Saltwater guides catch a break with excellent summer fishing

Gulf charter captains are bragging on the great speckled trout fishing they’ve had this spring and summer. (Photo by Bobby Cleveland)

Fishing in the Gulf is great; plenty of fishermen, too

Capt. Matt Tusa of Shore Thing Charters in Bay St. Louis smiled throughout the day on the Gulf of Mexico. Fish were biting. The seas were calm. His clients were happy.

He and a lot of Mississippi charter captains have smiled a lot lately, and to a man, they’ll tell you,“It’s about time.”

“We’ve had a rough couple of years,” Tusa said. “Between last year’s publicity fiasco related to the algae, this year’s COVID scare and a lot of winter and spring flood waters coming into the Gulf, it’s been tough staying busy. You do what you can, fish when you can and hope for the best.

“This summer has been great. The weather has been cooperative and the fishing, well, it’s been fantastic, especially the redfish and speckled trout. The trout have been hard for the average angler to find and stay on, at times, but for charter captains running all the time, it’s easier.

“We didn’t have as much freshwater incursion from the Mississippi River through Bonnet Carré Spillway. We did have a couple of big floods on the Pearl River (and the Pascagoula River) that gave us fits earlier this year. It’s encouraging.”

Tripletail

Tusa (228-493-9743) thinks the stage is setting up for a good August, and it needs to be since most captains have their date books filled with trips.

“We started seeing some tripletail in late June, and it’s been good through early July,” Tusa said. “That’s gotten to be a pretty big deal for us, since it offers us an extra bonus for our clients at the end of the day. If we can get on the trout early — and August is pretty dependable around structure — or on the redfish, or both, and fill a box, then we can spend the last couple of hours running and gunning for tripletail.”

Tripletail, aka blackfish, are considered by most people to be the best-tasting nearshore species in the Gulf. They are odd in that while most fish move out to find cooler water in the summer, blackfish migrate from deep to shallow and can be found within a mile or two of the beaches.

“Anywhere you can find cover on the surface, like crab pots (buoys), channel markers, floating debris or anything really, you want to pass by pretty close and look a floating fish, laying on its side, waiting for a meal to pass by,” Tusa said. “On a 90- or 100-degree day, we can run at 20 to 30 miles per hour and look at crab pots. With a trained eye, you can spot them pretty easy. You pass them by, sneak back up to them and offer them a live shrimp. Man, they can’t pass it up.”

Red snapper

Over in Biloxi, fisherman George Porter had a great snapper season on his private boat, at least until the season closed July 5 when the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources said the recreational quota was running short.

“We can only hope when they finish the tallying, we might see the season reopen either in late July, August or at least for Labor Day,” Porter said. “The fishing was so good that we could catch a 5- or 6-angler limit of two each per angler and keep whatever size fish the person wanted. We had one trip when we brought in 10 snapper that weighed 257 pounds — that’s an average of 25.7 pounds per fish.”

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, the state agency that oversees saltwater fishing, has not announced yet whether any part of the state’s or Gulf-wide recreational quota remained and when or if the season would reopen.

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Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1278 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.

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