Last December was a rarity; it had the two coldest weather fronts in an otherwise mild winter. Still, there was plenty of fishing action to talk about.
In most years, December is generally a mild one, gradually leading into the shivering temperatures to come in January and February. Deer hunters gripe and complain about it being “too hot” to hunt. Rods and reels packed away in October or November are located, rigged and put to use.
From the waters of the Gulf of Mexico north to Tennessee, and in all waters east to west in Mississippi, December can bring prime fishing. Here are five hot spots that produce:
1. Pascagoula River basin: This system is unique; the Pascagoula River offers just about every fishing opportunity we have in Mississippi — bream, bass, crappie, catfish, striped bass, speckled trout, white trout, redfish, flounder, sheepshead and ... you name a gamefish species native to Mississippi and its coastal tributaries, and it can probably be caught in the Pascagoula. The location of any specific species depends on the amount of freshwater. A lot of rain will push the freshwater species further downriver, while a lack of rain will allow salinity levels to push upriver and open more territory for the marine species. Cold weather can simplify fishing and present the most choices, often within casting reach. I’ve caught largemouth bass and redfish on the same bank, turned and cast a live shrimp into a deep hole on the other bank and caught trout, striped bass and a blue catfish.
2. Lake Bill Waller: Bass fishermen know how good this 200-acre MDWFP State Lake can be in the winter, which is why you can usually find at least two or three trailers in the parking lot, especially on the back end of a warm spell with the next cold front approaching. That’s when the big lunkers the lake is famous for producing will take advantage of the warm water to move shallow to feed ahead of the front. Working the first deep drop, both the shallow and deep sides, and fishing methodically is the key. If the fish are up on the shallow side, roaming a flat, cover as much water as possible with a shallow-running, square-bill crankbait or a small swimbait. On the deep side, fish slow with a jig and/or soft plastics.
3. Chotard Lake: When it comes to crappie, in December, it’s tough to beat this old Mississippi River oxbow about 15 miles north of Vicksburg. Even in the worst of weather conditions, this lake can produce slab crappie like no other place. That’s when big schools of crappie suspend under schools of shad, and, thanks to modern electronics, they can be located and caught. Any trolling method will work, once you master keeping the bait in the strike-zone depth.
4. Columbus Lake/Tenn-Tom Waterway: You pick up a copy of an old December issue of Mississippi Sportsman dating to its beginning, and it’s a pretty good bet you’ll find one of the pools of the Tenn-Tom Waterway as a recommended hot spot for catfish. Columbus Lake seems to be the consensus pick as the best. Tight-lining deep holes with fresh cut bait can produce plentiful numbers of eating-sized channel cats and big blues, and whole live bait could put a big flathead in the boat. A Christmas Day fish fry sounds like a grand idea.
5. Davis Lake: This 200-acre U.S. Forest Service lake about 30 miles south of Tupelo just off the Natchez Trace, is the place to go for a bass of a lifetime. Fishermen go to Davis Lake in the winter hoping for one bite, knowing the odds are high that it could be a giant. Jeff Foster caught a 17.3-pound largemouth here on a cold blustery afternoon. It was his first and only bass of the day, and the second-biggest ever caught in Mississippi. Foster said that the colder and more miserable the weather, the better the chances that any bite could produce the fish of a lifetime. Cold weather pushes the big fish deep and finding deep cover is the key. Shaky head worms are the bait of choice.