July 09, 2019
Along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast, anglers can catch redfish in any brackish or salty waters and some fresher systems. However, a few places really stand out for hot spot-tail action.
With vast coastal wetlands, Louisiana rightfully ranks as the Redfish Capital of the World. For spot-tail enthusiasts, these are the “good ol’ days” to fish the Bayou State.
“Preliminary recreational landings estimates for 2018 indicate a 20-percent increase in the number of redfish landed in Louisiana waters compared to 2017,” reported Jason Adriance, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries finfish biologist. “The marshes around Venice are some of the state’s best for redfish when the Mississippi River level is normal. The combination of proximity to salty water in the Gulf of Mexico and fresh water mixing from the Mississippi River creates perfect habitat for redfish and their prey.”
The mighty flow of the great river keeps the delta marshes surrounding Venice well supplied with nutrients that feed an incredible food chain, including shrimp, crabs, small fish and other things redfish like to eat. In the spring, the Mississippi River traditionally floods, but water levels drop in the summer and fall. This allows saltier water to move farther upstream. Although fantastic all year long, the summer and fall months usually produce the best redfish action. Many people without boats catch redfish along Highway 23, particularly near Yellow Cotton Bay or at any cuts or culverts crossing the road.
“I have fished professional tournaments from North Carolina to Texas and there is no place like the lower Mississippi River Delta for redfish,” remarked Mike Frenette, a professional redfish angler and guide with Redfish Lodge of Louisiana (504-782-0924, www.venicefishing.net) in Venice.
“The Mississippi River delta is one of the few destinations where people can catch giant reds all year long. In the summer and fall, the water clears up in the interior parts of the delta. That’s when sight-casting to individual redfish becomes a thriller.”
The marshes between Venice and Pearl River can also produce incredible redfish action. Pearl River flows into wetlands along the northern shoreline of Lake Borgne near Slidell. Lake Borgne connects to Lake Pontchartrain through Chef Pass and the Rigolets. Marshes surrounding Lake Borgne and associated waters create excellent redfish habitat. Anglers can also fish near several bridges and artificial reefs in Lake Pontchartrain.
“The Lake Borgne area is a good place to catch redfish, with thousands of bayous and duck ponds that create the perfect habitat,” explained Mike Gallo of Angling Adventures of Louisiana (985-781-7811, www.AAofLA.com), who operates a lodge in Slidell. “I’ve caught big bull redfish one after another in the Rigolets in early summer. Some people catch bull reds by trolling along the bridges. We also catch a lot of redfish along the western shoreline of Lake Borgne.”
South of Lake Borgne, marshes near Delacroix and Hopedale hold uncountable redfish. Some of the best fishing occurs in the Biloxi Marsh on the southeast side of Lake Borgne. Anchored by its namesake Bayou Biloxi, the marshes stretch across about 120,000 acres with 35,644 of them preserved in the Biloxi Wildlife Management Area. Many anglers fish where major bayous flow into Lake Borgne. Also try False Mouth Bay, Bayou Grande, Bobs Lake or any shelled or reedy shoreline. The waters near grassy islands spreading out into Mississippi Sound holdenormous bull reds.
“When I’m specifically targeting redfish, I’ll go into the Biloxi Marsh,” Gallo advised. “The Biloxi Marsh is a special place, with some of the best redfish habitat in the nation. The fishing is a lot more consistent than some other areas. Those main bayous all have many duck ponds near them that create redfish havens. The redfishing in 2018 was great. Most of those fish we caught were about two-years old, so they will still be in the marsh and bigger this year.”
Between the Atchafalaya River to the west and the Mississippi River on the east, the marshes of the Barataria-Terrebonne area create outstanding redfish habitat. Barataria Bay connects to the gulf through passes at Grand Isle and Grand Terre islands. Marshes in the Golden Meadow, Leeville, Dulac, Chauvin and Cocodrie areas also provide outstanding redfish action.
“These marshes hold a good number of redfish all year long,” said Tim Ortego with Louisiana Livin Adventures (985-209-1812, la-livin-adventures.business.site) in Cocodrie. “All that marsh grass holds an abundance of life. Oyster beds attract an enormous amount of bait. In the summer, redfish hold on flats and points with grass and nearby oyster beds that have good current flow.”
Many people without boats fish the surf at Grand Isle or spots along the highways to Grand Isle, Fourchon, Dularge and Cocodrie. Anglers can also make excellent redfish catches in the Atchafalaya River delta. West of the Atchafalaya River, anglers fish the marshes around Vermilion Bay and on Marsh Island.
South of Houma, several bayous feed into Lake Pelto, Caillou Bay, Timbalier Bay, Lake Barre, Lake Raccouri and other waters along the gulf. For monster bull reds, fish near the grassy islands or next to numerous oil production facilities with natural baits. Live mullets about 5- to 8-inches long make exceptional redfish bait, but nothing tempts a big spot-tail like a crab.
“It’s hard to beat a cracked crab when fishing for bull reds, except when using a soft-shelled crab,” quipped Tommy Pellegrin of Custom Charters (985-851-3304, www.customchartersllc.com) in Houma. “During the summer, all the larger oil production platforms hold lots of bait so that’s where big predators want to be. Fish a Carolina-rigged cracked crab around the platform legs.”
More known for lunker speckled trout, Calcasieu Lake in southwestern Louisiana also offers great redfishing. Known locally as “Big Lake,” the lake itself covers about 52,700 acres, but anchors a sprawling estuary along the Calcasieu Ship Channel south of Lake Charles. Many people fish the east and south shorelines of Big Lake and surrounding marshes for reds. Weirs block several bayous flowing into Big Lake, but the mouths of these bayous create outstanding honey holes. Also fish the cuts and oyster reefs in West Cove on the southwestern side of Big Lake.
“Big Lake and the surrounding waters are excellent places to catch redfish,”said Erik Rue, a professional redfish angler with Calcasieu Charters (337-598-4700, calcasieucharters.com) in Lake Charles. “The Cameron jetties at the mouth of Calcasieu Pass can hold a lot of big reds in the summer. Sometimes, we see schools of reds east of Long Point. These areas hold a lot of baitfish.”
Bank anglers fish along Highway 27 where it runs through Sabine National Wildlife Refuge south of Hackberry. The refuge covers 124,500 acres between Big Lake and Sabine Lake on the Louisiana-Texas line. The Calcasieu Ship Channel intersects the Intracoastal Waterway north of Big Lake. Incredible redfish action occurs in the labyrinth of bayous, shallow ponds and canals along the Intracoastal Waterway to Sabine Lake and south through the refuge.
Sabine Lake encompasses 59,700 acres and averages about 5- to 8-feet deep. The main Sabine River channel comes down the state line from the northeast. From the Texas side, the Neches River flows into the northwestern part of the lake. This influx of fresh water nourishes an excellent mix of prey for reds in the lake and adjacent marshes. For big bulls, hit the jetties at Sabine Pass where the estuary connects to the gulf.
Despite a much shorter coastline and considerably less marshland habitat than in the Bayou State, the Mississippi coast still offers anglers many river estuaries and other places to catch redfish.
“We have some great fishing on the Mississippi coast,” said Robert Brodie of Team Brodie Charters (228-392-7660, teambrodiecharters.com) in Biloxi. “People can fish the rivers, marshes, beaches, the bays, artificial reefs and the islands.”
East Pearl River marks the border with Louisiana. Although most of the rich delta sits on the Louisiana side, Mississippi anglers can find redfish in the marshes between the river mouth and Waveland. To the east, Bay St. Louis covers about 27 square miles. Several feeder streams create marshy deltas in the bay. The Jourdan River flows into the bay from the west while the Wolf River enters from the east. For bull reds, fish near the U.S. Highway 90 bridge or a railroad trestle crossing the bay just north of Mississippi Sound. In the bays and Mississippi Sound, the state established many artificial reefs that hold fish.
“Fishing for redfish in Mississippi is simply amazing,” emphasized Sonny Schindler with Shore Thing Fishing Charters (228-342-2295, www.shorethingcharters.com) in the town of Bay St. Louis. “We have such a variety of areas to fish. The bridges usually hold big redfish. In the spring, we fish reefs in Mississippi Sound. The reefs have really taken off for bull redfish and other fish. Jailhouse Reef has a lot of rubble and shell that holds a ton of bait. Some reefs are reachable by anglers in kayaks. Taylor Reef at the mouth of Bay St. Louis is close to shore and holds fish.”
Continuing east, Back Bay, also called Biloxi Bay, creates the most prominent geographic feature on the Mississippi Coast. The Tchoutacabouffa and Biloxi rivers plus other streams feed into the Back Bay from the north. Old Fort Bayou and its tributaries flow into the eastern side. The shallow bay also contains numerous islands, dock pilings, reefs and other structures that hold fish. Like at Bay St. Louis, many people also fish the U.S. Highway 90 bridge and railroad trestle at the mouth of the bay for bull reds.
Just outside the mouth of the Back Bay, Katrina Reef protrudes from the water near Deer Island. In the summer, many anglers wade the beaches at Cat, Ship and Horn islands to fish for bulls. For the tackle-busting bulls, use live mullets, pogies or other baitfish and concentrate on deeper cuts in the sandbars or channels.
“In the summer, big schools of huge bull reds gather in open water on south side of Cat Island,” Schindler advised. “The redfish follow the bait. When big schools of pogies come into the Mississippi Sound, the bulls are right with them. In the summer, we use a lot of live bait, like shrimp, croakers and cocahoes, but throwing big topwater poppers into those schools is quite a rush.”
In southeastern Mississippi, the Pascagoula River creates one of the richest estuaries on the Gulf Coast. Numerous channels flow through a marsh dotted by small lakes. Anglers can also fish similar marshes and islands near the Alabama line.
Mississippi anglers may keep up to three redfish per day, each between 18 to 30 inches long, but one fish can exceed 30 inches. In Louisiana, anglers may keep up to five reds per day between 16 and 27 inches long including one longer than 27 inches. Whether fishing for “slot reds” or big bulls, both Louisiana and Mississippi anglers can enjoy catching redfish in diverse areas with many different natural or artificial baits.