Touchdown Saints (or enter your favorite college team here)!
It’s that time of year. Football is in full swing, and when they aren’t huddled around the TV for the game, many Mississippians are in the woods hunting.
For them, November means cooler temperature, tailgating and chasing deer. Summer has come and gone, and they’ve put their boats and fishing tackle into winter storage.
Not so for Capt. Ronnie Daniels of Fisher-Man Guide Services in Long Beach. He’s still full-steam ahead, knowing great fishing is ahead.
“People think that once football season starts, trout fishing stops,” Daniels said. “If you’re not fishing in the fall or even into the winter you’re missing some of the best fishing that Mississippi’s Gulf Coast has to offer all year long and some of the best conditions.
“You’re not hot, you’re not sweaty, and there’s no bugs to deal with. It’s the most comfortable fishing and a lot of really good action.”
Trout are on the move this time of year feeding on anything that crosses their path while en route to their winter haunts. White shrimp are the meal of choice but any smaller finfish will get swooped up if it swims near an aggressive yellow mouth.
“November, even into December, the fish are on the fall transition pattern,” Daniels said. “These fish are fattening up for the winter. They’re on their move to where they’re going to spend their winter.
“Especially in the case of speckled trout, they’re generally eating up whatever they see that they can get; they’re not going to expend a whole lot of energy. We catch a lot of fish on shrimp-style baits because that’s when your white shrimp are migrating out of the marsh and coming out and being fed on. We also do really well on minnow-style baits, the Vudu Mullet in 3-inch and any of your favorite soft plastic cocaho style baits.”
In early November there’ll still be trout on the outer edges of the Biloxi Marsh but they’ll be heading inside. The trout from that area will make their way into the Pearl River Basin with some moving into Bay St. Louis to the Jordan and Wolfe River Basins.
Trout will typically stage in the bays before moving further into rivers and larger bayous.
“We throw a lot of popping corks and suspending baits (MirrOlure MirrOdine),” Daniels said. “This is the time of year that the Vudu Shrimp is absolutely deadly under a popping cork.”
As it with all saltwater fishing, moving water is key to fall fishing. If you find a line of clean water and dirty water mixing, well that’s just lagniappe.
“Work the tide; the mouths of bayous on a falling tide are incredible,” Daniels said. “If you can find a good tide line where you have a bayou or a ditch dropping out, where the white shrimp are getting pulled out of the marsh, key in on those.
The captain suggests finding color changes.
“If you’ve got muddy water coming out stacked up against clear water, that’s something I look for all year long,” he said. “But, I really key in on it in the spring and the fall because they will stack up around those areas.
“If that water is coming out and it’s stacking up against clean water like that then it’s moving hard enough to pull bait out. The shrimp and minnows are darting in and out of that dark water into the clear and trout will usually be sitting there waiting to ambush them.”
Trout aren’t the only inshore fish feeding like a redneck at the KFC buffet. Redfish are on fire this time of year as well.
“Moving toward the end of November, December, even into January, that’s when the redfish action gets extremely hot,” Daniels said. “That’s when we can catch up to 40 or 50 redfish in a day. They stack up. They’re really hungry. They’re feeding. The water temperatures are right for them.
“In the spring we always wait for that magical time of year. For me it’s when the water temperature rises to about 72-degrees. The same thing happens in the fall, that water temperature starts coming down and falls into that range. The fish get a lot more active. You get the fun, hard bites where the fish are really aggressive and they’re eating hard. You can find them schooled up as well and put a lot of numbers of fish in the boat in a short period of time.”
According to Daniels, a feeding redfish will spend most of its time cruising the bank looking for a crab, a shrimp or some baitfish seeking refuge in the marsh grass. That’s not to say that a hard falling tide won’t pull them off the grass and have them parked off the bank feeding on whatever is being swept out of a pond or smaller bayou.
“The key is that the water is pulling out, bringing the bait out,” Daniels explained. “A lot of times they’ll ball up right there and they’re just sitting there feeding.
“If I’m going strictly after redfish, especially this time of year, I’m working banks, pockets and shallow flats,” he said. “Once we start getting a little closer to winter and the water starts really clearing up, that’s when I like to get into sight fishing for reds cruising flats and cruising banks. I’m looking for these fish and pitching spinnerbaits or spoons to them.”
As the temperature drops, trout move from the bays and start working their way to the deeper bayous and up into the river.
“Early November into late November, we’re fishing the tributaries going into the river,” Daniels said. “The cooler it gets the more they’re going to hold in that deeper water so you’ll want to look in the bends of the river where you have drop offs and deeper holes. It really depends on weather and water temp. Some of them will get up there early, some it takes a while to get there. You just have to check it out. Make a run up there and check one of your deep holes and see what’s there.
“It’s not just trout you catch when they move into those deep holes either. We catch sheepshead, black drum, all kinds of stuff.”
Tactics typically change as the trout go deep but some of the early fall techniques will work as the sun warms the shallows adjacent to the deeper holes.
“We fish Carolina Rigs with live shrimp on bottom, if we can get them,” Daniels said. “If I’m wanting to throw artificials, I like to find a good flat that comes off a 2- to 4-feet-deep bank, that drops off to that deeper water (5 to 10 feet). The cooler it gets, the later in the morning the bite will happen a lot of times. Once the sun starts penetrating that water you can work those banks, throwing a suspending bait such as a MirrOdine or a Vudu Mullet up close to the bank and working it off.
“Later in the fall and into the winter, as the water gets really clear, I’ve seen trout in the Jordan River come up from 4 or 5 feet coming straight up to hit that suspending bait. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s a lot of big fish to be caught that way.”
November is a great time of year to catch not only limits of speckled trout but to catch a trout of a lifetime. It’s a time of year when those of us with smaller boats have access to a number of ways to catch trout and redfish by casting live bait or artificial, or trolling either of the two.
Yeah, there can be some cold, windy days and maybe even some rain. Just keep in mind an adage that Capt. Ronnie lives by — “the best time to go fishing is when you can.”