The warm Gulf breeze reminded me that many northern anglers were probably shoveling snow on this mid-winter day. We loaded our kayaks on the water taxi in Gulfport, Mississippi, and took the early morning ride to Cat Island.
As soon as the mothership motored off, I paddled up North Bayou casting a red MirrOlure towards grass beds along the shoreline. On my fifth cast, something big and bronze swirled on my lure, but I was too slow on the hook set—not how I wanted to start the day.
I didn’t have time to be disappointed as my next cast made contact with a healthy speckled trout. Before long, I had a limit of trout for a winter fish fry. I switched to a gold-colored walk- the-dog topwater and cast across a shallow oyster bar. The wake of my topwater lure attracted a larger wake behind it, then a thick head and red nose followed before a fat redfish pounced on the lure. Heart attack!
Whether you’re looking for a winter getaway or you seek some fresh water to fish, Cat Island is a destination miles from winter and easy to reach.
Cat Island is a year-round fishery. Redfish and trout can be caught any time of the year—fall and winter can be spectacular. Find flounder in the shallows with soft plastics or live bait worked along the bottom. Head offshore and look for working birds to find herds of big reds chasing schools of baitfish. Hold on for a sleigh ride when you hook into a raging bull.
Summer is hot and oppressive and the biting bugs are ferocious. Fall and winter are pleasant. Even in the dead of winter, 70-degree highs are common. Strong cold fronts can drop the temperatures, but it never snows!
Redfish and specks love to blast topwaters slowly worked across flatwater early and late. For all-day action, it’s impossible to beat a quarter ounce jig with soft plastic grub body. Work the jig along the bottom with hops and bumps; don’t be surprised when a big flounder takes the jig. Fly anglers can have loads of fun with 7, 8 or 9-wt gear throwing light-colored poppers and streamer flies. Leader material needs to be at least 10-pound test.
Hire a water taxi to ferry boats and gear to Cat Island. Once on the island, a kayak sturdy enough to stand-and-fish makes it easier to spot redfish and make accurate casts. Cat Island is also a great place to camp. Just be sure to bring everything you need.
You can’t go wrong fishing hard early and late and exploring during the middle of the day. Fish topwater lures along the north end of the island. In the middle of the day, use jigs and hard plastic swim baits to work deeper oyster bars. On tranquil late fall and winter days, when the wind is very light, drag the kayak across the island to the southern shore to look for seagulls swirling over schools of trophy redfish.