I’m not a big fan of September. The only good thing about this month is my mother’s birthday and college football. Other than that, I’d like to skip it and jump straight into October, when the speckled trout bite becomes more consistent.
Since that’s not an option, most fishermen choose to make the best of it and chase what is biting along the Mississippi Gulf Coast — while some never give up on their quest for speckled trout.
The bays, marshes and reefs are teaming with redfish, flounder, sheepshead and white trout, along with the occasional school of jack crevalle, so getting skunked is avoidable if you stay flexible and mobile.
Jimmy Barnes of Sportsman Junction Outdoor Adventures is one of the fishermen who continues the quest for trout but doesn’t hesitate to change gears to put a few redfish in the box to avoid a shutout.
“From mid-August through most of September, our tactics to find trout are pretty much the same as what we do in January and February during the winter-to-spring migration,” Barnes said. “We burn gas and burn up the trolling motor battery, and stay on the move looking for actively feeding trout.”
When moving from spot to spot, keep an eye on the horizon for birds working. Many a trip has been saved by spotting birds feeding on the surface, which is a dead giveaway for fish feeding underneath.
A couple of Septembers ago, a friend and I went from a box of melting ice to a two-man limit of specks in a matter of minutes after he spotted feeding gulls at the mouth of the Pascagoula West River. It was a trout every cast; we had to weed through several shorts, but the bite was crazy for about 30 minutes.
“The water temps can start cooling a little in September, so we start finding some trout on the shallow, flat areas (of Bay St. Louis) — but stay in close proximity to the drop-offs, using MirrOlures (MRs and TTRs) and shrimp imitations about 24 to 30 inches under a popping cork,” Barnes said. “If you can find an isolated contour change with good cover on it in the middle of a seemingly barren flat out away from everything else, it is worth checking every time out.
“If it has consistent current on it, it can hold trout through the summer all the way to November, when they go completely into the estuaries for the winter.”
One thing that is consistent about September is its inconsistency. You might find a school of trout one day, and go back the next and haul nothing but water. So don’t hesitate to check out areas that have held trout in the past, but don’t bet the farm on that spot either — keep moving if the bite isn’t there.
“As September draws to a close,” Barnes said, “during good falling tides we start to pay attention to the mouths of the smaller bayous and small bays that have drains in them.
“When the white shrimp start migrating back out to open water, the falling tide — the key to this bite is a good falling tide — will pull them out of the grass and out of these small bayous, bays and drains and dump them onto the flats out in front of their mouths; the trout will be there waiting for them. Usually birds will show up just before the trout to let you know it’s about to happen.
“When the feeding starts at the mouths of these bayous, bays and drains, Matrix Shad Shrimp Creole and Vortex Shrimp Cocktail are very good on bottom or under a cork. Shrimp imitations and live shrimp under a rattling cork are killers, too. The MirrOlure bite will get good later on into the morning after the shrimp feeding is over.”
According to Barnes, areas such as this will stay hot until the white shrimp have left the marsh.
There will be times when you hit the water and try every area where you’ve caught a trout in the past, along with new areas you’ve never tried, and still won’t put a decent trout bite together.
Do not fear — there are plenty of fish to be caught that’ll salvage the day.
“If you’re unsuccessful finding trout any given morning — and in September that is a good possibility,” Barnes lamented, “there are always plenty of reds in shallow water in the backs of the bays and in the drains that are in the backs of some of the small bays.
“I love to catch the shallow reds around the grass on a spinnerbait; but you know, you can catch them on about anything you put in front of their face.”
The tactics Barnes shared can be duplicated across the Mississippi Coast with all of the tackle needed available at a local tackle shop. The benefit of shopping at a local tackle shop is their willingness to share local intel on what baits and areas that are hot.
If you’re a bass fishermen from “up north” (that means anyone above I-10), then you most likely have the tackle necessary to catch just about any species along the coast.
A word of caution, though: A redfish will wreak havoc on the typical bass spinnerbait, so do yourself a favor and invest in a few Z-Man Redfish ChatterBaits. These lures are beefed up to handle saltwater and the shell-crunching jaws of a redfish.
If you’re new to the coast or want to change gears and catch a few redfish for the grill, take advantage of the technology that is at your fingertips.
Bing and Google both have map features that show great detail of our waters. Zoom in on the waterway closest to you and locate a few small bays, and then focus your efforts on the mouth of drains and the grass close to the drains.
Z-Man’s Redfish Chatterbait pulled through the grass, along with the techniques Jimmy suggested, will certainly increase your odds of not going home empty handed.
OK, maybe September isn’t that bad after all.