Katrina Reef – Out of the rubble came a reef trout love

This hefty 4-pounder smashed a booger green MirrOlure Catch 2000 fished dangerously close to the concrete rubble.

We finally had a wind-free day recently, so my wife and I decided to take a short jaunt to one of our favorite trout havens after church.

We launched at the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs, a mere 10 minutes from home, and made the quick run through Davis Bayou and around the east end of Deer Island to our little slice of heaven.

I slowed to an idle about 100 yards away from my target; at 50 yards, I shut down the outboard and went in the rest of the way on my trolling motor.

The stretch I wanted to fish wasn’t occupied — life was good.

I eased into position and made a long cast with my MirrOlure Catch 2000.

The official color of the bait is CFPR (chartreuse back, pearl belly, silver scale), but the friend who turned me on to this color calls it booger green.

That’s easier to remember, so it stuck.

The Catch 2000 landed a shrimp’s antennae away from my target. I let the bait sink for a 3-count, and then I made a subtle twitch.

No sooner did I twitch that 2000 than it felt like someone hit it with a sledgehammer.

As soon as my old-man reflexes sensed the strike, I set the hook and started reeling like a man possessed.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

The fat girl on the other end of my line was madder than a member of the Blue-haired Baptist Butterbean Brigade who just had a fried chicken leg snatched from her hands.

She came up and shook her head, churning up a froth before making a beeline straight down into the tangled web of snags from which she had emerged.

Fortunately, I was prepared with a stiff drag and heavy tackle — heavy in speckled trout terms, anyway.

After a few tense moments, serious praying and a great net job by my wife, ol’ big girl was safely in the boat.

While not a monster, she came in at 23.5-inches and stretched the Boga Grip to 4.25-pounds.

I had a quick picture taken with her, and then I slid her back into the water to be fruitful and multiply.

The tangled web of snags and favorite trout haven of mine is a long stretch of concrete and rebar built several years ago called Katrina Reef.

Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, leaving behind all manners of death and destruction.

A home my wife and I had dreamed of building for several years was destroyed three weeks after completing construction and moving in. Everything we owned thereafter fit in the pickup truck we used for evacuation — minus the foosball table and bean bags that were on the second floor.

I’ll be honest, I was angry at first; but over the following months things got better for us thanks to thousands of volunteers and forward-thinking individuals who saw a rainbow at the end of those countless tons of destroyed bridges and rubble.

In 2007, the Department of Marine Resources used material from the old Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge and constructed what is now known as Katrina Key, or Katrina Reef as most locals call it.

I personally didn’t discover Katrina Reef until 2011 when I started fishing it in the flats boat I had recently purchased. Since that time Katrina Reef has become one of my favorite spots.

Katrina Reef is over a half mile long and is a twisted, tangled pile of concrete and rebar featuring depths of 9 feet up to 3 feet against the reef.

My best catches come from the areas with deeper water adjacent to breaks in the reef where current can pass through.

Trout can be caught all over the structure: right against the reef to well off the rubble. My favorite method — and what seems to be the best method to catch the larger trout — is fishing right against the reef.

Treacherously close to the reef.

On that recent trip to Katrina Reef with my wife, we set out with the sole purpose of getting up close and personal with the rubble.

The type of fishing we had in mind is similar to a bass fisherman working in heavy cover: stout tackle, heaving lines and big lures.

I use a H2O Express 6-foot, 9-inch medium action-rod paired with an H2O Express Mettle reel spooled with 30-pound PowerPro Super 8 Slick, a 20-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon leader and a MirrOlure Catch 2000.

A longer rod with more backbone would probably work better, but my wife has put the quietus on new tackle purchases.

When I go to Katrina Reef, my first order of business is to fish as close to the rubble as I can.

To do that, I prefer a slow-sinking bait like the Catch 2000 that allows me to slowly work the bait down the face of the reef.

The reef is basically like a half-mile-long triangle: a point at the top that gets wider toward the base.

The idea is to work your bait slowly down the face of the triangle so it passes directly by the nose of a trout tucked safely away in the bridge rubble.

This will take some practice to avoid getting hung — which does happen — but it’s definitely worth the effort.

As we get farther into summer, menhaden are thick, so don’t hesitate to use a MirrOdine. Any slow sinker will work; just match the hatch.

I have key trout-holding areas I found by fishing from one end of the reef to the other. Like fishing anywhere, you have to put in your homework — and like trout anywhere, you might smoke ’em on Sunday and catch two the next Saturday.

I’m not going to lie: Katrina Reef can be a fickle animal, so if you scratch the first time don’t give up. Trout seem to be there year-round, except during the coldest months of the year.

Another cool thing, and what my wife likes the most, is the abundance of wildlife. You’ll see pelicans, seagulls, tiny little birds that hop around on the concrete, dolphins jumping and various kinds of fish busting bait all around you.

Katrina Reef is a short boat ride from Biloxi or Ocean Springs, and it’s easy to find by looking at Google Maps or checking out the Department of Marine Resources website for GPS coordinates.

Because it’s so close to Biloxi and Ocean Springs, don’t be surprised to find a crowd when you go.

I highly suggest getting there early and staking out a spot, or hitting it during the week when the rest of us are at work.

Catch or catch not, it’s a beautiful reef full of life above and below the surface.

Pack up your nerves, patience, stout tackle and a slow-sinking bait, and give it a whirl.

It’s a different ballgame than a lot of trout fishing we do down here, but, man alive, it’ll give that ol’ thumpin’ gizzard in your chest a workout when you hook a hefty trout in that snaggled mess.

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