Pop all to myself on the way to the beach, while we were fishing and on the way home. To give your children a memory that will last long after the Christmas tree is thrown away, take a fishing trip to Mississippi's Gulf Coast this December.
To learn where and how to fish in December, Mississippi Sportsman contacted Capt. Robert L. Brodie of Team Brodie Charters at the D'Iberville Marina located just outside of Biloxi, who explained the two types of fishing happening this winter: bay fishing and river fishing.
Bay fishing for sheepshead and black drum "December's a strange month with cold days and warm days when warm fronts move up from the south," Brodie said. "In the lower part of the bay, we'll concentrate our fishing on sheepshead and black drum, our staple fish to catch during fall and winter.
"We like live shrimp for bait. Dead shrimp will work too, but we always try to get live shrimp when possible. Our customers fish a basic Carolina rig with a 1/2- to 1-ounce egg sinker up the main line of 10-pound-test line. We use 25-pound-test Seaguar leader material, a No. 1 Gamakatsu Octopus hook and a 2-foot leader coming off a barrel swivel. We'll be fishing on the bottom, primarily for sheepshead and black drum. We'll start by letting our baits go all the way to the bottom, and then start slowly raising our baits off the bottom, until we determine the depth where the fish are holding.
"At this time of the year, the sheepshead we catch will range from between 3 to 10 pounds. The puppy drum (small black drum) will weigh from 3 to 8 pounds, but you may hook a monster drum weighing from 30 to 50 pounds.
"Small black drum are one of the most underrated sport fish in the Gulf of Mexico and delicious to eat. Many of my clients believe that the puppy drum is more tasty than redfish. The sheepshead are delicious, regardless of what size they are, although some people believe that sheepshead are too bony to eat. I have a way of skinning the fish out and filleting it, so all that's left is a delicious white fillet with no bones in it."
Fishing up the rivers All along the Upper Gulf Coast, the bay fish and the shrimp have moved up the coastal rivers by December, seeking warmer water in the rivers' deep holes. To catch these fish, Brodie follows the bait and the trout up the Mississippi Delta rivers.
"I like to fish the Biloxi River and the Tchoutacabouffa River," Brodie said.
He targets the deep holes and bends of these rivers. On the colder days, the speckled trout, generally 13 inches to 22 inches, will concentrate in those deep holes.
"The trout will move out of those deep holes when the weather warms up some to feed on the flats on the edges of the holes," Brodie said. "When the morning is cold, and the weather warms up later in the morning, fish the holes first, and then start to fish the flats."
Brodie's preferred bait for the river trout is the chartreuse D.O.A. shrimp and the Berkley Gulp in the pearl-white shrimp model or the molting shrimp color. He puts these soft-plastic baits either on either a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce jig head.
"The trout will be somewhat dormant at this time of the year and not feeding aggressively," Brodie said. "I recommend casting the jig out, letting it fall all the way to the bottom and slowly bumping the bait along the bottom.
"Often the bite from the trout (even the big trout) only will be a very light tap."
In the rivers in December, a 3 1/2- to 4-pound speckled trout is a really nice trout. But these coastal rivers also produce 5- to 7-pound trout during the winter. You'll also catch a few redfish in the rivers. On certain days, Brodie will fish MirrOlures with red heads and white bodies, and silver MirrOlures with either black or blue backs. Brodie prefers to fish the Yo-Zuri Rattl'n Vibe, a small, deep-diving lipless crankbait that resembles a pinfish, when he decides to troll to locate schools of trout in the rivers. You don't have to troll this bait, which Brodie prefers in silver with either a blue back or black back, very far behind the boat, because it's designed to dive deep.
"I troll the Yo-Zuri baits on 10-pound-test clear monofilament, and tie all my artificial lures that I use in the rivers straight to the line without a swivel," he said. "This is the time of year when many clients bring their children fishing with me. I enjoy taking children who never have fished before or just are getting started fishing.
"Whether they're fishing for black drum and sheepshead on the lower end of the bay or catching speckled trout and redfish in the rivers, the children have fun when they're out of school for the holidays."
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