Capt. Robert Brodie, who operates Team Brodie Charters based out of Biloxi, is a master of fishing the coastal rivers for speckled trout, saltwater stripers, redfish and an occasional flounder. He also fishes for sheepshead, redfish and black drum around the bridges. In an eight-hour trip, you can experience both these styles of fishing.

 

Speckled trout and an occasional redfish and flounder in deep river holes

You'll find speckled trout in December in the coastal rivers and bayous. On cold days, the trout will be holding in the deeper holes in the river and along the ledges and drop-offs, generally in the rivers' bends. On warmer days, the speckled trout will move out of the holes in the rivers and hold on nearby flats and shoals.

Most anglers are either casting or trolling with lead-headed jigs with soft-plastic lures attached to them. Brodie like the B2 Squid lures for white trout in chartreuse, root beer, purple and hot pink colors. Most of the time, Brodie will be fishing with a ¼-ounce H2O jig. He matches the colors of the lure to the colors of the jighead. He fishes with a 7-foot St. Croix rod, 10-pound-test Yo-Zuri Hybrid Line, and if the river's clear, he won't use a leader.

In a really deep hole, I'll use a ½-ounce or 5/8-ounce jighead to get my lure down into the deeper water. Other effective soft plastics are the Cocahoe Minnow, the Saltwater Shad Assassin and the D.O.A. shrimp in chartreuse. Brodie takes the hook out of the D.O.A. shrimp and replaces it with an H2O jighead. His clients primarily will be catching 14- to 25-inch speckled trout weighing 1½- to 6-pounds. In recent years, some 6-pound trout have been taken from these coastal rivers in December.

His favorite places to fish are the Tchoutacabouffa River, the Biloxi River and Gulfport Lake.

The best bite usually is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. He tries to time trips to when the tide is falling early in the morning or coming in late in the afternoon. You may fish these rivers and catch five or six in the morning, or if you find a good school of trout you may limit out in an hour or two.

If the trout don't want to bite, cast your jig out, let it fall all the way to the bottom, and slowly retrieve and bump the bottom.

In December, the bite's going to feel like a slight tap, whether it's a big or a little trout. Don't try to set the hook when you feel the first little tap; instead, continue to take up line until you feel pressure, and then set the hook.

Occasionally, we catch redfish and flounder using this technique, but these fish will be scattered and will hold closer to the shoreline.

He uses a trolling motor and casts. If he catches a trout, he'll turn the boat around and troll through that area again. If he catches a second trout, he'll note where the fish was caught, stop trolling and start casting to that area.

 

Saltwater stripers

Brodie and his clients occasionally catch saltwater striped bass, with the average being 4 to 8 pounds - although some river stripers weigh about 30 pounds. Saltwater stripers seem to bite best when the weather's really cold, and the sky's overcast. Plenty of menhaden and other baitfish in a river means you'll catch more saltwater stripers there.

 

The bridges – Black drum, sheepshead and redfish

This area is home to productive fishing for black drum, sheepshead and redfish along the Highway 90 Bridge, the railroad-trestle bridge down in the bay and the I-110 bridge. Brodie calls these fish "the other white meat," although they don't receive as much publicity as the speckled trout.

If he plans to fish all day, Brodie generally fishes for trout until 10 or 11 a.m. when the tide slows down. Then the sheepshead, black drum and redfish bite's the best at the bridges.

"To catch these fish, I hold my boat upcurrent and free-line live shrimp back toward the bridges and the underwater structures," Brodie said. "I fish with a 1/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook, 30-pound-test Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader and 50-pound-test braided main line. If we're catching really-big fish, I may use a 40-pound-test monofilament leader."

When the fish takes the bait, if it goes down into the structure and you can't pull it out the first time you try, give the fish some slack in the line - but keep enough pressure on that you can feel the fish. Usually the fish will swim out of that structure.

"By using braided line and not putting too much pressure on the fish, we're able to catch about 80 percent of them, although most anglers will break their lines," Brodie explained.

The sheepshead that are caught will weigh 4 to 10 pounds, with black drum running 3 to 60 pounds.

"We release the big drums because they're our spawning fish," he said. "The 3- to 8-pound black drums are the best-eating fish. We also catch slot reds and bull reds at the bridges this month."

 

The Barrier Islands – Bull reds and black drum

December offers productive sight-fishing opportunities for 15- to 20-pound bull redfish and 20- to 60-pound black drum in the shallow water around the Barrier Islands, especially around Ship Island.

"The best time to sight fish the Barrier Islands is two or three days after a hard cold front hits because that cold front is usually followed by a warm front, which causes the big fish to move to shallow water," Brodie said. "We often see large December schools of black drum with 100 or more fish in the school.

"We cast to the black drum and the bull reds with jigs and soft-plastic lures, tipped with live shrimp or fresh dead shrimp."

To contact Team Brodie, call 228-697-7707, e-mail captainbrodie@teambrodiecharters.com or go to www.teambrodiecharters.com.