Catching Redfish and Speckled Trout off the Mississippi Coast with Captain Sonny Schindler
Speckled Trout All Year Long
Editor’s Note: Many people may not know just how good the Mississippi Gulf Coast inshore fishing can be. However, on a recent trip, friends and I caught speckled trout and redfish until our arms were sore. Mississippi and Louisiana share barrier island fishing from Mississippi all the way down to Venice, Louisiana. The Chandeleur Islands are rich with speckled trout, redfish, flounder, cobia and tarpon, and the fishing and the catching are outstanding. The base for most fishermen out of state is the Isle of Capri Casino and Resort where great food and great fishing come together in Biloxi. Bobby Carter, the resort’s manager, is an avid fisherman and hosts two national kingfish (king mackerel) tournaments and the World Billfishing Series Tournament. Carter books accommodations and lines-up captains for both inshore and offshore fishermen. This week, we’ll take a look at how good the fishing can be at this must-go-to fishing resort.
The last week in July, we were catching speckled trout on almost every cast. Very rarely would our jigs or live shrimp hit the water without getting a bite. “I’ve been catching these fish at this spot for the last month,” says Captain Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Charters, captain of the “Moni-Q” out of Bay St. Louis, Miss. Schindler’s fished these same waters his entire life but did leave home long enough to earn a college degree at the University of Southern Mississippi in broadcast journalism, although he’s chosen a fishermen’s life instead.
Question: Sonny, why did you give up the life of a broadcast journalist to become a fishing guide?
Schindler: I worked 2 years in the real world, made a little money and decided 7-years ago that while I was young and strong, I wanted to see if I could put together a guiding business. I love to fish, I love to take people fishing, and I love to see people catching fish. Since I’ve started my guiding business, I’ve never looked back and wanted to be a journalist.
Question: Tell me about the place we fished today.
Schindler: We went to a shell island on the eastern side of the Biloxi marsh, an area that shrimp come through in large numbers. We watched the birds to locate the shrimp and the trout. The speckled trout would come up under large schools of shrimp and force those shrimp to the surface. They would feed so viciously on the shrimp that often the shrimp would jump out of the water to get away from the toothy mouths of the speckled trout. Then when the shrimp started jumping, the seagulls spotted them and started diving on the schools of shrimp to catch and eat them. Any time you see seagulls diving on shrimp, you know there’s a school of trout under that school of shrimp. When this region has a moving tide, the shrimp and the speckled trout begin moving, and the birds start diving, and that’s what happened this morning.
Question: How long have you been fishing this same spot?
Schindler: Almost 2 months, John, and the fish have been there every day. Some days we’ll catch trout on every cast, and other days, we may only catch 2- or 3-dozen trout. I think the current moves the shrimp onto these shell banks, which give the shrimp structure to hold onto in that swift current. I’ve found that the more shallow the water where the trout are holding, generally, the bigger-sized trout you’ll catch. Too, I’ve learned that if I can see shrimp jumping in 4 feet of water or less, we seem to catch the bigger trout. The more-shallow water means there’s less room for big trout to hunt.
Question: What’s an average day’s catch of trout?
Schindler: We try to average 40 to 50 trout per day. Some days we don’t catch that many, and other days we’ll catch twice as many. If the trout aren’t biting as aggressively as we think they should, then we’ll hit some of our redfish spots, and just about every day down here out of Bay St. Louis, we can find trout and/or redfish.
Question: Does this area have this same kind of fishing in the fall?
Schindler: Yes, we do, but usually the trout move further up into the marsh as the weather becomes cooler. During the fall when we’re fishing, we generally go to the western side of the island with its lagoons and ponds in protected areas to find our trout.
Question: How big are the trout you’re catching?
Schindler: They’ll run from 12- to 22-inches long. Now, if you’re after trophy trout, we go offshore out to the natural gas rigs where we find fish bigger than the island fish. There are several big oyster reefs out there. You need to be willing to buy or catch live croakers, run a long distance and pay for the extra fuel. The fish on the gas rigs will run 3-1/2-pounds and larger.
Question: Why are you running from Bay St. Louis into Louisiana waters?
Schindler: Louisiana waters are only about 3 miles off our coast line. You can see the Mississippi Coast skyline in the morning when you’re fishing, but technically, you’re in Louisiana waters. Therefore, you need a Louisiana fishing license if you fish in this area. If you fish with a guide, you can purchase a Louisiana charter pass, which costs you only about $8 for 3 days of fishing. However, you have to fish with the guide who’s issued you the pass. If you use that pass and go fishing without the guide, and a conservation officer checks your license, the guide pass is no good. You’ll be in as much trouble as the person who’s fishing without a license.
To fish with Captain Sonny Schindler, call him at (228) 342-2295, email him at email@example.com, or visit www.shorethingcharters.com. For accommodations, contact Bobby Carter at the Isle of Capri at (800) 843-4753, or go to www.isleofcapricasino.com/Biloxi/. To learn more Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, check out www.visitmississippi.org, or call (866) SEEMISS (733-6477).
Tomorrow: How to Catch Speckled Trout