Wondering what the allure of wade fishing was to the anglers who would rather get into the water to catch fish that they just as easily could catch from the relative comfort of a nice, white bay boat, I called several of my fishing buddies to get the scoop.

Their answers were short and to the point: "Why the (insert profanity) would I spend 40,000 (insert profanity) dollars to get out of it and stand in the (insert profanity) water?"

Their point was taken, but I knew there were other anglers who not only enjoyed wade fishing, they actually preferred it to boat fishing. And there were others who didn't even bother with buying a boat because they preferred the better Gatorade-powered foot mileage than the poor gasoline-powered outboard mileage.

My search quickly led me to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where there is approximately 90 miles of shallow saltwater hotspots along the main beach from east to west. Considering the beaches that surround the barrier islands, it's no wonder anglers along Coastal Mississippi love to wade fish.

"We're blessed here in Mississippi with these beautiful barrier islands and the front beaches," said Capt. Scott Simpson of Pass Christian. "All these beaches offer nice shallow-water opportunities to get out of the boat and fish or to just walk into the water from the front beach and fish."

To be fair, along the entire coast of Mississippi, anglers really don't even have to get wet to catch fish if they don't want to. There are several opportunities for bank-bound anglers to fill their coolers with fresh fish, thanks to new piers and old harbors.

While these places offer excellent shoreline fishing, those anglers who are willing to get their feet wet will often find even better fishing within a couple hundred yards of the popular spots.

"The key to wade fishing the islands or the front beach is to look for the troughs, which serve as natural highways or passages for trout and redfish," said Simpson. "These troughs are also home to all the small bait. Finger mullet, rain minnows and pogies find their safety - so they think - in the somewhat deeper water in the troughs. Of course, where you have bait, you're going to have whatever is trying to eat it."

The troughs of which Simpson speaks are long depressions that are carved out over the years by wave action. Typically, they are characterized by a shallow bar that comes up as shallow as 6 inches to 1 foot below the surface with a 2- to 3-foot drop-off nearby. Trout and reds like to travel in the deeper water, and flounder love getting on top of the shallow edge.

Finding troughs may seem difficult to untrained eyes, but Simpson said locating them becomes simple once anglers know what to look for. According to Simpson, the best time to find them is during low tides during the winter when north winds help push even more water away from the beaches.

"That's a great time to get out there and study the contours to see what's available no matter what part of Coastal Mississippi you fish," he said. "You may see a wave coming in with the surf that splashes over a shallow bar, but you'll see where it breaks on the other side and rolls like normal again. That's typically an indicator of a trough just behind the bar. The troughs usually are on the north or south side of the sand bars."

While many of these troughs do lie just to the north or south of the sand bars, it's important to remember that there are also gullies that run north and south that lead into the shallow water. Trout and redfish don't mind getting in shallow water, but they like to make sure they have an easy escape route back to deeper water. Find these routes from deep to shallow, and you'll eventually find fish in them.

Other than visually finding these wade-fishing hotspots, anglers can also search for troughs with their feet, a technique favored by Will Drost, a Louisiana wade-fishing fanatic who has traveled extensively to the hotspots along the western part of the Mississippi Coast to practice his preferred way to fish.

"You would be surprised what your feet will find that your eyes can't," he said. "As you wade through an area, pay attention to any depth changes or bottom changes that you come across, and mentally mark them for later. I've found scattered rocks, humps and troughs that I remember for next time, and I go back and catch fish off those spots."

Of course anglers can't wade the entire coast of Mississippi to find these kinds of spots, so Simpson pointed out several that have been consistent producers over the years, and some that have come on strong since the battering the area took from Hurricane Katrina.

"Along the front beach, starting at Pass Christian, there is a great spot right behind the Yacht Club along the east and west side of the pier," he said. "Then you've got the Penthouse Pier in Pass Christian, which is pretty famous.

"Going east toward Long Beach, waders can fish the Jeff Davis Avenue pier. Katrina carved out a nice hole just on the west side of that pier, which has really turned into a favorite inshore hotspot for many anglers. The west side of the Long Beach Harbor jetties has also turned into a good spot.

"Heading over to Gulfport, the west side of the Gulfport Ship Harbor holds a well-known spot along the cat walk. And the pier in front of the VA in Biloxi is a great spot."

One of the unifying characteristics of the spots Simpson mentioned is that they all have something other than troughs that holds lots of bait. Broken-down piers are bait magnets, and they typically hold several small schools of tiny fish that big fish love to eat.

Other spots anglers need to consider are the north side of Cat Island just south of Long Harbor, the east end of Deer Island, the beaches in Waveland, near the mouth of Davis Bayou in Ocean Springs and Front Beach in Pascagoula.

Being that all these spots are obviously in the water, why not just launch the big boat and fish in style? According to Simpson and Drost, the answer has everything to do with stealth, accessibility and efficiency.

"Why get out of your boat?" Simpson asked rhetorically. "I'll tell you. Getting out allows you to get out of our world and get in theirs (the fish). Whether it's a point where the waves are breaking right behind it or trough you can't reach with your boat, getting in the water allows you to go eye to eye with the fish and blend in. The primary advantage is that you can cover more ground than you can in a boat, and you can be a lot quieter."

Think you can be quiet in your bay boat?

"Think again," says Drost. "Something as insignificant as dropping a leadhead or the net is enough to send the trout scurrying somewhere else. I've been in the water around boats, and it's amazing the noise they make. But more importantly than not spooking the fish with boat noise is that in the water you don't spook the bait."

The accessibility factor comes in mainly on the barrier islands where many of the best spots may be guarded by a couple shallow bars or a point or two that make it nearly impossible to reach the fish with even the longest cast.

"One of the things that many don't think about as being a reason for wade fishing is that this kind of fishing forces you to work an area thoroughly," Drost said. "When I fish out of a boat, I typically find myself leaving good spots that I just know hold fish. When I'm in the water, I have to stay there and fish until the fish show up. It kind of forces you to be patient."

The advantages of getting in the water are clear, but getting in the water also presents several challenges to those who decide to do it. The No. 1 concern would have to be the limited space available for storing necessary tackle and gear. Since you're in the water usually up to your waist at least, you are limited to what you can carry around your waist or neck and what you can put on your head.

There are numerous wade-style tackle boxes that are on the market, and they all do a relatively good job of securing a small supply of lures and terminal tackle close to your body.

Drost has been through them all, and he has always tried to keep his lures dry while wading. That was at least until he found a Shimano wade fishing belt that keeps his lures tucked neatly out of his way.

"The belt has a storage pouch for a small box, and the pouch has holes in it that allows water to drain out of it if you get deeper than your waist," Drost said. "My lures get wet, but I've found that if I simply soak them over night, they don't rust, and they're fine for the next trip."

Other essential gear wade anglers need to consider taking along include a pair of pliers that can be worn around the neck, some kind of Boga-style grip and a stringer or floating fish basket. None of these items may seem especially important on dry land or in a boat, but step into the water, and their importance becomes magnified.

"The grips are paramount," said Drost. "When you get out there and you're catching fish, it's almost impossible to handle a big fish with only one hand. Their heads are so big and slippery that it's really tough to get them under control. With a grip, you can slip it right in their mouths and get them up and out of the water a lot quicker than you could otherwise."

Along the Mississippi coast, it's not uncommon to see anglers wading out to their chests with all their gear sticking above the water on a fabricated PVC rod holder, tackle box, net holder and do-it-all creations. These wade fishing stands typically feature a Y-shaped section at the top that holds two rods or one net and one rod and a middle section that holds other essential gear.

While wade fishing typically heats up in late April or early May along the Mississippi coast, the summer months offer great fishing. The drawback to fishing as the water warms up, though, is the danger of the Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish, and at all times, it's vitally important to do what Simpson called the "stingray shuffle."

"Don't walk by picking up your feet and putting them down," he said. "What you want to do is drag your feet across the bottom rather than taking normal steps, which could lead you to stepping right on top of a stingray. And that wouldn't be good for anybody."

Also, considering that several anglers could be out fishing at the same time, Simpson suggested that rather than get confrontational with anglers who might already be fishing "your" spot, try making friends with them.

"Give everybody some room and respect each other's areas," he said. "If you get a chance, introduce yourself and compare notes to see if you can help each other out."

These will probably be great words to fish by this summer. Wade fishing is already so popular that it attracts hundreds of anglers each week. Look for the numbers to increase this summer, though, as those who do have boats get tired of watching the price gauge increase at four times the rate of the gallon gauge.

Insert your own profanity here.

For guided wade fishing trips, contact Capt. Scott Simpson with Impulsive Charters at (228) 669-6204 or visit myweb.cableone.net/captscott/.