The second month is a transition period for many Mississippians, who trade their bows and firearms for poles and rod and reels. Any little stretch of decent warm weather and, wham!, it’s on.

“One of the best months of the year, and that goes for both bass and crappie,” said bass pro Pete Ponds of Madison. “That’s when the biggest fish, the females, are at their biggest. Their bellies are full of eggs and food. They have to take advantage of good feeding conditions and eat what they can find to build up strength for the coming spring spawn.”

Ponds knows that any time we have two, three or even four warm days in a row, bass will go from lethargic to active, getting more so with each warm day.

“I don’t know that there’s a better time all year to fish than to have a multiple-day warm front in February,” he said. “The first day, they might turn on late in the day. The second day, they will start earlier, and by the third or fourth day, they’re feeding all day.”

As a novice crappie angler, Ponds has found that “Those suckers always seem ready to eat, and cold temperatures only affects depth. If it’s cold, I get right over brush piles and fish down in them. If it’s warm, I go to the same place but start fishing shallower on top and over the brush. The fish will move up out of the cover and start looking for big schools of shad to follow.”

With that kind of action in mind, let’s look at five great February fishing trips in Mississippi.

• Prespawn bass, Bill Waller Lake, Columbia: One of Mississippi’s traditional big-bass lakes, this 160-acre pond in Marion County is a nice mix of surprisingly deep water, some of it immediately adjacent to spawning flats and even more of it adjacent to vegetation. That’s a combination that puts the big fish in peril in February, when warm days start to appear as often as cold ones do. It puts fish in areas where they can go from deep to shallow immediately and without great travel. As February progresses, start following ditches/creeks further into the shallows.

• Crappie, Eagle Lake, Warren County: February on Eagle Lake is a prime example of when one lake really shines at one time of the year. While Eagle Lake is productive throughout the year, it’s on fire in February. Been that way for over 70 years, and it will probably be that way the next 70. What makes it good is a dense population of threadfin shad, most of which suspended deep in the deepest waters of the lake (Mississippi side deep, Louisiana side shallow). Using modern electronics to find balls of shad and schools of crappie, has only made Eagle even easier to fish. Get ready to cover a lot of water and bring multiple poles to get maximum bait presentation at varying depths. On the coldest days, look under the piers and boathouses on the Mississippi side for suspending black crappie (hint: don’t look too deep).

• Crappie, Barnett Reservoir, near Jackson: A stable lake level and an abundance of fish-holding habitat make this 33,000-acre lake one of the nation’s most productive crappie spots. Stability means there is no threat of a spawn loss due to changing levels. A well-defined river channel, two natural funnels and scores of old oxbow lakes covered during the impoundment, provide Barnett crappie a world of hiding spots and fishermen places to look for them. In February, the fish are starting to migrate back toward their spawning grounds, and they use channels as highways. Early in the month, the fish will be on the edge of the river, but will be ganging up along the mouths to the ditches and the creek channels they will use to move shallow later in the month. By end of the month, they will be well into the migration, hundreds of yards from the river.

• Prespawn bass, Neshoba County Lake, near Philadelphia: This lake is a sure bet to produce several “bass of a lifetime” to lucky fishermen this month. The odds are better than one gets at the nearby Choctaw casinos. This lake was restocked in 2004-05 and reopened in 2006 after a complete renovation of the lake and its water control structure. Each year, the original class of Florida bass, and probably the second- and third-year spawned fish, have grown bigger and bigger. In 2017, the current lake record of 14.3 pounds was set last February. The fish will still be relating to deep water, but will be moving ever-so-closer to the shallows for the upcoming spawn. 

• Bass, Lake Monroe, near Aberdeen: Think of this recommendation as a way to retune your body and mind to fishing, because this lake that reopened last June after a complete renovation and restocking is going to be hard to match for sheer numbers. If you only look for getting a bite, setting the hook and reeling in a fish, and doing it often in a day’s time, visit this small member of the MDWFP’s State Lake system. Be prepared to catch and release a lot of fish though. To protect the largemouth, the MDWFP requires all fish measuring between 14 and 22 inches must be immediately released. The daily creel limit is 10 bass per day, with only one exceeding 22 inches.