The Mississippi Gulf Coast is littered with areas to fish for either salt water or fresh water fish. There are numerous bays, bayous and river systems to fish. This article will cover Bernard Bayou, which is located in Gulfport, Mississippi in-between Gulfport Lake and Back Bay. There is one boat ramp for Bernard Bayou, and it’s located on Cowan/Lorraine Road. This ramp is a two-lane launch that can handle any size boat along with roughly 50 parking spots.
The layout of the bayou seems to be split by the Cowan/Lorraine Bridge to the east is marshier in nature with limited man-made structure. To the west of the bridge is littered with numerous boat docks, seawalls and rock rip raps. There are a few isolated stumps located along the banks along with few lay-downs on the upper part of the bayou. The banks are lined with small rocks/gravel, some grass, shells and mud.
The average depth in the middle of the bayou is 10 feet with some deeper bends 25-30 feet. Some of the shallow points are marked for hazards with shallow water extending 20-30 feet off the bank. The middle of the bayou is overall hazard free and allows for open running. Use caution around bends, as there are numerous other boaters on weekends. The tides have an average daily range of 1-3 feet.
Fish species include largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, redfish, speckled trout, flounder, sheephead and ladyfish. Main sources of food for the game fish include menhaden, croakers, mullet, frogs, shrimp and insects. Menhaden seems to be the main source of food for most of these species.
Finding bass on this body of water can be a challenge; at first glance, it all looks very “fishy”. With the amount of bends, points, shoreline and boat docks it’s easy to over think this area. One of the first tactics to finding bass on this bayou is to find the schools of menhaden. This can take place at any time and any location on the bayou. It can be tough to fish the schoolers, but some baits that have worked the best include buzz baits, devil horses and spooks. Weightless fluke type baits (I use a ballistic lures split tail minnow in a white color) work well. Lipped or lipless crank baits can produce excellent numbers.
If schooling action is not taking place, there are still options. One tactic that has produced numerous bass is working the banks that have small rocks and/or a drop-off of at least 3-5 feet. Lures that produce while trolling the banks include lipless crank baits and spinnerbaits. Plastics also work well either dragging a Texas-rigged worm such as a trick worm (ballistic lures diamond shaped worm) or wacky rigging a senko style bait, both produce size and numbers.
Fishing the boat docks are the most time consuming and frustrating part of the bayou, the sheer number of docks can be overwhelming. Through trial and error, you can eliminate certain areas of docks. The docks in very shallow water, 1-3 feet, hold very few fish, as do docks in very deep water 10-12 feet. The docks in open water, roughly 5 feet deep, tend to hold the most fish; if they produce shade then chances of catching bass will increase. If the docks are located inside a small cove, they are worth a few casts if boat traffic is light.
The last area to fish is the rock rip-rap located throughout the bayou. These typically hold fish well in the spring. Although, it can be tough to find fish here in the summer, because of heavy summer boat traffic. Lures that have produced here include hollow bodied frog and senko styled lures including (ballistic lure sticks) rigged either wacky or texas rigged.
Overall lures that produce on this body of water include nearly any topwater lure. I have caught fish with hollow bodied frogs, buzz baits and devil horses. Lipless crank bait, spinnerbaits, and chatter baits work well throughout the year. Plastics seem the best in spring and fall while hit-or-miss in the summer.
The last two things to consider on the bayou are the tide and winds. The tides can and will impact the quality of fishing. If the tide is moving in or out, this will move the bait fish and thus increase the amount of bass caught. A tide that is stopped basically shuts the fishing down; high tide is the worst. The best fishing seems to be a tide that is dropping. The wind in the next factor to account for a dead calm wind at times will shut the fishing down to a halt. I have found the best fishing occurs with at least a steady breeze of 10-20kts.
This bayou is a fun place to fish and enjoy a nice outing. The bayou may lack the trophy size bass, but it makes that up in sheer numbers. An average 4 hour trip can land well over 15 bass along with the chance of a hard fighting redfish or a school of speckled trout. The scenery along the bayou is amazing with the beauty of the homes built along its banks and the amount of wildlife that is seen daily.