Every time our live shrimp and plastic jigs hit the water, we'd feel a thump on the line, the rods would pretzel, the drags would squeal and big speckled trout would come to the boat.

"Catching trout isn't difficult," said Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Charters, captain of the Moni-Q out of Bay St. Louis. "To catch speckled trout, stay within casting distance of an actively feeding school of trout."

Sounds simple enough.

The trout Schindler fishes for most often concentrate in what anglers call skinny water that's 2- to 4-feet deep. Schindler's on the water every day in the Biloxi Marsh, an elusive term referring to the marsh on the Mississippi/Louisiana border.

"We generally fish the east side of the marsh, which is only about 3 miles from Bay St. Louis," Schindler said. "We leave from Bayou Caddy near Waveland. If you drive 3 miles from the bayou, you're in Louisiana waters. The marsh is about 9 to 12 miles from our dock.

"Since this marsh is in Louisiana, to fish there from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you must have a Louisiana license and/or a Louisiana charter pass, which costs $8 for three days of fishing and is only valid if you're fishing with a Louisiana-licensed guide."

Schindler, like other guides at Shore Thing Charters, is both Louisiana- and Mississippi-licensed, so he can go where he finds the trout at any time of year. He consistently fishes the east side of the marsh for several reasons.

"We fish an island on the east side of the marsh with a shell-and-oyster bottom, and catch trout under working birds," he said. "The birds make my fishing really easy throughout the summer. The speckled trout show up here every year because this is where the big shrimp come to fatten up for the spawn.

"The east side of the marsh gets blasted with current coming from the deep waters of the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico, and the shrimp flow into the marsh with that nice, warm water, followed by the trout. The trout come up under the schools of shrimp and start feeding, pushing the shrimp to the surface where the birds feed on them. The shrimp and the trout will hold in this area for about two months. We'll come here every day during that time and limit out on trout by noon."

Big trout eat big shrimp, so although shrimp move into the marsh from many directions, Schindler guides his parties to the location where the biggest shrimp appear.

"Little trout will chase 50-count shrimp all over the marsh, but a big trout doesn't want to exert a lot of energy when it feeds," Schindler said. "The trout would rather eat two or three big shrimp and then be finished feeding for the day. Therefore, even though all sizes of trout hold in the marsh, we try to catch the bigger trout feeding on the bigger shrimp."

 

Lures

"When the trout feed under the birds, you probably can put your car keys on a hook and catch them," Schindler said. "They'll hit any bait that hits the water."

But Schindler always carries live shrimp and plastic jigs when he's fishing in the marsh. You can't beat a live shrimp to get the trout to bite when they don't want to bite. Schindler prefers to use soft plastics with actively feeding trout. He also likes to fish heavy-headed jigs because many days in the marsh, some type of wind will blow.

"I generally suggest fishing with a 3/8-ounce jighead, but starting in June, I'll be using a 1/2-ounce jighead," Schindler said.

His favorite-colored jigs include blue moon with a chartreuse tail, avocado and Fourth of July (clear jig with red, white and blue flakes).

"Also, we use the Mister Twister Exude RT Slug, the Mister Twister Exude Curly Tail Grubs and the Mister Twister Exude Shrimp to catch speckled trout and redfish," Schindler said. "Since the trout we catch are aggressively feeding, almost every time these baits hit the water, the trout inhale them."

Schindler often will tandem-rig his baits.

"To the main line, I'll attach a barrel swivel, and below the barrel swivel, I'll tie on about 18 to 24 inches of leader," Schindler reports. "Then I'll attach my jig to a loop knot below the swivel. On the tag end of the line, I'll tie a second jig because during the summer months, the trout most actively feed right at daylight. We want to get as many hooks in the water as we can and catch as many trout as we can early before the sun climbs high in the sky, and the bite slows down."

Since the trout often will hold in 2 to 4 feet of water, Schindler recommends using a really fast retrieve. Just at daylight, the trout don't mind chasing the baits. By reeling fast and bringing your bait through the school of trout, you'll often catch two on one cast, and you'll need the strength of the 30-pound-test braided line for success.

Schindler uses his trolling motor to begin fishing upwind of the birds. Then he uses his trolling motor on the front of his boat to keep his boat away from the school but within casting distance to the outer edge of the trout feeding under the birds.

"I always fish the outside edge of the diving birds, so we don't spook the trout feeding on the shrimp," he said.

 

Baneful bull reds

Schindler hates bull redfish, although he and his customers catch them almost every day.

"The bull reds we catch fishing below the birds are actually feeding on the smaller speckled trout and white trout feeding under the birds," he said. "The redfish are a real nuisance when we're trying to catch trout. If we hook-up a big redfish, often it will scatter the school of trout, and we'll have to find another school to fish."

After Schindler and his party catch their limits of 25 trout per person (12-inch minimum), he'll start searching for limit-sized redfish. He motors a little farther to the west and to the south to fish shallow oyster beds and grass beds in the Biloxi Marsh.

"The baby blue crabs are in thick in the summer months, and there are grass shrimp all in the broken marsh," Schindler said. "The redfish seem to hold on any type of structure you find in the marsh, including small drains, potholes, sticks, logs or any type of cover."

In Louisiana, you can catch and keep five redfish 16 to 27 inches long, with one trout longer than 27 inches. However, Schindler encourages his fishermen to release the big reds and keep the small reds to eat.

 

Big summer trout

The trout Schindler and his parties catch under the birds in the summer generally will weigh from 1 to 1 1/2 pound each. However, last year, the trout under the birds weighed 2 to 2 1/2 pounds each. Schindler's hoping to catch the same-sized trout this year.

He doesn't find catching and limiting out on schooling trout difficult. But 3- to 7-pound trout usually swim by themselves. To catch these bigger trout, you have to fish in an entirely different area with various types of baits.

"I fish the oyster flats on the east side of the marsh, and often will wade these areas on a high tide," Schindler said. "My favorite reefs to fish are Cabbage Reef and Flat Boat Key. These flats are on the northeast point of the marsh.

"Don't try to wade these flats barefooted because they're littered with shells and oysters. Old tennis shoes, wading boots or skin diver's boots will protect your feet and allow you to wade these regions. Depending on the tide, the water depth will be 4 feet or less on these reefs."

Schindler also fishes the natural gas wells in Chandeleur Sound and Lake Borgne. The trout caught around these areas usually will weigh from 3 to 6 pounds. However, you won't catch as many big trout in this area as you will under the birds.

"When we're targeting these big mule speckled trout, we'll fish a Carolina rig with a live croaker," Schindler said. "You can catch trout on artificial lures. But we've found that we catch the most big trout using live croakers that we swim just off the bottom on Carolina rigs."

Schindler uses a 1/4-ounce slip sinker up the line and a barrel swivel below the sinker tied on 18 inches of 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line with a No. 1/0 to 3/0 khale hook, depending on the size of the bait he's fishing. He prefers to fish a 3- to 5-inch-long live croaker.

"We'll drag the croaker slowly across the bottom with long pauses in between," Schindler said. "When one of those big trout hits your croaker, the bite will feel like someone's plucked your guitar string. Hang on because you'll be in for a fight."

Since you'll fish in 10- to 15-feet-deep water at the natural-gas fields, you'll really have fun landing a big trout out in that deeper water. Schindler fishes the well heads as well as the rigs there.

Expect the trout to bite best on an incoming or an outgoing tide. When the tide slows or stops, the bite falls off.

"I prefer to fish 1 1/2 hours before the tide peaks and 1 1/2 hours after the peak of the tide," Schindler said.

 

Weather or not

When fishing the Biloxi Marsh, even on bad-weather days, if you can get across the Mississippi Sound, you can tuck into the marsh, find calm water and often clear water, and catch fish.

"Even on days when the wind blows 20-mph, we usually can locate protected water where we can catch specks and reds," Schindler said. "We usually don't go out in rough weather, but often we'll get a front coming through while we're fishing, and we can retreat back into the marsh and continue to catch fish."

 

For more information, call (228) 342-2295 or email sonnyschindler@yahoo.com.