Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is a great place to start looking at opportunities that abound in May.
“It’s a time of transition, but also a great time to fish,” said Capt. Ronnie Daniels, who runs Fisher-Man Charters out of Pass Christian. “It’s when we see the redfish and speckled trout moving out to the islands and the marsh, and when the weather starts to settle enough to allow access.”
Daniels is excited about the 2018 prospects, especially for May. A lot of those expectations are based on what hurt the fishing in March and early April — freshwater.
“I can look back to 2016, the last time the Mississippi River was high enough that they opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway into Lake Pontchartrain,” he said, discussing the release of freshwater through the spillway into the salty lake to alleviate the flood threat in New Orleans and other areas. “That was one of the best trout years we ever had, and this year is setting up like that. They opened the spillway again in March, and there’s no doubt that pushes fish from Louisiana east toward Mississippi.
“In 2016, we were catching trout on the east side of the Biloxi Marsh, and I’m not just talking one or two, but several, a lot, that had been tagged and released in the middle of Pontchartrain. That is proof.”
Not only does it mean there will be more fish to be caught in Mississippi waters, but also more fish to spawn while they are visiting to improve future fishing years. Daniels said the spawn should be beneficial to fishermen in 2018, with increased catch rates in May.
“Trout spawn several times, throughout the spring and summer, but this year, the water was warmer than we’re used to in March and April, and that’s critical to the spawn,” he said. “Even though specks spawn throughout the spring and fall, late April and May could be the peak this year.
“I’m thinking that there will be trout spawning on the full moon in April (April 29) this year. I caught some fish in March full of roe. Then on the full moon in May (May 29), I bet it will be widespread.”
Daniels’ technique for catching spawning specks begins about three or four days before the full moon.
“I’ll go into the grass beds or big flats where I have known them to spawn and start casting,” he said. “The males will start moving up ahead of the full moon. If I catch some that I can hear drumming — specks are actually members of the drum family; males make a drumming, thumping like noise to attract females — then I know where I want to be on the full moon. That’s when the big females move in and when you can catch some quality fish on topwater early and suspending baits and jigs later.”
Between the full moons, Daniels will target reefs and oyster beds for both specks and reds, and will keep an eye on the sky.
“By the time May gets here, brown shrimp are out, and the birds are working,” he said. “It makes locating trout easier. The coastal reefs will be holding bait, and by the time the water reaches 70 to 80 degrees, the grass beds will come back, and you will want to look for them. They hold bait.
“Out in the Biloxi Marsh, I’m going to look on the oyster reefs on the bars on the outside of the Marsh for trout, and I’m going to be up in the clear, shallow water sight-fishing for reds. I look for tidelines coming off the points. Any time you have one of those, it’s a great place for specks and reds.”
Flounder and tripletail
While specks and reds get a lot of attention— and rightfully so — May is also a great month for two other popular and extremely delicious species.
“A lot of people overlook flounder in May, and it’s a great time for them,” Capt. Ronnie Daniels said. “They will show back up, and because of the timing, it is a month when the water is very clear and allows great opportunity for gigging.
“It is some of the cleanest water we have to gig flounder while they are shallow. We won’t have or shouldn’t have had an algae bloom yet. Plus, the shrimping season isn’t open, so there won’t be any shrimp boats dragging up the bottom to murky up the water. I’m serious, it’s some of the best flounder-gigging conditions we have all year.”
Daniels also starts to look for tripletail, and he said this year is setting up to be a good one with the warmer than usual water.
“The last two years, I’ve caught my first tripletails in May,” he said. “Once the water warms enough that we can sustain 70 to 75 degrees, you need to start keeping an eye out for them; they will start showing up. That’s usually in mid-May, but this year could happen in late April or early May.
“Then, later in May and into June, when we start sustaining 80 degrees, that’s when they really show up in numbers. That’s when it peaks and will continue through the summer and into the fall.”