Finding speckled trout and redfish in the marshes and bayous is a gamble in February because those areas are affected by the weather and wind.

But there are always areas that remain fishable.

"Regardless of the wind, the weather or the temperatures, we always can find protected waters in February, make short runs and catch sheepshead, black drum and an occasional redfish," said Capt. Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Fishing Charters, based out of Bay St. Louis.

The key, Schindler said, is to find the lee side of any topographical feature.

"Usually in February, our region may get a north wind that blows water out of the marsh and means extremely-cold weather," Schindler said. "Too, the Gulf of Mexico will be rough. If you fish the marsh, you have to count and measure your speckled trout and redfish to make sure you don't go over the limit."

But if you fish the protected waters around the bridges and rubble around the shore, you don't have to measure the sheepshead and black drum, and you can catch all you want to clean. These sheepshead may weigh 12 or 13 pounds, with the average being 7 pounds. Although you want to target the black drum that weigh 6 pounds or less, you'll likely catch one weighing 30 to 40 pounds - fun to catch and great for pictures, but not as good to eat as the smaller drum.

"On most February days, we'll have bait left over by the time we've filled up our ice boxes," Schindler explained.

The best bait for these three species is live shrimp, if you can find it at the bait shops. However, you still can have a good day and catch plenty of fish with dead shrimp or crabs.

Since you'll be fishing in barnacle-infested rocks, steel structure and reefs, you'll get hung, you'll break off fish and you'll have your lines damaged. However, if you don't fish in these rough areas, you won't catch these hard-fighting, delicious-eating black drum.

"We use 20- to 30-pound-test PowerPro braided line, not only for its strength and durability but because it's sensitive enough for you to feel a light bite," Schindler emphasized0.

Sheepshead have small mouths, so Schindler recommends Mustad 1/0 or 2/0 super-small J hooks. You can fish with a bream hook, but these fish will straighten out that hook on almost every bite.

You'll find most of the fish in 8- to 13-foot-deep water. Schindler's favorite spots include the Car Bridge and the Train Bridge. If you're sitting in a spot for five to 10 minutes and don't get a bite, move to another area to locate where the fish are holding.

"If Mississippi's Gulf Coast gets some crazy warm fronts that may hit in February and the Gulf's calm, we love to run to the marsh and fish for specks and reds," Schindler explaied. "But, if our area has the usual February cold weather and north wind, we'll stay close and fish the bridges. This month, we let the weather tell us where to take our parties for what species."

To learn more, visit, email, or call 228-342-2295.


Get ready now for fishing the islands in March

"Before I die, let me make one more trip to the islands," I start praying about this time of the year.

For most of us, a trip to the Chandeleur Islands is more than a fishing trip; it's the adventure of a lifetime. You get on the mother ship at midnight, ride all night and arrive just before daylight at the Chandeleurs.

While you're waking up, the mother ship is anchoring, the skiffs are being unloaded and the aromas of sausage, bacon and eggs float through the cabins. Just as the sun sneaks a peek over the dark horizon, you'll finish breakfast, load into the skiffs and head out for a day of fishing in the bayous and bays in the Chandeleurs.

February is when you need to start making plans and booking a trip on one of the mother ships for a trip. George Pelaez of Joka's Wild Chandeleur Charters has been making trips to the islands for more than 20 years.

"Trips to the Chandeleur Islands are the only trips we do," he said. "We're booking trips now, but we won't go to the islands until the first of March."

Once the Joka's Wild heads out, the boat will fish from Redfish Point or in the bayous. During March in the Chandeleurs, the fish will be up in the bayous and other calm waters as opposed to the open Gulf.

"At the first of March, our average speckled trout will weigh 2½ pounds," Pelaez said. "Redfish will average 8 to 10 pounds. We take up to 12 anglers on these trips. They may come to eat as much as to fish with our big breakfast every morning and prime rib, shrimp spaghetti and other Cajun dishes for dinner. Our anglers fish from the break of day until dark."

Each skiff has a radio, and Pelaez requires each boat to call in every hour to make sure they're finding fish and having no problems. Most anglers will fish with topwater bass lures like the Rapala Skitter Walk or soft-plastic lures such as grubs and jigs.

You may ask, "Why are we talking about a Chandeleur trip in February, if we can't take this trip this month?" The answer is quite simple. If you don't book a trip now, you may not be able to go later, because this is one of the most sought-after trips on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Go to, call 228-392-0989 or email to learn more.