January 26, 2015
There are literally thousands of place to in Louisiana to pursue world-class saltwater and freshwater angling opportunities. This is both a blessing and a curse for the simple fact that it is hard to decide what to chase! From the marshes, to the big rivers, from New Orleans to Shreveport and everywhere in between, there is a never-ending list of places to fish. Regardless of where you live or work, if you're in Louisiana, there is good fishing nearby.
Biloxi Marsh Speckled Trout
Yes, it would seem as if the last place an angler would want to be during the weatherman's busiest season is on or near coastal waters. Biloxi Marsh, however, may be giving up speckled trout. The trout have been hanging around the marshes for several weeks waiting out the winter and the return of the spawning season. Anglers can drift through the marsh area switching between shrimp under corks and plastics to see what the specks maybe craving.
Other Options: The annual black crappie bite starts in January, so it needs to be mentioned. Anglers can find slabs of crappie at Poverty Point Reservoir near Tallulah. In salty water, black drum are waiting to be caught inshore in the bays and lagoons around places like Dulac or Cocodrie. Black drum are bottom feeders, so they are most commonly caught with live bait either on the bottom or suspended just off bottom.
Lake D'Arbonne Black Crappie
Louisiana crappie fishing is some of the finest in the country. As winter gives way to spring, many anglers start the new year with weekends filled with crappie fishing trips. Lake D'Arbonne, in Union and Lincoln parishes, is a well-known place for crappie, especially in the spring as fish begin moving into the shallows.
Anglers do well to fish the shallows from the middle or beginning of February all the way through May, using tube jigs or by dangling flies. There are several boat launches on the lake, a number of which are available for public use.
Other Options: February is black crappie time. No one can disagree; however, other angling options exist, including pre-spawn bass in Cross Lake near Shreveport-Bossier, or taking a charter out of Venice in pursuit of wahoo.
Caney Creek Reservoir Largemouth Bass
March is when bass action begins to warm, and a number of in-the-know anglers will say that Caney Creek Reservoir, aka Caney Lake, is the place to be when the bite starts. Caney is small, around 5,000 acres. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in quality. A beautiful, clear lake, Caney is located in Jackson Parish just to the southwest of the metropolis Chatham. Caney Lake sports five public boat launches including two well-maintained launches in Jimmie Davis State Park (an east launch and a west launch).
Caney bass action heats up early in the morning. Typical bass lures work well, including plastics mimicking crawfish. In addition, crankbaits and spinnerbaits should be rigged and ready to go should the bass don't have a taste for plastic crawfish. Chubby fish pushing 10 pounds are not uncommon in the lake. Information regarding Jimmie Davis State Park, including launch fees and cabin/camp rentals can be found on the web at www.crt.state.la.us.
Other options: Bream will be biting in Lake Bistineau, as will largemouth bass. Lake Bistineau offers bank fishing thanks to access offered at the lake's namesake state park.
There are several saltwater options in March including chasing inshore stringers of redfish near Golden Meadow. If you really want excitment, try a kayak for the ultimate thrill!
Toledo Bend Reservoir Largemouth Bass
Toledo Bend could be considered the state's premier largemouth destination. The healthy population of bass and relatively stable water conditions combine to offer fast action once fish are located. Plenty of cover, including submerged brush and timber to shallow grass mats and weeds, is scattered throughout this large, imposing lake. Bass will be waiting for opportunity to strike both prey and lures alike.
This time of year, almost anything works, so keep a good mix of standard lures, including various Rapalas, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and plastics. Cast toward obstacles and spawning areas and be ready for a hard hit.
Other options: Sheepshead are underrated and hard to clean but very tasty. You can find sheepshead in and around Lake Pontchartrain. Try from the bank along Highway 90.
Indian Creek Reservoir, in Rapides Parish, has two boat ramps and is a good place to try for bream or bass. For more information, dial Indian Creek Recreation Area at (318) 487-5058.
Lake Pontchartrain Redfish
Nothing says NOLA like fresh from "the lake" and delicious redfish. You can't speak of one and not think of the other, NOLA and Pontchartrain that is. Redfish is on the menu in every restaurant in town.
Therapy Charters out of Slidell is owned and operated by Capt. John Falterman. His service offers trips all over the region, but in May and June he loves to spend his days chasing redfish on Pontchartrain.
"Redfish is fun to catch, and easy to catch," said Falterman. "Obviously live bait is best; redfish are easily hooked on shrimp under a popping cork. Spinner baits and gold spoons also work well."
If you have the equipment and the boat, you can venture to the lake on your own. After launching, focus on the east side of the lake near areas like Treasure Island Point on the north shore or Rigolette. Shoot south to the small marsh along Hospital Wall, which is due south of treasure point. Follow this south along Highway 90, casting and pulling in your limit.
Other options: Take a youngster or two to spend the last of the spring months on a bank-fishing trip in Bogue Chitto State Park. The park sports 11 ponds stocked with a variety of freshwater fish, including bass, sunfish and catfish.
Other freshwater anglers should find their way to the Red River near Simmsboro in order to fight giant flathead catfish. Look for them in cool waters, or the warm flats looking for food at dusk.
Venice Speckled Trout
If you like chasing specks, June is a prime time to be on the coastal waters. During mid-summer, warm waters are teeming with all sorts of baitfish. The nutrient rich water grows croakers, mullet and shrimp. Schools of hungry speckled trout are filling their bellies on the bountiful buffet-styled feast.
One of America's premier destinations for saltwater fishing, Venice, La., is not only a popular launching pad for offshore fishing ventures, but also offers world-class inshore action thanks to the adjacent Mississippi River and its vast estuary system. Even when the water is in the dirtiest of conditions, like near the mouth of the river, specks are biting in June. Due to Venice's prime location, there are numerous charters and guides available for hire that specifically target specks if you need assistance.
Other options: Red snapper season may or may not be open right now. If you are lucky enough to be in a position to try for them, flock to the nearest rig and drop a line.
If you are not that lucky, you can always spend the day in deep shade of cypress and tupelo, casting for summer catfish in the Atchafalaya Basin.
Grand Isle Mangrove Snapper
Grand Isle is at the end of the world, well at the end of Louisiana Highway 1. The passes and islands scattered throughout the area lead from Barataria Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Anglers who are unable to make it to the rigs during the week long red snapper season are able to reel in mangrove snapper through the summer months, as mangroves are plentiful in the northern gulf. Many find this species to be a respectable, and just as tasty, replacement.
Locals and charter captains know that mangrove snapper will be found in good numbers near the first and second set of rigs off Grand Isle, near the corners of the rigs. You can chum them up if the water is clear, or free-line live croakers.
Other Options: July fishing options abound in the Bayou State. Anglers can try for largemouth bass at Lake Bruin near Newellton, or stay in the freshwater and cast for bream through the Bon Idee River north of I-20 near Oak Ridge in the northeast corner of the state.
Louisiana Rivers Catfish
Nothing says summer time like catfishing. There are as many ways to catch cats as there are places to land them in the Bayou State. Naming a single place to find a slab of blues, channels or flats is hard. However, any of the state's bigger rivers will offer plenty of action. Near Monroe, try the Ouachita River by launching a boat using ramps in Sterlington, Monroe or Columbia. Near Natchitoches, try the Red River, or travel the Calcasieu if you are closer to Lake Charles.
This time of year the catfish are in deeper, cooler holes, but will move up onto shallow flats to feed, so look for river bends and fish the shallow inside of curves. During the heat of summer, jug fishing may be the coolest way to hammer the cats, though rod and reel will work just as well. Have plenty of chicken liver on hand. The Red, Mississippi, Ouachita rivers, to name a few, offer catfish. The LDWF maintains a list of boat launches to access the rivers.
Other Options: Grand Isle is well known for offering up bull redfish during the late summer months. Kayak fishermen should find their way here during redfish rodeos. A full day of awesome fishing and the chance at big prize money are offered!
An off-the-wall option, bowfin will offer a big fight, but very little meat. You can find them in coastal rivers in water with low oxygen levels, like the Calcasieu near Lake Charles.
Speaking about Louisiana's offshore fishing opportunities without mentioning cobia could cause a stir. The flesh of the lemonfish is firm and has an excellent flavor, making it one of the gulfs tastiest prizes. Chumming water near oil rigs and gas platforms or other obstacles/reefs will attract small fish, which in turn attract larger, predatory fish from the depths, including, cobia. Cobia are still cruising the blue waters offshore looking for offerings. They look like sharks and are just as voracious. That being said, live bait, including squid, pogies and mullet, cast directly in front of cruising shadows will offer hungry cobia a tempting morsel and hopefully lead to long fast runs, and a sore back.
Cocodrie is located on a high stretch of land along Highway 56. There are a number of Charters operating out of Cocodrie. In addition, at least six public boat launches are available, some with a minimal launch fee.
Other options: Staying in the marine zone, anglers can hit the shallows around Cocodrie to chase bull reds. Freshwater anglers can try for bream off the fishing pier/wildlife pier at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge located just North of Monroe on Highway 165.
Lake Claiborne Hybrid Bass
Striped bass and hybrid striped bass are lumped together by the LDWF. In fact, hybrid bass are a cross between native white bass and introduced striped bass. Regardless, anglers may find hybrids biting in Lake Claiborne, which is situated in the piney hills just east of Homer. Hybrids can be caught with light to medium tackle using jigs if the fish are deep, or minnows or cut bait if shallow. Trolling for hybrids is also a favorite method used by local fisherman. Schooling hybrids can also be tempted to strike flashy spoons.
Lake Claiborne State Park is a great place to launch a boat, set up camp and relax in the tent/camper after a day of fishing. Information on the amenities found at Lake Claiborne State Park can be found at www.crt.state.la.us.
Other Options: Hard fighting amberjack are hanging out along the coast near reefs and rigs off Grand Isle.
As another saltwater opportunity, the bays, marshes and inshore locations southeast of Morgan City may be offering up triggerfish. Look for them on the bottom in schools curising for food.
Lake Calcasieu Flounder
When the tide is moving flounder are likely feeding. In Lake Calcasieu, flounder are found on mud flats or in the Intracoastal canal. Anglers should focus on mud flats or the edge of a weedy mars around the lake or along the shipping canal where an ambush predator can sit and feed in safety. Flounder are ambush predators; their flat shape and camouflage is best used to sit and wait for prey to come to them. Do not expect them to come too far from their perch in order to chase your baits. However, many large flounder can be taken by rod and reel in almost any portion of any southern bay. If you catch one, others are sure to be nearby.
Hungry flounder (the state record weighed in at 13 pounds) will bite natural bait, including mullet, live shrimp or mud minnows, and artificial lures as well. Light to medium tackle will be sufficient.
Other Options: Hybrids are still biting in Lake Claiborne. Indian Creek Reservoir, located in Rapides Parish, presents freshwater anglers with largemouth bass. Two boat ramps are located on Indian Creek Lake.
During the winter months, anglers should consider chartering a trip to the "Midnight Hump," located about 50 miles offshore near Venice. Here, a large salt dome traps baitfish in currents and eddies. These, natural forces, combined with chumming, attract large predatory fish like tuna and wahoo. The shallow waters on top of the salt dome and the large schools of bait fish that get trapped combine to form an important feeding area for what could be considered some of the largest yellowfin tuna found in the Gulf of Mexico.
The fishing area is within federal waters so regulations are enforced. Anglers should be ready for rough seas and cool, wet weather.
Other Options: You may find December bass holed up in Catahoula Lake, the largest natural lake in Louisiana. Northeast of Alexandria, Catahoula Lake is managed by the Corps of Engineers. From Catahoula, anglers can head northwest toward Black Lake near Campti, and try for crappie on jigs.
Remember, these places represent a mere fraction of the places to drop a line in the Bayou State. Be sure to consult the LDFW regulations as minimum size, creel, and equipment/tackle regulations may change from water to water.