Spotting what he called “a little nervous water” in a shallow cove on an unseasonably calm Monday, Capt. Sonny Schindler turned his trolling motor and pointed his 23-foot boat across a small bay in the Biloxi Marsh.
“I’m not sure I can get there, the tide’s so low, but that’s either some reds moving or baitfish, and either one is a good thing,” he said, pointing to the spot with the tip of his spinning rod. “Wait until we get close enough and then let’s get busy.”
Up front, shoulder-to-shoulder with Schindler was Elite Series bass pro Pete Ponds. I was 22 feet behind them, content to watch the action and give Ponds the first shot. After all, I had already broken the ice with two slot reds.
All of us were armed with Strike King Redfish Magic spinnerbaits.
At 25 yards and a light southwest wind behind him, Ponds made the first cast, and, as you would expect from a pro bass fisherman, it was perfect. The lure landed about 15 feet past the target. Schindler fired next and landed a few feet away. Both started reeling and ...
Within seconds both were hooked up and the fun began.
“Bobby, Bobby quick throw in there, there’s a wad of them in there,” Schindler was hollering. “There’s a dozen of them ... at least.”
The boat turned ever so slightly to give me a clear shot. I saw where their two lines entered the water and aimed right in between, in a gap about 20 feet apart. My cast was true and two seconds later, we were all three hooked up.
“A triple,” I hollered, to let them know there was another irate redfish swimming around out there to contend with.
Actually, Schindler would later say, it was a quadruple. His first fish was an 18-inch red that he quickly put on ice in the fish box, allowing him a second shot at the cove. He hooked up immediately.
The insanity of the moment wasn’t lost on us, and we high-fived all around and enjoyed a good laugh.
Said Ponds: “Captain, is it always like this in December? Man, that’s fun.”
Schindler, who has guided the past decade from Venice, La., to his native and current home port of Bay St. Louis, Miss., had a stock answer.
“Pretty much, but the problem we have is getting to them this time of the year,” the captain said. “Weather is the biggest obstacle. We know the Biloxi Marsh is loaded with redfish in December, well, actually October through May, but in winter we are lucky if we get two in 10 days of decent enough weather to get to them.
“It’s either too windy or too cold and usually a combination of both. But when we do get a day like this then we pretty much know this is what we are going to find — redfish, and plenty of them, cruising looking to eat.”
Monday is a perfect example. Our original plan was to make an inshore trip closer to Bay St. Louis to target the pilings on the U.S. Highway 90 Bridge. It is extremely productive in cooler months and home to redfish, puppy (black) drum and sheepshead. Filling a cooler with good eating fish is usually a sure thing. It is the winter season default trip.
“Then this weekend when the forecast changed and they were calling for seas less than a foot and winds 5 to 10 out of the southwest, I changed plans and decided to run across the Mississippi Sound to the marsh,” said Schindler, of the multi-boat Shore Thing Charters. “You have to take advantage of days like this in the winter. You get so few.”
On Monday, the seas were as flat as a pancake when we left port at Bayou Caddy near Waveland. The 20-minute run was smooth, and thanks to a 55-degree morning it was fairly comfortable. We started late, meeting at 8 a.m., to allow the day’s warming to begin.
By the time we started fishing at 9:15, we were out of our top layers and by the time we finished our 15-fish limit at 11:15, we were down to T-shirts.
Schindler beat a low tide, which continued falling all morning, by using his vast knowledge of the Biloxi Marsh to find the coves and ditches that still held enough water to fish.
We culled through a few rat reds (under the 16-inch minimum) and tossed a few brutes (over the 27-inch maximum) and never went more than 20 minutes without somebody hooking up.
What made it even more interesting were the hundreds of reds we saw cruising that swam right by the boat.
“The problem is that the broken clouds and sun is making it difficult to see these fish before they get too close,” Schindler said. “In a high blue sky, we’d see these fish early enough to make casts at them before they spook. Man, that’s when it’s fun.”
As it was, most of the fish we caught had given themselves away, either by pushing a wake as they cruised the six-inch water close to the bank or when they made a splash as they fed.
A well-placed cast with the ¼-ounce Redfish Magic spinnerbait, and those fish were automatics. With a spinnerbait, you didn’t have to hit so close to them that it spooked them. Anything within 10 feet of them, and the vibration of the spinner would pull them out to investigate.
The inquisitive Ponds brought two more lures he wanted to try, a shallow-running Bandit Footloose Crankbait and his signature series swim jig by Talon Lures. Bandit and Talon are two of his sponsors.
Both lures produced fish, including one 30-plus-pound bull redfish that fell prey to the tiny Footloose.
“It’s not so much what you throw, but where you throw it,” said Schindler. “When redfish are feeding like this, then they’ll hit just about anything you present properly. The key is finding the productive water.”
The key to that in December is experience.
And, our captain sure provided that.
For information on Shore Thing Charters, visit them online at shorethingcharters.com or call Capt. Sonny Schindler at (228) 342-2295.