Regional Reports: SOUTH

Trophy brown trout in Arkansas and Kentucky; Crappies in Mississippi; North Carolina bluefin tuna fishing; Late snow-goose hunting in Texas; and Virginia smallmouths.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Arkansas - Trophy Browns on the White River
The chance to catch trophy brown trout is what draws anglers from all over the world to Bull Shoals Lake, a 30-mile stretch of the White River near Cotter. Spinning gear is excellent for catching the big browns and rainbows, too. Floating minnow lures, like floating Rapalas, consistently catch big trout. The sinking version is good for fishing deep holes in low current. Best colors are silver/black or rainbow trout pattern. Don't be afraid to use the bigger sizes, such as No. 11, as they tend to draw strikes from bigger fish. Inline spinners also work well for catching big trout. Best bets include the 0 or 00 Mepps Aglia with black hackle and silver blades. If you're fishing any of the five catch-and-release areas along this stretch, you'll have to replace treble hooks on your minnow baits with a single barbless hook. To catch rainbows, attach the hook to the back of the lure, as they usually attack from the rear. For browns, attach the hook to the middle. Cast downstream and retrieve against the current.

The White is at its best when the dam's generators aren't churning. Keep a low profile and look for fish tailing in the shallows. If you can't see fish moving, concentrate on eddies and current breaks from which trout can escape the current and ambush prey.

The White can be treacherous, especially if the dam begins generating. (Call 501-431-5311 for a recording detailing the day's generating schedules.) Pick out a boulder or tree and watch it closely. If the water level begins to rise, leave the river immediately.

Access the Bull Shoals Lake at Bull Shoals State Park; White Hole on AR-178, four miles downstream from the state park; Ranchette Access on Route 701, 18 miles downstream from the park; and Cotter Access off U.S. Highway 62 east of Mountain Home.

Many line-class records have been broken at Bull Shoals, and fisheries biologists with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission have weighed and released at least two fish that would challenge the current world record of 40 pounds, 4 ounces.

Contact: Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (501-223-6300). -Bryan Hendricks

Kentucky Tailwater Browns
Winding through the hills of southern Kentucky, the Cumberland tailwaters is an explosive, all-season trout destination. The constant flow of cold water from the deep Cumberland Reservoir has created 75 miles of good trout water from the dam to the Tennessee state line. Most of the tailwaters' trout are stocked in spring and summer, but there are plenty of holdover trout throughout the winter and there are fewer anglers on the water this time of year.

For big fish hit the middle and lower sections, which receive less angling pressure and the bulk of the brown trout stockings. Try the upper sections for lots of rainbows. Bounce Power Bait, spinners, crankbaits, crawlers, nymph patterns or streamers with the current. You'll know the bait has been inhaled when your line halts or moves against the current.

"Look for the river coming up or down," recommends James Gray of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The water levels fluctuate daily depending on power generation schedules, sometimes sending the fish into feeding frenzies. Call 270-343-0153 to get the daily schedule. If you are boating keep it small-johnboats and canoes work best.

The Cumberland can be broken into eight sections divided by access points. Heading downstream, the dam is the first access site, followed by Helm's Landing, Winfrey's Ferry, Burkesville, Crockus Creek, Highway 61 bridge, Cloyd's Landing and McMillians Ferry. Highway 61, United States 127 and State Route 90 provide access to the region.

Contact: Kentucky Department of Natural Resources (606-784-6872). -Brian Ruzzo

Mississippi's Big Crappies
"Without a doubt, when it comes to big crappies, ere is no better lake than Eagle Lake," says David Saxon of Yazoo City, one of Mississippi's best oxbow-lake crappie fishermen. "Eagle is always at its peak in February. That's when you can catch the biggest and the most fish of the year. We've had tournaments over there in February in which five or six teams come in and have ten-fish limits weighing between twenty-one and twenty-two pounds."

The key to getting the big ones, Saxon says, is fishing the pre-spawn in February. Big females form big schools in deep water and eat heartily in advance of the spawn. Saxon says there are two key areas, and because of their locations they give fishermen choices depending on the wind.

"The first is along the roadbed leading to Garfield's Landing, across from the spawning area known as Float Row," says Saxon. "Eagle Lake Road is on the outside bend of the lake. The second area is out from Muddy Bayou. That's the deepest part of the lake.

"The fish will be in eighteen to twenty-five feet of water and will be holding anywhere from twelve to sixteen feet deep. You have to cover a lot of water. Trolling with multiple poles allows that. Sometimes a bare minnow on a hook below a weight is best; other times a jig and minnow work best."

Contact: Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (601-432-2400). -Bobby Cleveland

**North Carolina Bluefins **
Until a few years ago, bluefin tuna were considered a fishery related to the New England seacoast. Then large numbers of bluefins started showing up off Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout, N.C., drifting into inshore waters.

Now, from late November through March, fishermen from Hatteras and Ocracoke find bluefins about 20 miles off the beach, just inside the Gulf Stream. Leaving from Morehead City and Harker's Island, you'll find bluefins spending much of the winter just northeast of the Cape Lookout Shoals on inshore wrecks and reefs within 10 miles of the beach. A day of bluefin fishing will run you between $175 and $200.

Most charter boats troll blue/white Islander lures or horse ballyhoo at about five knots, hoping to find bluefin hanging around big pods of baitfish. Once you get a tuna hooked, the boat stops and buckets of menhaden or butterfish are dumped over the transom and other bluefins greedily move in to sample the buffet.

"As long as you keep them chummed up and keep one fish hooked in the water, they'll stay with you," says Bob Eakes of Buxton, a tackle-shop owner and bluefin veteran. "A lot of times we'll chum them to the point where you have visual sightings of 20 to 30 fish behind the boat."

Contact: In Hatteras, Hatteras Harbor Marina (252-986-2166); Oden's Dock (252-986-2555); Teach's Lair Marina (252-986-2460). In Ocracoke, Anchorage Marina (252-928-3000); O'Neal's Dockside (252-928-1111). In Harker's Island, Calico Jack's (252-728-3575); Harker's Island Fishing Center (252-728-3907). In Morehead City, many boats operate out of the city docks and are chartered through Captain Joe's Bait & Tackle (252-240-2744). -Dan Kibler

**Texas Goose Bonanza
**Shoot until your shoulder goes numb...and then shoot some more, during Texas's special late snow goose season. There are no daily or possession limits and the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns is permitted.

"The first special season was incredible," says outfitter Mike Ladnier. "Last year wasn't as good because we had mostly older, hunter-savvy birds. Even the electronic callers didn't fool them too well. But this year we were seeing young birds and hearing reports of more headed this way from Canada. We expect to have a great season this year."

Ladnier, who operates on 40,000 acres 80 miles from Houston, says that when conditions are right it is possible for a six-hunter party to leave the rice fields after a morning's shooting with 10 birds apiece.

James Prince, who operates on 45,000 acres on the famed Katy Prairie 35 miles west of Houston, is also optimistic about the season. "The past two seasons were in a drought situation," he says. "And even then we had good hunting. However, this year we are not in a drought, the habitat and fields are in good condition and we have lots of young snows and Ross' geese."

Though public land hunting is available on area WMAs and reserves, these areas are usually swamped with hunters. Your best bet is on private land. The Katy chamber of commerce provides contact information for outfitters and available lease land.

Contact: Mike Ladnier, Bay Prairie Outfitters (800-242-1374; www.texas-goose-hunting.com); James Prince, Larry Gore's Eagle Lake & Katy Prairie Outfitters (888-894-6673; www.larrygore.com); Katy Chamber of Commerce (281-828-1100; www.katychamber.com). -Don Zaidle

** Virginia - Shenandoah Smallmouths**
If you're willing to brave the sometimes brutal elements, February can be a great month to target the Shenandoah River's biggest smallmouth bass.

"We had an excellent year-class in 1993 in pretty much all of Virginia's smallmouth rivers, and those fish are now in the fourteen- to eighteen-inch range," says Larry Mohn, a fisheries biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

To help protect those big bass in the south fork and the main stem of the Shenandoah, biologists imposed a 14- to 20-inch slot limit on two long sections in January 2000. The first is between the Shenandoah Dam and the Luray Dam on the south fork; the second is on the main stem from the Warren Power Dam to Route 50.

In both sections throw four-inch tubes, tail-weighted Yamamotosenkos and jig-and-pig combinations, says guide Jeff Kelble, who frequents this river in winter, with or without clients. "If the water is clear, I like smoke- and green pumpkin-colored baits, and if it's muddy I'll throw black and blue and black and chartreuse, but the best color varies from day to day," he says, adding that he looks for deeper pockets of water protected from the current by a ledge or some other form of current break.

Contact: Jeff Kelble (703-243-5389); Tim Freese (703-443-9052); Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (804-367-1000). -David Hart

** Florida - Everglades Bassin'**
As a bass angler, the closest you'll ever come to a sure thing is the Everglades in late winter and early spring. As water levels drop during the dry season, most of the bass in the vast Everglades marsh move into the canals, which are bordered by sawgrass, lily pads, water hyacinths and hydrilla. Fish plugs parallel to that cover and drag soft-plastic jerkbaits through the cover. The best fishing is usually around cuts in the canal, where bass can move to and from theBR>
James Prince, who operates on 45,000 acres on the famed Katy Prairie 35 miles west of Houston, is also optimistic about the season. "The past two seasons were in a drought situation," he says. "And even then we had good hunting. However, this year we are not in a drought, the habitat and fields are in good condition and we have lots of young snows and Ross' geese."

Though public land hunting is available on area WMAs and reserves, these areas are usually swamped with hunters. Your best bet is on private land. The Katy chamber of commerce provides contact information for outfitters and available lease land.

Contact: Mike Ladnier, Bay Prairie Outfitters (800-242-1374; www.texas-goose-hunting.com); James Prince, Larry Gore's Eagle Lake & Katy Prairie Outfitters (888-894-6673; www.larrygore.com); Katy Chamber of Commerce (281-828-1100; www.katychamber.com). -Don Zaidle

** Virginia - Shenandoah Smallmouths**
If you're willing to brave the sometimes brutal elements, February can be a great month to target the Shenandoah River's biggest smallmouth bass.

"We had an excellent year-class in 1993 in pretty much all of Virginia's smallmouth rivers, and those fish are now in the fourteen- to eighteen-inch range," says Larry Mohn, a fisheries biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

To help protect those big bass in the south fork and the main stem of the Shenandoah, biologists imposed a 14- to 20-inch slot limit on two long sections in January 2000. The first is between the Shenandoah Dam and the Luray Dam on the south fork; the second is on the main stem from the Warren Power Dam to Route 50.

In both sections throw four-inch tubes, tail-weighted Yamamotosenkos and jig-and-pig combinations, says guide Jeff Kelble, who frequents this river in winter, with or without clients. "If the water is clear, I like smoke- and green pumpkin-colored baits, and if it's muddy I'll throw black and blue and black and chartreuse, but the best color varies from day to day," he says, adding that he looks for deeper pockets of water protected from the current by a ledge or some other form of current break.

Contact: Jeff Kelble (703-243-5389); Tim Freese (703-443-9052); Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (804-367-1000). -David Hart

** Florida - Everglades Bassin'**
As a bass angler, the closest you'll ever come to a sure thing is the Everglades in late winter and early spring. As water levels drop during the dry season, most of the bass in the vast Everglades marsh move into the canals, which are bordered by sawgrass, lily pads, water hyacinths and hydrilla. Fish plugs parallel to that cover and drag soft-plastic jerkbaits through the cover. The best fishing is usually around cuts in the canal, where bass can move to and from the