John's Journal...

Summer Fishing off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast

Sharks and Porpoises

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Mississippi’s Gulf Coast has some fantastic fishing, and although you may want to target a particular species of fish on your fishing trip, you never really know what you’ll catch. Let’s take a look at offshore fishing in July out of Biloxi, Mississippi, with Captain Mike Foto of the “Fish Finder” charter boat.

Rozanne Patten of Auburn, Alabama, was doubled-up on her rod. She was sure she had on a shark. We were bottom fishing out of Biloxi, Mississippi, on the charter boat the “Fish Finder” with Captain Mike Foto when Patten hoClick to enlargeoked-up a snapper on the bottom and started bringing it to the surface. Suddenly there was a sharp thud on the line, Patten’s rod bent double, and the fish began to run like a scalded greyhound. “I’ll bet she’s got a shark,” I told Foto. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she’s hooked-up to a shark,” Foto agreed. “At this time of year, we catch numbers of sharks and have a lot of customers who prefer to catch sharks. I’ve had parties out snapper fishing during the season, and after one angler caught a shark, the entire group would decide they wanted to leave the snapper and go shark fishing. Sharks put up a good fight, they’re delicious to eat, and many folks like to take home a set of jaws.”

The most-common sharks in the Mississippi Gulf Coast are blacktips, spinners, blues, makos and sand. But occasionally, sportsmen will tie-into a tiger shark or a hammerhead. As Patten fought the big fish, the fish carried she and her rod around the boat several times. Battling theClick to enlarge shark while walking around the boat was quite a challenge for Patten. However, the first mate on the “Fish Finder,” Tyler Brochard of Ocean Springs, Miss., put a stand-up belt on Patten and helped her maneuver from one side of the boat to the other and around the bow and the stern of the boat. Finally, the line went limp. We all assumed the shark had broken Patten’s line. But when she reeled-in the line, she had a small, somewhat-squashed, red snapper covered in teeth marks. “You had a porpoise,” Captain Foto explained. “That porpoise grabbed the snapper as it was coming up off the bottom and held on to it to try to pull it off the hook.” Click to enlarge

According to Captain Foto, porpoises living along the Mississippi Gulf Coast have learned to follow fishing boats for free meals. “Porpoises have created problems for us here on the Mississippi Golf Coast, and they’re becoming real nuisances,” Foto says. “Very few of the undersized snapper we catch and release make it back to the bottom. Most of the time, they end up being lunch for a porpoise. I really hate to throw back small snapper, because although this tactic has been intended to conserve the species, all we’re really doing is teaching the porpoises to follow fishing boats for easy, free meals. If they hear the engines of fishing boats, the porpoises will go to the boats and wait on the snapper to be released. Right now in the Gulf of Mexico, we have some of the best-trained porpoises you’ll ever see. They can hear engines of fishing boats, locate those boats and eat the juvenile snapper we release before the snapper reach the bottom. Although catch and release is meant to be a conservation practice (throw back the little ones, so they can grow into big ones), we’re destroying a lot of juvenile snapper by feeding them to porpoises.”

Vernon Minton, director of Alabama’s Marine Resources Department, is a well-known fisheries biologist, an author of Alabama’s artificial-reef program and a participant in the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which makes recommendations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Releasing small snapper was one of those good ideas that went bad,” Minton says. “The purpose of the concept was to help increase the stocks of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico by releasing the juveniles. But I agree with Captain Foto. With this practice, we’ve taught wild porpoises to follow fishing boats and kill and eat the juvenile snapper we release. If we don’t develop some method to stop the porpoises from eating the snapper, they’ll have a major impact on red-snapper stocks in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Patten didn’t land her porpoise, but she did have one on her line, though it was never hooked. She got to fight the porpoise, and unfortunately, her juvenile snapper became its lunch.

For more information on fishing with Captain Mike Foto, visit, call
601-528-9562 or 228-860-0314, or email To learn more about Mississippi’s great vacation opportunities, go to, call 1.866.SEE.MISS (733-6477), or email For a great place to stay during your trip to Mississippi, call the Isle of Capri in Biloxi, Mississippi at 1-800-THE-ISLE (843-4753), or visit

Tomorrow: Spanish and King Mackerel

Check back each day this week for more about "Summer Fishing off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast"

Day 1: Summer Cobia with Captain Mike Foto
Day 2: Sharks and Porpoises
Day 3: Spanish and King Mackerel
Day 4: Take a Family Shrimping Trip
Day 5: Shaggy’s Harbor Bar and Grill


Entry 520, Day 2