The Chunky River is a quiet anglers dream. Slow enough to allow plenty of fishing time, fast enough to make the ride interesting and diversified enough to make the trip well worth an angler’s time.
The Chunky is just one of the tributaries making up Clarke County’s Chickasawhay River, which melds with others to form the headwaters of the renowned Pascagoula River system. The Pascagoula (also known as the Singing River), is one of the last of the undammed waterways in the United States. That said, just be aware that if it swims in the upper Pascagoula, it could be swimming in the Chunky.
Fishing in the Chunky is not much different than fishing in the Leaf or Strong rivers of south and central Mississippi. Water clarity depends on recent rains and runoff, and generally the water clears rather quickly after spring and summer rainstorms. Small creeks and ditches that drain into the Chunky offer good fishing following these summer storms; all sorts of fish fodder get washed into the river from the surrounding fields and forests.
Those anglers getting opportunities to ply these waters just after a summer shower will be bitten often.
Little critters offer big rewards
Few nymphs exist in the waters of the Chunky during the late summer. Most insects have matured and really have little interest in even entering the water at all.
And face it, bream, bass and catfish are just not as picky as their cold-water cousins the trout. That means matching the hatch is just not a big deal.
Crickets, worms and roaches remain among the better choices for live baits, although few outlets sell roaches any longer. Crickets are abundant in the wild, as are grasshoppers and katydids. These insects will find their way into the water, and seldom have opportunities to escape hungry fish. While worms and crickets are available at most bait shops, anglers will have to scrap and hunt for the others.
“Several bait makers offer artificial critter baits such as frogs, grasshoppers, roaches and, of course, worms and lizards of every size and description,” said Forest’s Mark Golden, who fishes the Chunky a few times every summer. “All have the potential of catching fish, but live red worms are a go-to bait when all else fails.”
Golden uses a long-shank, gold or red bream hook tied to 6-pound-test monofilament line. A tiny split shot is rigged about 8 to 10 inches above the hook. He leaves an inch or so of the worm hanging off each end of the hook to offer a lot of wiggle.
“The Chunky is a miles-long series of shallow ledges and deeper pools,” Golden said. “Once you float through the shallow, faster water, turn and fish where the faster water transitions into the deeper pool. Where any kind of structure such a log or stump stands at that point, throw as close as you can to the still water or eddy current below the obstacle. More often than not, something will be there waiting for an easy meal to come floating past.”
Adam Stewart of Meridian has fished the Chunky River for more than five years and has high praise for river’s tranquil beauty and relaxing atmosphere. However, he spends more time on the lower end of the river where it converges with Okatibbee Creek to form the Chickasawhay River near Enterprise.
“The go-to bait on the Chunky is the Beetle Spin,” Stewart said. “It will catch both bass and bream, and has never failed to produce fish.
“But, the real excitement comes in the late summer and fall when the (spotted bass) blow up on topwater baits. I’ve seen them leap completely out of the water when they hit the bait.”
Stewart said summer and fall bass patterns differ from spring. In spring, bass will be in the deeper pools below the fast water. It is then that he throws shallow-running crankbaits, worms and flukes. Even spinnerbaits have some success.
He sticks to the colors of the natural food sources found in the river: the bright orange and reds of sunfish and silver of shad. Also getting a nod from Stewart are those baits resembling crawfish, with browns and blues being top colors.
But fish move later in the year.
“Summer and fall the scrappy little spots are near the faster water,” Stewart said. “This is when we fish the faster water as it comes into the pool below.
“But to be honest, the fish are everywhere in the fast water. While largemouths will be caught, 95 percent of the bass you will catch will be spots.”
Stewart and his friends approach fast water from downstream. They also like to wade when the river is not as high so they can fish where the fast water enters the pool without disturbing it with the kayak or canoe.
“I like to put in with my kayak and paddle upstream, and then float back to the take-out point,” Stewart said. “I can generally paddle back through the fast water when I choose to go downstream first.”
Catfishing also can be pretty productive.
“A lot of people fish live baits or stink baits for catfish,” Golden said. “Limb lines and poles anchored in the mud are common sights. Most of what I’ve seen people catch is channel cats and yellow bullheads.”
Such diversity in the catch might be one of the attractions. Catching striped bass is not unheard of, and white bass have even been reported. Perhaps the oddest catch to be reported is a Southern walleye caught in the Chunky several years ago. Bream and crappie are regularly found in anglers’ creels.
Stewart uses a light-weight casting reel with a 5 1/2- or 6-foot rod. The Chunky River has overhanging limbs along much of its route, and longer rods can become a problem. Golden uses light to ultra-light spinning tackle with a 4-foot rod.
“I like the ultra-light tackle best,” Golden said. “The overhanging limbs can be a problem sometimes, and the shorter tackle just makes casting under these easier.
“I also use 8-pound-test monofilament. I can cast farther with a lighter line, but the river is full of rocks, roots and limbs, so getting hung while playing a fish will happen: The heavier line allows me a little more control over the fish.”
Late in the day, mosquitoes and other biting critters are on the river. So anglers should make sunscreen, insect repellant and drinking water a part of their trip. And take a camera, too, as the flora and fauna provide quite a show.
But go for the fish, and the peace and quiet of the river.
“I started my children fishing and floating on this river,” Golden said. “There were no video games, no cell phones and no distractions from the natural setting.
“After the first trip, I never had to ask them twice if they wanted to do a float-fishing trip.”