Great Adventure and Good Fishing Inshore and Offshore Mississippi During May
Delicious Food at the Chandeleur Islands by Catching Speckled Trout, Redfish, Flounder and Spanish Mackerel:
Captain George Pelaez of the “Joka’s Wild” charter boat, docked at Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi, Mississippi, operates trips only to the Chandeleur Islands. His boat, the mother ship for a Chandeleur Islands’ adventure, carries from 12 to 14 people, who sleep and eat on the boat and then go out in skiffs to fish the Chandeleur Islands.
“We fish all the Chandeleur Islands, except Breton,” Pelaez says. “On our trips, we spend 3 nights on the boat and fish 2-1/2-days. We start at Schooner Harbor and fish to the wreck at Monkey Bayou.” Throughout March and April, wade fishing is one of the favorite ways to catch speckled trout, redfish and flounder at the Chandeleur Islands. Because birds are nesting there, as long as you stay in the water and don’t step-up on land, you can wade-fish all around the islands – a regulation affecting all the Chandeleur Islands. “Most of our trips during March and April usually catch between 175 and 250 trout per trip,” Pelaez explains, “not including the redfish and the flounder limits.” During March and April, anglers also caught and released a large number of Spanish mackerel, and a number of fishermen had their lines cut by the Spanish mackerel.
“The redfish are everywhere right now – all along the Chandeleur Islands,” Pelaez mentions. “I’ve been fishing on this boat since I was 6-years old, and we’re seeing the biggest schools of redfish I’ve ever seen in my life. On the last trip we made to the Chandeleur Islands, our anglers caught and released all the giant redfish they wanted.” Anglers can keep a limit of slot-sized (18- to 21-inch long) redfish, but the bigger reds have to be released. If you want some rod-bending, drag-squealing, muscle-popping action this month, you can’t beat fishing for the big bull reds – often weighing 30 pounds or more – that roam the Chandeleur Islands in May. “Calm weather means slick water, and schools of baitfish will start popping-up,” Pelaez emphasizes. “You’ll generally find the redfish under the baitfish.” The average trout will weigh 2 to 2-1/2-pounds with some solid 4- to 5-pound trout mixed-in the catch. “The biggest trout we caught on one of our trips weighed 9 pounds, and the redfish we keep generally weigh about 6 or 7 pounds,” Pelaez reports. “The problem is that you usually catch more big redfish that you have to release than the slot-sized reds that you can keep.” The fishing at the Chandeleur Islands is fantastic, and the food on the “Joka’s Wild” is phenomenal with menus including prime rib, shrimp spaghetti, fried fish, red beans and rice and crawfish étouffée, all prepared by an onboard cook. Life doesn’t get any better than serving delicious Cajun cuisine and having bent rods and squealing drags.
How to Fish the Chandeleur Islands:
The trout and the redfish at the Chandeleur Islands usually will eat almost any bait cast to them. Although plastic lures seem to be the most favored, early in the morning, when the water’s slick, you can get some exciting action with top-water lures. Pelaez chooses his favorite lure as the Bass Assassin lures in the salt-and-pepper color. However, he’s quick to say that, “When you find the fish, they’ll hit almost anything you throw to them.”To successfully catch the trout and the redfish this month, look for the baitfish. Once you locate the baitfish, that’s where the speckled trout and the redfish have to be, since their dinner table’s set-up for them to eat. Flounder are an incidental catch. Every trip usually catches 10 to 12 flounder, although most anglers are targeting speckled trout and redfish. Pelaez says that in May, your best fishing will be out on the flats, fishing from a skiff. “This month, the bait will start moving-out from inside the islands. The shrimp will be coming-in from the Gulf, and we’ll generally find and catch the most fish on the grass flats. About 90 percent of the fish will be caught from skiffs this month, but there are some people who still enjoy wade fishing. The fish will be holding in about 3 to 5 feet of water in the grass, and that’s a little deep for wade fishing. We usually fish on the west side of the Islands along the grass beds, where there’s protected water.”
The Chandeleur Islands – one of my favorite places to fish – homes beautiful water, tons of fish and an abundance of wildlife. Although Captain Pelaez runs 3-day trips, I also enjoy fishing up and down the Islands, even on 1-day trips out of Biloxi. When you go to the Chandeleur Islands, you won’t see crowds of folks or boats huddled-up trying to fish over one wreck or reef. If you’re wade fishing, the only conversation you’ll have is with yourself. To experience some of the best shallow-water fishing in the State of Mississippi, plan a trip to the Chandeleur Islands this month. The weather should be gorgeous and the fish will be biting. If you fish with Captain George Pelaez, the food will be delicious and abundant.
May’s Inshore Fishing at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast:
In May, numbers of fish, including white trout, speckled trout, ground mullet, summer flounder, redfish and pompano concentrate on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and you’ll have to work hard not to catch them.
White Trout and Ground Mullet:
Captain Robert L. Brodie of Team Brodie Charters in Biloxi, Mississippi, explains that, “The sand seatrout, commonly called white trout, and the king of the southern waters, the ground mullet, will be on many of the reefs in the Mississippi Sound, including the Belle Fontaine Reef, the Katrina Reef, the Keesler Reef, the White House Reef and the Ocean Springs Arbor Reef. You’ll find these fish on the reefs by the millions this month.” Brodie uses a 1-ounce weight and a No. 1/0 Gamakatsu Octopus Hook on 25- to 30-pound-test Seaguar leader baited with fresh squid, live croaker or fresh dead shrimp. He ties his leader directly to a loop in the main line and attaches his weight about 18-inches up the line from the hook. Brodie says anglers may catch a couple-hundred ground mullet and white trout in a day on these reefs in May due to no limits on either of these delicious fish.
“The speckled trout also will be gathering on the reefs this month,” Brodie says. Brodie prefers to fish live shrimp and live croakers, the most-productive baits, either under a popping cork or to free-line them. “When I’m fishing a popping cork, I like about a 5-foot, 20-pound-test fluorocarbon leader,” Brodie emphasizes. “I’ll put a split shot about 2-feet above the hook and use a No. 4/0 Gamakatsu treble hook.” Brodie prefers to suspend his live bait 1- to 2-feet off the bottom when he’s fishing for speckled trout, which generally will weigh from 2-1/2- to 3-pounds each. Brodie advises that, “All these reefs receive a lot of fishing pressure, so to catch the big trout, be at the reefs waiting for the sun to rise. The most-productive fishing for big trout generally happens from the crack of dawn until about 8:00 am.” On an average day, you often can catch three to 12 of these really-nice-sized trout before the 8:00 am rush begins. But, if you sleep in and don’t get to the reefs until 8:00 am or 9:00 am, Brodie suggests you target the ground mullet and the sand trout. “Good tidal movement means you can catch the sand trout and the ground mullet at the reefs,” Brodie suggests. “Whenever you’re fishing the reefs, you almost can bet on having fish for dinner.”
Brodie enjoys targeting pompano at the Barrier Islands on the flats and the bars, usually in 1 to 2 feet of water. Brodie names Ship and Horne islands as his favorite spots for pompano fishing. He uses a small piece of fresh dead shrimp for bait and rigs the same way he does when he’s fishing for white trout and ground mullet on the bottoms of the reefs. “The pompano usually start showing-up at the same time as the cobia – the first of April, and last year, I caught pompano through November,” Brodie reports. With no size or number limits on pompano, Brodie has caught as many as 25 in one day, with the average fish weighing 1 to 2 pounds, although he reports catching pompano weighing more than 3 pounds.
Captain Sonny Schindler Talks May Fishing:
Captain Sonny Schindler says May is the best month for fishing Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.
Offshore Fishing to Catch Many Species:
Captain John DePineuil of Bo-Joh-La Charters, docked at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor, enjoys catching cobia in May. “We find cobia south of the Barrier Islands usually on the second sandbar and along some of the cuts and ditches,” DePineuil mentions. “We generally fish live saltwater catfish with the fins cut-off, and we put-out lots of chum using the Chum Churn.” Florida and Alabama anglers primarily sight-fish for cobia. But DePineuil parks his boat along the cobia’s migratory route and tries to intercept these fish with chum and bait. “I prefer to hang-out at Horne Island by the second-southernmost channel marker,” DePineuil reveals. “I’ll chum with anywhere from 100 to 150 pounds of pogeys during a day of cobia fishing.” In May, DePineuil averages catching about three cobia a day, however, he’s caught and released as many as 12, 40- to 50-pound cobia in a day with this technique.
The Chum Churn and this tactic will enable you to catch a number of sharks, Jack Crevalles, bull redfish and Spanish mackerel as well. “Our fishermen will have a busy day reeling-in fish once we start chumming,” says DePineuil. “Fifteen to 20-pound king mackerel will be another near-shore, easy-to-catch fish you can take by trolling with hardtails around any of the well sites and platforms and over some of the wrecks.” Too, anglers will catch plenty of triggerfish this month, south of the barrier islands on the near-shore rigs and around the area known as Rig City. DePineuil fishes with a No. 1/0 circle hook baited with squid to catch the triggerfish and either a 1/2- or a 1-ounce egg sinker up his main line with a barrel swivel tied to the main line and about 2 to 3 feet of 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line tied to the hook. “If we’re catching triggerfish, we’ll only fish half-way down in the water column,” DePineuil comments. “In other words, if we’re fishing a 60-foot bottom, we’ll try to keep our bait at about 30 feet.”
Anglers also focus in May on catching the gray snapper (mangrove snapper), which often weigh from 5- to 10-pounds each and hold inside the rigs – particularly the shallow rigs west of Biloxi in 70 or 80 feet of water. DePineuil fishes with either Offshore Angler Arrowhead or Bullet Head feather jigs tipped with squid on 30-pound-test fluorocarbon line and No. 2/0 hooks. “Once the snapper takes the bait, the fisherman has to put a lot of pressure on the snapper to get it away from the rig and out into open water, so the fish won’t break the line on the rig,” DePineuil recommends.
To find out more about how to fish Alabama’s year round inshore fishery, be sure to check out my book, Fishing Mississippi’s Gulf Coast and visitor’s guide, just click the image below.