Louisiana Summer Mayhem
September 28, 2010
While the summer sun may slow down some angling, that doesn't apply everywhere this month. Join the author in exploring these warm weather hotspots. (July 2010)
The grass around the cypress trees in Caddo Lake gives up a lot of summertime bass. â–ª Photo by John Felsher.
From catching bluegill to blue marlin, few other states supply such a diverse slate of fishing opportunities as the Sportsmen's Paradise. Within a reasonable drive from anywhere in the state, every Louisiana angler can find something to catch. In no way comprehensive, this list just offers a taste of honey holes around the state that offer anglers summer fun.
POVERTY POINT BASS
Poverty Point Reservoir joined the state roster as one of the newest fishing honey holes when it opened to angling in April 2003. Although a new fishery, the name stems from one of the oldest Louisiana cultures. The Poverty Point Native Americans lived in this vicinity from about 1,400 B.C. to about 700 B.C.
In modern times, the 2,700-acre lake north of Delhi quickly gained a reputation for producing big bass -- if anglers can find them! The lake averages about 7 feet deep with most of it less than 12 feet deep. However, some holes drop to more than 30 feet. Many bass congregate around numerous offshore humps, submerged brush piles, logs and stumps.
"Bass fishing at Poverty Point is hit or miss," explained Jesse Bahm, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries district biologist in Monroe. "We find tremendous bass in our samples. About 44 percent of the bass in the lake have some Florida genes. Many bass top 16 inches with some greater than 22 inches. We see 7- to 9-pound bass just about every time we sample, but they are hard to catch. It's a challenging place to fish because it's so hard to find the bass."
The lake holds some 10-pound largemouths, but heavy pressure in the small impoundment pushed fish offshore. Look for schooling fish around the major creek channels or drag soft plastics over the humps. Also fish the brush piles, trees and stumps with unweighted plastics or spinnerbaits like the Stanley WedgePlus.
"Poverty Point Reservoir has a variety of habitat types," Bahm said. "A creek channel running through it is a productive area. In the summer, fish move back into deeper water along the channels. Some bars drop from a foot deep to 12 feet deep quickly. The lake has a lot of trees, but not much vegetation.
"The deepest water is in two old oxbows on the northeast corner," he continued. "These drop to about 35 feet deep in places. A creek channel on the northwest side goes under the marina and bends around the west side of the lake. It also holds some deep water."
CADDO LAKE BASS
Among the oldest, largest and most beautiful natural freshwater lakes in the South, Caddo Lake straddles the Louisiana-Texas line near Shreveport. The 26,810-acre lake can produce huge fish, including one 16.01-pounder that beat the existing Louisiana state record. However, the angler weighed it in Texas.
"Caddo Lake has the best potential for a trophy bass in northwest Louisiana," said James Seales, an LDWF district biologist in Minden. "People catch bass up to 10 pounds fairly often and numerous 8-pound fish. It has the potential to break the Louisiana record."
Caddo Lake averages 5 to 60 feet deep, but some holes drop to nearly 30 feet. Both states jointly manage the lake for trophy bass. Each state and some private organizations stocked millions of Florida bass over the years.
On the Louisiana side, anglers find more open water and fewer standing cypress trees. The Texas side typically produces the largest fish since several bayous offer slightly deeper water.
Solid grass mats sometime extend from the shoreline to the drop-off at about 5 to 6 feet deep. Grass sometimes rings cypress trees. Many anglers work buzzing frogs or unweighted soft plastics over the grass tops or run spinnerbaits along the edges. Heavy jigs can punch through matted grass.
TOLEDO BEND CATFISH
Most anglers know Toledo Bend Reservoir, the sprawling 186,000-acre freshwater sea on the Louisiana-Texas line, as one of the top bass lakes in the country. However, the 65-mile long reservoir produces outstanding catches of blue, flathead and channel catfish, including some real monsters.
"Toledo Bend has a tremendous catfish population," agreed Ricky Yeldell, a LDWF biologist. "Toledo Bend is well known for producing a lot of big flatheads, but some blues top 80 pounds. We regularly see blues in the 35- to 50-pound range. I'm sure the lake has some 100-pounders. Number wise, channels are the most common species, but they don't grow as large as blues or flatheads. We have unbelievable numbers of small channel catfish."
In fact, catfish probably comprise more poundage of fish in Toledo Bend than any other species. Yet, less than one percent of anglers who fish the lake intentionally target cats.
"Catfish typically spawn in early to mid-June," Yeldell said, "so they are most active throughout the warmer months. The middle portion of the lake is more productive. The lower end is deeper and has clearer water with less woody structure."
Big flatheads feed mostly at night and prefer live prey. They relish crunching a chunky bluegill, but also eat shad, bullheads and other catfish. At night, they cruise stumpy flats looking for sunfish. In the day, catfish anglers fish channel edges where water drops off into 12 to 20 feet of water. Some areas to target are in San Miguel Creek, Negreet Creek, Lanana Creek and the 1215 area.
CALCASIEU TROUT & REDS
For saltwater anglers, few Louisiana waters consistently produce bigger speckled trout than Calcasieu Lake south of Lake Charles. The lake produces specks exceeding 10 pounds with 5- to 8-pound fish barely attracting attention.
Hurricane Rita devastated the area in 2005, as did Hurricane Ike in 2008. While these storms destroyed homes, camps and freshwater fishing in southwestern Louisiana, they actually improved saltwater fishing.
"The storms opened marshes that have been closed for years and filled the lake with redfish," said Capt. Guy Stansel of Hackberry Rod and Gun Club. "We have a lot more estuaries now."
About 40 feet deep, the Calcasieu Ship Channel runs 40 miles, connecting the port of Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico. Several openings allow water, baitfish, shrimp and game fish to pass from the channel into Big Lake and adjacent West Cove. In the summer, anglers fish these channel openings and oyster reefs. People also fish rock jetties m
arking where the channel flows into the Gulf south of Big Lake.
"In the summer, we fish deep water patterns," Stansel said. "Trout move toward deeper water from Turners Bay to the jetties. They get in the channel cuts and on the ledges in the channel itself. The jetties, the surf along the beaches and close rigs in the Gulf are good places to fish in the summer.
"We catch limits just about every day," he continued. "Often, we also catch a limit of redfish the same day. The average trout weighs about 2 pounds. We catch plenty in the 2- to 5-pound range with some in the 8- to 9-pound range and an occasional 10-pounder."
For big trout, many anglers "walk-the-dog" with topwater baits like the Zara Spook series early in the morning. As the temperatures rise, shift to soft plastic tails threaded onto 1/4-ounce jigheads bounced along the bottom. Hot plastic colors include glow, black and chartreuse or purple and chartreuse. Live shrimp or finger mullets -- baitfish about 3 to 6 inches long -- can also produce good action.
For more details or to book trips with Hackberry Rod and Gun Club, call 1-888-762-3391 or go on line to their Web site at www.hackberryrodandgun.com.
TICKFAW RIVER BASS
For a real change of pace in your summer angling, in the Baton Rouge area you can try the Tickfaw River for some largemouth action. Flowing south through St. Helena and Livingston parishes, this scenic stream transiting cypress stands and tupelo swamps as it heads to its mouth on Lake Maurepas.
Largemouths in this stream are generally in the 2- to 3-pound range. Tournament anglers in local events on the river manage to take five-fish stringers to weigh-ins that top 15 pounds.
One trick for finding these bass is to look for the unusual. The riverbank is lined for miles by overhanging trees or ones standing in the water, presenting a seemingly unbroken monotone. If, however, you locate a shoreline that is slightly deeper that may be where the bass are holding. Another good structure is where ditches enter the flow from the surrounding swamps.
Tossing crankbaits in crawdad colors or hues that imitate shad to any of the standing timber, then bumping it off the wood is a good pattern. Also, particularly after summer rains, target the mouths of the ditches entering the river. A plastic worm dropped in those areas should attract some strikes.
Finally, any points formed by changes in the river course that are covered with lily pad are worth a look. Run a spinnerbait close to the pad to draw reaction strikes.
Tickfaw River State Park is located on the stream and offers three miles of shore access to the river. It also offers canoe rentals, which can provide a more leisurely way to get to some to some of these summer largemouths.