Dog Days are for Rock Hounds!

Last weekend I got the following water level alert for the MS River:

water alert 71717

This is an alert I have set for certain jetties on the MS River.  I have it set to start alerting me whenever the Vicksburg gauge gets to 24 feet which is just when the tallest rocks of the jetties come out of the water.  For info on Water Alerts go to the USGS Water Alert site.

My son Chris and I made a trip last Sunday.  We couldn’t leave early but got there late morning.  It was hot, which is a problem for me as I am sensitive to heat and there is no shade, but then the MS is one of those places I choose for dog day fishing as the river is finally low enough to fish the jetties, there is usually a wind blowing on the river and  you can just get in the water or stand in the water as it runs over the jetties to cool off.  Another plus is an attribute unique to the big river, a friend showed me, in the middle of winter, that the temperatures are usually as much as ten degrees cooler on the river.  I have found that mostly to be true, though if you take away ten degrees in the summer in Mississippi, it’s still hot,  so take precautions.

Don’t let me mislead you, jetty fishing on the MS is hit and miss, and even on a really good day with a flyrod, you won’t catch a great many fish.  But, for those willing to brave it, they might catch a nice striper or several chunky white bass and a few sea runs.  A flat head catfish is not out of the question and on a bad day, it can at least be a gar rodeo, but even the ever-present gar can be really picky.   Sight casting to gar can be a way to make up for a day when you can’t find rock hounds.  Sight casting for gar is best when the gauge readings are low and the jetties are tall.  I walk the jetties with my “Samurai” System rigged so that I can make a quick cast if I spot a gar.  Cast to the side of their head, that’s the strike zone.

Skipjack are present too, but if skipjacks are there, there’s a good chance the stripey fish will be there too.  If you catch skipjacks but no stripey fish, keep trying, those rockhounds are probably all laid up in the same eddy near the rocks.  You just have to find that ideal current and its eddy.  One strategy I have is to study the eddy currents looking for a current running underneath the white water near the rocks.   I give line and let the current suck the fly underneath the whitewater.   That’s one way to get the fly to the rockhounds who are taking it easy underneath all the roil letting the current bring food to them.   One can’t mistake the heavy grab of a rock hound taking the fly.

The biggest issue is getting a fly deep near the rocks as the roiling whitewater wants to whisk it away.   Another strategy is to look for a big rock at the edge of the whitewater side of the jetty,  which creates an eddy where you can drop a fly in for just a few seconds.  If I can’t find a current to pull my line underneath the roil or a big rock braking the flow, then I make a few casts in the different seams, trying dead drifts and fast stripping and then I move on, looking for that one sweet current that will produce fish.

Our recent trip was mostly a gar rodeo, but it was the first day of good water level.  If the water level stays the same for a few days,  the fishing gets better as the fish have time to find the jetties and accumulate.  I was very impressed with the clarity, I could see my hand when my arm was in the water above my elbow.

Only one white bass was caught (below), Chris caught him in a pool of green water below a trickle coming through a jetty.

 

The good news is the river is holding through this coming weekend with only a very slight dip.  Actually the dip has me excited because a rise is good for jetty fishing because the

grandbay forecast 71917

jetties are full of bugs, food which brings the small fish which in turn brings the predator fish.  Here’s the forecast for the weekend:

 

 

 

 

I use the gauge at Natchez to check turbidity.  It’s not close to the fishing area, but if the river is fairly stable then it’s a good yardstick as long as no major rain events occur North.  Anything below 50 is fish-able, but the lower, the better.  Local rains don’t affect the big river much as can be seen here in this graph.

natchez gauge 71917

The fly I use is a #2 Marabou Clouser with 1/50 oz dumbbell eyes.   Sometimes putting two flies in tandem seems to bring on the strikes, especially if the water is a little muddy.  Take a lot of flies, the rocks like them too.  For a cheap imitation I will use beads and coneheads, anything I have that can weight the fly.  The fly doesn’t have to turn hook up to fish the jetties so a perfect clouser is not necessary, but having eyes on the fly I think is a good thing.

If you fish the jetties, be sure and use a stripping bucket, those rocks will snag your fly-line, ruining your casting and nicking your line.  The water running through the jetties will grab the line and wrap it around every rock it can.  I use my bucket religiously.

 

 

 

Jetty hopping on the MS is not for everyone, it is treacherous dealing with the white water, currents, rocks and yes, river creatures like snakes and there are some big gators out there, keep an eye out.  I use a kayak to get around and avoid walking in the rocks as much as possible, but you must be mindful of the currents near the jetties.  And be careful of the heat, it will sneak up on you.  Be careful out there!

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