January 26, 2017
The Bayou State offers prime angling opportunities year 'round, whether inshore, offshore or in freshwater lakes, rivers and bayous. Regardless of the time of year, a fish species is biting somewhere. Because Louisiana offers so much world-class saltwater and freshwater fishing, it can become a problem to decide just where to fish. Here are 36 choices, listed by month, for anglers to consider this year.
JANUARY - Terrebonne Basin Black Drum
Cold fronts have quite a bit of steam behind them this time of year, but black drum are bottom feeders and use their sensitive chin barbles to locate food. Common techniques for catching black drum include fresh cutbait or live shrimp, though fish have fallen to properly presented artificial baits. Drum are most commonly caught around structure, such as jetties and reefs close to shore; however, small creeks or deeper holes may hold drum as well. With the spawn beginning in January, black drum represent a tried and true January option for those south of the salt line.
OTHER OPTIONS: Biloxi Marsh may be giving up speckled trout. Anglers can drift fish through the marsh switching between shrimp and plastics to see what the specks are craving. For crappie, try floating over Caney Lake, as crappie are preparing to rush to the shallows.
FEBRUARY - Lake D'Arbonne Black Crappie
As winter slowly gives way to spring, many anglers start their new year with weekends filled with crappie fishing. Lake D'Arbonne, in Union and Lincoln parishes, is a well-known reservoir supporting a sizeable population of crappie.
It is easy to catch a slab on Lake D'arbonne. Anglers do well fishing the shallows from the beginning of February all the way through May using tube jigs or dangling worms and crickets.
OTHER OPTIONS: Pre-spawn bass are biting on Cross Lake near Shreveport-Bossier. Anglers can also take advantage of wahoo movements by hiring a charter out of Golden Meadow.
MARCH - Pontchartrain Basin Sheepshead
Sheepshead are common across the Gulf of Mexico favoring saline to near-fresh estuarine waters. These fish are common near structure, such as jetties, piers and pilings. Sheepshead begin spawning in February, with mating lasting through April. Spawning takes place offshore, but near the coast. Scattered sheepshead are easy to catch once they are located, eating anything with a hard shell, including crabs and mollusks though shrimp-tipped jigheads are a favorite.
OTHER OPTIONS: March crappie are waiting in Black Bayou Lake located eight miles north of Monroe. March is a good time to pursue yellow bass in Caddo Lake.
APRIL - Toledo Bend Reservoir Largemouth Bass
Toledo Bend is well known for April bass fishing, and that's for good reason. When added to together, the lake has approximately 1,200 miles of bank, 185,000 acres of fishable water and multiple boat launches. Habitat diversity adds to the lake's ability to support such a high quality bass fishery.
Because of its size, different areas of the lake warm up at different times. However, many anglers agree that April is the primary spawning month in Toledo Bend. Anglers should be on the lookout look out for grass lines and be ready to exploit this habitat by tossing crankbaits and plastics over potential bedding spots. Don't ignore stumps and submerged structures. There are several places to launch boats on Toledo bend; some in Louisiana and some in Texas. On the Louisiana side, anglers can launch from Toledo Bends State Park among other sites. Bank fishing is allowed in the park as well, and anglers sans boat can fish several flats along the parks bank.
OTHER OPTIONS: Bream are biting in Crooked Creek Reservoir. Evangeline Parish Police Jury owns a portion of the south shoreline and maintains camper and tent sites, picnic areas, a swimming area and a boat launch. Red drum (aka redfish) are gearing up for their spring movements and eager anglers may find them in the marshes near Venice.
MAY - Offshore Dolphinfish
A do-it-yourself mahi-mahi adventure is hard to muster without equipment and experience, so it may be best to hire a charter service to get to the deepwater. In life, dolphinfish sport a blue-green back, which fades along the sides into a bright yellow belly; these colors seem to disappear once landed. Dolphin are predators known to favor triggerfish, shrimp and squid. Anglers should target floating objects and seaweed rips in the deep.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lake Claiborne is one of the Louisiana lakes stocked with a population of striped bass. The deep portions of the lake hold stripers. Pole-bending catfish are being offered in the warming waters of the Red River (the bite only gets better from here).
JUNE - Grand Isle Red Snapper
Red snapper is a prized fish that is important commercially, and also represents a favorite target for recreational anglers across the Gulf. Louisiana's recreational snapper season is highly regulated. To remain compliant, be sure to check the regulations and plan accordingly. For this species, heavy tackle and bottom tactics are required. The surest way to land a mature red snapper is to target drilling platforms and artificial reefs, as well as deep banks using live or dead baits.
Anglers can launch from several marinas in Grand Isle including Bridge Side (www.bridgesidecabinsandmarina.net) and Gulfstream Marina (www.grandislerentals.com). A number of red snapper charters are available for hire as well.
OTHER OPTIONS: Stay in the salt by heading northeast for fast redfish around Lake Borgne. Or, go after bream in Poverty Point.
JULY - Lake Calcasieu Speckled Trout
Calcasieu, located south of Lake Charles, is likely the states most popular speckled trout fishing destination. Specks, though scattered during the pre-spawn, are concentrated during the spawn from May to September. Mature fish tend to hang around the lower bays where salinity is higher. Launching from Lake Charles, anglers should target the ship channel or toss a line in the estuaries along the north side of the lake. From Cameron, focus on West Cove and any of the lake's reefs. Be sure to explore the lake and its associated marshes creeks and sloughs. Larger baits and artificial lures will entice larger fish. Historically liberal creel limits make for an exciting morning.
OTHER OPTIONS: Crickets are a must have bait when tackling the bluegill in Poverty Point Reservoir near Delhi. Though not the largest game fish around, these guys come to the bank sideways and are known to put up a pretty good fight. Also in the northern part of the state, summer bass are biting in Lake Concordia. The early morning feeding may hang on until mid morning.
AUGUST - Ouachita River Catfish
Nothing says summertime more than pulling pole-bending cats from a meandering river. The Ouachita River flows out of Arkansas and is considered one of the states prime catfish waters. Popular baits for channel catfish include cut shad, night crawlers and stink bait. For the best results, anglers should launch boats in Monroe and fish above the city, or launch at Riverton Recreation Area and fish upstream, which is below the city. These stretches of the river receive less fishing pressure and provide plenty of habitat for catfish.
OTHER OPTIONS: Moving toward the southern part of the state, crankbaits may entice big bass in the Atchafalaya Basin. Cast into visible snags and cover or shaded pockets of cooler water. If crankbaits are not working, switch to plastics. In the salty part of the state, the black drum bite may be on near Morgan City.
SEPTEMBER - Lake Bruin Hybrid Bass
Although summer is in its "waning" stages, water conditions are still summer-like and hybrid bass on Lake Bruin are running after shad. Hybrid bass are a cross between a female striped bass and a male white bass. The hybrid offspring are not fertile, but what they lack in fecundity they make up as good fighters. Hybrid bass offer yet another angling opportunity in the Sportsman's Paradise. Bass anglers know that these fish enjoy open water and shad, so target areas of Lake Bruin with these characteristics. Several boat launches are available for use on this heavily developed but naturally created oxbow lake.
OTHER OPTIONS: Cobia, or lemonfish, offer succulent filets and are being found around offshore oilrigs. Heading to freshwater, the tree-covered banks of Mill Creek Reservoir hold largemouth and crappie.
OCTOBER - Cross Lake Largemouth Bass
Cross Lake sits just to the west of Shreveport. The west shore of the lake is relatively wild and undeveloped, while the eastern shores and southern banks nearer the city are quite developed. This is a fair sized lake with several fingers and creeks that are relatively shallow and support good submerged vegetation. Bass, of course, may hug manmade structures. Toss them a spinnerbait, topwater popper or crankbait. Bank fisherman can visit the pier on the south side of the lake and cast for cruising bass as well.
OTHER OPTIONS: Those wanting to put some catfish fillets in the freezer should head to Lake Maurepas. Also, there is no closed season on billfish. October waters are cooling but still warm enough to keep marlin near. The current state record was caught in 1977. It weighed in at 1,018.5 pounds.
NOVEMBER - Venice Yellowfin Tuna
Unlike most groups of fish, tuna are considered warm-blooded creatures. Due to the ability to regulate their body temperature this fish is able to support an extremely high metabolism, making them eating machines. In November, yellowfin (and blackfin tuna) are biting across the Gulf. A number of charter services offer expertise out of Venice. Tuna can be caught using many different fishing methods from chumming to live lining to topwater crankbaits. These fish will battle longer and harder than other species and are sure to provide the fight of a lifetime for lucky anglers.
OTHER OPTIONS: Spotted gar, a ubiquitous freshwater species at home in low oxygen water throughout Louisiana is also a hard fighter. Cast lures into thick stuff along the shore of Lake Lafourche in Caldwell Parish. Bass are hitting plastics in Nantachie Lake.
DECEMBER - Lake Ponchartrain Redfish
New Orleans and redfish for together like red beans and rice. Redfish filets (or the whole fish) are a staple in many NOLA restaurants for good reason. Plentiful and tasty, the city's world-renowned cuisine developed around the abundance of this fish in and around the big lake north of town. The redfish catch has been good since November, continuing as December turns. Though water temperatures are cool to cold, redfish are prowling shallow waters around the lake. Spinners and spoons and baits suspended under a cork will help land redfish. The St. Tammany Fishing pier can be a place to fish during as redfish move to and from the Rigolets. Shrimp or live bait under a cork also works well.
OTHER OPTIONS: Flounder are biting in the marshes surrounding Lake Calcasieu while, in the other corner of the Bayou State, anglers can try to catch a mess of black crappie in Lake Bruin.
In the end, this is a synopsis of the year's fishing options. But, there are other places to fish as well! The take-away from this piece is simple; get out and find a fishing spot near you because something is biting somewhere.