Although Sept. 22 is listed on the 2009 calendar as the official first day of autumn, cool weather is still a long way from making its first appearance in South Mississippi.
Between now and then, saltwater anglers will have to continue to press forward in the typical hot and humid first few weeks of fall.
Indian Summer some may call it.
Capt. Kenny Shiyou with Goin’ South Fishing Charters (228-493-5735) is one rabid saltwater angler who doesn’t mind the initial autumn oppression because he knows Mississippi Sound is going to get full of redfish regardless of what the weatherman says this September.
Having been on the water as a deckhand on commercial shrimp and oyster boats below Bayou Caddy since he was 11 years old, Shiyou has enough experience to know what brings the reds in and where they’re going to be.
“I spent a lot of time on the big boats when I was younger,” Shiyou started as we idled past the Silver Star Resort and Casino, “but my dad and I took time to fish as much as we could between work.
“The spots I’m taking you to are as good as any in the entire Mississippi Sound this time of year as far as redfish go. Some of them took severe beatings at the hands of Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, but the resulting habitat has actually turned into a redfishing bonanza.”
Shiyou had promised to show me two spots in the Mississippi Sound where anglers could go and take their minds off the frustratingly hot start of fall by hammering on a few bruiser redfish. The first, although technically one mile across the Louisiana border, was Half Moon Island, and the other was a straight shot of Mississippi shoreline just to the west of the mouth of Bayou Caddy.
As he carefully idled into the eastern section of Half Moon Island, Shiyou explained why he was going so slowly in such open-looking water.
“The boat is sitting on top of what just a few years ago was marsh land like you see in front of us is,” Shiyou said as he pointed toward the island. “Before Katrina, this was all about 60 to 75 more yards of land. Then Gustav came in and hammered it some more. Now this entire area is broken marsh that’s just under the water.”
We started casting MirrOlure Top Dogs and She Dogs over what looked like barren water. I wanted to get to the bank, but Shiyou said that wasn’t going to happen in his 24-foot Sea Hunt bay boat, which drafts about 15 inches of water.
“You can go through here thinking you’re in good water,” he continued, “but the next thing you know you’ll be on a ridge that you can’t find your way off of. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t on the bank, because there’s enough good stuff out here for the reds to be on. There are a lot of high spots and low spots all mixed together, and reds could be anywhere over all of this broken marsh.”
His point was almost immediately confirmed as a giant redfish blew my black/chartreuse She Dog about 5 feet in the air while somehow managing to elude all six of the hooks hanging underneath it.
The commotion shook off the rest of my misty-eyed morning mood, and I realized there might be something to throwing our baits over this broken marsh without actually putting them right beside the bank.
“I think they actually hold out here a lot better now than they used to before Katrina,” Shiyou said. “There are so many different depths in this stuff that they don’t have far to go when they want to slide off into cooler water that may be 5 feet deep as opposed to sitting up there in that 2-foot water right at daybreak.”
Redfish continually smashed our topwaters as we blindly fan-cast them around the boat. However, on this particular morning, they were doing a lot more smashing than eating, and very few of our strikes resulted in hooked fish. Shiyou pulled out his gold spoons to see if we could up our ratio of strikes to hooked fish.
The spoon didn’t get nearly as much attention as the topwaters did, but it eventually fooled a couple redfish. With so many fish around, Shiyou told me there were some live shrimp in his baitwell and that I could try one if I wanted. It turns out the reds were very high on live shrimp, and my cork stayed under more than it stayed up.
Wondering if there were any opportunities for us to cast to visible reds, I asked Shiyou if Half Moon Island had any small ponds or bayous where we could tuck in and do a little sight fishing.
“You can get in some bayous and ponds on the southwest side over there,” he began as he pointed to some boats that were seemingly fishing the middle of the island. “There is some shallow water over there with lots of shells, and that’s where you can see the pushing reds early in the morning when the tide is right — falling for a couple hours. We aren’t getting in there in this boat, though.”
Because he fishes out of such a big boat, Shiyou is a big fan of fishing about three or four hours into a falling tide. This gives the reds plenty of time to pull out of the marsh and set up shop at the mouths of the bayous where they feed on all the little white shrimp coming out right behind them.
Satisfied that we had caught all the Half Moon reds we were going to catch, Shiyou called last cast so we could make the short run back across Mississippi Sound to some of the best redfish habitat I had ever seen.
“As far as looking for reds, this Mississippi side is good during September, too,” Shiyou said as he let his trolling motor down. “It’s like the area of Half Moon we just left in that this spot faces eastward, which means it’s got a lot of broken marsh, too. The main area over here is Three Oaks Bayou, which is about 60 to 70 feet wide, and Shrimp Bayou, which is a lot smaller.”
While Shiyou prefers to sling topwaters, spoons and spinnerbaits around Half Moon Island, he knows that the mouths of Three Oaks and Shrimp bayous are set up perfectly for fishing live bait or dead shrimp under a cork and waiting on the reds to come to him.
“Both areas basically fish the same,” Shiyou added. “You can fish the fast-moving baits early in the morning then slow down on the grass points and the mouths of the bayous later in the day with the shrimp.”
The water color in both areas stays at what Shiyou considers a good clarity throughout much of September as long as coastal Mississippi can stay away from west winds, which tend to dirty the Mississippi Sound water from nearby Lake Borgne.
Shiyou says the best wind for fishing this section of Mississippi Sound blows from the southeast. This wind direction pushes in the cleaner salt water from the Gulf of Mexico, and it can help clean up any dirty water within just a few days.
Anglers looking to get in on some of this can find easy access to both areas by launching at LaFrance Fishing Camp just northwest of Heron Bay or Bayou Caddy a little farther to the east. Shiyou says LaFrance usually has live bait until about October, and there is a boat on the water at Bayou Caddy that has shrimp and croaker through September.
“The only other thing you need to keep in mind is that if you fish Half Moon, which is in Louisiana waters, you need a Louisiana license,” Shiyou said. “You can go by Louisiana regulations, but if you do you can’t stop and fish anywhere in Mississippi on your way back in. You have to leave Louisiana water and land at your port if you caught a Louisiana limit.”
The calendar may say it’s fall by the end of September, but it’s sure not going to feel like it any time soon. So rather than wait on the cooler weather to arrive before you decide to hit the water, point your boat to the western side of Mississippi Sound and take advantage of the redfish action.
It’s sure to be as hot as an Indian Summer.