Sonny Schindler has been very successful at building an inshore charter company in Bay St. Louis into one of Mississippi’s finest fishing operations, and now the captain is getting recognition outside his home state.

Schindler was the lone Mississippian included on the list of the nation’s Top 50 Charter Captains, as selected by Saltwater Sportsman magazine.

“I’m honored, but I take it as more of recognition for Shore Thing Charters, and our entire operation, than I do a personal accomplishment,” Schindler said.

A native of Bay St. Louis, Schindler entered the charter industry two years after his graduation from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2000. He started his career in Venice, La., running a variety of trips, including offshore and inshore.

“I was fortunate to work with some of the greatest guides on the planet in Venice,” Schindler told the magazine. “Paradise Outfitters was my employer, but I was able to work for numerous charter companies on my days off. For almost five years, I ran many different boats, chasing tuna, dolphin, marlin, wahoo, grouper, snapper, amberjack and more.”

His career moved home to Bay St. Louis after Hurricane Katrina. He married and decided to stay in Mississippi when he joined Shore Thing Charters, which was then owned by lifelong friend Capt. Mike Thompson. When Thompson decided on a career change to Marine Law and left for school in New Orleans, Shindler took over Shore Thing.

It is now a five-boat operation, involving four other captains.

Big Muddy turning

After several weeks of a rapid rise and months of high water levels, it finally appears that the Mississippi River is beginning its regular summer fall, albeit weeks later than normal.

That is good news for fishermen, who depend on the river or its connected oxbows for great fishing. But there is a possible down side, too. The fall is going to be quick. The Vicksburg gauge was 34.6 Thursday and is expected to be down 11 feet to 23.6 by Tuesday.

“That’s awful quick, but it sure beats a fast rise,” said Daniel Smith of Jackson. “I love bass fishing over at Chotard and Albermarle on a slow fall through the mid 20s but I don’t know if the fishing will be the same with it dropping that fast. I’ll know soon enough because the bass fishing can be so good on the fall in the mid 20s that I have to try, no matter what.”

Jack Bailey of Vicksburg can’t wait go take a box of crickets to Chotard for bream fishing.

“It’s just been too high for too long,” Bailey said. “The good news is that when it falls, the fish will eventually pull back out and start holding on the trees and brush. I like it when it gets to 23 feet and lower and then I can hit the brush in 5 feet of water and whack them pretty good. Once this fall slows, if it does, then watch out.”

Jeff Davis still hot

The best fishing reports continue to come from Jeff Davis Lake, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks lake at Prentiss.

After being closed over two years for repair, renovation and restocking, Jeff Davis reopened to fishing in late May and has been producing consistent action ever since. The original stocking of Florida bass is averaging five pounds and they are not shy about blasting a lure.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds, because there is an awful lot of standing brush that grew when the lake was dry,” said O.T. Sutton of Columbia, who has made four trips to the lake. “I’d love to see what I could do with a crankbait but man that’s tough with all that cover. There are some banks you can crank, like the dam levee, but the rest of the lake ... no way, at least I’m not that good.

“But I have had good success with a topwater in the morning and then I go to worms and I’ve had some good luck with both. I bet really good fishermen who can work around that brush with any lure could really put up some numbers.”

Jeff Davis Lake has a liberal limit on bass, allowing anglers to keep 15 a day. But all fish between 16 and 20 inches in length must be returned and only one fish over 20 inches can be kept.

“From what I’ve caught and what I’ve seen caught by others when I was there, the majority of the bass are slot fish,” Sutton said. “There was one day I caught 10 fish, and had to release them all. That’s OK, because I want those fish to continue to get big and mean.”