With so much attention paid to hunting season, it’s easy to overlook what is one of the best fishing periods of the year. Remember that it was in December — Dec. 31, 1992, to be exact — when the state record for largemouth bass was set at 18.15 pounds by Anthony Denny at Natchez State Park.
The closest anyone has come to Denny’s record came 20 years and four days later — Jan. 3, 2013 — when Jeff Foster of Tupelo boated a 17.34-pounder at Davis Lake near Houlka.
With that in mind, let’s look at five great winter fishing holes that can produce some fine December action.
1. Elvis Presley Lake: As mentioned elsewhere in this roundup, this 322-acre lake near the King’s birthplace in Tupelo reopened to fishing after being close in April due to tornado damage. For that simple reason — no fishing pressure for eight months — this lake should be a good place to wet a hook.
Better known for its bream and crappie, biologists say this lake is a great place to catch largemouth bass to eat. Overpopulated with small bass under 2 pounds, the limit is 30 fish per day — and fishermen are urged to help reduce that population.
2. Davis Lake: This 200-acre U.S. Forest Service lake about 30 miles south of Tupelo just off the Natchez Trace near Houlka is just the opposite of Presley. Fishermen go to Davis Lake in the winter hoping for one bite, knowing the odds are high that it could be a giant.
When Foster caught his monster, he said he went to get that one bite. He also said that the colder and more miserable the weather, the better the chances that any bite could produce the fish of a lifetime. Cold weather pushes the big fish deep and finding deep cover is the key. Shaky-head worms are the bait of choice.
3. Chotard Lake: In West Central Mississippi (about 15 miles north of Vicksburg), crappie fishermen flock to this old Mississippi River oxbow lake in the worst of weather conditions, too. That’s when they know the big schools of crappie will suspend under schools of shad, and thanks to modern electronics they can be located and caught.
4. Lake Bill Waller: Bass fishermen know how good this 200-acre MDWFP state lake can be in the winter months, which is why you can usually find at least two or three trailers in the parking lot.
Rob Doherty of Oak Grove makes the 30-mile drive often, “especially on the back end of a warm spell in the winter with the next cold front approaching.” That’s when he knows the lunkers for which the lake is famous will take advantage of the warm water to move shallow to feed ahead of the front. Working the first deep drop and fishing methodically is the key.
5. Coastal rivers, bays: This is no secret, either, and yet it continues to produce fish after fish on the Pascagoula, Biloxi, Jordan and lower Pearl rivers.
Bridge pilings nearest the Gulf hold scores of puppy (black) drum and sheepshead, as well as the occasional redfish. Speckled trout will move farther up into the rivers and — along with redfish and striped bass — can be found in the deep holes of the rivers.