Believe in climate change or not, you have to admit that there is no shortage of warm days in the fall and winter hunting seasons.
That’s cool, if not in a literal sense then certainly in a figurative sense.
Some of the best fishing to be had in Mississippi comes on those very days when sitting in a deer stand or chasing rabbit dogs is just too miserable to endure.
Bass? You better believe it.
Catfish? OMG, they go nuts.
And, in the Gulf of Mexico, one does not have to boat far to find a hotspot that can produce a box full of fine eating.
“I gave up hunting a few years ago, and now all I do is fish — and I fish a lot,” said Dan Gibbs of Jackson. “I was a hunting fool, too, and never even thought about fishing until one warm November morning in a tree stand next to a lake, I saw bass busting minnows in the shallows. I mean, they were some big bass, too. I could see them in the water from the tree.
“Next morning, I was in a boat and, with a Fluke-like jerk bait, I caught the fire out of them. It wasn’t long before I was in a boat more than I was in a stand, and eventually that led to getting out of my deer club and fishing full time.
“Thing is, once I started fishing and finding them on warm days, I was able to pattern fish on the cold days, too.”
His love of bass quickly evolved into one for crappie, too.
“They are easier to pattern because they generally stay deep, even when it’s warm or cold,” Gibbs said. “Bass move up to feed; crappie do not,, which makes natural cover and structure so productive.”
Gibbs sticks with bass and crappie, while others rush to the Gulf Coast in pursuit of redfish, drum, sheepshead and speckled trout.
According to enthusiasts, it’s as productive a time as there is. Bridge pilings along U.S. Highway 90 where it crosses the major rivers — Pearl, Jordan, Biloxi and Pascagoula — start holding fish in big numbers, and that includes some of the tastiest fish that swim the waters.
“Redfish, puppy (black) drum and sheepshead all stack on those pilings from late October all the way to April, so there’s no need to run out in the Gulf,” said Capt. Robert Earl McDaniel of D’Iberville. “It’s like a matter of minutes from the ramps or marinas to the bridges.
“We can usually start at 7 and have the fish boxes filled well before noon.”
Capt. Kenny Shiyou of Bay St. Louis said it was just a matter of finding the hot pilings.
“Try to find some with some good depth, like 8 or 10 feet or more, and move around until you find the ones holding the most fish,” Shiyou said. “Live shrimp is nice, but bait shrimp works well, too. They are all there on those pilings, waiting for the current to bring them a meal.
“Flip the bait right next to the piling and let it free spool to the bottom. Then put the reel in gear and be ready. It usually doesn’t take long.”
Flounder is a great November target, but not on the bridges.
“Shallow flats with some kind of cover — either stumps or grass patches or something — will hold flounder,” McDaniel said. “We like to fish the rock jetties off the beaches and harbors, especially the areas where you can find directed current, water that the jetties push across a specific shallow area.
“Put a piece of shrimp down there and try it.”
One popular method for flounder that is used by catfish anglers is a play off a Carolina rig. Use a 1/2-ounce or heavier weight above a swivel, and have about 18 to 24 inches of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader line tied to a circle or Kahle hook. Between the swivel and hook, use a small bream or crappie Styrofoam float to help float the bait just off the bottom.
Cast it out, let it settle to the bottom and, when needed, slowly reel the line, keeping the weight on the bottom.
Flounder lie still on the bottom with both eyes looking up for a meal, so one that floats past just above their heads is hard for them to resist.
Then all you need is a little butter, a little lemon, salt, pepper and a hot broiler, and voila — a wonderful alternative Thanksgiving dinner.