Pandemic cabin fever had us looking for another Tom-n-Huck adventure in pursuit of our favorite speckled fish, and this time our travels took us to Biloxi, MS to fish with my friend Kyle Johnson of Coastal Waters Outfitters. Many of you will recognize Kyle as a member of The Speckled Truth – a social media group that advocates for catching – and conserving – large speckled trout. If you haven’t listened to their podcast, I highly recommend it.
Kyle has been a big supporter of Release Over 20 and he and I have had several conversations about trout and conservation over the past few years. He’s very knowledgeable about the fishery and has worked closely with CCA Mississippi and their DNR over the years. He had encouraged Ralph and I to come down and fish, given that his area is unique in that it’s a great fishery but also has a ton to offer outside of fishing. If you do much trophy trout fishing, these two factors don’t often coincide – where fishing is good is usually very remote, and vice versa. As an example, if you happen to stay at the Golden Nugget Casino, you only need to walk across the parking lot to step onto his boat. And that is, in fact, what we did.
Within about 20 miles of Biloxi is a unique fishery called the Chandeleur Islands. This chain of sandbar islands resides off the coast of Mississippi and Louisiana and offers an amazing variety of fish – especially large redfish and speckled trout. Kyle has outfitted himself with a rig that can get him there in almost any weather conditions, and float shallow enough to get close enough to wade fish. So that was our target, hoping to get two full days of fishing there and experience all it has to offer.
We flew into Gulfport airport and took an Uber to Biloxi, only about 30 minutes away. Unfortunately, a strong front that had been forecast had pushed in and our first day would not allow fishing Chandeleur, but Kyle had a good plan B in place. We settled in at the casino, had a nice dinner and tried our luck at the Black Jack table.
Day 1 – We met Kyle, pulled on our waders, and hopped on his awesome Blue Wave center console. Winds were cranking about 20 mph from the North and i’m not gonna lie, it was pretty cold. We were prepared for it thankfully.
Our destination was one of the barrier islands off of Biloxi that has a saltwater lagoon on the inside of the island. Getting there was no easy task. Kyle had to anchor off the beach into the wind, and we had to wade across the shore break and onto the front beach. From there, we crossed some sandbars an on to the lagoon.
Wading into the lagoon we started throwing soft plastics on Eye Strike jigs and also Mirrolure DD’s. Within a short time Kyle got struck with a solid trout over 20″. It became evident that the DD was the lure of choice after Kyle followed with another nice speck. I don’t throw a lot of twitch baits so I was watching Kyle and trying to mimic what he was doing, but I was not getting struck. After a while, Kyle said “I don’t think you’re working it hard enough. Speed it up and make sure you really load the rod with hard snaps”. So, I started to really work my lure hard and (I’m not even joking) on that same retrieve I got slammed. Unfortunately I missed that fish but I now knew the technique. It was funny because I was throwing a white DD that I brought and Kyle was using “The Truth” – a purple color that Speckled Truth markets. After he caught three to my zero, he offered to switch with me. Shortly after, he gets another nice fish! We had a good laugh after I said “It’s not the arrow, it’s the indian!” a phrase coined by Mike McBride of Texas fishing fame.
We filmed a video of Kyle releasing his fish that I posted on the Release Over 20 Instagram page and we moved on to another part of the lagoon. I ended up with a slam of smallish fish over there and Ralph had a few also. Toward the end of our day, I did get a fair speck, around 18″ or so on the DD.
The wind had not subsided as we returned to the marina, but the forecast was looking promising for Day 2, and “Chandy” was a go, given a somewhat late start time of 10am. Ralph and I took some Advil, had a hot shower, and got some rest for another full day.
Day 2. The forecast held and the wind lay down to almost nothing, so we plopped down in some beanbags while Kyle cranked up the classic rock and let the Suzuki’s eat. We were at Chandy in no time and it was really cool how different it is out there. Crystal clear water and literally no sign or sound of man, except for a couple other charter outfitters who were there for the same reason as we were.
As we picked our way over the outer sandbar, we saw pelicans diving and dolphin working the shallows – all good signs. At our first stop Kyle was expecting to see redfish – big ones, and a lot of them. I had rigged up a prototype jig of a new line we are working on with Z-Man and hoping to get some quality media pics using them. As we eased in, we started looking for fish. I looked down and saw what at first glance looked like a clump of grass – but it was keeping pace with the trolling motor. I pitched the jig rigged with a 5″ Diezel Minnows to it and a big red absolutely crushed it with no hesitation. Off to the races with several drag pulling runs when all of the sudden – pop… I had noticed my braid was frayed the day before and made a mental note to fix it, but did I? No…. Another dumb ass move by your’s truly.
After that it was a sight-caster’s heaven. Lots of big reds kept floating up giving us plenty of opportunities to pitch in front and just past them and present it just right – only to get rejected. Now, this usually does not happen out there due to the lack of angling pressure. But we at one point had about 15 reds all surface at once and no matter what we threw at them – rejection. Big, small, color changes, mirrolures, spinnerbaits, etc. They simply shut off like a light switch.
We next went to a pocket that Kyle has been doing really well on 5 lb ish trout. We fished it hard, trying everything we could think of, and only had a few redfish, small flounder, and one pretty good trout caught by Ralph. The rest of the day we tried different areas with little action, just picking at a few fish here and there.
Unfortunately, the post-front conditions had the fish shut down, but if you’ve been a fisherman for very long you know that this happens. We were just a bit unlucky it happened on this day. We know that Kyle was hoping to show us the fishing day of our lives and he really was expecting it. Chandeleur is amazing and I can’t wait to go back when it’s popping off because I know it will be a bucket list experience.
We highly recommend to put Biloxi on your bucket list for fishing adventures. Contact Capt Kyle Johnson to lead you to the fish. He’s as good as they get and we’ve fished with lots of captains across the country. Plus, he’s a champion for conservation and in the end that is what is most important.