Oddly enough, January is one of the hottest months of the year for fishing in Mississippi, whether you target fresh or salt water.
History tells us that it is the best month for targeting trophy bass that, while lethargic, will take advantage of warm-weather feeding windows and easy-to-get meals.
The record for largemouth was an 18.15-pound bass caught by Anthony Denny of Natchez at Natchez State Park in Southwest Mississippi on New Year’s Eve in 1992.
The second-largest largemouth on record was caught on Jan. 3, 2012, by Jeff Foster of Tupelo at Davis Lake in Northeast Mississippi.
Davis Lake remains a great choice for a January bass trip, and a shaky head worm (which Foster employed) is the lure of choice, targeting deep structure like stumps or creek channels in no less than 20 feet of water.
Natchez State Park no longer is considered a candidate to produce a record-challenging fish, but not too far away at Bude is Okhissa Lake, a 500-acre, extremely deep National Forest project.
Okhissa’s original stocking of Florida largemouths is approaching full maturity, and fish weighing close to 13 pounds have been caught in recent years.
The No. 3 choice is Neshoba County Lake near Philadelphia, where the lake record is 14 pounds. A stocking there early this century has produced a run on big fish for the last five years.
Rounding out the Top 5 five January bass holes are Calling Panther Lake near Crystal Springs and Lake Bill Waller near Columbus.
In addition, at press time crappie fishermen at Grenada Lake were enjoying a great streak of fishing.
Huge white crappie in the 15- to 18-inch range were being caught daily, drift-fishing with live minnows over contour changes (ledges) between 6 and 10 feet depths.
Grenada Lake has been consistently ranked as the country’s No. 1 crappie fishery for the last five years, based on its production of 3-pound-plus crappie — and it appears that the rating will continue.
Other good January crappie hotspots are Barnett Reservoir near Jackson, where fishermen target deep standing timber as well as contour changes; Eagle Lake north of Vicksburg, where both black and white crappie can be found; the connected Mississippi River oxbow lakes Chotard and Albermarle, where using electronics to locate suspended schools of crappie under shad is productive; and many of the waters in the MDWFP State Lake system, where trolling for fish suspended in the deepest open water is dependable.
On the Gulf Coast, saltwater fishermen rave about the fishing in the bays formed by the bigger coastal rivers.
The three best are the Pascagoula River, the Biloxi River and the Jordan River at Bay St. Louis.
All three have major bridges on U.S. Highway 90, and the pilings of those bridges act as holding areas for redfish, black drum and sheepshead.
“Probably the most-consistent fishing pattern we have all year is the winter fishing on the bridges,” said guide Kenny Shiyou of Bay St. Louis. “It’s close, so no long boat ride is required, and the species that we catch are all considered great table fare. We can make the short run to the bridge pilings, anchor down or tie up, and be fishing in no time, and the fishing is good enough that we can fill up the fish box and be back at the dock cleaning fish in a few hours.”
Capt. Robert Earl McDaniel of Biloxi agreed, and his Facebook site was filled with productive daily catches in December.
“It gets better in January, and I love to target the pilings of the Highway 90 bridge between Biloxi and Ocean Springs at the mouth of the Biloxi Bay,” he said. “We can hammer the drum and sheepshead, and then move over to some flounder holes and put some flat fish in the box, too.”