It’s a good thing, Bill Thomas said, that the spring spawn produced enough great crappie fishing at Barnett Reservoir to fill his freezer with bags of fillets.
“Because since then, I haven’t had much luck,” said Thomas, of Jackson, a guy who usually averages about two days a week on the water. “It has been a long, tough summer for me. I’ve had a hard time finding concentrations of crappie, and when I do find them, I’ve had a hard time staying on them for more than a day.
“Meanwhile, we’ve been steadily going through my freezer supply. Something good better happen soon or the fish fries will be ending pretty soon at my house.”
He is not alone.
Statewide, Mississippi anglers have struggled to find and catch fish with any consistency. The exception, of course, is catfish.
“Can’t complain about the catfish,” said Terry Simpson of Vicksburg. “Daytime, nighttime, any time, every time. I have caught them every way I have tried, including trotlines, limb lines, jugs and casting. I have caught them in the Mississippi River, at Eagle Lake, Chotard and Albermarle and at Lake Washington.
“I’ve thrown back everything over 5 pounds and I have still taken home two or three full coolers every trip. In two trips around Labor Day, once in the river and once in the oxbows, I put enough fish in the boat to do a full fish fry for over 200 people at my church.”
His tip: “Learn to throw a cast net. Every fish I have caught has been on shad I have caught before fishing.”
Bass fishing has been extremely spotty, with the exception being Pickwick Lake in extreme Northeast Mississippi. It is the only lake that has produced steady action all year.
“We’ve been hitting big largemouth this month on the shallow humps along the river channel, which is a typical summer pattern,” said Allen French of Tupelo. “The hotter the day, the better it’s been because the TVA turns on those turbines to make electricity and it generates a great bite.
“If you hit the right hump at the right time, you can get you a quick run on 4- and 5-pound fish on a Carolina rig or a deep crankbait. My small bass club has had four tournaments up there in the last three months and the lowest winning weight for five fish has been 23 pounds. Last weekend it took 26.5 to win and 23 to get a check.”
Crappie fishing has been tough everywhere, not just at Barnett.
“The bite just seemed to stop at Grenada and Sardis in the past month,” said Ron Garavelli, the recently-retired chief of fisheries in Mississippi and an avid troller for big slab crappie at the northern reservoirs. “We were doing OK, off and on, throughout the summer and then in the past month it seems the weather has shut them down. I don’t know if that’s the case, but it sure seems like it.
“You’d think that the heat would drive them down and make it easier for us to find them deep trolling the outer ends of the points and the edges of the creek and river channels. But that hasn’t been happening. We’re not catching them consistently and nobody we’ve talked to has either.”
Down south on the coast, fishermen are keeping a watchful eye on what is predicted to be rough week on the Gulf.
East winds 15-20 mph are forecast each day through Thursday with seas 4-6 feet. Then the wind starts to increase and switch to southerly 15-20 on Friday and then southwesterly on Saturday and Sunday, with seas 3-5 feet.
That will make any offshore fishing difficult and uncomfortable, and it comes at a really bad time.
“The fishing has really, really, really been good and this won’t affect the fishing, but will make it nearly impossible to get at the fish,” said John Randolph of Biloxi. “We’ve been running to the Biloxi Marsh each weekend and down to Chandeleur and the fishing for reds and specks has been nothing short of phenomenal every trip.
“The only problem has been in finding keeper redfish. The big bulls have been dominating the catch. And if that’s a bad thing, you know what, I can live it.”