As temperatures drop, the fishing in Mississippi and Louisiana heats back up, providing anglers with countless opportunities for fall fishing.
By Carolee Anita Boyles
Come September, days are shortening and nights are cooling. However, hunting season hasn't really gotten started, meaning it is a good time to go fishing, especially since both Louisiana and Mississippi have abundant areas that are prime for fall fishing.
LAKE VERRET CATFISH
Lake Verret is about 35 square miles in Assumption Parish between Napoleonville and Pierre Part, and about three miles east of Graveyard Island and Belle River. It averages 6 feet deep and is 9 feet deep at its deepest point.
"Lake Verret is lined with cypress trees that come off the shoreline 40 to 50 feet in some areas," said Brian Heimann, fisheries biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. "There are a lot of big cypress knees associated with those. You can find a lot of catfish there in the main lake, and heading back into some of the canals."
There aren't a lot of canals that run off the main lake, so Heimann recommends also looking for areas of low water flow, such as some of the natural bayous of Lake Verret,, such as Grassy Lake to the south.
"You can pick up some catfish along the shoreline of those major bayous," said Hiemann. "You can even find fish in the main channel if you're fishing on the bottom. Most small boats can get into the cypress trees and get out of the wind a little bit."
A number of baits can be used for catfish on Verrett, such as earthworms or crickets under a cork. Some anglers even catch and use grass shrimp, and many types of commercial baits work as well.
LAKE D'ARBONNE CRAPPIE
Lake D'Arbonne is a reservoir of about 16,000 acres near Farmerville in Union Parish, and one of the premier crappie lakes for both numbers and size. It also has an even mix of black crappie and white crappie in its various habitat areas.
"There's a good bit of deep, open water in the lake," said Ryan Daniel, LDWF fisheries biologist. "There are shallow flats with a lot of vegetation and woody stumps. And there are creek channels all over the lake; there are three major creeks that run into it."
In September, especially if a cool front pushes through, crappie will start moving into the creek channels, following threadfin shad, which is the primary forage fish in the lake.
Daniel recommends using jigs on the edges of the channels around structure. A lot of people use spider rigs in colors that mimic shad, especially baits with a little silver or chartreuse.
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TOLEDO BEND RESERVOIR BASS
At more than 185,000 acres, Toledo Bend is a huge reservoir, located on the Sabine River between Texas and Louisiana. It is the largest man-made body of water in the South, running 10 miles wide and 65 miles long, with a maximum depth of 110 feet.
"September is when the lake is starting to get to its lowest water level and water temperatures are starting to cool down a little," said Villis Dowden, LDWF fisheries biologist. "The bass are in a transition that time of year, where they're starting to chase shad a little more, and they're working their way back up into the creeks. You also may find bass on points and in little creek bends in the main lake."
Shad are bass's primary food source at this time of year, so while anglers can still catch fish on jigs and worms, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and Rat-L-Traps typically catch more fish.
According to Dowden, the middle part of the lake generally provides a little better fishing this time of year, particularly in the larger creeks that run east and west. On the Louisiana side, Negreet Creek is a good place, as is Lanan Creek, which is north of the bridge. Above that are Sam Miguel Creek and San Patricio Creek.
According to Jason Adriance, marine fisheries biologist with LDWF, September is a tough time for saltwater, as it is a transition time and fishing is highly dependent on weather. Red drum is one of the better species to pursue because they start coming into the coastal passes. Some passes to consider are those near Grand Isle, Barataria and Terrebonne.
"This time of year, the fish are heading offshore to spawn, so they'll be along the beaches and in the passes," Adriance said. "The adults will be offshore from October through December."
Many of the fish caught in the passes on live and cutbait are going to be large, what many call bull drum. As such, most will have to be released, because only one of the five fish limit can be over 27 inches. All fish harvested must be between 16 and 27 inches.
The New Lake Monroe
Longtime Mississippi anglers remember Lake Monroe as a well-known bass fishing lake. In recent years, however, biologists saw a decline in the new fish population, and a decrease in the number of big fish. The number of anglers fishing on the lake also declined.
Biologists decided that it was time to drain and renovate Lake Monroe, which is one of Mississippi's oldest state-maintained lakes, constructed in 1954. That process should improve the quality of the fish and the angling prospects for at least 10 years.
Lake managers began draining the lake in November 2013. Once managers closed the dam and the lake refilled, they stocked it with bass, bream, crappie and catfish.
"We tripled the number of bluegill that we normally stock," said Trevor Knight, MDWFP fisheries biologist. "We also put a lot of golden shiners in the lake. We cut the bass stocking rate in half and increased the baitfish to keep the lake from becoming bass crowded. With many of our smaller lakes, if you stock the normal rates for fish, you end up with a lot of small bass that are real skinny and poor in health. We wanted to put a lot of forage in there and reduce the number of bass that we initially stocked in."
The strategy seems to be working, because the bass in the lake are growing fast and are becoming quality fish. Lake Monroe reopened in June. — Carolee Boyles
SARDIS LAKE CRAPPIE
Sardis Lake is an impoundment on the Tallahatchie River in Lafayette, Panola and Marshall counties, covering more than 98,000 acres.
According to Keith Meals, fisheries biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, the Sardis Lake drawdown starts August 1.
"The lake is pulled down a little each day," said Meals. "And it's bottom water release, so it's drawing off the water with no oxygen at the bottom. Usually we get a fall cold front and turnover sometime in September."
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As the water drops, crappie start moving along the creek and river channels to keep from getting stranded. As such, many anglers troll crankbaits around 10- to 20 feet deep in these areas, especially around structure.
"Crappie usually will be over certain structure elements, such as a river channel," Meals said. "Even in deeper water, they may gravitate to structure, even if they're 10 or 15 feet suspended above it; they like any kind of points, ledges, drop-offs or anything like that. Also look for schools of shad. Once you find the bait, you'll find crappie suspended under the schools of shad."
MISSISSIPPI RIVER CATFISH
According to MDWFP fisheries biologist Nathan Aycock, the water level in the Mississippi River is about at its lowest in September, which is good for anglers.
"For one thing, it has all the fish concentrated," Aycock said. "In the fall, there's not as much dangerous stuff floating on the river so it's safer, and you can get out there with a smaller boat and fish."
The Mississippi River contains all three main catfish species — blues, flatheads and channels — which can be targeted in deep holes behind wing dikes on the river, as they break the current.
Some anglers run trotlines behind the wing dikes, while others throw bait into the deep holes behind the wing dikes and keep a tight line until they feel a fish take the bait.
"For flatheads, I'd use some kind of live bait, such as shad," Aycock said. "For the blues and channels, use nightcrawlers or some kind of prepared catfish bait."
LAKE MONROE BASS
Lake Monroe is a 99-acre lake in northeast Mississippi, located in Monroe County between Aberdeen and Amory.
"We opened Lake Monroe in June, so it's a new lake," said Trevor Knight, MDWFP fisheries biologist. "We have bass in the lake that are less than two years old and are already over 5 pounds. We're seeing fast growth rates and healthy fish. If someone wants to catch quality bass, that's one of the best lakes to fish in late summer."
In September, fish still will be in their summertime patterns, with most of the bigger fish being deep, relating to the odd creek channel. In the morning, anglers should look for points and banks that are close to the creek channel, starting with topwaters, such as buzzbaits, poppers or even propbaits. Once the sun rises, swap over to vibrating jigs or swimbaits and throw around logs and laydowns around the banks. There's also a little bit of grass around the edges of the lake.
"I'd throw the same baits around the grass just to see if there are any fish still up feeding in shallow water," Knight said. "In the middle of the day, I'd concentrate mostly on the creek channel itself, especially around brush piles or anything else that might be along the channel. There, I'd be using a bottom bait, such as a Texas-rigged, 10-inch worm or a Carolina rig with a crawler or lizard on it. I would fish either one of those really slowly around the brush piles or the dropoff of the creek channel."
The other place to look for fish, Knight says, is at the dam, throwing jigs and crankbaits around the rocks.
"September is a time that we see a lot of seatrout," said Travis Williams, MDWFP fisheries biologist. "During the fall, they're typically moving inshore into some of our bay areas, and they're getting ready to move into the rivers for the winter."
During this time, anglers typically catch fish between 13 and 18 inches that are feeding on menhaden and shrimp. As such, Williams recommends pretty much any type of live bait rigged under a popping cork.
There are, of course, many other areas where anglers can be successful in both the Magnolia and Bayou states during the cooler months. Anglers just have to get out and find which locale works best for them.