Looking for some exciting redfish action this month off Mississippi's coastal marsh zones, barrier islands, and in the Gulf of Mexico? Well listen up and take note of some of the most productive sites, tactics and gear for landing a few of those bronze bruisers.

Yeah, it can be downright steamy in August, but a persistent angler putting together all the right pieces of the puzzle including time, place, baits and tackle can reap the rewards of being able to go toe-to-toe with these tough customers.

Troll them up

By now, massive schools of bull redfish have begun to congregate in the Gulf of Mexico just outside the barrier islands. From now through September, these enormous schools will partake in their annual spawning rites, and for anglers lucky enough to see the water literally turn red when a school goes into a surface feeding frenzy, well, it's an unforgettable image etched into one's memory.

Most of these offshore brutes are caught by anglers slow-trolling large spoons through the masses of fish, and it's not uncommon to "load the lines" when the shiny spoons flutter through the dense masses of big "spottails."

Since trolling tactics usually require heavy leads or deep-diving planers to get the baits down to the fish, a hefty trolling outfit in the 50-pound class is the norm for most offshore anglers. For example, a Shimano TLD 25 or Penn Special Senator 4/0 reel mounted on a 6- to 6 ½-foot stand-up rod is ideal.

Remember, big sharks, jack crevalle and even tarpon, on occasion, travel with the big reds, so stout tackle makes landing these fish easier in the Gulf's deep water. Plus, much of the trolling takes place within compact groups of boats jockeying for position on the reds, and when in a crowded situation with surrounding boats having multiple hook-ups, the stout tackle helps keep fish under control.

Of course if you're lucky enough to find a surfacing school all to yourself, you can break out the conventional light-tackle gear or, better yet, a fly rod and proceed to enjoy these powerful fish to the fullest.

However, 16 to 24 ounces of trolling leads or a No. 2 or 3 Drone planer will be employed on the beefed-up tackle to get the baits down to the fish. A heavy-duty snap swivel tied to the end of the main line is used to attach the trolling leads or planers.

To fish the spoons, first cut off 15 feet of 100- to 125-pound-test monofilament or fluorocarbon leader material. On one end, tie a heavy-duty snap swivel, and then on the opposite end, tie your spoon of choice. An improved clinch knot works well for making all line connections. The leader's snap swivel will be attached to the tag end of the lead or planer.

As for spoons, it's hard to go wrong with a No. 3½ or 4 L.B. Huntington Drone or a No. 17 or 18 Tony Accetta Pet. Any of these spoons in either a chrome, gold or chartreuse finish is deadly when slowly trolled through schooling redfish, and bonitos, jack crevalle, tarpon and sharks will strike at the shiny hardware too. Troll these same baits at a faster rate, and expect to draw hard strikes from king mackerel feeding in the area, especially the 10- to 25-pound fish.

Most recreational anglers trolling for reds will pull four lines behind the boat, say two long, lead-weighted lines way back off each corner of the boat, and a planer rig pulled shorter under each long line. Many of the bigger charter boats will troll six to 10 baits or more behind the boat simultaneously, and generally get their limit of big reds on one pass.

Mississippi charter captains generally keep the redfish schools located on a day-to-day basis, and have the trolling technique mastered when it comes to landing these Gulf-prowling reds.

Although the Mississippi limit on redfish is three per angler with an 18-inch-minimum length including only one fish allowed 30 inches or bigger, the vast majority of fish caught trolling in the Gulf of Mexico outside the barrier islands will be the bruisers over 30 inches.

Thus, the allowable take is generally one redfish per angler, but that's just fine because these are the spawning stocks, and it's best to practice catch and release to ensure large numbers of these fish for years to come.

Although schools of bull reds may appear practically anywhere around the barrier islands, including Petit Bois, Horn, East and West Ship and Cat, there are a few areas that seem to always produce some of the hottest fishing.

For example, the shoals off the west end of Ship Island toward Cat Island is an area where fish tend to congregate. Also, the waters east and west of the ship channel running south of the west end of Ship Island are historically known to attract massive schools of big, fat spawners, and the waters just outside Camille Cut between East and West Ship Island can be worthy areas to locate fish.

However, one of your best bets can be looking for concentrations of circling boats, and that sight usually means the charter fleet has rounded up some large schools.

Some other signs to look for include large flocks of gulls and terns working the surface, active schools of bonito and Spanish mackerel, large schools of blue runners (a.k.a. hardtails), herring (a.k.a. hairyback) and anchovies (a.k.a. red minnows), and along tide rips where plenty of crabs appear at the surface.

Of course, redfish themselves feeding on the surface will display a white froth of churned water, and under calm conditions, you may notice a wave-like motion on the surface as water pushes over the heads of cruising fish.

It's wise to keep a 30-pound-class "shotgun" rig at the ready too. This way, an angler can cast a large, weighted jig into surface-feeding fish or schools of baitfish letting the jig sink deep to see if reds are holding below. A 3-ounce SPRO Prime Bucktail Jig is an excellent bait for a shotgun rig, but any similar jig will suffice when fish are in a feeding mode.

By the way, if you spot pods of fish down deep on your fish recorder, try bumping your motor into neutral. This tactic allows the trolling weights to quickly sink down to fish holding deeper in the water column.

Reds on the fly

Mississippi anglers looking to take the redfish challenge to a higher degree of difficulty during the heat of August should pursue them on a fly rod. When it comes to locating and landing some of Mississippi's larger redfish on a flimsy fly rod, Capt. Rick Lauman of Ocean Springs is one of the state's most skilled.

Lauman fishes out of his small homemade flats skiff, a boat that he proudly built in his living room, believe it or not.

Although Lauman's skiff is small in size, it can get into the shallowest of waters, and approach tailing redfish with the utmost stealth. Its light weight makes poling quite easy on the arms, back and legs. For targeting coastal redfish, Lauman prefers to tie his own flies, and he has come up with a design that's extremely effective on spot-tails in Mississippi's somewhat murky water.

"For redfish, I like to present them a big fly, and I've come up with a big crab pattern that's extremely effective," he said. "The fly is tied rather sparse, and Puglifi fibers make up the main body. It's about the size of a silver dollar fitted with two long tan or purple hackles.

"This is a big, long profile fly, and I rig it with either a No. 2 or 4 Mustad (34007) hook. For me, tying these flies in an all-tan color makes them most effective.

"Since the waters along coastal Mississippi are usually dingy, the reds aren't all that spooky, and you can bump them on the head with the fly. However, if the fish is on the move, try and present the big, bulky fly 2 feet ahead of the target. If he misses, quickly toss it to him again.

"From experience I've found it a good idea to tie the flies with weed guards using 30- to 40-pound monofilament. Many of the big fish I've spotted and landed have been right up in extremely thick grass, and the weed guards are quite effective under those conditions."

During the month of August, it's best to concentrate your efforts during a falling tide. Unlike fall and winter fishing, when water temperatures drop and fish move well inshore, Lauman finds his best August action in ponds that are at the edge of the marsh coastline.

"I feel it may be because the water temps are a bit cooler and oxygen levels are higher in these outer ponds, but I do know I have better results in these areas rather than the interior waters," he said. "Along coastal Mississippi, any of the larger marsh areas with access to open water can hold redfish. Bottom line, ponds that produce hot fishing in the winter, I usually don't fish during the heat of summer."

Mississippi's barrier islands hold plenty of summer redfish too, and Lauman mentioned that big jack crevalle, speckled trout and acrobatic ladyfish take up the slack when the reds aren't biting.

"At the isles during the heat of summer, I'll concentrate my efforts in 3 to 5 feet of water," he said. "The isles' numerous grass beds, cuts, bars and gullies provide all sorts of areas to find schooling reds."

A firm believer in quality tackle, Lauman's gear of choice is St. Croix Legend Elite fly rods and Waterworks-Lamson fly reels.

"A 9-foot 6-weight set up is plenty adequate for hunting reds in Mississippi's waters," he said. "For backing on my reels, 30-pound-test Scientific Angler Gel Spun is ideal for anything from tarpon to trout, and since it's small in diameter, you can put plenty on your reel. And what I really like about it is that it's extremely durable and low in maintenance.

"On my shooting line, I like Scientific Angler Redfish or Bonefish on my 6- and 8-weight set-ups, and Scientific Angler GPX on my 3- and 5-weight rigs. A tapered 20-pound-test leader works well, and no bite tippet is needed on these fish. As a matter of fact, I often scale the leader back from 9 feet to 6 feet in length. It's much easier to turn the big fly on these shorter leaders, and flip it to close-range fish."

Final notes

Anglers who prefer to wade or pole for redfish should also give the barrier islands (Petit Bois, Horn, East Ship, West Ship, and Cat) some thought. According to Capt. Steve West, anglers tossing ½- to ¾-ounce Mr. Champ spoons have a good shot at rounding up a couple of hard-fighting redfish.

"A Mr. Champ is an excellent lure for prospecting," he said. "The beauty of a Champ is that it's extremely durable and can be easily tossed long distances even into a stiff wind.

"I like to concentrate on dark water - in other words, areas like holes, gullies and drop-offs along bars and flats. Here, redfish seem to find refuge, and lay up waiting for baitfish swept by in the current.

A slow, steady retrieve bumping the bait off the bottom creating puffs of sand is a proven method that draws strikes. Fishing just inside current-swept points and the islands' many shoreline stumps is productive."

And don't count out the Louisiana Marsh just 11 miles or so off Mississippi's mainland for redfish action. Large, protected coves and shores lined with underwater vegetation in Southwest Jack Williams Bay and Chino Bay hold good numbers of big reds for anglers willing to stalk the shallows. The skinny waters in this northeastern region of the Louisiana marsh have countless marsh environs that always hold prowling redfish. Polarized glasses and a shallow-draft boat increase your odds of finding fish.

In these waters, toss topwater lures like She Dogs, Tiny Torpedoes and Banana Boats for vicious surface strikes. Softies like Cocahoes, Norton Shad and Salt Water Assassins fished either singly, in tandem, or under a noisy cork like a Cajun Thunder or Old Bay Side Paradise Popper X-Treme will catch shallow-water reds too. And for all the fly aficionados, these marsh mazes offer unlimited fishing potential to stalk reds rooting through the shallows.

During early morning high tides, reds will be up close to the shoreline and cruising in the thick grass; however, fishing afternoon falling tides is best for sight-fishing reds now more exposed in the shallows. Areas where water is flowing out of the marsh like the mouths of small sloughs and ditches are prime areas to locate feeding fish. Anglers can launch from the Pass Christian Small Craft Harbor or Long Beach Small Craft Harbor, and be fishing the Cajun territory within 20 minutes or so.

Fish the early morning and late afternoon for best results because the heat of summer can quickly shut down shallow-water action.