Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine VOL 41, No. 1 - Page 7

by John N. Felsher BULLS IN THE RED ZONE A s many Gulf Coast sportsmen search for waterfowl, deer and other game in the winter, hardy anglers who don’t mind cold weather might find the hottest redfish action all year. When it comes to catching redfish, anglers need to consider them almost as two distinct populations. Big “bull reds” tend to stay in deeper bays. For big bulls, try large live baits fished in deeper water. Sometimes, fish in the 15- to 50-pound range gather in extremely large schools to hunt down anything they can gobble. “From mid-November to midJanuary, we get a bull red run when they come into the bays in big schools,” explained Brant Peacher with Angler Up Charters in Pensacola, FL. “Some schools might have 500 to 1,000 fish, all between 15 and 30 pounds.” Smaller reds stay in the marshes until they grow larger enough to head offshore. When cold north winds blow, that usually pushes water from the marshes, concentrating reds in deeper channels. The falling water also drains ponds, pulling any shrimp, baitfish, crabs or other morsels out from cover into open water. That can kick off a feeding frenzy. “I don’t think it can get too cold to catch redfish,” advised Bobby Abruscato, a professional redfish angler with ATeam Fishing Adventures in Mobile, AL. “I’ve seen redfish swimming through slush with their backs out of the water and the banks covered with ice. When water runs really cold, redfish slow down and get in the mud to keep warm. We almost have to hit them on the head, but we can still catch them.” Without a doubt, the Gulf Coast offers some of the best redfish action in any season. In the winter, try fishing these places. MISSISSIPPI An arm of the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi Sound extends along the entire Mississippi coastline, linking several river deltas and bays. In western Mississippi, the Jourdan River enters Bay St. Louis near Waveland while the Wolf River flows in from the east. Several artificial reefs near the bay hold good redfish in the winter. When weather turns brutally cold, reds might seek the deep water of the Gulfport Ship Channel. Many anglers also fish around the docks in Gulfport Harbor, or hit the rocky jetties. Rig live baitfish, cut mullet chunks, or cracked crab on a Carolina rig fished along the drop-off edge. Near Biloxi, the Tchoutacabouffa and Biloxi rivers feed Back Bay, also called Biloxi Bay. Old Fort Bayou flows into the bay from the east. Some holes in the bayou drop to more than 30 feet deep, giving redfish great places to spend cold days. Many people also fish Davis Bayou south of Ocean Springs. For numbers, fish a popping cork with live bait. “For redfish, a popping cork with a live shrimp or croaker is tough to beat,” said Robert Brodie of Team Brodie Charters in Biloxi. “Soft plastics in chartreuse or white also work very well for redfish.” For bulls, many people also fish under the U.S. 90 bridge spanning the bay entrance between Biloxi and Ocean Springs. Near Moss Point, the Pascagoula River delta and Graveline Bayou can provide excellent action for big reds. Anchor near a reef and fish mullet chunks. ALABAMA With only 53 miles of coastline, the smallest on the Gulf Coast, Alabama (Continued on page 18.) Daniel Felsher (L) with a bull red caught in the LA marsh on a cold day. (C) Capt. Bobby Abruscato admires a red caught Photos by author. on a topwater near Bayou La Batre, AL (R) Sandy Flowers with a bull red from Pensacola Bay. JANUARY • FEBRUARY • MARCH 2 0 1 7 7