Capt. Jimmy Taylor operates the Lauren and the Miss Darsey, both docked at Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. A judge at the World Billfishing Classic held at the Isle of Capri, Taylor has probably caught and released as many marlin as anyone along the Upper Gulf Coast.
And he knows September and October always have been productive months for marlin, tuna, dolphin and wahoo. Mississippi Sportsman has asked Taylor what to expect this month in the blue water.
“Marlin fishing in the Gulf of Mexico has been really good this year,” Taylor reported. “Several tournaments have been held in the area, including the World Billfish Classic where there were 35 marlin caught — most of them released — and the biggest weighed 600 pounds.”
There also was a tournament in Orange Beach, Ala., that had the state blue marlin record of 738 pounds broken twice in July.
“Nature has a way of rebounding after storms, tornadoes and oil spills,” said Taylor. “Perhaps the Gulf has rebounded from the BP oil spill, because we’re seeing more blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish and many of the other blue-water fish than we’ve seen in the past.
“The pelagic species like marlin, tuna, wahoo and dolphin follow the schools of baitfish. We’ve spotted an unusually large number of baitfish off the Continental Shelf.
“We have every reason to believe that blue-water fishing off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast this year should be just as good, if not better, than it’s ever been.”
Taylor said large numbers of blue marlin should be around the Nipple, the Spur, the Mississippi Canyon and the rigs close to these areas. Taylor doesn’t expect to catch as many big blue marlin this fall as during the summer, but the fish should be more numerous.
White marlin, which often are caught closer to shore than blues, will start showing up in September and October.
Also, for years, a fish commonly called the hatchet marlin, which is actually a round-scale spearfish that looks like a cross between a white marlin and a blue marlin and has been misidentified as a white marlin, will be found in numbers those same months.
“This fish is bigger than a white marlin, so many anglers think it’s a blue marlin,” Taylor said. “If you look at the fish’s pectoral fin, you’ll identify it as a white marlin. If you look at its dorsal fin, you’ll swear it is a blue marlin.
“There are only two ways to identify the round-scale spearfish. This fish’s scales are actually round, and they have an anal fin farther away from the anus (6 inches or more) than that of the white marlin.”
Biologists hope to learn how prevalent this spearfish is in the Upper Gulf Coast.
“As the weather cools down, we’ll begin to see more and bigger wahoo moving in and plenty of yellowfin and blackfin tuna and dolphin,” Taylor said. “Here in Mississippi, we can run to blue water, catch all those blue-water fish and then come closer to shore and catch king mackerel, snapper, amberjack, grouper and other delicious bottom fish in September.”
Capt. Mike Moore of Strictly Business Fishing Charters, which offers boats for hire at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, said the cooling weather this month should really kick things off.
“In September, the water should be cooling down, so the king mackerel and redfish will move in close to shore, and we’ll catch them by trolling or on medium-action rods,” Moore said. “The cobia will start their fall run, with numbers of them (gathering) around the channel markers and just off the barrier islands.
“The speckled trout will be moving to the grass beds on the barrier islands.”
Each barrier island has a shelf where the bottom drops off into deep water. Moore and his parties fish these shelves with live croakers and Carolina rigs. He uses a No. 1/0 hook on 3 feet of 100-pound-test monofilament line that’s tied to a barrel swivel. He places a plastic or glass bead above the swivel and fishes with either a ½- or a 1-ounce slip sinker, depending on the current, to get his croakers down to the bottom where the redfish feed.
“We also put out chum to get the redfish coming,” Moore said. “The heavy leader enables us to jerk those 8- to 20-pound redfish into the boat as soon as our customers catch them to keep the sharks from getting them.”
Moore’s favorite spot to fish for speckled trout is around the Horn Island and Ship Island grass beds and anywhere at Cat Island. He considers September and October the two best months for trout fishing.
One of Moore’s favorite September trips is a combination cobia and tripletail run.
“As long as the water stays warm, the tripletails will be holding on the channel markers and the crab traps, and so will the cobia,” Moore said. “We use live shrimp, live croakers and chum to catch either fish.
“We may have to run a lot of channel markers before we find the cobia, but if the cobia aren’t there, many times the tripletails will be. I have come up to a channel marker before with five or six cobia on it, and another channel marker that had three tripletails holding on it.
“September and October are prime times for cobia, because they’re making their run back to the east from the west and eventually to south Florida.”