As we said at the beginning, it’s tough to enjoy a full day of fishing during August’s torrid dog days of summer.
“The key is finding a way around it,” said Phillip Davis of Oxford. “My way is to get on the pontoon boat, sit under the canopy and troll for crappie at Sardis Lake.
For Dan Smith of Jackson, it’s “going to the Gulf and fishing for specks and reds from daylight ’til you can’t stand it, then start running the crab pots for tripletails (aka blackfish). You can fish tripletails at nearly full speed and look for them around the pots.”
Those two cool patterns are the top fishing trips for Mississippi in August.
1. Trolling for crappie: Trolling is the key word here, in that you keep the boat moving and creating breeze.
“It’s the only way to go in summer,” Davis said. “And if you are going to troll, then boat size isn’t important, and you can catch just as many out of a covered pontoon as you can exposed in a bass boat.”
Two of North Mississippi’s major U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control lakes — Sardis and Grenada — are ideal. Crappie suspend on the main lake points and river channel edges, and pulling crankbaits like Bandit series 200 and 300 puts the lures in the strike zone.
Biologists say the fishing should be as good as it has been in recent years, with a strong spawning class from 2011 reaching the legal 12-inch minimum. They reported that 10-inch fish dominated the catch earlier this year, but those fish should be pushing 12 inches by August and for sure by September.
2. Running for tripletail: All you need to know about this is that you can spot these tasty, hard-fighting fish while running top end in a bay boat.
“You can be going 30 or 40 miles an hour and see these guys when the water is right,” said Smith, whose biggest tripletail weighed 26 pounds in 2012. “We find the long strings of crab pots and run. The tripletails will lay up next to the pots to ambush anything that swims by. We spot them, go past, slow down and then ease back up on them with a trolling motor. Then we cast a live shrimp about a foot under a cork and drag up to them. Rarely will they pass it up.”
3. Bull reds on the barrier islands: The perfect start to a day in the Gulf is chasing big redfish around the many barrier islands that form the south side of the Mississippi Sound.
This is strictly a sport fishing adventure because bull redfish are not a delicacy.
“But what they lack in table fare, they make up for with entertainment,” Billy Parker of Biloxi said. “When you find the big schools either on the inside or outside of the islands, then it really doesn’t matter what you throw — they will hit it, and then it’s just time to hold on. We use bass gear, 7-foot medium-heavy rods with big-spooled baitcasts or spinning reels with 10- or 20-pound braid and 30-pound fluorocarbon leader.
“We break off a lot, but that’s OK. We aren’t going to keep them anyway.”
4. Jigging for crappie, Barnett Reservoir: Rabbit Rogers loves the heat of the summer. He doesn’t necessarily like being in it; he just enjoys how it produces big crappie on his favorite lake.
“Barnett is bad to stratify,” said Rogers, who lives at nearby Fannin. “That creates three basic levels of water — the surface, where the oxygen is plentiful but the water is too hot for the fish; the deep, where the water is cool but dissolved oxygen is practically non-existent; and the middle layer, where crappie can find a depth where there is enough oxygen at a temperature they can stand. That usually is only about a 2-foot layer.”
It is that small amount of fish-holding water that makes Barnett so productive in the heat.
“We have enough standing timber in deep water (15 feet and more) that fish can have both cover and depth,” Rogers said. “Once you establish where the right thermocline is where the fish are holding, usually 10 to 12 feet, then you just start fishing. You should be able to find enough productive trees to get a limit. The key is finding timber with horizontal limbs. They love to put limbs between their eyes and the sun.”
5. Bass at Pickwick Lake: The hotter it gets the better the fishing is at Pickwick Lake. It’s all about electricity, guide Roger Stegall of Iuka said.
“When all the homes and businesses are running their air conditioners, the TVA is pulling water through the turbines at the dam,” Stegall said. “When they pull water, they create current, and current turns on the fish.”
The deepwater humps along the river channel are where the current has the greatest effect on fish. Stegall likes to find humps that top out between 10 and 15 feet, surrounded by 20 feet of water and deeper. Those are ideal for deep cranking or Carolina-rigged plastics.
Just take lots of water, ice and sunscreen, and as Stegall said, “take a break and make a few runs up and down the lake to cool off.”