Lenny Maiolatesi, captain of the Fighting Chicken, expects outstanding fishing in January.

"Plenty of great fishing can be had this month, and if you catch good weather conditions, you can have the fishing trip of a lifetime," Maiolatesi said.

He will fish for grouper, amberjacks, wahoo and hopefully some tuna.

"For the last two years, fishing for tuna has been very good from January through March," he said.

Maiolatesi fishes the Horseshoe rigs and the Midnight Lump. Last year, he found tuna on the east side of the Mississippi River at the Horseshoe rigs and on the west side of the river at the Midnight Lump the previous year. So, he doesn't know on which side of the river the tuna will be this year.

Maiolatesi uses chunking - cutting up large chunks of pogeys and putting them out in the water to make a chum line - to catch tuna. But chunking also will catch numbers of sharks, including tigers, hammerheads, duskies, makos and other species. Also, you'll catch king mackerel in that deep water, even in January and February, with chunking.

"At the Horseshoe rigs and the Midnight Lump, you can catch king mackerel all night," Maiolatesi said. "We'll find grouper in 250- to 400-foot-deep water. We'll be fishing live bait for the grouper to try to stay away from the red snapper, which are not in season. We'll often use really big live baits, because the bigger the baits you use, the bigger the grouper you'll catch. Last year, I caught a 200-pound warsaw grouper on an 8-pound jack. When my party doesn't get its limit of four grouper per person, primarily gag grouper and scamp grouper, we're having a bad grouper fishing trip in January."

On the way out to catch wahoo by moving from spot to spot, Maiolatesi will drag shaky baits, such as Mann's Stretch Textured 30+, Bomber lures and Braid Marauders, as well as some skirted ballyhoos. Maiolatesi's biggest wahoo ever weighed 92 pounds, but his average wahoo will weigh 40 pounds.

The Fighting Chicken leaves the dock about 4:30 a.m., so the anglers start fishing by 7 a.m. The boat will start to return to port by 3 or 4 p.m. An average trip will come in with a limit of grouper for all the anglers, a limit of amberjacks, several wahoo and, if the tuna are biting, several tuna.

To contact Maiolatesi, call 228-326-3180.


Near-shore fishing

Capt. Jay Trochesset of the Silver Dollar III fishes wrecks and reefs just outside of Horn Island or Ship Island.

"At this time of year, we'll normally be catching black drum, redfish, sheepshead, white trout, flounder and ground mullet, but mainly black drum and sheepshead," he said. "We Carolina-rig with live or dead shrimp and fish around structure. We'll anchor up from the reef and let the current carry our baits back to the reef."

Trochesset prefers to fish 20- to 25-pound-test line with 20- to 30-pound-test leader coming off a barrel swivel to a No. 4/0 hook. He fishes on the bottom to catch sheepshead and black drum. On an average six-hour trip, Trochesset and his customers usually will catch 10 to 12 sheepshead, a couple of flounders, a couple of redfish and 30 to 40 white trout with a mix of black drum and ground mullet during January.

"We usually go out if the wind's not blowing more than 15 knots," says Trochesset.

If the wind's bad, Trochesset will stay behind the islands and catch white trout, a few speckled trout and ground mullet. His son, Dustin, fishes the bays and catches speckled trout, often weighing up to 4 pounds each.

To fish with the Trochessets, call 228-388-2209 or email captainjay@cableone.net.


Marsh fishing

Capt. Kenny Shiyou of Goin' South Fishing Charters fishes the Biloxi Marsh in the Nine Mile area.

"The secret to successfully fishing the Biloxi Marsh in January is to have a calm day, so we can cross the Mississippi Sound," Shiyou says. "At this time of year, if the weather warms up and we can reach the marsh, we'll do well fishing topwater lures. We can catch some nice-sized trout, weighing 3 to 3 1/2 pounds each, on those topwaters."

Shiyou likes silver/black Heddon Super Spooks. In January, instead of walking the dog fast with the Spook, he'll use a twitch, let it coast, twitch, let it coast. With short-striking speckled trout, Shiyou recommends changing colors of the lures.

"I'll throw either a brighter-colored Spook or a Spook with more rattles in it, if the trout are short-striking," he said. "Also, I may change to a yellow/black MirrOlure She Dog or a She Dog with orange on the belly. At this time of year, you often have to slow down your retrieve.

"Many times the trout will attack the bait four or five times before they eat it," he said. "So, I really have to slow-down my retrieve to be sure the trout gets the bait in its mouth."

If the trout still won't take the bait, Shiyou uses a suspending silver/black MirrOlure.

"You can work the MirrOlure a little faster, because the trout tend to be more aggressive when the bait's under the water rather than on top of the water," he said. "Any river mouths that have current coming out of them usually will be holding trout this time of year."

To contact Shiyou, call 228-493-5735, or email him at GoinSouthFishing@aol.com.