Many Mississippi Gulf Coast anglers consider a temperature gauge the best tool for catching fish during April. A temperature gauge will tell you the most-abundant and the easiest-to-catch fish on the Gulf Coast and the locations of those fish, and often identify the baits these April fish will prefer to eat.
Early April — redfish, drum, sheepshead
“On the first of April, if the water temperature’s still cold, we’ll target redfish, black drum and sheepshead,” said Sonny Schindler with Shore Thing Fishing Charters in Bay St. Louis.
If April has cold water, the sheepshead really will turn on. You can load the boat with sheepshead, catch a limit of redfish and black drum and enjoy a great day of fishing.
“We generally locate redfish and black drum on the shallow flats of the Biloxi Marsh during April,” Schindler said. “And the sheepshead will be on any type of structure like bridges, sunken wrecks and riprap. Sheepshead will eat any kind of shrimp — dead, live or shrimp-imitation lures. We’ll also pinpoint sheepshead in April on gas rigs, oyster reefs and structures supporting barnacles.”
Delicious to eat, sheepshead often are referred to as bay snapper, since the meat’s white and flaky, much like a red snapper’s. Also, you clean sheepshead just like you do a red snapper.
Late April — speckled trout
As the water warms in April, Schindler starts fishing top-waters for speckled trout.
“During the winter months, the speckled trout almost seem to hibernate, but as the water climbs to 60-70 degrees, trout will begin moving out of the marsh and onto the flats,” Schindler said. “The Mississippi Gulf Coast has had an unusually cold winter this year, so more than likely we won’t see that magic 70-degree temperature, which really turns the speckled trout on, until later in April.
“I’ll look for the speckled trout on the flats as the fish make their easterly migration when the water temperature gets between 60 and 70 degrees — from the Three Mile Area all the way to Comfort Island. The trout will be holding in water 4-feet-deep or less, and our average fish will weigh from 1 to 4 pounds.
“If I can find trout on a clear, calm day, I like to fish grubs in the opening night, Fourth of July and firecracker colors — clear or translucent colors. I fish them on 3/8-ounce jig heads. I’ll put the grub on a 16- to 20-pound-test fluorocarbon leader that’s 14 to 20 inches long, and tie the leader onto 20- to 30-pound-test braided line.
“When you’re fishing for trout, you’ll also have a really good chance of catching black drum or redfish. So, I like to have that heavier line to deal with those bigger fish, if one of them takes my grub. I use a popping cork about 1 or 2 feet up the line above the jig, pop the cork, let it sit for about three seconds and then pop it again.”
Schindler prefers Marsh Works and Cajun Thunder popping corks. With very active trout, he may not pause the cork but instead will pop it continuously. If a trout does take a jig, Schindler may tie two jigs on his line and catch two at a time.
“When you can find that water temperature in April moving from the low 60s to the upper 60s and low 70s, these Mississippi Gulf Coast trout will go on a feeding spree and start eating almost any topwater bait you cast,” Schindler said. “My favorite topwater baits for trout include the Rapala Skitterwalk, the MirrOLure Top Dog and She Dog and the Heddon Zara Spook and Zara Puppy.”
“Flounder in April will be an incidental catch,” Schindler said. “We don’t really concentrate on flounder until the fall of the year. But the good news is there’s always plenty of fish to catch along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in the Biloxi Marsh. The water temperature will tell us whether to fish for redfish and black drum or speckled trout with some redfish in the mix.”
Capt. Sonny Schindler can be reached at (228) 342-2206.
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