BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - You can tell the spring fishing season in South Mississippi is a month away when water temperatures begin to rise toward the lower to mid 70 degree mark. When this happens, the Mississippi Sound turns on with migrating species such as cobia and sharks.
Until then, the bridge fishing scene from Bay St. Louis to Pascagoula are hot spots and produce black drum, flounder, redfish and sheepshead through the month of February to mid March.
This action has been solid since Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the Bay Bridge as well as the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge. Following the storm, the bridges were rebuilt and the cement supporting the structures began attracting barnacles that in return lures in predators like black drum, redfish and sheepshead.
"Since they (bridges) are so close and there are so many structures to fish, anyone can fish them," said Captain Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Charter in Bay St. Louis.
"We started out fishing the bridges on rough (weather) days. Since the new (Bay) bridge has more pilings after Katrina it has more fish on it now. We actually have customers that only want to fish the bridges because the action is that good.''
In terms of fishing techniques, Schindler prefers to use small hooks equipped with 20 pound braided line. The top bait is live shrimp when available but dead shrimp and crabs also work for black drum while fishing next to the pilings.
"Braided line really helps you feel the soft bites (due to low metabolism levels) during this time of the year. It also works better on windy days when the tide is really moving. But make sure you bring plenty of tackle because there's a lot (on the bottom) to get snagged on and the bigger fish might break you off too."
"Depending on what time of the year, we catch black drum, flounder, redfish, sheepshead, speckled trout, white trout and bull croaker on the bridges. Late winter and early spring is the best time to fish the bridges.''
Schindler also likes using a traditional Carolina Rig.
"Live or dead shrimp is normally all it takes. A simple Carolina Rig with a half-ounce sinker works fine. The trick is to use the smallest but strongest hook you can find."
"Hands down, the sheepshead is the most underrated fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Sheepshead can be caught year round, but the winter months are without a doubt the best time of the year to fish for them, and that time is now."