• Freshwater Fishing

    Coloration, teeth in the throat and a light orange or red line around the ear flap are ways to tell a shellcracker (above) from a bluegill.

    Bream ID: Shellcrackers and bluegills

    Although commonly lumped together in many circumstances under the handle bream, bluegill and redear sunfish have distinctly different characteristics, especially when targeting one species or the other.

    March 15 at 8:00am
    Because shellcrackers feed closer to the bottom than bluegill, baits like red worms are more effective than crickets.

    Tips for catching shellcrackers

    Use these tips to catch more shellcrackers:

    March 15 at 8:00am
    Light planer boards like Water Bugz are more suitable for pulling light lures and baits for crappie.

    Gaining a little weight isn’t always bad

    While most folks stress about putting on a little weight, guide Brad Taylor said that when pulling planer boards for crappie, adding a little weight can go a long way.

    March 15 at 8:00am
    This nice Grenada Lake crappie weighed almost 3 pounds.

    Managing crappie is often a water issue

    Reservoir crappie populations are notoriously cyclic. A strong year-class is produced once every few years and is usually followed by one or more weak year-classes. When the fish reach catchable size, the abundant cohort supports good to excellent fishing for a few years until members of the once abundant year-class are caught or die of old age. 

    March 09 at 8:30am
    Mississippi crappie will march to shallows this month.

    Slab-Slammin’ time

    Every spring, an eons-old phenomenon takes place in the lakes and streams of southeastern states: the waters warm, crappie move shallow and become active, and fishermen rejoice. They reap the bounty brought on by the predictable behavior of the fair-fleshed fish.

    March 01 at 7:00am
    Spawning earlier than bluegills, this month is the time to begin seeking out shellcracker, a.k.a. redear or chinquapin, on one of Mississippi’s well-managed state lakes.

    Shellcracker fever is heating up

    May is widely considered to be the best month for chasing bream, but die-hard panfisher anglers know that redear sunfish — aka chinquapin, shellcracker or just redear — move into their prespawn and spawning patterns much sooner than bluegill and other sunfish species that fall under the general colloquialism of “bream.”

    March 01 at 7:00am
    Planer boards open up shallow water to spring crappie trollers.

    Crappie on a different plane

    By the time March rolls around, crappie fishermen across the southeast are chomping at the bit for waves of slabs to invade the shallows. And even though tight-line and long-line trolling techniques are proven winners, guides like Brad Taylor are adding another wrinkle, using planer boards to spread baits out even farther from the boat and access territory otherwise out of reach.

    March 01 at 7:00am
    B’n’M Poles recently released its lineup of George Young Jr. Signature terminal tackle for catfish enthusiasts.

    B’n’M offers catfish gear

    Several years ago, West Point-based B’n’M Poles, famous for crappie rods, entered the catfishing market with their own line of catfish rods for serious catfish anglers. The lineup includes the Silver Cat and the Silver Cat Magnum in longer sizes, as well as its new Bumping rod.

    February 15 at 7:00am
    Grapple anchors work best when the claws dig into the bottom structure, but they can also get hung and can be lost.

    Strong design solves anchor problem

    Steve Strong, a veteran catfish angler, has lost count of the anchors he has sacrificed to the Mississippi River. With its myriad of rocks, logs and debris, the river bottom is tough on anchors. At over $100 a pop for commercially made anchors, he, like many catmen, makes his own anchors using steel tubing and half-inch rebar.

    February 15 at 7:00am
    In a typical six-rod set up, place at least two baited lines (1 and 6) on the break line itself. Other lines will target structure such as downed trees (2) , rock piles (3), and holes or depressions (5). The final line (4) should be straight down, to catch fish responding to active chumming.

    Thoroughly work each spot

    Fan-casting to tempt winter catfish is more than just a random presentation of baits. Once the boat has been anchored, catfish anglers must target specific features within reach of the boat.

    February 15 at 7:00am
    Mitch Glenn’s Pico Ringed Pointer tale grub on a Scott Vance custom-painted jighead with red sickle hook and a Berkley Crappie Nibble is a deadly prespawn combination on crappie.

    Top prespawn lure picks

    We polled several successful crappie fishermen, and these products were among their recommendations for cold-water crappie in the prespawn mode:

    February 15 at 7:00am
    Writer Mike Giles caught prespawn crappie last February on shallow grass at Okatibbee Lake, a tactic most fishermen overlook that early in the year.

    Prespawn crappie in the grass

    I grew up fishing for bass and crappie year-round and have learned a few things about finding and catching prespawn crappie. 

    February 15 at 7:00am
    Shooting under docks to get to hard-to-reach crappie is normally best done with a round-head jig that flutters when it falls.

    When to tip a jig with a minnow

    For all the discussion about crappie jigs, live minnows account for at least half of the fish caught by anglers. No discussion about jigs is complete without a discussion of how and when to pair live minnows with jigs.

    February 15 at 7:00am
    A large pallid sturgeon caught on a trotline in the Mississippi River near Natchez.

    Mississippi’s oldest fish

    The Mississippi waters of the Mississippi River are home to pallid sturgeon and shovelnose sturgeon. Unlike many other sturgeon in North America and worldwide that migrate between the ocean and freshwater to complete their life cycle, the pallid and shovelnose sturgeon complete their life cycles entirely in rivers. 

    February 05 at 9:00am
    Tournament catfish angler Joey Pounders of Steens said it’s a fallacy that flathead catfish won’t feed during the winter. He has caught them when the temperature is in the single digits.

    Catch more cold-water kitties

    February is one of the toughest months of the year to be outdoors. On the hunting side, many seasons are finished, and what big and small game that is available has seen a lot of traffic in the woods. 

    February 01 at 7:00am
    Scott Vance is a master at catching slab crappie at any time of the year, but he excels in February’s pre-spawn at Okatibbee Lake.

    Slay slabs now!

    Scott Vance dropped a few jigs into the water, but before he could get all his poles out, the action began. 

    February 01 at 7:00am