Some of the best memories are made when the family is in the outdoors, fishing, camping and exploring, away from the electronic cares of the world.
By John Flores
According to United States Fish and Wildlife Service statistics compiled in 2016, more than 35.8 million Americans, 16 years old and older, participated in fishing. These anglers spent some $46.1 billion dollars on trips, equipment and assorted other expenditures, of which $708 million was for licenses. What's more, these numbers also produce employment for over 1 million people, according to the American Sport Fishing Association.
In another study conducted annually by Kampgrounds of America, 75 million participate in camping activities according to its 2017 report. The number one activity campers typically engaged in was hiking, which accounted for 50 percent of the responders. The number two activity was fishing, estimated to be some 44 percent of all campers.
The USFWS statistics also point out the most popular type of fishing was shoreline fishing. When considering numbers like these, participation basically boils down to places to go with public access. For Louisiana and Mississippi fishermen, there is no shortage of public opportunities.
FAMILY FISHING LOUISIANA SALTWATER BONANZA
According to the statistics, 8.3 million who participated in fishing happen to be saltwater anglers, and there just might not be a better region than southwest Louisiana for public access to redfish, seatrout, and flounder. More specifically, the Parish owned Cameron Jetty R/V Park is a top location.
Capt. Sammie Faulk, owner/operator of Gotta Go Charters, is also Chairman of the Cameron Parish Tourist Commission and Vice-Chairman of the board that governs the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail that runs through Cameron. Faulk spends considerable time promoting the region, about more than just the fishing even though he makes his living putting anglers on fish in nearby Lake Calcasieu, also known as Big Lake.
When it comes to fishing the Cameron Jetties, Faulk says for the price, there just might not be a better place along the gulf coast for a non-boater to take a family camping and catch a redfish. Trailer and motor-home campers can stay at the Jetty R/V Park for $25 per night. The park has a long fishing pier that sits out over the water and costs $5 a day to use. However, use of the pier is included in the cost for overnight campers.
The fishing pier is equipped with cleaning stations that include running water. One thing jetty anglers should bring with them is a bridge/pier net, which it easier when trying to land a big bull redfish or black drum.
"You don't need super heavy tackle, but whatever rod you use, you'll want to put some 10- to 15-pound braided line on it, just to pull them up to the pier," said Faulk. "The best bait to use is shrimp, cracked crab or cutbait, like mullet, pogie, shad or croaker. But artificial bait works good too. I recommend using a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce jighead and attach something like a Berkley Gulp shrimp or minnow, or a curly-tailed grub, or H&H cocahoe minnow."
Watch The Video Gallery Above To Help you Improve Your Family Fishing Fun!
East and west of the town of Cameron, along State Highway 27, is Holly Beach and Rutherford Beach. Primitive camping is allowed along these beaches where folks can surf fish along the northern gulf coast.
The best time to surf fish in this region is when there is a rough surf coming out of the south that pushes the bait up toward the bank. All that's required is a stiff rod, loaded with no less than 12-pound test line, and a gulf drop rig, with a heavy 2 to 4-ounce diamond weight. Just attach a 4/0 kahle hook and a piece of cutbait.
Along The Way: Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge is located along Highway 27. The main office has interactive displays and visitors should take time to travel the 3.1-mile long Pintail Drive Nature Trail. The nature trail has a boardwalk through the marsh where wading birds like tri-color herons, egrets and great blue herons can be seen. Birdwatchers can also visit Sabine NWR along Highway 27 and Peveto Woods Bird Sanctuary along Highway 82 toward Johnson Bayou.
MISSISSIPPI'S PERCY QUIN
Located six miles from McComb, Percy Quin State Park is one of the state's larger parks. Park Manager Will Busby, says because of Percy Quin's central location in the southern part of the state, much of the park's business comes from Louisiana, as it is one hour from New Orleans, one hour from Baton Rouge and one hour from Jackson. Additionally, it has the most facilities of any of Mississippi's state parks.
"We have 27 vacation cabins, four cottages, 100 RV campsites with water and electric hook ups, a hotel, a golf course and a convention center that seats 200 people, where meals can be provided," Busby said. "It's a really big operation. We also have football fields, tennis courts, swimming pools and a water playground for children."
In 2012, hurricane Isaac barreled through Mississippi and Percy Quin State Park's Lake Tangipahoa took a major hit and had to be closed for several years. After extensive repairs and improvements, the lake was reopened to anglers in September of 2017.
Lake Tangipahoa is fed by the Tangipahoa River, which runs down its middle, bringing in fresh bait like gizzard shad, threadfin shad, golden shiners, spotted suckers, chubs and crawfish. On the opposite end, it's dammed, but continues to flow downstream on into Louisiana. Chasing the bait are bluegills, redear sunfish, catfish and bass.
"Everything that lives in the Tangipahoa River, lives right here in our 490-acre lake," said Busby. "You can launch a boat at the park's landing, but all around the lake are areas where campers can bank fish, plus we've got a couple of fishing piers. The bream fishing can be really good throughout the year."
Those who fish the lake are required to have a Mississippi fishing license, and anglers are allowed 20 crappie, 10 catfish, and 50 bream per day. Anglers are also allowed to take seven bass per day, but there is a slot limit of 16 to 22 inches that must be released.
Anglers should bring plenty of crickets and red worms for bream. Catfish will bite on shrimp, nightcrawlers and commercial stinkbaits. Minnows work best for crappie along the park's creek channel and levee. But, also be sure to include a good selection of jigs.
For bass, Texas- and Carolina-rigged soft-plastic baits and worms work well along structure. It's more difficult catching bass when bank fishing. But, there is plenty of structure to toss a bait.
Along The Way: Over in McComb is one of the most preserved collections of railroad history. The McComb Railroad Museum is open Monday through Saturday from noon until 4 p.m., featuring numerous events all year long, including a special kids' day. The collections are maintained by actual railroad retirees, who can provide countless stories about life on the rails.
PAUL B. JOHNSON STATE PARK
With 125 RV camp sites that include water, sewer and electric hook ups, along with a primitive camping area, there is no shortage of places to stay on this Mississippi state park near Hattiesburg. And, besides camping, the park offers swimming, boating and fishing in a picturesque setting.
Inside the park's boundary is 600-acre Geiger Lake that's divided in half to allow both recreational boating and fishing. The park even has a splash pad for small children for hot summer days.
"We have three fishing piers and a levee that runs about a quarter mile long that has riprap along it," said Mike Stepp, park manager. "Along that levee is probably one of our best areas. You can catch fish there with lures and live bait."
The Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks manages the lake by liming and fertilization it to improve fish growth rate and productivity.
Along the Way: Nearby in Hattiesburg is the Hattiesburg Zoo, with numerous animals, birds and reptiles to see, along with a four-story rope course that is fun and challenging for both kids and adults. The area is also home to the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, where folks can learn about the Magnolia State long history with the military, while hearing the personal stories of American heroes.
LAKE END PARK CAMPGROUND
Lake End Park rests on the southern shore of Lake Palourde, an 11,520-acre lake that interconnects with Grassy Lake and Lake Verret through Bayou Boeuf. What's more, on the east side of the lake are numerous canals that intersect. In these canals is clear water for which tournament anglers are always searching, especially in the southern entrance to the Atchafalaya Basin
From the banks of the campground, blue and channel catfish can be caught as well as bream and bass. It's not uncommon to catch a limit of bass at the park and catfish that run upwards of and over 40 pounds.
Bait is available in both Morgan City and nearby Stephensville along Highway 70. A visit to Ivy's Tackle Box located on Main Street will provide the latest information on what's biting.
When the kids get tired of fishing, there is swimming at the beach, and a playground with slides, swings and climbing equipment.
Beside RV camping, the park allows tent camping. Additionally, the park has two deluxe bedroom cabins for rent. Located on the shoreline of Lake Palourde the cabins offer a pleasant setting.
Along The Way: The "Mr. Charlie" International Petroleum Museum on Front Street, Morgan City, is an excellent facility to learn about offshore energy production. When the kids need a change of pace from camping, downtown off of Main Street and across from the municipal auditorium, is the Morgan City Children's Petting Farm. The petting farm is free to visitors.