Gulf of Mexico fishing is great for Louisiana-Mississippi anglers who don’t even have to always leave the shore.
The mighty beast nearly yanked the stout rod from its holder and ripped line from the screaming heavy-duty reel. The angler grabbed the rod and battled the brawny brute racing farther offshore.
After overcoming several spirited runs, the angler walked into the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico to land a 40-pound redfish!
No, this battle didn’t take place 50 miles offshore, but right on the beach. In many places, Louisiana and Mississippi anglers without boats can still catch big fish on public piers, beaches, seawalls and many other places.
Anglers don’t find many beaches accessible by car in Louisiana, but they can if they head to Cameron Parish in the southwestern corner of the state. From Sabine Pass at the Louisiana-Texas line, almost to where the Calcasieu Ship Channel enters the gulf, anglers can fish Constance Beach, Holly Beach and practically anywhere along the coast.
“People can fish the beaches at Holly Beach and all along Louisiana Highway 82 in Cameron Parish,” explained Mandy Wing, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
biologist. “There’s quite a lot of public areas where people can fish. There’s also a new beach east of Holly Beach that people can drive out to in their cars. Before, they could only get out there in all-terrain vehicles.”
Many people wade the waters along the beaches casting for speckled trout and flounder, but they might also catch black drum, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel, sharks and other species. However, most people fish these beaches for bull redfish.
“In the spring, people catch redfish, trout and gafftopsail catfish as the water starts warming up,” Wing said. “There’s also good shark fishing in the spring and summer. Speckled trout fishing gets really good along the beaches in August and September, but people can catch fish out there almost anytime.”
From late spring to early fall, big redfish cruise just off the sand looking for mullet, menhaden or other baitfish. Many beach anglers use long surf rods, tipped with crabs, live or chunked mullet.
Several rows of sandbars create humps and troughs parallel to the beach. The first trough usually sits about 20 or so yards off the beach. Baitfish drop into this slightly deeper water, and predators move through cuts in the bars to attack baitfish.
Farther north on the Calcasieu Estuary, people can fish the Lake Charles Seawall. Depending upon the salinity levels, people might catch redfish, speckled trout, sheepshead or even largemouth bass and blue catfish.
“People can catch a variety of fish on the Lake Charles Seawall,” Wing said. “One guy told me he was fishing on the seawall and caught a bass, a redfish and a trout from the same spot.”
In eastern Louisiana, many people head to Grand Isle where the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary meets the Gulf of Mexico. People can fish beaches on either the gulf or bay side, but two public piers can offer excellent action.
“People without boats who go to Grand Isle have many fishing options,” said Chris Schieble, LDWF fisheries biologist. “In the summer, most people catch speckled trout. People also catch some Spanish mackerel and bluefish off the beach. In the fall, the area has a good flounder run. Many people go flounder gigging along the beaches at night.”
On the eastern edge of the island, the Grand Isle State Park pier extends 400 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. On the western side of the island, people fish a public pier made from an old bridge that sits adjacent to the Highway 1 bridge over Caminada Pass. In September 2009, fire severely damaged one pier jutting out into the pass, but the other portion remains intact and open for fishing. The pass drops to more than 100-feet deep in places.
“The Bridge Side Pier is the more productive of the two public piers on the island,” Schieble confirmed. “It’s over deeper water with a lot more water movement with stronger tides on that end of the island.”
The pier at the pass is wider than the park pier with a bigger “T” section. In the spring, people catch many specks off the pass pier. They also catch redfish, black drum and flounder. Being so close to the gulf, people sometimes catch Spanish mackerel, bluefish and other species.
“Everything moves through the pass,” Schieble advised. “On the way to Grand Isle, people can also fish on the side of the old Highway 1. Particularly fish the cuts and culverts where the water is moving. People can also fish at Elmer’s Island near Grand Isle. It was closed for renovation for a long time, but it’s reopened. People can park and access about four or five miles of beach.”
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Built in the 1930s, the New Orleans Seawall stretches along Lakeshore Drive on the southern shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain. The structure runs from the Orleans Marina to the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, also called the Industrial Canal, at Seabrook Bridge.
“The seawall is a very good stretch of accessibility along Lake Pontchartrain,” explained Carl Britt, LDWF biologist. “It has good lighting now, which was added recently. It’s a nice family place where people can fish in a major metropolitan area.”
Made of concrete, the entire structure looks like one big, long stairway with steps leading all the way down into the water. The steps make very convenient places for people to fish or crab.
Depending upon the time of year and the salinity, people can catch practically any fish found in southern Louisiana from those concrete steps. People catch a lot of speckled trout, black drum, croakers, sheepshead and other fish along the seawall. In April 1982, Wayne J. Desselle caught the world record sheepshead, a 21.25-pounder, while fishing the seawall near were Bayou St. John enters Lake Pontchartrain. Sometimes, people catch massive bull sharks while sitting on the steps.
“People can catch a myriad of fish out there,” Britt said. “Bull sharks are fairly common in low salinity areas. When the salinity is a little higher, the fishing is usually better for most species.”
People can also fish the Frank Davis Pier, located at the eastern end of Lakeshore Drive near the Seabrook Boat Launch where the Industrial Canal enters Lake Pontchartrain. Anglers can also fish off the bank at the Bonnabel Boat Launch in Metairie. On the north side of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish, anglers can fish a pier made from the old I-10 Twin Spans by Slidell or the Mandeville Seawall and a pier.
Between seawalls and beaches, people without boats can find abundant places to fish almost anywhere along the Mississippi coastline. From Waveland to Biloxi, folks wade the beaches and fish with live bait or fresh shrimp for speckled trout, flounder, drum, croakers and more. They also catch fish on a variety of artificial baits. At night, people walk in the shallow water along the beaches gigging flounder.
“A good portion of the beach along the Mississippi coast is public,” said Travis Williams, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources biologist. “Around Waveland, there’s a pretty good stretch of beach where people can fish. There’s also a seawall there that’s heavily used for fishing and crabbing.”
Near Point Cadet not far from where Back Bay, also called Biloxi Bay, flows into Mississippi Sound between Biloxi and Ocean Springs, the state converted an old highway bridge into a fishing pier. The bay averages about 4- to 13-feet deep. The pass connects the bay to Mississippi Sound. The water in the pass runs about 15 to 21 feet deep and attracts specks, redfish, flounder, drum, ground mullet and other species.
“The bridge was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and rebuilt as a fishing pier,” Williams recalled. “It’s convenient because people can drive out on it, pull over to park and fish wherever they like 24 hours a day.”
Made of concrete, the Point Cadet fishing bridge officially opened in April 2013, extending about 4,700 feet over the water. Overhead lights illuminate the pier so anglers can fish anytime. At night, the lights might attract baitfish, shrimp and other morsels. Larger predatory fish move in to eat prey species.
On the pier, two 11-foot-wide vehicle lanes, each bordered by a 5-foot-wide handicap accessible sidewall, provide excellent access. In addition, two wide turnaround sections, one midway down the pier and the other at the end, allow vehicles plenty of room to turn around.
On the Ocean Springs side of the pass, people can also fish another section of the old bridge, but they can’t drive on it. The state even established some limestone reefs near the pier to attract fish.
“The pier on the Ocean Springs side of the pass is not nearly as large as the one on the Biloxi side, but it is covered so people can get out of the weather and get some shade from the sun,” Williams said. “Another popular place in Harrison County is the old Biloxi Broadwater Marina just east of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center. It was destroyed by Katrina in 2005 and never rebuilt. People can still drive out on the old marina grounds and fish all year long.”
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In the old marina enclosure, anglers can find calm, deeper water that attracts trout, redfish and drum. Structure around the old marina also attracts sheepshead and other fish. Just down from the marina, many people fish the old Treasure Bay location. Another Katrina victim, many old pilings and other structures remain, providing good cover for various fish species.
“The Mississippi Gulf Coast is a great place to fish,” remarked Ronnie Daniels with Fisher-Man Guide Services (msfisherman.com). “From the beaches to the barrier islands, we have a very good fishery, particularly from mid-spring through late fall. We catch several 6-pound specks each year, but Mississippi Sound can produce some speckled trout in the 7- to 8-pound range.”
In both states, people along the coast can find many more places where they might land a big fish without getting into a boat. Numerous small piers by public boat launches, seawalls, bridge structures and other spots along highways can provide good public fishing, but stay off private property without an invitation.