In January, lot of fish can be caught in the bays, around the bridges and up in the rivers that feed the bays on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. Here’s some tips for success.
“The water temperature will fall until it stabilizes around 55 degrees,” Capt. Travis Paige of Goin’ Coastal Charters said. “Then you can bet on trout, redfish and flounder being in the deep holes 8 to 12 feet deep from daylight to dark.”
Paige said it’s important to slow down to attract bites.
“Fish movement comes to a halt, since their body metabolism has slowed down significantly,” he said. “You’ll want to work your lures extremely slowly and keep them close to the bottom without getting hung, a pattern that works for early morning.”
He said jerk baits work well, as long as they get down deep enough.
“I prefer the MirrOLure 52 MR Tiny Trout in chartreuse colors, black with a white belly or white with a red head,” Paige said. “You almost have to cast the lures out and forget about them.”
“Then I’ll move down to the bridges and the bays, and fish with live or fresh dead shrimp or fiddler crabs.”
These baits will result in a mixed catch of sheepshead, black drum and redfish, and you might catch a few trout.
Sheepshead have very-small mouths and are often difficult to hook. Paige recommends using a No. 1 Eagle Claw Long Shank (L2B) Octopus needle-point hook. As soon as you feel a tap on the line or your line becomes tight, set the hook, as sheepshead are notorious bait thiefs.
“I like 12-pound-test monofilament for my main line and 20-pound-test fluorocarbon for my leader,” Paige said. “I’ll often use a ½- to ¾-ounce lead on a Carolina rig, depending on the current. I’ll usually put a bead below the lead so the lead doesn’t bang against the knot I tie on the end of the swivel between the main line and the leader.”
Sometimes Paige prefers a drop-shot rig to a Carolina rig, tying his lead to the bottom of the main line and making a loop in the main line about 6 to 8 inches above the lead, threading his hook on the loop in the line and snugging it up. The lead will tag the bottom, and the bait will dangle just off the bottom.
The redfish around the bridges will be slot reds 16 to 27 inches long and weighing 5 to 12 pounds.
“To catch flounder, we’ll use a ¼-ounce jighead and either a plastic Cocahoe or Gulp! shrimp,” Paige said. “Then we drop those jigs on the bottom and catch fish in the back bays. This rig also catches redfish and speckled trout in the back marshes.”
Capt. Cecil of the Strictly Too docked at the Biloxi Small Craft Marina agrees that to catch January trout you have to fish the deep holes in the rivers that feed the bays, as well as the deep holes within the bay.
However, Cecil prefers to slow-troll with soft-plastic D.O.A. shrimp and live croakers.
“I prefer 20-pound-test fluorocarbon for leader and 15-pound-test monofilament line for the main line,” Cecil said. “I like a light-action reel, and will put a rod with a croaker and a live bait hook on it in the reel holder.”
Cecil said the key is to drift the bait as slowly as possible over the holes. Or, if there’s not much wind, use the trolling motor to barely move the boat along.
“If the tide’s going out, you’ll want to move to the mouth of the river to fish,” Cecil said. “If the tide’s coming in, you want to point the nose of your boat upriver.”
The deep trout caught using this method will have red bellies caused by their lying against the bottom. Usually more than one trout will be in a hole.
“Just as you pass over the hole,” Cecil explains, “if you’re using a trolling motor, turn it off so you barely move across the hole. Let more line out to get your baits deeper.”
When Cecil throws a live croaker out the back of the boat, the only weight he’ll have between the leader and the main line is a tiny SPRO swivel; trout have a difficult time seeing this swivel. The trout will be facing into the current and letting the current bring their food to them.
Cecil believes D.O.A. shrimp produce the most speckled trout, but you’ll catch your biggest trout with live croakers.
Call Capt. Cecil at 228-348-2664.