The west winds the last several weeks have been brutal, creating a cabin fever-like sickness only a Gulf coast resident could understand.
The only days the conditions were fishable came when I had a meeting I couldn’t miss. I convinced myself it didn’t really matter because the relentless west wind had the inshore waters jacked up like a soup sandwich.
I had promised a friend we’d go fishing some day — some day when the wind wasn’t whipping the Gulf and inshore waters to a froth. Bound to keep my promise, I decided on an after-work trip when the wind was only forecast to be 12 knots out of the south.
The day prior to our trip, I was knocking around the house with my wife helping out a little bit before we went on our afternoon jaunt around the block. As we were walking and talking, I started thinking out loud about the next day’s fishing trip.
“When we get back, will you help me hook up the boat?” I asked.
“Sure,” she said. “Wait: You’re fishing tomorrow? How are you getting to work?”
“Uh, my truck,” I said.
“So are you coming to pick me up or am I meeting you somewhere?” she said.
It was at this point in the walk I realized I had not communicated the next day’s plans clearly. I knew exactly what was supposed to happen but had left out a key ingredient about the trip — she wasn’t invited.
Once I explained the situation and who I was fishing with she understood and I managed to survive my mistake without losing a single kitchen pass.
I got the inshore bug a few years ago and have become completely obsessed with catching speckled trout. This obsession has led to some boring trips for my wife, whose main concern is to be outside enjoying the outdoors catching fish, any fish. She likes to catch trout but is quite happy just catching.
My speckled trout obsession, watching the weather and wind constantly, ranting about not being able to get where I need to go and staying home pouting like some teenage fussbudget that didn’t get his way has cost us many fun outings when we could’ve gone fishing for numerous other species.
Since the west winds didn’t seem like they were going to relent, I did.
Recently, my wife and I took a slow ride up Ft. Bayou in Ocean Springs armed with 100 crickets and ultra-light spinning rods to catch bream. We caught more than we cared to count and kept several for dinner.
I have to admit it: I really enjoyed myself, and so did she. On that trip we saw a huge bald eagle with a large fish in its claws — very cool.
On another outing, I snagged some fresh dead shrimp from Ft. Bayou Bait Shop and hit the bay with my youngest son, Thomas, and his girlfriend, Crystal, for some white trout and ground mullet action.
The white trout and ground mullet didn’t cooperate like I’d hoped, but we caught 100 plus croakers and a few nice flounder.
Guess what? We had a blast, and Crystal caught her first flounder.
My favorite part about the catching trips we went on was that it was simple and low cost, and we all had fun.
I bought a few odds and ends along with the right bait for the type of fish and just went fishing.
For the bream trip Carmen and I went on, we used the tackle and technique I learned from my friend and editor, Andy Crawford — crickets under slip corks.
I purchased everything I needed for the trip, except for the crickets, from Sea 2 Swamp in Gautier. All you need is an ultra-light spinning reel spooled with 6- to 8-pound line, some slip corks, crimp-on split shots, bream hooks and crickets.
To get set up for bream is easy.
The slip cork package comes with a ready-to-use bobber stopper, plastic beads and corks. Put the bobber stopper on the line first, slide the ready-made knot off the shrink wrap onto the line without tightening the bobber stopper line, place the bead on the line and then the cork. Tie the bream hook on with your favorite knot, and then crimp on a split shot 6 to 8 inches above the hook.
Tighten the bobber stopper line at 3 to 4 feet at first, and let the fish tell you how deep to set the stopper.
You might need two split shot to make sure the bait sinks and pulls the cork tight against the bobber stopper.
Using a slip cork makes the rig easier to cast under low hanging limbs and is easier for a novice fisherman to cast.
Thread on a cricket, cast the rig close to some cover and get ready. You might have to hunt and peck around to find the bream but, trust me, they’re there.
Carmen and I found the bream we caught in outside bends close to tree tops along banks with steeper drops.
Catching white trout and ground mullet along the coast isn’t much harder but can be affected by the wind more so than bream. There are numerous inshore reefs that hold fish but like my beloved summer trout are affected by the wind. Crystal, Thomas and I tucked in behind Deer Island to catch our fish that evening.
On that trip we went armed with our trout rods and reels with Carolina rigs tied on. We used a ½-ounce Top Brass Tackle Carolina rig weight, a size 7 stainless steel barrel swivel and a size 1 Owner Mosquito Hook with a piece of dead shrimp for bait tied onto a 24-inch leader.
We focused on the channel edges behind Beau Rivage. Simply cast the bait into the shallow water and slowly drag the bait back toward the boat; no different than fishing a Carolina-rigged lizard for you bass fisherman: Drag — let sit — drag — let sit — set the hook.
I’m still obsessed with speckled trout and probably always will be, but I’m not going to let that aggravating wind machine ruin any more days off when I know there’s plenty of fish to be caught in our waters.
Hey, it’s OK to be obsessed with catching your favorite fish, but don’t let it rob your joy of fishing.
Put aside your obsession and take the family on a catching trip. Trust me: It’ll be fun.