Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fly Fishing in Mississippi: Two Weekends on the Barrier Islands

The past two weekends I have been fortunate enough to make fly fishing trips to the Mississippi barrier islands.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Mississippi Gulf Coast, there is a string of barrier islands running the length of the coast approximately 10 miles offshore from the mainland.  In between is the Mississippi Sound.  The Sound and the rivers and bayous that feed into it are very murky, and much of the coastline is marsh or man-made beach.  The islands, on the other hand, are surrounded by beautiful beaches with clear, greenish water.  Living in Mississippi, you have two options for nice beaches - drive somewhere (Dauphin Island, Gulf Shores, or Pensacola), or take a boat out to the islands.  To be honest, the beaches of the Florida panhandle are probably a little nicer, but I like the islands because they are uninhabited and isolated.  And the fishing is amazing.  Unfortunately, I don't have a boat so my trips to the island are less frequent than I'd like them to be.

This past weekend, my roommates and I took a ferry from Gulfport to West Ship Island.  We hiked over to the surf side of the island and strung up on a section of beach where the sand bar was close to the shore, leaving a trough that was closed on one end and open on the other.  I started simply casting from the shore into the middle of the trough, and over the course of about an hour and a half I hooked and landed 7 speckled trout, all of them over 16" and one of them about 23".
The big one

My roommates both caught some nice specks as well:

To top it off I caught all of them on chartreuse and white clousers that I tied the night before - the first flies I have ever tied.

The fishing cooled off, and someone told us there were sharks at the east tip so we hiked over there and I put on some 20 lb tippet.  I didn't know if that would actually help, but it was the heaviest I had.  Ship Island is big enough to find solitude but small enough that you can pretty much walk anywhere if you are so inclined.  We didn't find any sharks so we hiked to the Sound side and I headed out on a flat where I had sight fished for some redfish on a previous trip, but all I saw were rays and hardheads.

That was last weekend.  Two weekends ago my co-worker took me and others on his boat out to Petit Bois Island, south of Pascagoula.  Petit Bois means "little wood" in French, referencing the small forest on the island.  This wasn't exactly a fishing trip, but I couldn't resist bringing my fly rod.  I split time between chilling, drinking, eating, swimming, and fishing, and after coming agonizingly close - I broke off 2 fish and lost 2 more after short fights, probably specks or reds - I caught my only notable fish of the day, my very first Florida pompano.  This fish was a blast to catch because it made several runs and jumped a few times.  It is also a very beautiful fish, a smaller version of its more famous relative, the permit.
Pompano on an olive and white clouser
So in conclusion, the Mississippi barrier islands may not be a well known fly fishing destination, but they probably should be.

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