Fall’s 4 saltwater fishing hotspots

October’s change in temperature may cool the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but it sure heats up the bite for redfish and other species.

Mississippi’s Gulf Coast offers plenty of adventures for the saltwater fisherman who’s up for a nice, October boat ride and a full cooler.

Finally, anglers and the fish they pursue are getting a reprieve from the heat. Football season is in full swing, cookouts are more comfortable than they’ve been in months, and the fishing action is as good as it gets along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

After talking with several experts, Mississippi Sportsman has a good variety of species and locales to catch them this time of year, and no matter where you are along the coast, you’ll be hard pressed to wet a line without bringing something to the boat — or the dinner table — this month.

Biloxi Marsh

As it is for most of the year, the Biloxi Marsh is a hotspot for speckled trout, and it’s one of the easiest bites to get on in October. Specks love the cooling weather, and the abundance of cultivated oyster fields throughout the Marsh never fails to attract plenty of these fish. The vast area begins at the far western end of the Mississippi Sound and is actually in Louisiana waters, but it is just a few miles from ports in Long Beach, Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis and Waveland.

“This time of year, it doesn’t get much better than trout fishing in Biloxi Marsh: hungry fish, calm seas, great temperatures,” said Capt. Ronnie Daniels, of Fisher-Man Guide Service of Gulfport. “It’s easy to find the trout bite by looking for the cane or PVC markers that the oystermen use to mark oyster leases. You’ll find them in a variety of depths, and these are good places to throw soft plastics like paddletail grubs.”

In October, Daniels often ties on a second grub with a dropper loop to take advantage of the voracious bite. One of his favorite color combinations is Cajun pepper with a chartreuse tail.

“You can catch them two at a time some days this time of year,” he said. “The trick is to set the hook when you feel the initial bite, then just hold it there for a second before you reel it in. That’s often when the second fish will bite.” 

Biloxi Marsh is also hot for October redfish, but it takes a little different approach to catch your share. Instead of focusing on the shell-lined floors of oyster farms, Paul Leoni of Southern Comfort Charters of Waveland fishes in all the nooks and crannies of calm water protected by the small islands scattered throughout the Marsh.

“Check close to the island banks and use live shrimp under Boat Monkey corks,” Leoni said. “Flooded grass will hold a lot of bait, so those are good fishing spots. Anywhere you see a cut in the bank is also a good place, and anywhere you see small drainage ditches running into the water are good bets, too. We also throw gold spoons and have good luck with them.

“We don’t pop the corks very much this time of year. With the clear water, it can spook the redfish, so we just let the shrimp do most of the work. You cast it close enough, and these fish won’t hesitate to take it.”

The Barrier Islands

While many anglers believe October is too late for cobia, anglers like Manny Mandrich of Ocean Springs catches the big, brown fish close to Cat Island, Ship Island, Horn Island and Petit Bois Island.

“The cobia move into the area in the spring, and a lot of them stick around all summer and into the fall,” he said. “This is usually the last month I catch them, but I never have any trouble catching them. 

“I troll two lures at a time … both Savage Lures Real Eels. On one side of the boat, I use an 8-inch lure. On the other side, I use the 16-inch eel. Both have a treble hook on the bottom and a single hook coming out the top. I use a contrasting-colored Crappie Psychic Mega Trailer on the top hooks, and I start off trolling around .5 miles per hour and adjust from there.”

Patience, Mandrich said, is a necessity.

“Many times, you’ll see them surface after you pass over them, and you have to be patient,” he said. “Just keep trolling back and forth when you see that. When they’re ready to eat, they’ll attack those eels no matter how many times they’ve ignored them before.”

Mississippi Sound

Autumn is a great time to catch tripletail, at least until the first major cold front drives these tasty and sporting fish offshore.

Until then, triples are a favorite target of fishermen, like Capt. Mark Wright of Legends of the Lower Marsh of Pass Christian.

 Wright said the best days are warm, bright, clear days that allow you to easily see fish hanging out close to floating crab trap markers or any surface debris. The bait of choice is live shrimp under a popping cork, which he called “deadly on tripletail.”

Anglers can entice them into biting by casting the bait near the floating debris, then making a couple of cranks of the reel handle. This will lure the fish away from the cover, and they’ll suck in the shrimp aggressively, sensing that cooler temperatures are on the way.

“This whole month will be good for tripletail in Mississippi Sound, and they may stick around deep into next month until it gets brutally cold,” Wright said.

Chandeleur Sound

Another sound — the Chandeleur Sound — is a great fishing spot in October. Located far south of the west end of the Mississippi Sound, the area behind the Chandeleur Island chain is an historical hotspot for specks and reds.

Both species feed aggressively this time of year, and anglers catch them in a variety of sizes. This is the last month of the year anglers can comfortably wade-fish here, and that’s just how Carson Paire of Diamondhead prefers fishing this area.

“It’s a long but beautiful ride there,” Paire said. “I leave early enough to arrive at first light, then it’s out of the boat and casting Super Spooks on the surface. I catch mostly big trout, but redfish will bite that often enough to keep things interesting. 

“Once the topwater bite dies down, I go to using a 2½-inch Johnson Silver Minnow in gold color, and I fish it parallel to the beaches. I wear a wading belt and carry a second rod with me. One that rod, I have a 2-inch version of that spoon in black. Anytime I get a hit and miss on the gold spoon, I’ll immediately cast the black spoon along the same path. I catch a lot of redfish this way.”

For information on Ronnie Daniels’ Fisher-Man Guide Service, call (228)-323-1115.

For information on Paul Leoni’s Southern Comfort Guide Service, call (228)-234-5562.

For information on Mark Wright’s Legends of the Lower Marsh Guide Service, call (228)-324-7612.