Fishing has heated up this month off Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Although snapper season will close in August, anglers still can catch plenty of fish in deep water.

Offshore

Capt. Jim Smith of Ocean Springs, owner of the charterboat Be Slick, reports that he catches fish at mid-range rigs in 200 to 300 feet of water.

"We catch lemonfish (cobia), grouper, amberjack, king mackerel and Spanish mackerel," he said.

Although most cobia anglers have rolled up their tackle in August, Smith enjoys fishing for and catching cobia by tying up to the rigs and chumming.

"I've also caught several cobia in the 40- to 45-inch range using a cork behind the boat and live bait near the mid-range rigs," Smith said.

For grouper, Smith uses squid, pogies and live bait.

"To catch a grouper, you need a stiff rod with plenty of backbone because when a grouper takes your bait, it's headed back for the rig," he said. "Generally, we catch a few grouper and lose many."

Smith uses his boat to help pull the grouper into open water.

"Even when we're hooked up to a rig, we have a quick release on our line, so if we get a big grouper on the line, we can release the boat quickly to help our fishermen pull the grouper away from the rig," he said.

Smith recommends slow-trolling with live hardtails as the most-productive technique for catching king mackerel around mid-range rigs. If Smith's hooked up to the rig, he'll put a live hardtail on his line, suspended by a cork, and let the bait drift out behind the boat in the chum slick.

He also occasionally fast-trolls around the rigs for king mackerel at a speed of around 7 or 8 m.p.h. using Mann's Stretch 30+, drone spoons and a variety of other spoons and artificial lures to catch a number of kings that weigh from 15 to 25 pounds.

To reach the really deep rigs in Lot 65 or 45, expect about a 2- to 2 1/2-hour run, depending on the seas, from Biloxi. To catch big fish in August, the longer run is worth it.

On a recent trip to these rigs, the Be Slick brought in a 40-pound cobia, a 20-pound African pompano, 25 vermillion snapper (beeliners) and limited out on red snapper. The Be Slick also brought in two new state records.

"One of the records was for a 10 1/2-inch spotted hogfish, which never had been registered in the state of Mississippi, and the other record was for a red-hind grouper about 12 inches long," Smith said. "Farther east in the Destin (Fla.) area, the red-hind grouper is known as a Kitty Mitchell, a lady who 50-plus years ago ran a boarding house in Destin and loved eating this fish. Anytime the captains caught a red-hind grouper, they'd tag it, and say, 'That one's for Kitty Mitchell.'"

Inshore

Capt. Kenny Bellais of Biloxi, owner of Fish-On Charters, says that everything moves toward the coast this month.

"In August, many of the charter boats will stay close to shore," he said. "Starting in July and lasting until the first cold front moves through, the red minnows will show up in large schools out of the channel. Some people call them LYs, but these fish are known locally as red minnows.

"Every fish swimming in the Gulf of Mexico - tarpon, redfish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and black-tip sharks - will start feeding on those bait balls of red minnows."

Bellais prefers to troll through these baitfish with pink or chartreuse drone spoons on 80-pound-test monofilament line.

"Last year, we jumped 14 tarpon in August in this area, and boated four of them," he said.

All four tarpon weighed more than 100 pounds each.

According to Bellais, most near-shore action takes place in a bend in the Gulfport channel. Most of the charter boats fishing this area look for redfish, but when they see the tarpon come in and begin to roll and feed on schools of red minnows, they'll troll this region, hoping to hook a tarpon.

"We like a No. 2 planer with our trolling spoons in this area," Bellais said. "Also, we'll often catch 20- to 25-pound king mackerel in these red-minnow schools.

"The fishing is so productive at this time of year that the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast will be fishing this same region. You'll often see 20 to 25 boats in this section trolling for tarpon, redfish, king mackerel and other Gulf fish.

"We have a phenomenal fishery this month near Biloxi. The schools of red minnows are easy to locate. The gulls will be diving on the schools, making pinpointing them easy."

Because so much fresh water is coming down the Mississippi River, Bellais believes the normal fishing calendar has been pushed back about a month.

"We normally expect our red minnows (also called anchovies) to show up in July," he said. "However, because of all the floods in the Midwest, there's a tremendous amount of fresh water coming down the Mississippi River, and the red minnows may not show up as strong as they generally do in July.

"But large numbers of red minnows should be concentrated in this location in August."

All the barrier islands will be really hot this month for speckled trout and redfish. So, if you're planning a trip to Mississippi's Gulf Coast this month, take a big cooler because the bite's on and waiting for you.

To contact Capt. Jim Smith, visit www.salesfishing.com, email jssjrfish@yahoo.com or call (228) 235-1179 or (228) 818-0148.

To contact Capt. Kenny Bellais, call (228) 392-7485 or (228) 617-HOOK (4665), or email catchem@fishoncharters.net.