One of my favorite marshes is Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve near Pascagoula MS. Otherwise known as just Grand Bay NERR or “the NERR” for short. I like to call it the little marsh with the big name. Juxtaposed against the urban development of Pascagoula along with ship building, a refinery and other heavy industries, it is also threatened by a stack of phosphate tailings containing 700 million gallons of toxic water.
It’s a wonder that it survives at all, and it has had its share of abuse from tailing spills (MS Phosphate 2005, 2012) and oil spills (BP 2010).
But I love it. Yes, I love it, but I had to learn to love it. Learning to love it had a lot to do with learning when and how to fish it, but the wild beauty of the marsh is a big draw for me. It is home to a number of ospreys and bald eagles which are always entertaining. The raptors fish much better than I do. Since it is against the Mississippi Sound, pelagics can come inshore easily and it’s not unusual to see sharks, catch Spanish, and I have caught juvenile Jack Crevalle and have even seen Tripletail under the crab floats. It is especially good for flounder, but of course, I target redfish.
This trip, which was a spur of the moment trip started when friend Jim, let’s call him “Catfish”, sent me a message and said he was going and asked if I wanted to go. I checked the weather and the tides and had to scold myself for missing what looked like really good conditions. I have been in a rut of bad weather conditions and I guess just got out of the habit of looking. Kudos to “Catfish” for paying attention.
Another friend, let’s call him “Mr. Pickles, jumped on the opportunity and we decided to do a “down and back” in one-day run to the coast. Mr. Pickles was going to bring his jon boat and offered to tow our kayaks out, which we often do.
It’s always fun and games on the tow out, unless somebody swamps and that’s what happened to “catfish” on the way out. It seems the tow speed was a little too hot and we didn’t realize the stern on the rearmost yak was pulling water over the top. Luckily we caught it and after some bailing we were on our way again.
Unfortunately the wind was pretty strong and we had to choose what I call “the short program” which is the most protected water around Grand Bay. Actually we only managed to fish a small portion of it.
But the fish were there and as the wind was from the east it was easy for us to find lee shores. The tide was very good, high at 4:45 AM and low around 3:50 PM with a range of around 2 feet. The creek we went down to get to the flats had plenty of water in it and it was full of baitfish and shrimp. I saw five redfish in the creek, but they were all behind me and I couldn’t get a cast.
When I got on my first flat, really a wide shallow shelf, a fish came down the edge chasing bait. I did what I call a “Samurai” maneuver, dropping the paddle in the holder and then grabbing the rod which was cocked and locked in the holder with shooting line in the bucket. Worked great, I didn’t have to shift my weight moving or drop my anchors and I kept my eyes on the fish. I dropped the fly, a small crab imitation, about four feet in front of the fish and bumped it once when he got close, and the fish sucked it in.
My next fish was on a shallow shelf with about four buddies, coming down the edge. I did the maneuver and made a cast about four feet in front and waited. When the fish got close I bumped the fly and watched them pounce for it. I caught the winner.
Another fish came swimming out of a creek and was probably only 15 feet away when I dropped the fly. Same thing, “Samurai” system deserves the credit.
Sorry about the scarcity of fish pics, my GoPro is on the fritz and it’s just hard to take solo pics of fish, as you can see above.
So I had a good day, not a great day, with three sight casted fish and another on a blind cast. I had one reject on a sight cast but I think the fish picked up the fly and tasted it and then blew off, I think I just didn’t realize he had picked it up. Another couple of fish in dirty water near a wind blown bank wouldn’t take but I think I was leading them too much in the dirty water and they couldn’t see it. I probably saw a total of 12+ fish, some were spooked and some were behind me, so only two that I got casts to but didn’t hook.
Fun stuff. Before I sign off I should mention that in 2014 I placed a project in the RESTORE project portal to encourage the “powers that be” to please save Grand Bay from shoreline erosion. It would have been nice if something could have been done before Hurricane Florence hit the marsh earlier this year. But no, I guess it is more important to provide $750 million of the BP settlement money for roads and bridges on the coast, promenades, money for William-Carey Pharmacy dept, etc etc. Yes, I am being sarcastic. The proposed project is documented in my article, with more information and history about “the NERR”. If you’re interested, the article is at: Support-project-4248-protect-Point-Aux-Chenes-bay-shoreline/