Speckled trout anglers are pretty hard core about chasing yellowmouths, and while they may not think very often about oystermen when on the water, they should. That’s especially true in Biloxi Marsh, where the handicraft of oystermen cultivate shellfish as well as attract untold numbers of trout.
“Most of the bottom here is shallow, hard and shelly, and trout love these areas,” said Ronnie Daniels of Fisher-Man Guide Service out of Pass Christian, looking out over an area full of standing PVC poles marking oyster grounds in between the small islands that are plentiful in the marsh.
And after whipping a wandering bull redfish, Daniels and a client began catching what they’d come after: nice speckled trout that ranged in size.
“We catch a lot of good, eating-size trout here, but you’ve always got the chance to catch some true trophies,” Daniels said. “Everything they want is right here; it’s just a matter of putting in the time, making the right casts and paying attention to what’s going on around a productive area. When you catch trout here, they aren’t alone. The particular area you caught them in is slightly more attractive to them than the rest of the marsh, and that could change daily — or even throughout the day.
“If could be that the water is slightly clearer; it could be that the current is more favorable or it could be that something is keeping the baitfish thick in that one small area for the time being. Good fishermen always pay attention to details, and use them to their advantage.”
One of those details anglers should look for is something many folks simply don’t know about, but it could turn a good day of fishing into a great day: PVC poles.
“The majority of these PVC poles are marking the boundaries between oyster grounds, but within each oyster ground, there is always one that really stands out,” he said. “It’s not in a line with the others, it often has a really distinct flag or other marker on it, and it is usually located near the center of each oyster ground. The oystermen do a lot of prep work here, and it’s always the area within their boundary that has the thickest concentration of shells. Trout love the slight change in depth and the structure created by these bigger mounds, which gives them opportunities to ambush baitfish.”
Oyster beds aren’t the only productive areas for trout in Biloxi Marsh, an area made up of too many small islands to count, helping to create numerous tide lines and current breaks. Trout love these areas, and you can catch your limit fishing here as well.
Daniels (228-323-1115) said it’s not just good anglers who notice the slightest details. The trout do too, and that’s how his main speckled trout rig came about. He starts with a Matrix Shad and threads a Crappie Psychic Trout Trailer on the Matrix Shad’s hook. The Trout Trailer is a small piece of heavily-scented soft plastic that is very thin, durable and wiggles even in the calmest of water.
“It adds smell, color and bulk to any lure you put it on, and it’s vibrating action really adds a unique action,” he said. “The Matrix Shad is vibrating in its own way, and the Trout Trailer is vibrating in a different way, so adding it definitely makes a difference. And it can help you add a color contrast if you use a different color than your Matrix Shad. That trailer is a little thing, but it makes a big impact.”
Daniels said you can fish his Matrix Shad/Trout Trailer combo on the bottom, but he prefers to use them under popping corks, especially during the summer. He uses Odd-Ball popping corks, which he said are weighted favorably for maximum casting distance and control, and allows him to use 1/8-ounce jigheads. If the water is more than 6 feet deep, he will change to 1/4-ounce jigheads whether using a popping cork or not.
Popping corks aren’t difficult to use, so even beginners have plenty of success, but Daniels said that attention to detail is important and can make a big difference in success rates.
“A lot of people pop the cork, and then pop it again too quickly. You want to pop the cork, which brings the lure up close to the surface, and then you want to wait long enough that the lure sinks to its maximum depth before popping again,” he said. “You can reel the slack in between pops, because that’s not moving the lure, but you just want to make sure you’re letting that lure sink in between pops. I cannot stress the importance of that enough.”
Daniels uses Penn Spinfisher 3500 spinning reels paired with his signature series of rods made by Parker Poles. He worked with this Mississippi-based rod company for more than 2 years to help craft what he considers the perfect trout rod for these waters.
“It’s a 7-foot-2, medium-power rod with a fast tip,” he said. “It is built in a way that gives you maximum casting distance, but it also has a strong-enough, but soft-enough hookset that helps catch trout without ripping through their soft mouths.”
Daniels spools up with 30-pound braid and a leader of 30-pound monofilament. He’ll go to a fluorocarbon leader during the winter but said the water clarity during summer rarely calls for it.
It’s easy to wonder where to start when fishing in this vast area, which, although directly south of Biloxi, is actually in the state waters of Louisiana. But since the area is loaded with specks, Daniels said anglers don’t need to be too picky. He also said anglers shouldn’t spend much time in a spot that isn’t producing.
“There’s so many trout out here, and so many spots to catch them in,” he said. “You don’t want to waste time if you’re not catching them pretty quick. Don’t be shy about moving on, even if it’s just a short distance. There’s plenty of fish, and they are plenty hungry.
“Trout fishing is kind of a puzzle, and that puzzle can change slightly each day, but the pieces of the puzzle are pretty much the same. They like contrasts, such as contrasts in color, contrasts between current, water clarity, bottom depths and structure. Anything that is near something else that is different, no matter how subtle, is a good spot to find trout waiting to ambush baitfish, and the Biloxi Marsh is made up of such areas.”
One piece of that puzzle is lure colors. Daniels’ top three colors for his Matrix Shad are Magneto, UV, and Holy Joely, all basically white or clear with different accent colors in their flecks. Daniels has tried the Trout Trailer in ever color it’s made and said the best color combinations can change daily, and even hourly, so he keeps plenty on hand.
The wind isn’t usually as big a factor during the summer as it can be during other seasons, but when the wind does get up, Daniels said the ride from Pass Christian will be tougher than the fishing.
“You can always position your boat in a way that allows you to cast with the wind, and unless the wind is really screaming, you can usually find an island or a series of them to position your boat next to in order to minimize the wind’s impact on your fishing,” he said.
While a moving tide usually plays a bigger role than time of day, Daniels said during summer, the early morning and late afternoon are usually better because of the mid-day heat.
“You’ll usually get a hot bite early, then things will slack off a bit when the sun gets up high, but you can find the trout in deeper water then. Then during late afternoon, the bite picks back up all over the marsh,” he said.