A smorgasboard of specks, reds, heads, the occasional bass and striper and snapper
Capt. Eric Olsen of Saltwater Therapy said, “Fishing in the winter months can be challenging.,
“These fronts start blowing through more consistently from the north, which really chills down both the air and water and lowers the water levels in the marsh,” he said. “The shrimp get scarce, and the fish go deeper, and we have to hunt them in the deeper canals and bayous and passes. Then, we’ll get some mild weather and easterly or south winds, and the water level rises in the marsh until the next front. So whenever there’s a lot of fluctuation like that in the water levels and temperatures, it makes finding fish a challenge, because they move with each fluctuation, and it makes staying on top of them much more difficult this time of year,” he said.
For anglers up for the challenge of fishing the Shell Beach area, Olsen has some helpful pointers.
• Fish between the fronts
“When we get some mild weather and higher water, the fish will move over the nearby flats and into shallower areas to forage, and we’ll fish them under corks with live shrimp if it’s available, or your favorite soft plastics,” Olsen said. “I typically fish a few favorites: the classic, clear H&H sparkle beetles, the Vudu shrimp in the glow color, and the Matrix Shad in lemonhead color. I always buy live shrimp when its available at Campo’s, because if the fish will hit on anything, it’ll be that.”
• Bet the Biloxi Marsh
Olsen said the Biloxi Marsh is a safe bet, but exercise caution on low-water days and stay in the deeper bayous and familiar waters, and don’t be too picky about what you catch.
“There’s a lot of variety out there, so besides the usual suspects of reds and heads (sheepshead) and specks, don’t be surprised if you pick up the occasional bass, flounder or striper,” he said.
“The Biloxi Marsh has everything fish look for in the colder months. There’s deep water in the bayous and passes for fish to retreat into on cold days, and good, shallower bays nearby for foraging around on the milder days. Fish the bottom on the cold days and under corks, or just cast-and-retrieve on moderate temperature days.”
• Add reds to the menu
Olsen said reds are scattered throughout the marshes and along the shorelines of the big, fringe bays when the weather allows you to get out there, and they’ll hit live or market shrimp and the same plastics under a popping cork when you park it at points, cuts, drains or coves.
• Snap this up!
“The bonus this year is the reopening of red snapper season,” Olsen said. “On days when the winds are light, we can run out past the barrier islands and catch some really nice mangrove snapper and red snapper at structure in 30 to 50 feet of water, and sometimes a cobia or two as well. For bait, I just buy some pogies at the crab dock and cut them up for bait, or you can ask at the marina if they have any live croakers. The offshore species love them.”
Capt. Eric’s Saltwater Therapy Charters can be reached at www.saltwatertherapycharters.com, or 504-715-3006.