From the Bayou, to the Gulf: A Guide to Fishing Mississippi’s Gulf Coast
Story | ≡
First-time visitors to the Mississippi Gulf Coast are in for a surprise. Pictures just don’t do justice to the vastness and natural beauty of the coast’s marine habitats.
Naturally, with so many pristine bayous, marshes, rivers and, of course, the sprawling Gulf, the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a fisherman’s paradise.
The sheer diversity in one place is a dream come true for anglers. The species biting include redfish, flounder, speckled trout and black drum, which is the most popular. The types of fishing also vary: Inshore, offshore, surf, river, bay and island fishing are all options in this region.
With so many options, though, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Where’s a fisherman supposed to start?
Fortunately, with a little insider’s knowledge, you can begin to make sense of all the region’s angling possibilities. Just wait! During your next visit, you’ll be pulling in hefty redfish and gargantuan speckled trout like a local.
An Overview of Mississippi’s Coastal Fisheries
Mississippi is home to one of the most naturally diverse estuarine habitats in the U.S. Throughout the coast’s three counties – Hancock, Harrison and Jackson – the rivers meet the bays, creating brackish waters that are rich in aquatic life.
3 Lined Brass and Black Fishing Reel
The region’s marshes, bayous, coastal rivers, bays and the Mississippi Sound are home to more than 200 species of fish and numerous forage species. And that combination means one thing: Incredible fishing! No matter the time of year, fish are biting in Mississippi. The key, though, is knowing where to look.
Winter – Sportfish species head to the interior marshes and coastal rivers for warmer waters in winter. This time of year, the fishing is hot inshore, with redfish and speckled trout moving upstream. The deep-water fish also move closer to shore, with the areas around the reefs rife with shark and Spanish mackerel.
Spring – In spring, the fish begin their migration to deeper waters, spending much of the season moving out of the bays and marshes towards the deeper waters offshore. Early spring (March and April) is one of the best times for inshore fishing, especially in the back bays and marshes. By the end of May, most species have migrated out of the shallows to deeper waters.
Summer – By summer, when the waters are above 70 degrees, the fish have already moved offshore. The redfish, flounder and spotted seatrout are biting near the barrier islands, especially around the artificial offshore reefs to the south of the islands.
Fall – By October, the fish begin to retreat to the shallower waters, and again, the fishing is great in the interior bays. Redfish, speckled trout, drum – you name it – you’ll find them in one of the region’s numerous interior marshes.
A Local Trick. You have a general idea of where the fish might be depending on the season. But to really “get on the fish,” follow the birds! Any local will tell you that the birds are a telltale indicator of where the forage is, and that usually means the fish are nearby.
Image Courtesy of Mississippi Gulf Coast Tourism
From Charters to Wading: Where to Fish on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
The great thing about fishing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is you don’t have to go far to find a great spot to drop a line. Whether you have a boat (a kayak works), you’re planning to charter one, or you’re looking for a great access point from shore or a pier, you’re never far from great fishing.
Gulf Coast Ocean View
Where to go? Take a look at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Public Access Inventory Map , which provides an overview of all the piers, boat ramps, marinas and coastal preserves throughout the region. This will give you an idea of the lay of the land. In general, there are five types of fishing you can do here.
Piers – Up and down the coast, and along inshore coasts, you’ll find numerous fishing piers. These piers are great for fishing in all seasons. In spring and fall, though, the pier fishing is best, and you can regularly bag white trout, redfish and numerous other species.
Offshore – Offshore fishing is great year-round, but it’s particularly bountiful during the dog days of summer. Whether you plan to take a charter – there are numerous charter operators in Mississippi’s harbors – or bring a private boat, the fishing picks up to the south of the barrier islands in mid-June until September.
Inshore – Inshore fishing is hot in fall, spring and early summer. You’ll find great action in Bay St. Louis, especially around Little Bay, in Biloxi’s Back Bay, Old Fort Bayou and around the mouth of the Pascagoula River. Many anglers target ledges this time of year, where deep water meets the shallows.
Island Fishing – You’ll find great fishing all around Mississippi’s barrier islands, including Cat Island to the west (a favorite hotspot). Most charters take you around the coastal waters, but the surf fishing is great on Ship Island, Petit Bois, Horn and Cat from June through August.
Shore Fishing – You don’t need a boat to the catch the big one (just a pair of waders). Fishing along the beaches of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a time-honored tradition, and you’ll find great fishing from the beaches from early to late summer.
Image courtesy of Mississippi Gulf Coast Tourism
An Insider’s Tip: Fish the Reefs!
Structures tend to attract a ton of fish, as they offer shelter and plenty of forage. Both inshore and offshore, you’ll find numerous structures to fish on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the region’s man-made reefs are hands-down the best.
Within two miles of the coast, there are nearly 70 inshore reefs , each offering a unique fishing experience. A favorite is Katrina Key Reef, located near Deer Island off the Biloxi shoreline. Made from Hurricane Katrina debris, the spot has quickly become earned a reputation for being a hotbed for redfish and trout (and the views are incredible as well).
Offshore, you’ll find the largest reefs south of the barrier islands . The biggest one, FH-13 (short for fish haven), lies just past Horn Island and features 10,000 acres of structure. This reef is certainly a favorite destination for offshore charters, though Cat Island Reef and F9/11, just off the northern shore of Ship Island, are favorites as well.
Keeping It All Legal
A great fishing trip can quickly get spoiled by a ticket from marine police. Fortunately, all you need is a license and to heed the creel limits, and you’ll be all set in Mississippi.
But be sure you’re getting the correct license. In Mississippi, there are two types of fishing licenses: freshwater and saltwater.
Freshwater – These licenses are available for Mississippi’s northern rivers and lakes. Yet, in the south, they permit for fishing inshore waters between Interstate-10 and Highway 90.
Saltwater – If you’ll be offshore fishing south of Highway 90, you’ll need a saltwater license. These licenses are also acceptable for inshore fishing from Interstate-10 to Highway 90.
Additionally, there are creel limits for nearly every species that can be caught in abundance. For example, redfish has a catch limit of three, and each must measure a minimum of 18 inches, whereas you can catch 15 seatrout with a 15-inch minimum length.
Fishing the Mississippi Gulf Coast at sunset
Catch the Trophy Fish of Your Dreams
A fishing trip on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a bucket-list adventure. Not only are the waters here beautiful and relaxing, but the sport fishing is unbeatable. During fishing charters, off piers and in the surf, anglers regularly pull in monster redfish, trout and flounder.
If you’re up for the challenge, the region hosts numerous fishing tournaments throughout the year, for a wide variety of species. Whether you’re fishing for a tournament trophy or just for dinner though, it’ll be a trip you won’t soon forget.
Plan your Mississippi Gulf Coast vacation today and check out the upcoming tournaments! Visit GulfCoast.org to explore all there is to see, experience and eat along 62 miles of scenic shoreline.
Image Courtesy of Mississippi Gulf Coast Tourism
What's Your Reaction?