Saltwater fishermen can look for a bumper crop of offshore fish this year. With the BP oil spill last year and fishing shut-down all along the Upper Gulf Coast, the offshore fish had the least amount of fishing pressure they've had in many years. This year, outdoorsmen should see bumper crops of all offshore fish.

To get a better perspective of what you can start catching this month, we've talked with Capt. Bobby Williams of the Three Sons IV charterboat docked at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor.

"We should be catching redfish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and cobia, as well as blacktip sharks in April, if the weather continues to warm," Williams says. "We generally start seeing the cobia showing up around Easter, but because Easter will be late this year, we may see them before Easter."

Cobia

"We have three ways of catching cobia," Williams explains. "We sight-fish for them up and down Horn Island, or we anchor-up on the bars and start chumming for them.

"We also go out to Chandeleur Islands and sight-fish for them at the shallow rigs just offshore. So, there are several-different places where we can find the cobia once they start running."

The cobia run usually lasts about five weeks. Cobia fishing is much like duck hunting. You may spot several good schools of cobia in a day and catch your limit, or you may not see any. In different years, the cobia seem to show up in large numbers at various spots, either the shallow rigs, the edges of the channels or on Horn Island and Chandeleur Island in the shallow water.

"I've seen as many as 40 or 50 big cobia at the shallow rigs before, and you may see them on the sand bars," Williams reports. "But a more-dependable way to catch them this month is to chum them up."

Williams uses a variety of types of chum, including pogies, artificial chum and chopped-up albacore that resembles sardines. One of his favorite baits is cooked macaroni and tuna fish.

"I make a tuna fish-macaroni casserole, and mix it with sand," Williams says. "I make this mixture into a ball and cast it overboard.

"Because the tuna fish has oil in it, that oil leeches out of the ball and spreads throughout the water. Then, the macaroni with its tuna fish taste breaks up. The sand helps the mixture to sink. This chum has been very effective for us."

When Williams goes to the shallow-water rigs, he starts off trying to jig-up the cobia, but he also will use live catfish and eels, especially if he sees the cobia swimming around the rigs.

Kings and Spanish

Another fish that should be coming in this month is the king mackerel, usually caught in April outside the barrier islands. Fishing planers with spoons behind them effectively catch the kings when you're trolling for schooling mackerel.

"We like to work along the sand bar at Squash Channel, when we're trying to catch big king mackerel," Williams said. "This is an old bar where the Isle of Capri once sat back in 1917.

"We catch the kings outside the bar at Squash Channel and all along the barrier islands."

Williams also catches kings around the rigs in deep water, fishing with live hardtails.

Spanish mackerel also will run along the barrier islands, and they're fairly easy to catch on spoons. Williams' favorite way to cook Spanish mackerel is to fillet them, cut the blood lines out of the middles of the fillets and then fry them or cook them on the grill using Italian salad dressing for basting. The Spanish mackerel is a delicious fish to eat; however, if you don't remove the blood lines from the center of the fillets, they can have a unique taste that some people don't like.

Blacktips

Another favorite sport fish that's good-eating is the blacktip shark. If the shrimp boats are working in Mississippi waters during April, shark fishing should be outstanding.

"When we see a shrimp boat dragging its net, we troll behind the net for blacktip sharks," Williams said. "We often catch blacktips that will weigh over 100 pounds.

"Many people don't realize that blacktip sharks provide some delicious eating. You can fillet the shark like you do any other fish, cut it into steaks and fry, grill, bake or cook them any way you want. You can keep three blacktip sharks per boat when fishing Mississippi waters, which is where we primarily fish."

Redfish

If you're trolling for king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, there's a good chance you'll catch redfish in April. However, most of the redfish you catch will be over 30 inches, and those fish have to be released. But the redfish are fun to catch and release.

Inshore

Inshore fishing also should be heating up this month. As the shallow water in the marshes, shallow bays and lagoons warms, the specks and the reds will start moving out of the marsh and onto some of the oyster reefs and shallow flats close to the marsh, providing outstanding fishing this month.

I'll plan to double-down at Mississippi's Gulf Coast during April. I'll spend one day offshore fishing for cobia, kings and blacktip sharks, and another day inshore catching speckled trout and slot-sized reds. If you plan your trip now, and get ahead of the crowd, the coast will have plenty of fish to catch and numerous boats available for charter.

To contact Capt. Bobby Williams, call 228-392-8243 or email threesonsiv@aol.com.