Obviously, crappie would dominate this month’s recommended fishing trips in Mississippi. Instead, let’s concentrate on another panfish species popular in the Magnolia State that gets hot in April.
Biologists call it a redear bream, named for the cherry-red edges of its opercular gill flaps on males and the orange edges on females. Most Mississippi fishermen know it as a chinquapin — phonetically pronounced chinky-pin — while others, especially in the coastal areas, call it a shellcracker for its taste for snails and other small mollusks.
It spawns well ahead of the most-common bluegill bream, meaning redear hit the beds in April.
Here’s where to look on the April 4 full moon:
1. Pascagoula River basin: Native to the river system, some of the finest shellcracker action in the state is in this long, undammed waterway that includes the Pascagoula, Leaf and Chickasawhay rivers, as well as Black and Red creeks. The Pascagoula River system is the last unregulated major river system in the lower 48 states. The redear does very well in tidal waters.
2. Lake Geiger: This lake at Johnson State Park south of Hattiesburg on U.S. Highway 49 has more bluegill than redear, but there’s enough chinquapins here to bring fishermen in search in late March and April. They will be on the beds on the full and new moons this month, and might still be in the area on the May 4 full moon when the bluegill arrive on the beds.
3. Trace State Park: Go to the two lakes at this State Park near Pontotoc for the bass fishing — but carry a bream pole on the trip. One of the most-popular small public waters in the state for bass fans, this lake has some wonderful shallow coves that fill with redear in April. The dimpled bottom of one of the coves is a sure sign to put down the bass gear and pick up a jig pole or fly rod and start putting a cricket or fly to work. I once caught a stringer of 25 redear in one pocket that weighed 24 1/2 pounds. Incredible.
4. Tippah County Lake: Ounce for ounce, this state lake might just be the best redear water in the South. It might be difficult to match the state-record redear of 3.33 pounds caught at this lake near Ripley in 1991, but it’s one of the places in Mississippi where it is possible. Redear between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds are common in April. There are a lot of bedding areas, but start on the upper end.
5. Tie, between all the other Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks state lakes: OK, so I am taking the easy way out to avoid picking another specific lake. But the fisheries biologists at the state wildlife agency will support me on this decision. Every one of the state lakes and state park lakes they manage has redear — lots of them. The best news is that one of the all-time best redear lakes will reopen to fishing in May. The 300-acre Lamar Bruce Lake near Tupelo at Saltillo was drained but completely restocked and should be productive from the start.