Photo by Polly Dean
That I would become a fisherman was set in concrete years ago when my dad took me fishing to False River, not far from our Baton Rouge home.
Fishing a 1970s version of a jointed minnow, I had cast and reeled nonchalantly for some time that early summer morning when suddenly a jolt on the end of my line helped to change the course of my life.
When the 1 1/2-pound largemouth bass was reeled in, a lifelong fisherman was born — someone who to this day treasures the heritage and piscatorial riches of Louisiana’s top-end angling resources.
Whatever end of the Bayou State you call home, there are great salt and freshwater destinations within an easy drive to provide a year’s worth of angling adventure Cajun style!
Blue Catfish: Toledo Bend Reservoir
I’ve never been much of a whiskerfish junkie, but that changed last winter when I hooked and landed my first-ever blue catfish. It was a 43-pound, 9-ounce specimen. It was a fight that I’ll never forget from the tremendous take of the bait, the screaming of monofilament out of the reel, the sheer brute strength at the end of my line, or the difficulty in holding up such a fish for a grip and grin shot.
I might have been late to the whiskerfish dance, but after my experience last winter, trust me, I’ll be back for more.
One of the Bayou State’s best whiskerfish spots is the border lake that separates Texas and Louisiana — Toledo Bend Reservoir.
How good is the 181,600-acre reservoir for big blues? Pretty good, according to Bill Ritzell, who boated a 67-pound blue last year!
The three secrets of catching big blues are shad, shad and shad. They are the bait to use. Big bait-casting rigs, 20-pound-test monofilament, 3/0 or 4/0 circle hooks, a big sinker and cut shad are tough to beat for a big wintertime blue.
Crappie: Poverty Point Reservoir
The second month of the year might be better known for the Super Bowl, groundhogs and Cupid’s mid-month arrival for sweethearts, but in my book, February is the perfect month to target crappie in a number of Louisiana’s superb sac-au-lait waters. As winter begins to turn into spring, try 2,700-acre Poverty Point Reservoir near Delhi.
“Crappie are great winter fish, but once we start having a few of those 75-degree days, we’ll start getting into a spring crappie pattern,” legendary angler Jimmy Houston pointed out.
When the weather does start moderating — especially with a stiff southwesterly breeze warming up things in a hurry — Houston puts his crappie game plan into action.
“I would try to look for creek channels close to where you feel fish are going to move in to spawn,” he said. “Flat areas with hard type banks are good places for them to span. Remember where you caught crappie last year, find a nearby creek channel and that’s where they tend to be.”
Largemouth Bass: Delacroix
By the Ides of March, winter is all but over in the Sportsman’s Paradise. In fact, down south, spring has indeed sprung by the time this month arrives on the calendar. And that’s a great reason to go bass fishing in the southeastern portion of the state in the Delacroix area southeast of New Orleans.
While Hurricane Katrina dealt this portion of the state a grave blow in August 2005, the Delacroix bass fishery has steadily recovered. If past B.A.S.S. events launched from the Big Easy have been any indication, good spots for anglers to consider in this maze of bayous and small lakes include Lake Leary, Spanish Lake and Oak River. Look for isolated cuts, grass patches, canals and places with current to find bass.
What lures should anglers put into their tackle boxes before coming to fish here?
“The nice thing there is that it’s a flipper and spinnerbait angler’s paradise,” reported two-time BASSmasters Classic champ and five-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam. “There are some crankbait opportunities, but it’s primarily a shallow, stained-water fishery and that’s conducive to big baits and big lines. Buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and frogs are the kind of baits that you’ll throw to coax them out.”
VanDam used similar baits to capture his first Classic title in July 2001. Those same techniques also make VanDam one of the early favorites to capture yet another Classic title when the Super Bowl of bass fishing returns to New Orleans in February 2011.
Cobia: Gulf Coast
The hard-fighting cobia is a saltwater species that really likes springtime along the northern Gulf Coast. These fish begin arriving in earnest in the Louisiana coastal regions this month as waters warm out of the lower 60s.
If you’re not all that familiar with this species, make no mistake about the fact that cobia are one of Louisiana’s top piscatorial predators. Weighing anywhere from the low teens to more than 50 pounds, these fish demand rods, reels and line that are beefy enough to stand up to the challenge.
While many anglers prefer live baits — especially eels — others enjoy taking cobia on various hued bucktails, soft plastics or even big saltwater flies.
Whatever your selection, look for cobia around inshore waters near underwater structural features, either manmade or natural. Also, look for single objects in the water like floating debris, markers or buoys.
Wherever you spot the fish, maneuver into a position to sight-cast your bait, lure or fly to the strike zone, and then be ready to hang on for dear life when the cobia takes the bait!
When May arrives, I get excited — the panfish spawn is in high gear this month in most of Louisiana’s freshwater venues. It’s time so get the skillet ready!
Up north, Caddo, Caney and D’Arbonne lakes are good spots to try for tasty bluegills and redears. Down south, the vast Louisiana Delta system waters and the Atchafalaya Basin are prime spots to consider. In between, just about any decent size farm pond holds bream.
If you are interested in some of the real fishing
action, consider using a fly rod. A fly rod in either 4- or 5-weight model. Add a floating fly line, a 7 1/2-foot leader in 5X strength, and a few small topwater popping bugs in white, chartreuse, red, black or green frog patterns and you’re in business.
To keep things a bit simpler, use a cane pole rigged with a small bait hook, a split shot or two and a bobber. While bluegills and redears eat worms readily, my best bluegill luck has always occurred with crickets.
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