Summer catfish: fun to catch, tasty to eat, and perfect for introducing the joys of angling. Come along as we reveal the kid-friendliest spots for filling a youngster's stringer. (July 2006)
Some of my fondest memories from my childhood have been those times my dad took me fishing. I recall when he took me to Black Lake in spring to catch bream and the Saline Lake after bass in summer.
One of the highlights of my youthful days of fishing took place on the Red River. Dad would sit my brother and me on a sandbar, give us a rod and reel loaded with a gob of red wigglers and instructed us to lob the bait into the river. A tug on the line meant but one thing -- a catfish was hooked on the line, and we were hooked on catfishing.
That was a long time ago. And today, I am privileged to share some of those special times with my grandchildren.
It matters not where you live in Louisiana, you can be assured that you live close to prime catfish water. What better experience is there than to take your child -- or grandchild -- to one of these hotspots and watch his/her eyes light up when a catfish begins dancing a jig on the end of the line?
To help you find those special spots around the state where you can introduce a youngster to the joys of having a catfish on the line, we took the time to talk with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries experts who do everything within their power to provide a quality fishery for state residents, especially our youngsters.
To make it simple, we have divided the state into sections, highlighting some of the best areas in each section where catfish is king and where youngsters can have a ball catching them and get hooked on fishing in the process.
Baton Rouge District Fisheries Biologist Ralph Allemand tapped a lake that could have been named after one of his ancestors -- Lac des Allemands.
"This lake is loaded with channel catfish and is a great place for a dad or granddad to take youngsters to try their hand at catching catfish," said Allemand. "There is a public boat launch off Highway 90 into Bayou des Allemands, making it easy to motor into either Lac des Allemands in one direction or Lake Salvador in the other. While most of the catfishing here is done from boats, there's an old railroad bridge about 100 yards from the launch area where people can sit and fish off the bridge."
Another area Allemand suggested is located virtually in Baton Rouge along the Comite River.
"This is just off Hooper Road where the Corps of Engineers has constructed a couple of ponds, and we have stocked them with catfish. Kids can have a ball fishing here," said Allemand. "There are public bathroom facilities at the site and a paved walking path around the lake, with convenience stores located nearby -- ideal for taking kids on an outing."
According to Jody David, biologist with the LDWF office in Opelousas, the city of Lafayette has several ponds available for catfishing.
"We have stocked about four ponds around the city park with catfish, and these are open to the public. One pond has a fishing pier, but all of them can be easily fished from the banks. There are public restrooms located near these ponds, which makes it more desirable for taking kids to fish.
"A youngster can really have fun here because there are plenty of catfish in these ponds," said David. "The only thing is that these ponds receive quite a bit of pressure, especially during the summer. I'd suggest that a dad plan to take his youngster out early in the morning for the best chance to catch fish before the crowd of fishermen get there.
"Bait a hook with earthworms, toss it out and you'll have a good chance to watch your kid's eyes light up when the catfish start biting."
Lake Buhlow is located within the city of Pineville, the sister city to Alexandria. This lake has a top-quality fishery, and catfish are at the top of the list. Fisheries biologist Lynn Mathews says that Buhlow is a fine place to introduce a youngster to the sport of fishing.
"You can fish Buhlow from the banks or from a boat. There are shoreline areas located near the public boat launch where anglers can sit on the bank and have a good chance to catch some catfish," said Mathews. "The City of Pineville patrols the lake, and our department has stocked it with fish, including channel catfish. If anyone has a question, they can call us at the LDWF office in Pineville at (318) 487-5885, or call the City of Pineville."
Mathews mentioned another lake with good catfishing located in central Louisiana.
"Indian Creek Lake is located near our fish hatchery at Woodworth. There is an old roadbed that is elevated and extends far out into the lake, which makes it easy to fish from the bank along this old abandoned roadway."
Todd Buffington, wildlife and fisheries educator working out of the Minden office, named Cross Lake as one of the best catfisheries in northwestern Louisiana.
"This lake, located on the outskirts of Shreveport, has long been a topnotch spot to catch channel catfish. There is little area allowing bank fishing, but for a dad with a boat, there's no easier way to introduce a youngster to fishing than to do it the way they've done it for years on Cross Lake," said Buffington. "It's a simple matter of motoring out into the lake on a day with a slight breeze. Bait up some lines with red worms or shiners and let the breeze carry the boat across the lake, bouncing the bait off the bottom. The action can be fast and furious once the fish start biting."
Buffington said that the Red River is another quality area for catching catfish, with quite a bit of the fishing being done from the banks.
"Head down Highway 71 south of Shreveport, watch for the signs and look for the locks on Pool 5. Fishing cut shad from the banks below the lock is a great way to catch some catfish," said Buffington.
Bill Breed is the state's Hunter Education coordinator who works with youngsters, not only in the area of hunting but also with fishing. He named two areas in northeastern Louisiana where kids can have fun catching catfish.
"Lake D'Arbonne State Park, west of Farmerville, has a fishing pier that is great for catching catfish," said Breed. "Actually, you can catch channel catfish all over this lake because it is full of them.
"The shoreline along Hi
ghway 33 is a great place to catch catfish. Many anglers sit on the banks, lob out a hook baited with red wigglers or cold worms and they're easy to catch."
Another prime area for catching catfish on D'Arbonne is on the flats near Bear Creek. Anglers fish this area in the same manner as those fishing Cross Lake. Drifting the flats with cold worms will almost guarantee a good bunch of catfish.
Breed noted another area that is growing in popularity, especially for groups of kids from the Children's Home or other such groups.
"Out at our LDWF headquarters off Highway 165 north, we have ponds stocked for just such groups to fish. One such pond has nothing but catfish, and it's a simple matter to let a kid catch some catfish there.
"When a group comes out to fish, our department furnishes the poles and bait, and all they have to do is come and fish. To coordinate a fishing trip to our ponds, call Dana Permenter, our Aquatic Educator at (318) 345-3912. She does a fine job of setting everything up for a good fishing trip," said Breed.
In addition to these prime catfishing areas located around the state, there are literally hundreds of smaller lakes and ponds where catfish roam and where a parent can share a unique bond with a child as eyes light up when a catfish is on the line.
Parents, especially those with younger children, should keep in mine the short attention span of their youngsters. If the fishing slows, it's not unusual for a kid to look for something else to do.
Take a break from fishing, explore the shoreline for turtles, crawfish and frogs. Be sure and take along plenty of snacks and drinks, and fish in areas with rest room access.
Once the trip is over, there is an element of catching catfish that is sure to make your little one want to come back for more. Once you reduce the box of catfish into a pan of snow-white filets, roll them in salted meal and drop them in a skillet of hot peanut oil, you have the makings of a feast you won't find this side of heaven.