Why do anglers always look at me cross-eyed when I mention saltwater fishing the Mississippi Gulf Coast in November or even later in year? What, they think this would be like ice fishing in Minnesota or something?

Sure, that Gulf wind might be a little stiff against the face, but once the fishing action heats up, everything will be forgotten about the fall weather.

Actually, as we have come to realize as deer hunters, the weather this month can actually be quite moderate. Some days it can be downright warm, so don't ignore Gulf Coast fishing just because it's the fall. Just dress accordingly, gear up appropriately and get into some of the very best redfish, speckled trout and floundering there is to be had.

Top that off with a well-established reputation that fall weather can bring some great fishing in the Gulf marshes and in the waters around the coastal islands.

In fact, many saltwater anglers really prefer the late fall for exceptional fishing opportunities.


Mississippi Gulf Coast saltwater angling hotspots

In terms of saltwater fishing based from Mississippi shorelines, consider the entire beach and marsh regions from the west end of Hancock County, through Harrison County in the middle and finally Jackson County on the east end. This is a tremendous stretch of territory from which to access exceptional saltwater fishing.

First, if you are new or only somewhat experienced to fishing the Gulf, one obvious trick is to follow the flotilla. Wherever you spot a series or group of boats anchored in one area, then that is a good bet it is a decent spot to stop and try out.

Just be careful not to crowd too close or by accident nudge another boat out of its spot. There is plenty of water for everybody. If the area produces success, mark the spot on your GPS or circle it on a map. It will usually produce again.

The entire coastline is dotted with public and private docks, marinas and boat ramps so anglers can easily get to the water. All you need is to conduct a little research to pick an access point that suits your boating rig, housing options, fuel needs and other local amenities such as restaurants, fishing baits and supplies.

A great resource can be found online at the Mississippi Division of Marine Resources' Web site, which contains an interactive map of all access points along the coast. A link directly to this map can be found at MS-Sportsman.com: Just log on and look for "Coastal Access Points" under the "Fishing" tab.

There are several prime communities along the Gulf Coast from which to fish, including Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Gautier, and Pascagoula. I mean how many more choices do you need?

All of these towns are geared up to support tourism and sport fishing with all the necessary support services and amenities that anglers demand.

So, where to fish? Obvious to anyone researching where to fish along the Mississippi Gulf Coast are the four primary barrier islands that lie just a few short miles off the coast shoreline. From west to east, these include Cat Island, Ship Island, Horn Island and Petit Bois Island.

The fishing around all of these white-sand-beach islands is considered excellent, especially once boating past the jutting land and cruising farther south out into the blue waters of the Gulf. Fishing these islands both close in to the beaches and beyond can yield catches of all the most-sought-after saltwater fish.

To access an excellent information source on these islands including recommended launch points to go to each island check out the Web site www.barrierislandsms.com that includes information about the docks, ramps and marinas boaters can use to launch out to the islands. Anglers will also find information on the islands in terms of access and regulated use for camping, hiking, wade fishing, kayaking, campfires and other details.

In addition to the extensive opportunities for fishing around these islands, there is also excellent fishing in the marshes and other areas of the Gulf.

"We fish all the prime areas for the most-popular saltwater species," said Capt. Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Fishing Charters out of Bay St. Louis. "We target speckled trout, redfish, shark and cobia in the Mississippi Sound, Chandeleur Sound, the Biloxi Marsh and Lake Borgne.

"The trick to the close-in marshes is monitoring the tides coming and going. Some of the inland ponds or lakes can quickly drop in depth, often stranding a boat inside until the next tide comes in. Shallow-draft boats can usually work these areas well for speckled trout and redfish, especially when the tide is going out."


Saltwater fishing tactics and tackle

"One of our primary fishing tactics is to bounce soft plastics or any live bait off the bottom," Schindler said. "This will draw strikes from even the laziest of flounders."

Picking up speckled trout, which are more active, is a matter of bait.

"Popping corks with a minnow or shrimp will supply all the action you need for speckled trout," he said.

And redfish action will pick up in shallow waters - as long as you can get to them.

"I prefer to fish reds in shallow ponds or bays with an incoming tide," Schindler said. "It is very frustrating to see a pack of feeding redfish in the back of a pond and not be able to reach them.

"If the tide is on the rise, I will either push the boat harder than I would on a falling tide into the shallow water or come back later."

The best thing about chasing reds in this fashion is that it'snot a matter of just blind casting; you can get in and see the fish.

"When the water is clean and clear, fish the banks that put the sun in your face," Schindler said "Wear a good, effective pair of polarized sunglasses and sight-cast into the reds with fins showing above the water line. You can often spot the tails and trails of a redfish swimming in the shallow water.

"Stalking, casting and hooking redfish is the ultimate marsh saltwater fishing experience."

Schindler said well-placed casts with spoons, spinnerbaits, top-waters or soft plastics will draw fierce strikes from hungry fall redfish.

"If the water is high or murky, be sure to tip your soft plastics and jigheads with dead shrimp," he advised. "That trick can be a trip saver.

"If a red or drum smells that shrimp in dirty water, they will not stop until they have eaten it."

Of course, hard-fighting redfish require some serious tackle.

"Tackle-wise, we are pretty particular about having quality gear on our boats," Schindler said. "We use Okuma rods and reels. We like the Trio, Cedros, V-System and the Raw II series of reels. These spinning reels are designed for the rigors of saltwater use, and are easy for all anglers to use successfully. We use the saltwater series of Okuma rods, too."

He is equally as picky about his lures.

"We are very high on Marsh Works soft plastics that are made right here in Mississippi," he explained. "The Killa Squilla (which is Latin for shrimp) is one of our favorite plastics. The other is the Bayou Thumper spinner buzz bait. I use various colors in both clear and dark shades.

"I also use the Strike King spinnerbaits."

Schindler's list of topwtaers is more rounded.

"I also use topwater lures for saltwater fishing, including the Rapala Skitter Walk, the MirrOlure Top Dogs and the Zara Spooks," he said. "Mostly I prefer them in bone, chrome, blue or just clear."

Just like all fishing with artificial baits, the best strategy is to maintain well-stocked tackle boxes with a wide variety of baits, and lures to suit changing conditions and fish-feeding activity.

So, if you get a hankering for speckled trout on the grill or blackened redfish coated in a Cajun seasoning, there is no better way to stock the freezer than a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in late fall or winter months.