Mark Wright stood atop his boat’s tower, scanning the shallows along a shoreline in the Biloxi Marsh at the west end of the Mississippi Sound.
“Sight-fishing is the closest thing you can get to hunting without a firearm in your hands,” he said.
Then, he saw the redfish.
“Straight ahead of the boat, 12 o’clock. Do you see it?” Wright asked the angler on the front deck.
“I see the body, but which way is he facing?” the angler asked, cocking his spinning rod back for a cast.
“He’s facing left; put it just in front of him,” Wright said.
The angler tossed out an easy cast with his gold spoon, then watched it flutter down through the water column, saw the redfish tilt its nose down, and BAM!, just like that, was hooked into a big fish.
After a few drag-pulling runs, Wright dipped the net in the water and captured the 40-inch redfish. After a few photos, the fish was released and the sight-fishing began again.
That’s a typical scene in the Biloxi Marsh, which never tires Wright, who operates Legends of the Lower Marsh Fishing Charters in Pass Christian.
“It’s pretty self-explanatory what we do when sight-fishing,” he said. “You want to have a good pair of polarized shades, and having clear water is always a plus. Some ripples are okay, but you don’t want too many. The thing about fishing in the Biloxi Marsh is that no matter how rough the ocean is, you can find some pockets and pools of water that are surrounded by enough land that it’s calm enough to still sight-fish.”
View from above
While the Marsh is made up of countless islands separated by waterways, some fairly large, calm, pond-like pools of water are dispersed throughout. These are havens for redfish, and finding them in these pools isn’t too difficult, especially with a shallow-drafting boat equipped with an aft tower.
Even though spotting redfish from the bow isn’t a problem, Wright’s perch yields a better look at a greater distance, and he can sometimes sees several groups of reds across the whole pool. The allows him to target the most-obvious group first, while also giving him an idea of which fish to target next.
And it lets him see know more about the fish, such as which way they’re facing as in the above scenario.
Wright uses solid gear when catching redfish this way: a medium to medium-heavy rod, Penn 3000 series spinning reel and 30-pound Power Pro braid. For lures, he said a gold spoon is tough to beat, and he also likes a Mann’s Hardnose Swimshad.
Wright ties his braid directly to the lure, because most strikes are reaction strikes, and the fish don’t shy away from the braid. With one fewer knot to tie, that’s one less thing to worry about.
When fishing lures, Wright said the best way to work them is to just steadily reel them is with a steady retrieve.
“There’s really no need to pause or jerk these lures,” he said. “Just a steady retrieve does the trick. You might want to speed it up or slow it down just slightly if you’re not getting any bites, but you don’t want to get too crazy. Just a nice, steady retrieve is good.”
And when you do hook up, be prepared for a battle.
It’s a battle
Most of these redfish range from 32 to 45 inches long. Once they know they’re hooked — and they’ll know it right quick — they will run, and they will make your drag sing. While they’re running, just keep your rod bent and let the fish have its way. When it takes a break, recover as much line as you can, keeping the rod bent the whole time.
If the fish decides to make another run, let it run. Don’t ever allow any slack in the line. Don’t ever point your rod directly at the fish; always hold it high, and let it bend toward the fish.
One of Wright’s most-essential tools is his bow-mounted Minn Kota electric motor, which he can control wirelessly from anywhere in the boat, including his tower. This frees him up to scan for redfish.
And while they will hang out all along the banks of these pools, any type of indention or cut in the bank deserves a closer look. When the bank runs a straight line, then all of a sudden juts inward or has a smaller creek emptying into it, redfish will gather. Subtle depth changes or bottom areas that transition — from mud to shell, from shell to weeds, or from weeds to mud — are also spots to which anglers should pay special attention. Wright can’t stress strongly enough how often he finds fish in such areas, even when finding fish elsewhere is tough.
This also holds true for the bigger, main channels that run between islands, so just because you’re not in a pool, don’t overlook these bank cuts, depth changes, or structure differences. Many anglers bypass good spots by thinking they need to get in these ponds before making a cast. On some days, Wright finds enough fish without even entering a pool.
Patience pays off, to a point
Wright believes patience has its place in fishing this way, but he said anglers shouldn’t waste much time fishing areas where they aren’t seeing fish, especially if the water is clear enough to spot them.
“You can certainly pick up some fish when casting to areas where you simply can’t see into the water because it’s too deep or muddy, but if you’re finding clear water and are not spotting fish, you should move to another area,” he said. “If the wind or weather is making the water choppy or murky, you need to move on.”
Which brings up another point. What does Wright suggest for anglers who are finding the water too choppy or murky to see through?
“You can always find banks that are protected from the wind and chop in this marsh, and you almost never have to move very far to do it,” he said. “When you do find muddy or choppy water in a creek or a pond, look to the opposite bank. More often than not, that one will be clear enough to see into. If it’s not clear, or if it is and you don’t see any fish, then make a move. These islands are plentiful here, they hold plenty of fish, and plenty of areas are easy to see into on any given day.”
For on information on Legends of the Lower Marsh Fishing Charter and Guide Service, or to book Capt. Mark Wright, call (228) 324-7612 or visit online at legendsofthelowermarsh.com.