Saltwater fishermen can look for a bumper crop of offshore fish again this year, according to the many captains and saltwater anglers on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. To get a better perspective of what you can start catching this month, we’ve talked with Captain Bobby Williams of the Three Sons IV charter boat docked at the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. “We should be catching redfish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and cobia, as well as blacktip sharks in April, if the weather continues to warm up,” Williams says. “We generally start seeing the cobia showing up around Easter.”
“We have three ways of catching the cobia,” Williams explains. “We sight fish for them up and down Horn Island, or we anchor up on the bars and start chumming for them. We also go out to Chandeleur Islands and sight fish for them at the shallow rigs just offshore. So, there are several different places where we can find the cobia once they start running.”
The cobia run usually lasts for about 5 weeks. Cobia fishing is much like duck hunting. You may spot several good schools of cobia in a day and catch your limit, or you may not see any cobia. In different years, the cobia seem to show up in large numbers at various spots, either the shallow rigs, the edges of the channels, or on Horn Island and Chandeleur Island in the shallow water. “I’ve seen as many as 40 or 50 big cobia at the shallow rigs before, and you may see them on the sand bars,” Williams reports. “But a more dependable way to catch the cobia this month is to chum them up.”
Williams uses a variety of types of chum, including pogeys, artificial chum and chopped-up albacore that resembles sardines. One of his favorite baits is cooked macaroni and tuna fish. “I make a tuna fish-macaroni casserole and mix it with sand,” Williams says. “I make this mixture into a ball and cast it overboard. Because the tuna fish has oil in it, that oil leeches out of the ball and spreads throughout the water. Then, the macaroni with its tuna fish taste breaks up. The sand helps the mixture to sink. This chum has been very- ffective for us.”
Williams added that he likes the Chum Churn and chops up baitfish and adds menhaden oil. “I also used the Berkley Gulp! commercial chum that you can use for about five trips before replenishing or refrigerating it.” When Williams goes to the shallow water rigs, he starts off trying to jig up the cobia, but he also will use live saltwater catfish and eels, especially if he sees the cobia swimming around the rigs.
King mackerel and Spanish mackerel
Another fish that should be coming in this month is the king mackerel, usually caught in April outside the Barrier Islands. Fishing planers with spoons behind them effectively catches the kings when you’re trolling for schooling mackerel.
“We like to work along the sand bar at Squash Channel, when we’re trying to catch big king mackerel,” Williams emphasizes. “This is an old bar where the Isle of Capri once sat back in 1917. We catch the kings outside the bar at Squash Channel and all along the Barrier Islands.” Williams also catches kings around the rigs in deep water, fishing with live hard tails.
Spanish mackerel also will run along the Barrier Islands, and they’re fairly easy to catch on spoons. Williams’ favorite way to cook Spanish mackerel is to fillet them, cut the blood lines out of the middles of the fillets, and then fry them or cook them on the grill, using Italian salad dressing for basting. The Spanish mackerel is a delicious fish to eat, however, if you don’t remove the blood lines from the centers of the fillet, they can have a unique taste that some people don’t prefer.
Another favorite sport fish that’s good eating is the blacktip shark. If the shrimp boats are working in Mississippi waters during April, shark fishing should be outstanding. “When we see a shrimp boat dragging its net, we troll behind the net for blacktip sharks,” Williams mentions. “We often catch blacktips that will weigh over 100 pounds. Many people don’t realize that blacktip sharks provide some delicious eating. You can fillet the shark like you do any-other fish, cut it into steaks and fry, grill, bake or cook them any way you want. You can keep three blacktip sharks per boat when fishing in State of Mississippi waters, which is where we primarily fish.”
Redfish in April
If you’re trolling for king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, there’s a good chance that you’ll catch redfish in April. However, most of the redfish you catch will be over 30 inches, and those fish have to be released. But the redfish are fun to catch and release.
To learn more about Mississippi fishing, get John E. Phillips’ eBook Fishing Mississippi’s Gulf Coast and Visitor’s Guide. You can go to www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the name of the book and download it to your Kindle and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.