In every month of the year, fine fishing opportunities can be found throughout Louisiana. We've sorted through the top prospects and picked the best of the best. (February 2006)
As I sit at my computer to write this article, I'm finding it hard to concentrate. The television is showing what's going on in the southeastern part of our state in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which came ashore just two days prior to this writing.
As the reality of this cataclysmic disaster sinks in, it's obvious that it'll be a long time before residents of New Orleans and the surrounding area can think about fishing hotspots in 2006, and our prayers and thoughts go out to the thousands of affected citizens of that area. In the following, we'll concentrate on fishing opportunities in regions of the state not affected by Katrina, listing three areas around the rest of the state for each month of the upcoming year.
Saline/Larto Lakes Crappie
The Saline/Larto Lake waterway system, located just east of Alexandria, offers crappie fishing that can be hot this time of year.
Concentrate on the deeper bayous and canals, especially around the mouths of streams where the water is usually deeper. Look for holes up to 20 feet deep, but the crappie can be anywhere from 8 to 12 feet deep in most of the holes. Anglers often use several jig poles with different colored jigs, each set at different depths.
Grand Cheniere Redfish
In January, there's no better place to find redfish than in southwest Louisiana around Grand Cheniere. Watch the Weather Channel for the approach of cold fronts. When the blue line on the map indicating the passage of a front reaches the Gulf, it's time to head for Hog Bayou or the Mermentau River and fish fresh shrimp or, if the water is clear enough, a soft plastic grub on a 1/4-ounce leadhead.
Lake Bruin Bass
One of the better oxbow lakes on the Mississippi for bass fishing is Lake Bruin located in Tensas Parish between Newellton and St. Joseph.
There are several patterns that work on this lake. Jigs and trailers fished around trees and boat docks on the north end of the lake are popular this time of year along with Rat-L-Traps and Carolina-rigged worms.
Black Lake Bass
February is a good month to hit the channel and sloughs for bass on Black Lake. It's hard to beat a heavy black or blue 1/2- or 5/8-ounce jig. If the water is off-colored, black, brown and amber are all good colors to try.
Anglers should concentrate on channels and sloughs literally from one end of the lake to the other. The outside bends of the channel are usually best for holding good-sized bass. Texas-rigged Brush Hogs or black/ neon or watermelon colored lizards will also work here this time of year.
Lake Claiborne Crappie
This is one of the best times of the year to catch crappie on Lake Claiborne. Anchor your boat in deep water just out from the dam where big schools of crappie frequently suspend near the bottom. Locate schools of threadfin shad, because where the shad are concentrated, the crappie will be there too. Minnows or jigs work equally well.
Lake St. John Bluegills
As strange as it may seem, February is a good month to catch a basket of fat bluegills on Lake St. John. Fishing cold worms or red wigglers just off the bottom in the deepest holes will often pay off with a bragging-sized catch of big bluegills.
Toledo Bend Bass
Once the month of March rolls around, look for big bass beginning to spawn in the shallows of Toledo Bend. Locate areas of shallow water with water temperature in the low 60's, and you're in business.
White spinnerbaits, large Rat-L-Traps in a crawfish color and, perhaps the favorite, a Carolina-rigged lizard will likely take some hefty bass this time of year.
Caney Lake Crappie
While Caney Lake, in Jackson Parish, is best known for producing outsized bass, the lake hosts a population of big crappie as well. Look for big slabs around piers and brushpiles from quite shallow out to 14 feet deep. Black and green or white and red tube jigs or shiners will work.
Lake Bistineau Chinquapins
You may call them "redears," "shellcrackers" or "lake runners"; anglers around north Louisiana know these hard-fighting, fine-tasting panfish as "chinquapins."
In March, look for chinquapins to begin spawning in shallow water around the islands in Bistineau. Red wigglers or cold worms will work, but the preferred bait is a crawfish an inch or so long. Most anglers use garden rakes to rake roadside ditches, gathering all the baby crawfish they'll need for a day's fishing.
Ouachita River Bass
High water is often the rule for spring on the Ouachita. When the water's high, there'll be plenty of backwater in sloughs and river lakes, areas that are normally at low levels.
Under higher-than-normal water conditions, bass fishermen should look for backwater and fish floater/divers or Texas-rigged plastic lizards around brush and logs.
Poverty Point Reservoir
One of the state's newest impoundments, this northeast Louisiana venue is home to some of the largest channel catfish to be found anywhere. Channels in the 8- to 10-pound range and larger are fairly commonplace at Poverty Point.
The best areas to try are the deeper holes just out from the dam as well as the old Bayou Macon channel. Cold worms are hard to beat for enticing these oversized catfish to bite.
Lake Claiborne Stripers
As the weather warms at this time of year, the lake's big population of striped bass and hybrid stripers will begin schooling around the lake, especially early in the morning; look for them chasing shad on top around the stumpfields. They'll hit white bucktails or most chrome-colored topwater lures and shallow-running crankbaits.
Dorcheat Bayou Goggle-Eyes
For a fun-filled change of pace, drive just west of Minden to Dorcheat Bayou and get ready for a day of excitement with goggle-eyes.
This stream is known for its over-sized goggle-eyes that are ready to do battle with just about any small lure tossed their way. Cast small spinners or crankbaits around stumps and cypress knees for the prospect of tying into a hefty goggle-eye.
Coastline Speckled Trout
You can catch speckled trout virtually all yea
r along Louisiana's coastline. However, if its trophy specks you're after, the full moon in May is the time to go get 'em.
Either artificial surface lures or live baits, especially croakers, will entice strikes from these hefty specimens.
Turkey Creek Lake Bass
May is a great time to fish fake plastic frogs on Turkey Creek Lake, near Wisner in Franklin Parish. Bass fishing is the name of the game, and any of the hot new plastic frogs on the market today will entice the lake's largemouths to strike. Cast a fake frog onto the duckweed and look for intermittent explosions as bass zero in on what they think is dinner.
False River Lake Bass
For a bass fishing adventure you won't soon forget, visit False River Lake in Pointe Coupee Parish under the light of the full moon. The lake is ringed with piers and boathouses, most of which have security lights. Fishing dark colored plastic worms or slow-rolling black spinner baits around the piers and docks is a good way to nab a lunker bass.
Lake Bruin Channel Catfish
Lake Bruin, in eastern Louisiana along the Mississippi delta is a haven for channel catfish. It's a simple matter of tossing minnows, cold worms or night crawlers around boat docks and deeper trees to land a bunch of tasty channel cats.
Cheniere Lake Bream
This rather small, cypress-studded lake near Monroe has "fish" written all over it. Surprisingly, bream will still be bedding on Cheniere this time of year, and you're likely to find them around the islands and next to the deeper cypress trees. Worms and crickets will both work.
Lake Bistineau Flathead Catfish
Channel catfish are the lightweights of the catfish family, flatheads the heavyweights. They grow to outsized proportions -- 60 to 80 pounds is not unheard of -- and a favorite spot to catch them is Lake Bistineau.
Limblines tied to cypress limbs overhanging the deeper channels and using stout equipment and hooks, and live bream as bait, entice bites from these Bistineau bruisers.
Kepler Lake Bass
Kepler Lake is relatively small stump-filled lake located in Bienville Parish. Admittedly, it doesn't garner the interest that other nearby lakes such as Bistineau and Black Lake do, but there is no better spot to catch a good bass at night than Kepler Lake.
Fish the ridges next to the channel with a black neon worm, Texas-rigged, or a black spinner with a No. 4 or 5 single blade, and fish it slowly but erratically. Another lure to try is a black buzzbait with white trailer around the north end of the lake.
Golden Meadow Flounder
In this marshy area teeming with a variety of fish, the flounder is among the most popular. Watch for a high tide to push water over the marsh grass and fish a live cocahoe beneath a popping cork in and around the grass.
Coastal Bays Black Drum
For variety, head for any of the major bays along the Louisiana coast, locate an oyster reef, toss in a jighead tipped with shrimp, and hold on. This is a great way to catch black drum -- not one of the more sought-after species of saltwater fish, but sporty fighters and decent table fare nonetheless.
Grand Bayou Lake Chinquapins
One of the state's best-kept secrets is that you can catch chinquapins, and lots of them, in the heat of August on Grand Bayou. The fish will be on the sandy flats where there are mussel beds, and they are eager to bite.
Locate water 8 to 10 feet deep where the bottom is sandy; use a drop-shot rig with a sinker 6 inches below your hook and a piece of cold worm. That's usually all you need to do to catch a cooler full of fat chinquapins.
For a new fishing adventure, try wading the surf along the coast at night with a gig and lantern. The quarry? Flounder.
Using a good lantern, you'll see the outline of these weird-looking creatures on the shallow bottom. It's different, but it's a lot of fun.
Lake Concordia Bass
Lake Concordia is one of the state's top bass lakes, and early September is a good time to have some fun. Early and late in the day, look for schooling activity. Cast a shad imitation into the mix for some hot action. However, some of the largest fish to be taken are caught in the middle of the day. Toss a jig as far as you can beneath the many piers around the lake. Bass hiding from the sun are likely to be tempted to cash in on an easy meal.
Coastal Bays Redfish
For some of the most challenging fishing to be found anywhere, head to any one of a number of bays along the coast and try your hand at catching some bull redfish.
These bruisers will move in out of the Gulf onto shallow mudflats to feed on crabs, shrimp and other tasty morsels. Offer them a hook in the body of a cracked crab, and you could be in for the fight of your life. These tenacious fighters may weigh in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 pounds.
Lake Yucatan White Bass
This active oxbow lake in Tensas Parish has a hefty population of white bass just waiting for you. One of the most exciting fishing experiences you can have is to locate schools of surface-feeding whites on Yucatan; toss any shad-like lure and get ready for fast and furious action.
Lake Concordia Hybrid Stripers
While Concordia is known as a trophy bass producer, hybrid stripers become active in October. This time of year, schools of hybrids roam the lake. White bucktails or live shad work equally well.
Red River Bass
With waters cooled down, largemouth bass begin schooling off points along the Red River lakes. When they're on top, any topwater lure resembling a shad will work, while crankbaits, tailspinners or plastic worms are preferred when the fish are down. Crankbaits and topwater lures fished around the rock jetties in the river will also produce.
Black Lake Crappie
While crappie fishing is popular throughout the year on Black Lake, fishing for slabs reaches a fever pitch in October when a unique method of fishing for them comes into play.
Using a small-meshed dip net, anglers drag the shallow mossbeds for tiny freshwater grass shrimp. Tipping a jig with a freshly caught grass shrimp is like adding honey to a peanut butter sandwich -- the offering is "sweetened," and the crappie love it.
Calcasieu Lake Speckled Trout
Few fishing activities are more fun than to be out on Calcasieu Lake south of Lake Charles doing some "bird watching." And we're not talking warblers and wrens here: The birds of interest are gulls and terns that serve as snitches, letting the angler know where the trout are located.
It's a simple matter of watching a for a flock of birds starting to wheel and dive into
the water. If you get within casting distance, toss a plastic grub under a popping cork; the action will get hot quickly.
Corney Lake Pickerel
For something different, head for Corney Lake in Claiborne Parish, tie on a spinnerbait, get back in the stumps and make a cast. You may catch a bass, but you'll probably find a chain pickerel (jackfish) on the end of your line. They're not much for eating but they're fun to catch.
Lake D'Arbonne Bass
November can still feature days with mild temperatures. When you wake up to just such a day, head for Lake D'Arbonne for some hot schooling bass action. The shad are on the move this time of year, and the bass feed heavily on them in preparation for winter.
A variety of crankbaits, topwater lures or lipless crankbaits will all catch schoolers this time of year. For bigger fish beneath the schools, try Carolina-rigged worms along the drops in the channel.
Caney Lake Bass
Once the water temperature drops when cold weather finally gets here, there's nothing like "spoon feeding" a Caney Lake bass.
Study your LCR to locate schools of shad in deep water where they gang up this time of year. Hit the button on your reel and let the silver spoon flutter down. Bass are lethargic in colder water, and much prefer an easy meal, like an injured baitfish, to chasing their food. The spoon offers an easy meal for a bass not interested in putting on a chase for his supper.
The key is to try and keep the spoon at the depth where the shad are holding. You'll feel a thump -- that's the signal to set the hook. Don't be surprised at the size of the bass you can catch here in December.
Larto Lake Crappie
This is a favorite time of year for anglers on Larto Lake. Look for the crappie to be bunched up in the deeper channels, canals and bayous in 10 to 12 feet of water. Lots of anglers use tube jigs, especially the 1/16- to 1/32-ounce jig in black and blue, black and chartreuse or tomato colors. Find fish stacked up, and you can fill a cooler in a hurry.
Houma Marsh Bass
December is a great time to head to south Louisiana after bass. The marsh below Houma in Terrebonne Parish is a great place to bass fish. Find a day with moderate temperatures, toss topwaters, spinners or jigs on submerged points and runouts, and you can have a blast. These fish generally run smaller than do bass upstate, but the sheer numbers you can catch makes a trip down south worthwhile.
Granted, we've had to leave out some super fishing holes around the state because of space constraints. However, give these we've highlighted a try, and your fishing trips in 2006 could be your best ever.