A kid’s first fishing trip is something special. The trip needs to be about them — about teaching them how to fish, introducing them to the outdoors and the fun that’s to be had outside the four walls of their home.
One of my favorite things about the Mississippi Gulf Coast is that the summer inshore fishing is as hot as an August afternoon. The bays and beaches are full of white trout, croakers, drum, sheepshead, ground mullet and flounder. All species of fish that are easy for kids to catch.
I had the pleasure of taking Heath Hillman, pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Ocean Springs, and his 9-year-old daughter Maryn on her first fishing adventure.
We left the national seashore in Ocean Springs at daylight and headed west. The first two stops were a bust but the third stop, a reef in 8 feet of water, was a charm.
Heath was the hot hand at first, reeling in one white trout after the other on Carolina-rigged dead shrimp. Maryn was a quick study and started catching as well, though she was catching a variety: white trout, hardheads and gafftop catfish.
She didn’t care — she was catching fish!
The inshore reefs along the coast and in the bays are wall-to-wall with fish.
GPS coordinates for the reefs can be found on the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources web page (www.dmr.ms.gov). Download the Microsoft Excel file that lists the reefs, and then input the coordinates for the reefs you plan on fishing into your GPS prior to the trip.
Use your GPS to navigate to the reef, idle to within 50 yards of the waypoint and use your trolling motor to quietly approach the reef to set anchor. If you don’t have a trolling motor, use the wind or current.
The size of the reefs vary, so don’t hesitate to move around if the bite slows or just isn’t happening at your initial stop.
The railroad trestle that crosses Biloxi Bay is another summer hotspot that is teeming with fish. The trestle stretches across the southern end of Biloxi Bay and ranges in depth from a foot to more than 20, with productive areas covering its length.
The most-productive way to fish the trestle with a young fisherman is to anchor a short cast away from the pilings and fish dead shrimp on a Carolina rig, which consists of a ¼- to ½-ounce egg sinker, a size 7 barrel swivel, an 18- to 24-inch length of monofilament and a 1/0 Gamakatsu Octopus hook.
To set up on the trestle, anchor upcurrent and cast back to the pilings. This will aid in feeling the bite. Anchoring downcurrent will have your bait rolling back to you in the current, making a bite hard to detect.
I recommend a Penn Fierce 3000 spinning reel on a 7-foot Penn Fierce medium-action rod spooled with 12-pound Seaguar Senshi monofilament. This rig won’t break the bank, is reliable as well as durable and is a good midrange combo that’ll handle a black drum but still make catching white trout fun. However, Penn makes smaller combos if you feel the 3000 is too large for your child.
There are numerous piers along the coast that are productive, as well. When Joe Staton, a local fisherman and Speedeaux Custom Rods pro staff member, isn’t smashing the trout and reds from his Jackson Big Rig kayak, he hits the piers dotting the coast with his children.
“Most kids tend to enjoy anything that will tighten a line and do so over and over again,” Joe said. “Our most-successful trips involve loads of croakers, spots, black drum, reds, ground mullet and the occasional flounder.
“The best setup for kids is ultra-light tackle for two reasons: First, it’s not too big and bulky for their smaller hands and, second, it makes even the smallest fish feel like toads.
“I have my kids rigged with Berkley CWD501ULS spinning rods paired with Abu Garcia Cardinal SX10 reels loaded with 4-pound Trilene,” he said. “On the business end of the line I tie on an Eagle Claw gold panfish hook. A foot above the hook I put two ¼-ounce split shot weights, and the rig is ready to go.”
Staton recommends using a piece of shrimp as bait and believes the panfish hooks equate to more hookups than a Kahle hook.
On our recent trip, the Hillmans and I made a loop around the south side of Deer Island and headed back into Davis Bayou. We set up on a small oyster reef, where Maryn decided she was ready to start making her own casts.
I handed her an ultra-light spinning combo with a Berkley Gulp! threaded on a 1/8-ounce jighead and gave her a basic lesson on casting.
She grabbed the rod and reel like a pro, picked up the line with her finger then flipped the bail and let it fly.
Since she seemed to have things under control, I hopped back on the front deck and made a cast. No sooner than my bait hit the water Maryn had a fish on.
After a few tense minutes of wrestling her fish on 8-pound line, a 17-inch flounder found its way into the net. Her first solo cast resulted in nice, slab flounder.
Before the day ended, she landed another keeper flounder and two nice speckled trout — all solo.
What a day for a young lady’s first fishing experience.
I saw a post on social media not too long ago that was a picture of a dad and his young son fishing. Under the picture read, “Kids don’t remember their best day of television.”
Pack some light tackle, a few snacks and cold drinks and your patience, and take a kid fishing. It might be the day they make their first solo catch — a catch they’ll remember for years to come.