While most waters in Mississippi can produce outstanding action in February — with both bass and crappie fattening up in prespawn patterns — these five hot spots are proven producers worth a trip.
- Barnett Reservoir: Whether you like catfish, crappie or bass, Barnett Reservoir is a February hot spot. Seriously cold days offer fishermen targeting catfish the best bank-fishing of the year.
Catfish move shallow to feast on shad that succumb to the cold water. Just cast as far as you can with night crawlers or cut shad and set multiple poles. Tight-lining on the bottom is the ticket.
For crappie, watch the river current. After heavy seasonal rains, a fast river usually follows, and that puts fish in the “Welfare Hole,” a popular fishing area just south of the Pearl River bridge on Mississippi HWY 43. The bridge pilings are the place to fish in normal river flow, but when it’s racing move southeast to the big flat just off the river. The current forms a big eddy that offers fish safe haven.
Of course, if the river is running fast, so is the spillway, and the crappie will be thick in the tailrace. Bass fishermen play the warm fronts. The third or fourth day of a warming trend will lure the big fish out of the deep water to nearby shallows. Pad stems along the river channel are ideal targets for a small-bladed spinnerbait.
- Eagle Lake: For crappie fishermen, there’s no doubting this old Mississippi River oxbow north of Vicksburg. Since the lake has outstanding populations of both black and white crappie, there are options. Fish for suspended black crappie around piers on the Mississippi bank; the Louisiana side is too shallow. Most fish are caught fishing jigs 3 to 4 feet deep in deeper water; put your boat as tight to the structure as possible and reaching well up under to get to the middle of the piers. Sling-shotting is a perfect method for crappie, shooting a jig on light spinning tackle. For the big, white crappie, head to the open water out for the “Float Row” area and troll deep. Using electronics to locate big suspended schools of either crappie or baitfish will increase your catch rate considerably.
- Davis Lake: This U.S. Forest Service impoundment in the Tombigbee National Forest, just off the Natchez Trace 30 miles south of Tupelo, is a winter hot spot, having produced the second-largest bass on record in Mississippi on a cold day with freezing temperatures. The key is following the main creek channel or ditch channels through the deepest areas of the lake until you locate structure like stumps or logs. A shaky head worm is the preferred bait of Davis Lake’s big-bass chasers. Be patient, and remember that you’re there for that one or two big-fish bites a day that can be life changers.
- Coastal rivers: The Pascagoula, Biloxi and Jordan River systems on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are excellent this month, especially if it’s a dry month without a lot of freshwater running in the rivers. The Pascagoula is a great late-winter trout producer, with deep holes holding the big specks. The Biloxi and its partner, the Tchoutacabouffa, produce great largemouth action in their upper ends, but any cast is also subject to bring a bite from a speck, redfish or puppy drum. A personal favorite is targeting the US 90 bridge pilings at the mouth of the Jordan River in Bay St. Louis. Big sheepshead, puppy drum and redfish all use those pilings to ambush baitfish. Bridges on the other rivers work, too, but Bay St. Louis is the best.
- Tenn-Tom Waterway: If you like to catch catfish, this system in the northeast Mississippi is as good a choice — and safer — than the Mississippi River, and it is challenging the Big Muddy’s reputation as the best catfish waters in the South. Whether you are trying to catch a monster flathead or blue cat — or just fill an icebox with keeper-sized and fun-to-eat channel catfish — Columbus Lake on the Tenn-Tom Waterway is the place to be.
According to local knowledge, unless the water is 50 degrees or more, forget the big ones and go for the smaller ones. Look for stumpy areas off the main channel with water between 7 and 20 feet and use cut bait on a 5/0 hook to catch blues and channels from one to 15 pounds.