Fishing guides and charter captains along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast won’t cast a disparaging eye toward any species that is biting. Late fall and winter can be fickle, so when something’s biting, whatever it may be, the skippers give their clients a taste of the action.
Yes, that was pun, since a box of fresh fish fillets is always a wonderful thing, but it seems even better in December.
But push captains for their personal favorites, usually it’s redfish.
“Man, my favorite, what really gets my motor running, is sight-fishing for reds,” said Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Charters in Bay St. Louis. “When you get the right conditions: a low, but not extremely low, tide on a fairly calm and clear day — that’s the ticket.
“You got to get in the marsh and have a shallow-draft boat, because they are going to get back in the ponds to feed. You get back in there, shut down and let it get good and quiet, and you will start seeing them moving and feeding. You’ll see them pushing water. You’ll see their fins and tails above the water. You’ll see them swimming by the boat. If you have any casting skill at all, it can become a case of all you want to catch.
“I’m serious about that. I like a live cocahoe minnow on a leadhead jig. If you can get minnows, get ’em and make sure you get enough, because this time of year, those things are so hardy that you can keep them alive in an aerated tank for days. Redfish will not pass one up.”
Artificial lures are good, too, but nothing beats a cocahoe, Schindler said.
“We target slot reds to get a limit of quality fish for the table, but you will also see some bull reds, sheepshead, black drum and even an alligator gar or two,” he said. “I love sight-fishing in December, but I’m not above fishing for anything I hear about that is biting. We’ve got the bridge pilings we can fall back on when the weather is rough, and the reds, drum and sheepshead, big sheepshead, will be there all the way through to March.”
Taylor Biggs of Biloxi doesn’t run charter trips, but he’s fishing just about every weekend, including in December. His passion is bull redfish: the bigger, the better.
“I don’t ever keep redfish at all, unless we have one die or we see it is mortally wounded,” Biggs said, “so for us, getting a slot fish we can keep doesn’t matter. My friends and I are looking for the big boys, and our current record on my boat is 42 pounds. I think, no, I know, we’ve had bigger ones on, lots bigger, but we’ve lost them.
“We don’t use heavy gear; just regular bass gear in both baitcast and spinning equipment with 10-pound braid or 12-pound mono, and brother, we can go through spools of it in a hurry in December. We catch bull reds all year, but our favorite time is December.”
It’s not just because of the cooler weather, either.
“No, we just can stay on the big schools of big bulls easier and without going that far,” Biggs said. “We can find them cruising the shallows at the barrier islands, from Horn to Cat, or we can run out to the Biloxi Marsh and find them in passes and around shoals. If we can find one school, we can follow it all day and catch them until we don’t want to catch them anymore.
“Lures? You name it. Everything from Rat-L-Traps and gold spoons we can cast forever, to spinnerbaits and jigs. Live bait is great, but really, anything from a dead shrimp to half a crab will work.”