The Mississippi Gulf Coast still has oil booms at places spotted along beaches and inlets in case BP crude suddenly shows up again. And there still are oil company boats patrolling the region’s inshore waters looking for potential spill problems.
But Biloxi-area beaches are clean and white, water quality is good, tourists are in good supply, and motels, restaurants – and of course, casinos – are packed with visitors.
The BP oil is essentially gone, and normal coastal life has resumed.
Best of all, the inshore saltwater fishing throughout the area is wide open to anglers, and the action is hot – and sure to get better – as summer turns to autumn, and baitfish, shrimp and big saltwater fish begin their annual migrations in the marshes, bayous, rivers and beachfronts of the coastal region.
A recent fishing trip out of Biloxi proved the seatrout, red drum and flounder action is prime, and only about to get better. Fishing with brother-sister team Eric and Lindsey McNally, and friend Jake Markris, we made a good day out of an otherwise wet, overcast and windy one by keeping inshore, tucked into leeward spots protected by points of land, canals, bulkheads, bridges, and islands.
Eric wanted to run offshore, to work several barrier islands that parallel the Biloxi area coast. But high wind, rain and lightning prevented that. So instead we looked for flounder, casting grub jigs, live finger mullet and mini-menhaden. While the fishing wasn’t non-stop action, we boated enough flounder, redfish, black drum and other species to keep the day interesting, and had plenty of fish for a family dinner.
Flounder offered the most consistent action, with a number of nice fish pushing several pounds. Live baits produced, but grub jigs were most consistent, especially ¼-ounce lead-heads tipped with Berkley 4-inch Gulp “Minnows” in smelt color.
“It sounds crazy, but the 4-inch Gulp Minnow produces almost as well as live mullet for flounder, trout and redfish,” Eric said as he guided his 22-foot NauticStar bay skiff around Biloxi Bay boat docks, grass islands and creek mouths with an electric motor. “On a jig head it’s great, but it even works with a slip-bobber rig or Carolina rig, and it can be set-up weedless for working grass beds for trout and redfish. It’s pretty awesome, especially when bait isn’t easily available. On flounder, it’s a killer.”
Eric and fishing friends had been consistently catching big numbers of heavy redfish, seatrout, Spanish mackerel and large jack crevalle from most of the barrier islands that lay several miles off the Mississippi Coast in the open, clear-water Gulf of Mexico. The islands are just a few miles run out of a number of Mississippi spots, such as Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula. Grass beds, sand beaches and clear water are the targets there, and the fishing can be sensational when the wind is low and the sun is high.
“One Saturday I dashed offshore at dawn with visiting friends Brandon Shankle, his dad Jeff, and Shea Beane, and we were into fish all day around the islands,” Eric says. “Most fish came on grub jigs, but at first light the seatrout just crushed Bomber ‘Badonk-A-Donks’ in white and silver finishes.
“The fish were holding around flooded grass just a few feet deep, and trout were thick. By the end of the day we’d caught and mostly released 52 speckled trout, a dozen redfish, some Spanish mackerel, a lot of ladyfish, and several jack crevalle to nearly 20 pounds.
“We literally left them biting, because by mid-afternoon we were whipped, had all the fish we wanted, and it was getting hot.”
Inshore fishing is great these days, too, around Biloxi and Pascagoula, with spotted seatrout and silver or sand trout hitting well. Flounder are beginning to mass, and can be counted on hitting in deep holes, near bulkheads, jetties and boat docks. Big fall-spawning “bull” reds are poised to show, and plenty of 8 to 20 pounders are in supply. Spotted seatrout are massing, too, and some night fishing around boat docks with lights has been very productive in some Mississippi areas.
Accommodations and restaurants are outstanding in the Biloxi area, and all are bustling with business. On-your-own fishing is easy to do, as boat ramps and marinas abound.
Charter boat captains and inshore guides also are available, including the following well-known fishermen: Capt. Mike Moore (Strictly Business Charters, www.biloxifishing.com, phone 228-392-4047/348-2664); Capt. John DePineuil (BO-JOH-LA Charters,www.bojohlacharters.com, phone 228-596-4921); Capt. Robert Brodie (Team Brodie Charters, http://teambrodiecharters.com/, phone 228-697-7707).
For more information on Mississippi Gulf Coast fishing, contact: the Mississippi Division of Tourism (http://www.visitmississippi.org/outdoor_rec/outdoor_fishing.asp)