Mississippi kayak angler blisters bayou reds, specks when the water cools. Here’s how he handles things.
John Deshauteurs of Vancleave has always fished Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. He learned from older saltwater anglers that fishing for speckled trout and redfish was much like fishing for bass. The fish held on structure out of the current and hit baitfish moving past ambush points. He’d take a couple of jigheads, soft-plastic grubs and shad-type baits, bouncing them off the bottom, and catch speckled trout and reds any time of the year by changing bait colors.
Then, he remembers, “Several years ago, a couple of buddies and I took some kayaks and a canoe to fish Waynesboro’s Maynor Creek. I fell in love with kayak fishing.”
At first, Deshauteurs used a molded, welded kayak, but today he fishes out of a Jackson kayak. He’s very efficient at pinpointing and catching specks, reds, sheepshead, flounder and black drum, and his kayak has some of the same sophisticated fishing equipment of many bass boats.
Using depth finders
Depth finders with a down-scan, a side-scan and mapping capabilities has made a dramatic change in the way kayakers fish. They can see bottom breaks, holes, ditches, structure, baitfish, specks and reds before they fish.
DeShauteurs fishes topwater lures for speckled trout and redfish year-round.
“During the winter, the Gulf Coast may have a warm front come through; the baitfish (will move shallow), specks and reds will move shallow and attack topwater lures,” he said. “Also, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the winter, the sun heats the water. The baitfish will move up into the shallows to feed, and when the specks and reds follow, I’ll fish my topwater lures.
“In November at 4 a.m., the (temperature) may be 30 to 40 degrees, but 65 degrees by 11 a.m. Therefore, the fish will move up and down the water column throughout the day.”
Sneaking up on fish
When specks and reds are shallow, Deshauteurs primarily fishes a Saltwater Skitter Walk on 15-pound monofilament. He uses a slow, walk-the-dog type retrieve.
“I twitch my rod tip, so the bait will glide from left to right, and I’ll let the bait glide until it stops,” he said. “Then, I repeat the process, since winter specks and reds aren’t as aggressive as summer ones.”
Deshauteurs’ kayak doesn’t make nearly as much noise as boats with outboard motors, so he can sneak up on fish before casting. He moves undetected near a hole, catches fish, leaves and slips into the next hole. To hold position and prevent spooking fish, he uses a Power Pole instead of a heavy anchor. Many times he’ll find a half-acre hole in a bayou, fish all the way around it and catch a limit of specks and reds.
“I’ll fish several bayous in Jackson County I’ve fished my entire life to find the holes with the least amount of fishing pressure in November,” Deshauteurs said. “I already have GPS waypoints on my depth finder marking the holes and the underwater structure holding specks and reds. However, I’ll search for oyster banks, dead trees, car bodies and any other structure on the edges of or in the bayou’s holes. I’m looking for 10- to 18-foot holes, and I like to fish with artificial lures. I rarely, if ever, fish with live bait.”
“In November and December, I’ll fish Graveline Bayou near Gautier, a bayou not fed by creeks coming in from the north,” he said. “When there’s north winds, they’ll usually blow some water out of the bayous (that aren’t) creek fed. You can locate the deeper ditches and holes that have fish congregating in them. So getting that winter bite is much easier because the specks and reds have to be in those holes during the cold.”
Deshauteurs fishes for specks and reds with bass lures and always has his electronics running. He said trout, reds and black drum will concentrate on the bottom and behind rocks and other structure, once the water pushes out of the bayous, to wait for the baitfish and eat them. That’s when he fishes crankbaits and soft plastics on jigheads.
If he spots heavy, dark marks behind a rock on his depth finder, he realizes those probably are redfish or black drum. Lighter, spread-out marks generally are speckled trout, white trout and/or croakers.
“I typically fish Monday through Thursday,” Deshauteurs said. “On weekends, 30 to 40 boats may be trolling for specks and reds with many lines in the water, creating numbers of waves — although my kayak is very stable. I personally like to fish when most anglers are at work.”
Deshauteurs pays close attention to social media. If he sees a post talking about specks and reds biting in Graveline Bayou, he won’t fish there. But if no one’s talking about Graveline Bayou, he knows he can catch a limit of three reds, often keeping the one fish longer than 30 inches that’s allowed.
“If no one’s fishing holes there, and I can locate specks, I also can catch a limit of 15 trout” he said. “I may have to hit two or three holes to get that limit of trout, but during the week, I generally always can get a limit of specks and reds at Graveline.”
Bayous Cumbest, Casotte
A public launch site is available at another of Deshauters’ favorite fishing spots, Bayou Cumbest near Moss Point on Mississippi’s eastern Gulf Coast. But for years, Deshauters has launched from private property because it’s closer to the places he fishes and reduces the time he spends paddling.
“Bayou Casotte in Pascagoula, is deeper than my other two favorite bayous and receives plenty of fishing pressure,” he said. “I’m looking for big, underwater rocks in that bayou with my depth finder. The bigger the rock, the more fish it usually will hold. I have to watch my line because the rocks will chafe it. I’ve learned the more rocks I fish, the more trout I’ll catch.
“Although this industrial canal also has shallow and deep oyster reefs, I’ll catch more fish off the rocks that break the current and provide places for fish to hide and ambush the bait traveling with the current. Fishermen for years have brought these rocks out and dropped them, along with old cars, trees and other structure to provide places to fish.”
Deshauteurs’ three favorite bayous all have structure that he’s pinpointed. He fishes the downcurrent sides by casting upcurrent and letting the bait slide back or bounce along the bottom past the structure. Making a silent approach with his kayak, using the latest marine electronics and having the ability to hold in a spot with a Power Pole has made Deshauteurs an effective angler for bayou specks, reds, flounder, black drum and sheepshead.
Tackle, electronics for the bayou
John Deshauteurs chooses to fish artificial lures instead of live bait, including crankbaits and soft plastics like Strike King’s Rage Swimmer.
On bright, sunny days, he uses more natural patterns: mullet, menhaden or white shrimp. On dark, cloudy days, he likes garlic and shrimp scents or adds on a Pro-Cure strip. He fishes topwater lures in shallow water like a Rapala Saltwater Skitter Walk 11 in bone/red head.
Deshauteurs uses either 8- or 10-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon line on a Fenwick Elite Tech baitcasting rod with an Abu Garcia Revo SX reel in either the 5.4:1 or 7:5 gear ratio. He fishes a 1/8-ounce or a 3/16-ounce jighead.
He has a Power Pole on the stern of his kayak to hold him on his fishing spot. His boat also contains a milk crate with four rods attached, batteries to run his electronics, a seat and a rod storage locker.
“Anytime I’m fishing a bayou, my electronics are running,” Deshauteurs said. “I’m currently using the Raymarine Element 9 fish finder and will have my map on half of the screen and on the other side either my down-imaging searching for deep holes or the side-imaging feature looking for shallow areas. If I find rocks in a deep hole, I’ll mark that spot as a waypoint on the mapping feature (GPS) of my depth finder. I’ll mark these holes in the spring and summer when the bayous are at full pool. Then when I return in the winter, I’ll know exactly where to fish.”
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