Welcome to January, when it’s typically colder than a well digger’s keister in Montana.
The cool thing about January — pun intended — is that we have some extremely low tides when a big tide range is met with a stout north wind.
The resultant larger low tide exposes more of the bayou bottom for all to see.
Sure, this can murk up the water sometimes, but there is a silver lining: This is the perfect time to get out and survey the landscape, both at the ramp and up the bayou.
Twenty-plus years ago, I went bass fishing on the Biloxi River with a guy from Long Beach. I don’t remember his name, so I’ll call him Tim — Tim the Enchanter.
We hit several spots along the river, short stretches of what looked exactly like the rest of the river.
My curiosity got the best of me, so I asked why we were hopscotching up the river, hitting short stretches of what seemed to be identical shoreline.
Tim explained the stretches we were fishing featured hard mud bottom with stair-step drop offs into the main channel.
How did he find these stretches, you ask? It was before side imaging and all the other fanciful electronics we have today, so he used something a lot of us tend to shut off when we fish: his brain.
Tim took advantage of the huge low tides during the winter to scout local waterways, looking for drop-offs, bottom composition changes and channels across flats.
We experienced this north wind and large tide range recently, so I did some looking.
My wife and I launched at the national seashore in Ocean Springs. When we pulled up, we noticed the tide was out 2 to 3 feet, exposing a large portion of the ramps that are typically underwater.
When we launch at the national seashore, I typically use the south ramp because it’s more level and easier to get my boat back on the trailer. With the low tide I saw why: The north ramp was caving in and unusable at the tide level we experienced that day.
We left the ramp and headed back into Davis Bayou.
I idled to an area in which I have had success in the past. It’s a short stretch of bayou that starts at a point and goes 30 yards north.
I’ve fished long stretches of the bayou, with most of my success coming from that short stretch by the point. The low tide revealed what was going on.
From the point and up the bayou 30 yards was a hard clay bottom full of fiddler crab holes that featured a nice 2-foot drop-off.
At the end of the 30-yard stretch, the bottom tapered off to soft mud and no drop-off — just a slight decline into the bayou.
I knew this was a good fall and early winter spot for trout, and now I knew why.
The part of Davis Bayou that narrows down heading east turns into Simmons Bayou, where I’ve had success year round for one species or another.
A couple of months prior to our adventure, a dredging project had been completed in Simmons, making last year’s knowledge old news.
Since we had a magnum low tide, I decided to use Tim the Enchanter’s lessons and check out the bayou.
We idled back into Simmons, and I noticed a depth change in some areas immediately. Previous shallow shelves were now 5 feet deep.
I turned off the big engine and went to the trolling motor to fish my way back and get a feel for what had changed.
I started fan-casting a soft plastic on a ¼-ounce jighead, dragging it along the bottom, while checking out the parts of the marsh out of the water and watching the depth finder.
Last year, the bayou was bowl-shaped like most natural bayous with scattered oyster shells. This year it featured a more-consistent depth across the waterway, with a distinct drop-off on the south side of the bayou — the side that had been shallow two months ago.
The north side is lined with bulkheads so the depth on that side was unchanged.
The bayou widens out just past the bulkheads. Before the dredging project, it was a shallow flat featuring a narrow channel with a couple of drains running into it.
After the dredging project, this stretch featured a more-defined drop-off along the edge and was 4 feet deep across most of the bayou — on a very low tide.
Prior to the dredging, the flat had scattered oyster shells and a few snags on the bottom. Now it feels like a harder bottom with no shells or snags: at least no shells or snags where I had noticed them before.
I managed to catch a nice flounder, a small redfish and a couple of decent trout on our adventure.
And I learned about the sketchy boat ramp, why I was catching fish along a particular stretch in Davis Bayou, along with learning some new things about my favorite stretch of Simmons Bayou.
So take a note from Tim the Enchanter’s lesson and get out on these cold, low-tide days to do some scouting. There’s a lot to be learned on a ride up the bayou when the water is super low.
Mark these stretches on your GPS for future reference so you can come back on a normal tide and amaze your friends.
Heck, they might even add “enchanter” to your name.