1. Barnett Reservoir
Whether you like catfish, crappie or bass, Barnett Reservoir is a real February hotspot. The lake celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015, and for fishermen the party starts early.
Seriously cold days offer catfishermen the best bank-fishing of the year because catfish move shallow to feast on shad that succumb to the cold water. Just cast as far as you can with nightcrawlers or cut shad, and set multiple poles.
Tightlining on the bottom is the ticket.
For crappie, watch the river current. After heavy seasonal rains, a fast river usually follows, and that puts fish in the “Welfare Hole,” a popular fishing area just south of the Pearl River bridge on Mississippi Highway 43.
The bridge pilings are the place to fish in normal river flow, but when it’s racing you should move southeast to the big flat just off the river. The current forms a big eddy that offers fish safe haven.
Of course, if the river is running so is the spillway and the crappie will be thick in the tailrace.
Bass fishermen play the warm fronts. The third or fourth day of a warming trend will lure the big fish out of the deep water to nearby shallows. Pad stems along the river channel is an ideal target. Throw small-bladed spinnerbaits.
2. Eagle Lake
No doubt about it: Go over to this old Mississippi River oxbow north of Vicksburg and fish for suspended black crappie under the piers on the Mississippi bank.
The Louisiana side is too shallow; most of the fish are caught fishing jigs 3 to 4 feet deep in deeper water.
3. Okhissa Lake
If this U.S. Forest Service lake at Homochitto National Forest near Bude is going to challenge the state record for largemouth, as predicted when it opened in 2007, it will likely be in 2015.
The original stocking of Florida bass was in 2005, so that age class should be reaching its peak.
The upper end of the lake, which has the best-defined creek channel, is a good place to start. There are many spots along the deep creek where it nears a point or a steep bank.
Suspending jerkbaits are good on warm days on those steep banks.
4. Coastal rivers
The Pascagoula, Biloxi and Jordan River systems on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are excellent in February, especially if it’s a dry month without a lot of fresh water running in the rivers.
The Pascagoula is a great late-winter trout producer, with deep holes holding the big specks. The Biloxi and its partner, the Tchoutacabouffa, produce great largemouth action on their upper ends, but any cast is also subject to bring a bite from a speck, redfish or puppy drum.
A personal favorite of the author is targeting the U.S. Highway 90 bridge pilings at the mouth of the Jordan River in Bay St. Louis: Big sheepshead, puppy drum and redfish all use those pilings to ambush baitfish.
Bridges on the other rivers work, too, but Bay St. Louis is the best.
5. Tenn-Tom Waterway
Whether you are trying to catch a monster flathead or blue cat or just fill an icebox with keeper-sized and fun-to-eat channel catfish, Columbus Lake on the Tenn-Tom Waterway is the place to be.
According to local knowledge, unless the water is 50 degrees or more, forget the big ones and go for the smaller ones. Look for stumpy areas off the main channel with water between 7 and 20 feet, and use cut bait on a 5/0 hook to catch blues and channels from 1 to 15 pounds.