Alot of conversations on the Gulf Coast start with “Where’s the trout?” It’s a fun way to kick off a conversation, and everyone knows some tall tales are about to be spun. The truth typically comes out somewhere in the mix of boasting and sandbagging.
Where is important, but a question that gets lost in the fracas by many is “Why?” Why are the trout where our friend caught them last?
I talked to Capt. Glenn Ellis with Goin’ Coastal Charters about this topic recently. We agreed it’s a broad topic that could take up a lot of time, but I’d like to scratch the surface and maybe get some of y’all thinking about it.
“The correct answer to ‘Why?’ helps tell you ‘where’ geographically,” said Ellis (228-297-7258), “like since the big rains, I’ve been doing all my catching near the mouth of Biloxi Bay leading to the Mississippi Sound.”
We had more than 10 inches of rain near the end of December that changed our winter fishery in a big way. This significant rain event was followed by topsy-turvy temperatures that ranged from frigid winter to late spring — all in a couple of months.
March is when we typically start catching trout at the edge of our bays and on our beaches, but due to the ridiculous amount of rain that escorted us out of 2016, the out-front pattern came early.
One of my favorite March spots is Katrina Reef. It’s typically not as crowded, and there’s usually some good trout to be caught there all the way through summer into fall.
I’m going to use the Katrina Reef as a microcosm of the coast to explain the where and why so you can then apply it to where you fish.
The reef is a half-mile pyramid of broken concrete that features rubble of various sizes with small breaks in the main section with smaller sub-reefs on each end; the reef runs east-west.
We know trout are at Katrina Reef, and we know the big picture as to why. Now we need to figure out where they’re living on the reef and why.
Trout prefer clean water, so that’s what we want to think about first. Where can I find clean water on the reef when I show up? What has the wind been doing the past few days, and what will it be doing when I go fishing?
There is an infinite number of scenarios, so I’ll share a couple of successful trips to explain why I fished where I did on Katrina Reef.
On one particular trip, the wind had blown out of the west, then southwest, the better part of the week, which had the water fouled up and dirty.
Since the reef runs east-west and the wind switched to the southwest, by the latter part of the week, the water on the north side of the reef was a bit cleaner.
The evening before my wife and I planned to fish, a front began to move through, and the wind switched out of the north. I took this intel, checked the tide tables, and knowing where the breaks in the main reef are, focused on those areas.
The north wind and outgoing tide was pushing the cleaner water through the breaks on the reef, which focused the trout to a more predictable area on the south side.
The tide typically moves east-west with the reef, but the north wind pushed the current through the breaks in the reef, resulting in pockets of clean water in what had been mucked-up areas due to the wind earlier in the week.
Asking myself “Why?” helped me focus on where to fish.
We made another trip to Katrina Reef when the opposite held true. The wind had been all over the place, switching north to south with not a lot of tidal influence due to a neap tide. No tide meant the water wasn’t moving east-west as much, and the confused wind had the water fouled up on both sides.
Interesting, this meant the water at the reef’s breaks was dirtier on both sides, with cleaner water on the reef’s solid sections. My wife and I started fishing at the breaks and quickly noticed the dirty water. Once we moved west down the main reef and got to cleaner water, we started picking up trout.
I hadn’t foreseen this particular scenario in my study before that trip so I talked with Ellis about it.
“The other thing to keep in mind is if you find a pattern that works and helps answer the ‘Why?’ — but the bite dies off,” Ellis said. “Think of areas close by that can be fished using the same pattern.”
Katrina Reef is a tiny piece of the Mississippi coast puzzle, but take what we’ve discussed and broaden the picture to your area and use it to catch more fish.