Your bait flies freely through the hot July air, hits the Mississippi Sound's surface, and then quickly sinks to the bottom. You reel up the slack just enough to keep a bit of tension on the line.

On the sound's bottom, if you're in the right place at the right time, hundreds, maybe even thousands of white trout and ground mullet are swarming the oyster-laden bottom in search of their next meal.

If the "hot" bite is on, you'll immediately feel your rod tip start to vibrate as fish below engage in a battle to see who can be the first to suck in the bait. It's a war down there, survival of the fittest, and that's good because the angler above is about to enjoy some of the best light-tackle angling imaginable.

Once a fish has secured a firm bite on the bait and starts to run, there will be a noticeable bend in the rod tip, and that's the time to set the hook hard and reel fast.

Once your white trout or ground mullet is at boatside, there is no need for a landing net, unless it's a monster specimen; simply lift the scrappy fish into the boat, and quickly deposit on ice. Usually the vast majority of these popular inshore species weigh under a pound; however, for their size, they are strong fighters, and better yet their white, succulent flesh rivals most fish that swim in our southern waters.

By now these prolific species are scattered all throughout the Mississippi Sound, and good numbers of them have worked their way into coastal bays, rivers and bayous, too.

Since July is such a hot month, it's wise to get on the water early in the morning or later in the afternoon to fish for these tasty gamesters, but that doesn't mean they won't bite throughout the day, especially if there is a decent tidal flow.

When a feeding frenzy is taking place, white trout and ground mullet will eat almost anything, and that includes a selection of artificial baits as well. However, fresh, dead shrimp and squid are offerings these bottom feeders find hard to pass up.

Practically everything that swims in our inshore waters will suck down a shrimp, live or dead, but it's the toughness of squid that makes it such a popular dead bait for these two species. Since squid is sort of like a soft leather, it has a tendency to stay on the hook longer, and smaller finfish like croakers, pinfish and grunts can't steal it off the hook like a piece of tender shrimp. Plus, during the course of a hot bite, it's possible to catch a number of fish off the same piece of bait due to its durability - thus saving time from having to bait up after each fish is boated.

If you catch a few croakers on the reefs, they too can be used for bait. Simply fillet each side of the small fish, and cut into small strips. Often cut bait is a preference to these fish if the bite is slow, and cut bait, like squid, is a durable bait against the swarms of small bait stealers that inhabit the oyster reefs.

As for the squid, lay it horizontally in front of you, and cut into ½-inch slivers. This will create rings, and to fish them, place the hook through one end penetrating both sides of the sliver. This way, not only will its scent and taste be attractive, but also it will flutter in the current like a wounded baitfish.

And those squid heads are deadly too. Just insert the hook in the flesh area between the eyes, and those tentacles dangling in the current are sure to attract any nearby bottom feeders.

Whole, small, dead shrimp can be threaded on the hook, and large shrimp can be cut or pinched into pieces small enough to cover the hook.

Live shrimp hooked at the base of the horn, in one side and out the other, is extremely effective on both of these species, and if any specks are in the mix, they are sure to engulf the lively crustaceans.

And don't forget about menhaden, a prolific baitfish that is feasted upon by white trout, speckled trout, flounder and redfish.

These small silvery fish are quite plentiful in coastal bays, and can be easily caught in small-meshed brill nets. Looking like a patch of nervous water on the surface, one silver dollar-shaped cast over a school will result in more bait than is necessary for a day's outing. Fished whole, they are deadly on white trout, but cut in half, they will catch white trout and the small-mouthed ground mullet.

If you're like most locals who enjoy the thrill of catching two fish at a time, then gear up with double rigs for dual fish-catching action. For me, a basic double rig is made up of two No. 2 SPRO three-way swivels, two 1/0 Gamakatsu octopus hooks, a 1-ounce bank sinker (don't use pyramid-shaped weights because they snag up easily on oyster reefs) and 30-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon for leader material.

To create the double rig, first connect the two three-way swivels with 12 inches of leader material, and then on each three-way swivel, attach another 12 inches of leader material. Now finish off the tag ends with a selected hook. To complete the rig, add a length of leader on one of the swivel's free eyes a few inches longer than the hook's leader, and then tie on a 1-ounce sinker. Now you're ready for action.

An accomplished and well-seasoned light tackle angler is Jeff McAllister of D'Iberville. According to McAllister, some of his best white trout and ground mullet angling takes place during specific tidal conditions.

"I catch most of my fish during a rising morning tide, not a real strong tide, but a lengthy tide that flows steadily," he said. "Generally, I'll use a 3/4- to 1-ounce weight to get the bait down to the bottom, and I prefer squid or cut bait over shrimp to catch both species. Shrimp is a good bait, but it just doesn't last long when fished over the reefs. When using shrimp, you catch one fish per shrimp; however, you can often catch up to 10 fish per each piece of cut bait or squid.

"Croakers and mullet are excellent choices for cut bait, and the belly portion of a croaker makes for a good tough and durable bait. Small live bait hooks and 1/0 octopus hooks are good selections, and any 10- to 12-pound-class spinning or baitcasting gear is plenty enough for these fish."

McAllister pointed out that your light tackle may be pushed to the limit when fishing white trout and ground mullet reefs with a sudden drag-stripping run from a shark or bull redfish, but that just adds to the excitement of the day's angling.

"Many of these reefs attract and hold good numbers of speckled trout too, and although you may catch a few by chance on dead bait, it's live bait that will increase your chances of landing good numbers of the prized specks," he said. "Fishing these reefs early in the morning with live shrimp or menhaden will increase the odds of catching specks, and anglers should always be scanning the sound or bays for flocks of seagulls sitting on or hovering over the surface.

"A strong trolling motor is an effective tool for fishing speckled trout and white trout feeding under the birds. Being able to keep up with the moving schools of fish chasing shrimp to the surface is essential, and the trolling motor adds the needed stealth and mobility for chasing the gorging fish.

"Under these conditions, I like to toss soft-plastic baits like Mr. Twister Finshad or Cocahoes rigged in tandem."

To keep the soft-fleshed white trout as fresh as possible, McAllister recommended keeping them off the hot deck of the boat, and creating an "ice slush" to deposit them in.

"This is the No. 1 way to preserve these fish, and to do so, add just enough water to the ice to create a watery slush," he said. "Soon as a fish is caught, immerse it into the cold liquid to keep it as fresh as possible."

To locate white trout, ground mullet and specks, McAllister recommended a few specific sites.

"The Keesler Reef is a predominant rubble reef, and is located south of the west end of Deer Island," he said. "It's marked by two large pilings, and when the bite is really good, you'll see concentrations of boats over the reef. It's rather close, and anglers in 14-foot skiffs can fish it on calm days, and with a depth of 8 to 9 feet, really big boats can fish it as well enjoying white trout and ground mullet action.

"Another excellent reef is the White House Reef, a large, well-established reef located approximately 1 mile west of the West Biloxi Channel and the west end of Deer Island. White PVC pipes mark the reef, and it's south of Biloxi's beachfront ½ to ¾ mile south of the old White House Hotel.

"The new breakwater south of the east end of Deer Island is attracting plenty of fish also, and live bait fished off the points will catch specks and bull reds too.

"The Gulf Parks Estates Reef (marked with two white PVC pipes) located approximately ¼ of a mile west of the Gulf Parks Estates Pier in Ocean Springs, and the Bellefontaine Reef south of Ocean Spring's Bellefontaine beachfront are both prime areas to find white trout, ground mullet and early morning specks."

Also, good numbers of white trout and ground mullet will work their way into coastal bays, rivers and bayous. For example, in the Back Bay of Biloxi, just east of the fourth span south of the draw, white trout often concentrate, and farther up the bay by the old pier pilings before you get to the power lines, some really big white trout prowl the channel's ledge.

Of course prime white trout and ground mullet angling can be found in Moss Point at the entrance of Bayou Cumbest at the entrance to Bang's Lake, and the large oyster reefs in Pascagoula Bay (marked with white PVC pipes) off the mouth of the Pascagoula River. The Pascagoula Reefs often offer excellent bird fishing too, and really nice speckled trout prowl these reefs offering a smorgasbord of tasty fish.

July is an excellent month to enjoy Mississippi's coastal fishing, so celebrate it with a fun-filled day seeking white trout, ground mullet and those spot-laden trout.