Mississippi Fly Fishing
Mississippi is bordered on the north by the state of Tennessee; on the east by Alabama, on the south by Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico; and on the west by Louisiana and Arkansas (across the Mississippi River). Major rivers include Mississippi River, Big Black River, Pearl River, and Yazoo River. Major lakes include Ross Barnett Reservoir, Arkabutla Lake, Sardis Lake, and Grenada Lake.
“Fish Anytime of the Year- Fishing is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Mississippi. The region’s mild climate promotes a year-round growing season for the state’s game fish and also enables outdoorsmen to combine fishing with most all other sporting activities…The Gulf of Mexico also offers brackish and saltwater fishing…Excellent fishing opportunities can be found in every corner of the state.”
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks
Techniques to tame Gulf Coast redfish by fly
From accurate casting prowess to the strip-strike hook-set, what you need to know about targeting the ‘workingman’s bonefish’
While Florida, Louisiana, and Texas often grab most of the redfish headlines, the Gulf Coast of Mississippi has plenty to offer saltwater flyfishing enthusiasts.
Biloxi, Miss., may not be on many of the itineraries of those seeking supreme flyfishing adventure on saltwater flats.
But it should be.
After all, there may not be a better spot in the world to hook up with a double-digit redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus) on the fly than this spit of sand and brine lying on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“They eat flies so well,” said Richard Schmidt, co-owner of Chandeleur Outfitters in Biloxi. “It’s such a visible sport and has all of the aspects of bonefishing, but they’ll forgive mistakes a little more and they’re so accessible.”
“Maybe they’re the workingman’s bonefish. They’re not going to take you into your backing like a bonefish will, but then you’re not going to catch a 35-pound bonefish, either.”
“Fly Fishing America” host Chad Foster, a native of nearby southern Louisiana, experienced the big bull reds of the Mississippi coastline last fall.
Not once, but twice, during the filming of this week’s ESPN2 episode of “Fly Fishing America,” Foster hooked and lost the redfish of a lifetime on a fly rod, two reds well in excess of 30 pounds.
Despite those disappointments, Foster went on to land a number of other hefty redfish on the fly and counts himself among the species’ biggest fans.
“For the flyfisherman, this is an incredible opportunity to sightcast to fish and to fight a fish that pound for pound is among the hardest-fighting fish in the world” Foster said.
So how does an angler chase away the Biloxi blues and get a serious case of redfish fever? Well, here’s a crash course from Schmidt and his partner and fellow guide, Rick Lauman, on what to bring to the Mississippi saltwater flats:
When you fly fish for redfish along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, keep a camera ready. You never know when you’ll hook up with the bull red of a lifetime.
Tough gear: This is not the land of the 6- or 7-weight rod, according to Schmidt.
While most redfish caught will be in the 5- to 10-pound class, the chance to hook a much larger bull red is present on any cast.
“Bring at least an 8-weight, but a 9-weight is better because you can put more pressure on the big fish,” Schmidt said.
Additional gear to bring includes a stout saltwater fly reel loaded with a weight-forward floating line and a couple of hundred yards of backing; 7½- or 9-foot monofilament leaders that test to 10 to 12 pounds, with 15 to 20-pound bite tippets; polarized sunglasses; a good hat; and long pants and shirts to ward off the sun and insects.
A simple fly box: Planning a session at the fly-tying vise? Then keep it simple, according to Lauman.
“We primarily use crab imitations, including variations of the Merkin pattern,” Lauman said. “It needs to be fast-sinking, though. We’ll also use Clouser minnows in either pink or chartreuse/white. Fly sizes are basically 1/0, No. 1 or No. 2.”
Gold-colored spoon flies also are good patterns to carry in the fly box, Schmidt said.
Solid casting skills: Relax. No 60- to 90-foot shots into the wind for ultra spooky fish are necessary on the Mississippi flats. Redfish aren’t nearly as high strung as bonefish or permit and will generally tolerate a closer approach and presentation.
“Accuracy is typically more of an issue than distance; most of the fish we catch are within 40-feet of the boat,” Lauman said.
Schmidt explains that the need for accuracy comes partly because the mouth of a redfish is located on the bottom of its head, causing the fish to look downward as they search for crabs or mullet.
Plus, redfish are really, in essence, saltwater couch potatoes.
“These fish are so lazy,” Schmidt said. “They’re fat and don’t expend a lot of energy to go and chase food down, so you’ve got to put it right where they are and make it easy for them to eat.
“Most of the time, you have to lay it right in front of their nose.”
If you’re going …
For more information on flyfishing for redfish in Mississippi, contact Richard Schmidt or Rick Lauman of Chandeleur Outfitters at (228) 818-0030 or visit their Web site at www.chandeleuroutfitters.com.
A good hook-set: Schmidt is adamant on this skill, citing it as one of the primary reasons that big redfish become unbuttoned during a fly-rod battle.
“Anglers need to strip-strike on the hook-set; don’t lift the rod,” Schmidt said. “Don’t do the strip-strike and rod-lift combo, either, because Rick popped off a state-record redfish doing that the last time we fished together.
“Point the rod at the fish, jerk back horizontally hard on the line, but don’t raise the rod.”
The guide said that such a hook-set is necessary because if the redfish doesn’t eat the fly, it has darted forward like a fleeing baitfish but is still within easy striking distance of the coppery-hued predator.
And the power generated by such a forceful hook-set is usually enough to drive the sharp hook point deep into the redfish’s tough, rubbery mouth.
Fight them hard and fast: Once an angler has hooked up with a big red drum, it’s time to get the fish on the reel and to lay as much law down to the fish as the rod and tippet will allow.
“You need to try and wear them out as quickly as you can,” Schmidt said. “If you keep them on the line too long, there’s a better chance that something bad is going to happen.”
But even if something bad does happen and the tippet snaps, saltwater flyrodders in Biloxi don’t need to fret; there’s usually another big redfish waiting around the corner, ready to pounce on a fly and provide an angler with flyfishing’s sweetest sound — the reel’s drag working overtime.
- The Hunt for Reds in October
Mississippi fly fisherman chase redfish in October.
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Ocean Springs 1106 Government Street Ocean Springs, MS 39564 228.818.0030