Darien Ladner, an inshore fishing guide from Biloxi, said his primary targeted species the first of March are sheepshead, puppy drum, with an occasional speckled trout and redfish thrown in.
Ladner, who specializes in fishing the Louisiana marsh, has to fish inside much of the time because of strong March winds.
Here’s what he had to say about the month on the water.
First two weeks
“At the first of March, we’ll be fishing around train trestles and the car bridges at the mouth of Bay St. Louis,” Ladner said. “The speckled trout and slot reds will be holding in the deeper holes in the rivers and the bays, but also will pull out of the rivers and bays and start heading toward the Gulf of Mexico.”
The bridges provide the best places to intercept speckled trout and redfish during March. Sheepshead, black drum and redfish leave the marshes during the early spring and move out to hold on the reefs in the Gulf. By fishing the bridges regularly, you can determine almost the exact day the fish migration starts.
“The posts and pilings under the bridges are where the fish congregates, due to the bait there,” Ladner said.
Early in the month, Ladner fishes with dead shrimp, live finger mullet and live cocahoe minnows, when he can catch them. He also fishes lures like the Matrix Shad, soft-plastic cocahoe grubs, sparkle beetles and dead shrimp.
When he’s fishing dead shrimp, he uses a drop-shot style rig with the lead on the bottom of his line and the dead shrimp about a foot above the lead. Ladner bumps the bottom with his lead and presents the dead shrimp almost as though it’s floating with the current just off the bottom.
“The water under the bridges is about 10 to12 feet deep,” he said. “On dead shrimp, we can catch speckled trout when they first start moving out of the marsh because they’ll be swimming at those deeper depths. The trout have been holding at that depth in the holes in the river before they start their migration.
“Also, we still will be catching puppy drum and sheepshead. We’ll also use this same rig when we’re fishing live cocahoe minnows for speckled trout and redfish, which also like live mullet. Several dealers keep cocahoe minnows almost all year long.”
But this tactic does generate more bites from particular species.
“The first two weeks of March we historically have caught more sheepshead and puppy drum under the bridges than we have specks, reds or flounder,” Ladner said.
He’ll trade in the dead shrimp and minnows for mullets if he can.
“Finger mullet about 3 to 4 inches long are an even better bait when I can catch them in my cast net,” Ladner said.
He uses light spinning tackle with 30-pound-test braided line tied to a barrel swivel with 3 to 4 feet of 30- to 40-pound monofilament line tied to the bottom of the barrel swivel. Next he ties a loop knot and attaches a No. 2/0 Kahle hook. Then he ties a 3/8-ounce sinker on the bottom of the line about 12 to 18 inches below his hook.
Using this rig, he can bump the bottom and keep his bait up off the bottom. If he’s fishing dead bait, he puts the hook on the bottom and the sinker about 2 feet up the line.
“We’ll be catching sheepshead weighing from 1 to 6 pounds and occasionally a 7- to 8-pounder, with the average weighing 3 to 4 pounds,” Ladner said. “The puppy drum will weigh 3 to 6 pounds, and are delicious to eat.”
The middle to end of March
By mid-March, speckled trout and redfish will really start showing up at the bridges. Ladner and his clients generally will catch 3- to 4-pound trout with an occasional 6-pounder mixed in.
“Around the bridge pilings are some oyster reefs,” Ladner said. “As the bait moves from the bridge pilings to the oyster reefs, the trout will follow the bait. You can’t beat live cocahoe minnows or live finger mullet for success with speckled trout. I find my finger mullet around the edges of the marsh and the back of Bay St. Louis.
“If I know I have a fisherman coming who wants to fish for big speckled trout, I usually try to have 50 to100 finger mullet — the only bait we’ll use, if I can catch them. The redfish love them, too.”
Ladner also catches redfish 25 to 26 inches long and weighing from 4 to 5 pounds. The big bull reds already have moved offshore.
Because Ladner will be fishing in Mississippi waters, anglers can keep 15 speckled trout per person over 13 inches long and three redfish over 18 inches, with one redfish over 30 inches long.
What your cooler should hold
The first two weeks of March, you’ll primarily have puppy drum, sheepshead and maybe a few trout. Two anglers and Ladner could have as many as 10 to 15 speckled trout during the last two weeks of the month in their cooler.
You’ll be fishing the Gene Taylor Reef about two miles from the Bay St. Louis Bridge, the Pass Mary Ann Reef and the Jailhouse Reef just off Waveland — all places where the speckled trout will show up first after they leave the bridges.
These 22- to 23-inch specks and slot reds weighing 18 to 25 pounds, along with lots of puppy drum and sheepshead, will be included in an average catch.
“During those last two weeks in March, we try to get a limit of trout for each fisherman, if they’re biting,” Ladner said. “Often, we’ll catch a limit of redfish, also.”
Call 228-493-1382 to learn more.