February 02, 2016
From the heel of the boot to the top of the laces and all places in between, the Bayou State is a fisherman's paradise. It has an amazing combination of habitats and water bodies that create thousands of angling options for both saltwater and freshwater species.
Unfortunately, this plethora of fishing opportunities and dozens of game species to target leaves even the proudest anglers in a tough spot asking; where do I fish today? Sure, everybody has their favorite lake or marsh pond, but what about all the other places?
Boat or not, Louisiana provides 12 months of angling options. Here's a look at some of the hottest casting options through the course of year, venturing from freshwater to the salt and everywhere in between.
Many sportsmen may have remnants of fowl on the brain, but now is the best time for hooking wahoo in the Gulf. A member of the mackerel family, wahoo are considered an open-water prize that is a top predator within its range. They are often found near the edge of the Continental Shelf, but can also be found under floating debris.
While most anglers use charters to pursue this fish, do-it-yourself anglers can catch them by fast trolling several lines at varying depths.
OTHER OPTIONS: Find black drum in and around Lake Pontchartrain by dropping shrimp on the bottom, or head to one of the two public launches at Caney Creek Lake State Park to find crappie suspended deep in schools.
Lake D'Arbonne Crappie
In the Ouachita Basin, near Farmerville, is one of the best crappie destinations in the state. Throughout the month of February, crappie, both white and black, can be found schooling near cover. Just the basics are really needed, as jigs, crickets and cane poles can be used to catch a mess of both species, particular if fishing from the from the bank on the north side of the lake.
OTHER OPTIONS: Anglers can launch a boat at Netterville Boat Launch located on the north side of Lake Bruin to fish along the waters edge, early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Spotted gar can be found throughout the Pelican State by casting lures along the edge of thick vegetation in lower oxygen waters.
Toledo Bend Reservoir Largemouth Bass
Toledo Bend is often identified as the state's premier largemouth impoundment. Shared with Texas, this reservoir holds several titles including being the largest man-made lake in the south and fifth largest (in surface area) in the country. Measuring in at 65 miles north to south and providing 1,200 miles of bank, such a large body affords diverse habitat and water conditions.
Active bass can be located in the typical spots; so deliberate casts toward obstacles will find fish. Multiple public boat launches and state parks are found along the Louisiana side of the reservoir, offering plenty of bank fishing opportunities.
In addition, Texas and Louisiana reciprocate licenses and registrations so anglers from either state can freely cross the state line and fish the other banks, if desired.
OTHER OPTIONS: Bank anglers have nice opportunities to catch a bucket of sunfish in Cross Lake near Shreveport using small lures and worms. There is even a fishing pier on the south end of the lake located off Southlake Shore Drive. In the salt, redfish are biting in the marshes around New Orleans as the tide heads out.
Bogue Chitto State Park Bream
In addition to the river of the same name, anglers, along with their families, can fish 11 ponds stocked with catfish, bream and largemouth bass at the Boque Chitto State Park.
Crickets and worms under bobbers, and fast retrieve baits will bring in all kinds of bass and bream. Liver on hooks with a weight will entice catfish, especially early in the morning.
Visitors can camp, rent a cabin or rent a canoe from Rocky Bottoms to drift fish the river.
OTHER OPTIONS: Anglers near New Iberia can head to Burns Point Recreation Area to fish for speckled trout on the east side of East Cote Blanche Bay. Specks, reds and other inshore fish are in the water. Crappie are biting on Poverty Point Reservoir near Delhi. This is a new lake that has been fishable for eight years or so.
Coastal Marsh Speckled Trout
Charlie Gros, who operates Jug's Seafood in Theriot, plays host to anglers all spring who are in pursuit of speckled trout. The marshes and bays east and west of Theriot are rich in crabs, shrimp and speckled trout. During the summer spawn, the big fish are in high salt areas near lower bays and estuaries.
A bucket of live minnows is recommended but not required for these hard-hitting fish. Specks are known to latch on to plastic grubs and jigs under a popping cork. Try a number of baits and lures and slowly drift the bays.
OTHER OPTIONS: Lemonfish are available in May, frequenting reefs and oil platforms and following larger predators in the Gulf. Pull them from structure using eels, shrimp and a variety of jigs and lures. Set sights on catfish by visiting any of the Bayou State's larger rivers — Red, Ouachita, Calcasieu, etc.
Venice Mahi Mahi
Mahi Mahi (also called dolphinfish and dorado) can be found in state waters during the warmer months of the year. Dorados generally grow to between 25 to 50 pounds though larger individuals can reach sizes up to 60 pounds. They are known to offer exciting fights and can be seen jumping, spinning and flipping straight out of the water once hooked.
Capt. Damon McKnight with Venice's Superstrike Charters (www.superstrike charters.com) says guys can fish without a charter by looking for riplines and grasslines. Techniques include both chumming and casting and trolling with marlin baits.
OTHER OPTIONS: Staying in the salt allows anglers with the right gear to drop baits for almaco jack, which are often found schooling with amberjack. Live bait is best, but cut bait will also work. Or folks can pursue crappie at Sibley Lake with black and chartreuse jigs, or shiners.
Red River Blue Catfish
Preferring deep waters with ample cover, blue cats within the Red River are hidden at the bottom of deep pools behind locks and dams named Nos. 1 through 5. Notorious for their great size (the 2014 state record weighs in at 114 pounds), blue cats are relatively easy to catch using many types of baits. Heavy tackle is best in conjunction with dead baits.
Fishing the Red River requires knowledge of the river's surface and subsurface features. Multiple boat launches are available to the public including Stoner Avenue Launch and the Teague Parkway Launch, both near Shreveport-Bossier.
OTHER OPTIONS: Though not considered the most edible of fish, tarpon are entertaining to catch near Grand Isle. Tarpon are known for aerial displays when hooked, as well as for throwing hooks. On a cool July morning take the family to Natchitoches to cast for bass and bream in Sibley Lake.
Lake Claiborne Striped Bass
Lake Claiborne was stocked with striped bass, as were many other landlocked lakes, many years ago. Under normal conditions, striped bass spawn in freshwater rivers but live in saltwater. Bass in Lake Claiborne are unable to escape, so they make do.
Located north of I-20 between Monroe and Shreveport, Lake Claiborne is well known for its May striper bite. Trolling with spoons and minnow imitations are popular. Lake Claiborne State Park (www.crt.state.la.us) is a good place to set up camp.
OTHER OPTIONS: Speckled trout are biting in the marches around Calcasieu Lake, particularly on points near the shipping channel. Simple hooks, line and chicken liver is all that is needed to catch catfish via trotlines, which is legal on many Louisiana waters.
Grand Isle Redfish
The Grand Isle Redfish Rodeo has been held for 54 years in late summer. Anglers in boats and kayaks will find redfish hanging around grass flats, oyster reefs, tidal creek mouths and shallow structure. Anglers can use many tactics, including flies, lures, live bait and dead bait.
OTHER OPTIONS: A must try for families is catching sunfish at C. Bickham Dickson Park in Shreveport using worms under floats. Hogfish can be found around sand and rock bottoms near reefs, both shallow and deep. Some anglers suggest the best way to get a limit of hogfish is with a spear in hand.
Venice Yellowfin Tuna
Louisiana's yellowfin tuna fishery is one of the best in the world, and October is one of the best times to go near Venice. In addition to deep-water trawlers that produce tons of bycatch while dragging for shrimp, October is when roe-filled mullet run offshore to lay eggs. Match the mullet run by using live mullet on hooks and trolling at varying depths.
OTHER OPTIONS: Another offshore option is gag grouper, which favor reefs, rigs and structure in deep water. Work quickly to pull fish from hiding spots or risking losing in short, but violent fights. Fish both sides of the elevated fishing pier with worms for bream at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Monroe.
Lake Pontchartrain Flounder
Southern flounder, the most common species of flounder reported in Louisiana waters is considered highly prized table fair. Though amusing in appearance, with two eyes placed awkwardly atop its flat head and a mouth bent and twisted to allow the fish to feed off bottom, flounder are masters of camouflage and are in fact highly efficient predators.
With no size limit and a 10 fish creel, saltwater anglers are in for a tasty haul from mid to late fall. November represents, a migratory period for flounder as they head out to spawn in offshore waters. Moving water is important to these predators and anglers should consider searching points and tidal flats. Live cocahoe minnows make effective baits when used with strong hooks.
Accessing flounder grounds during the migration is relatively easy, and anglers can find flounder in Lake Pontchartrain or in the marshes just outside New Orleans near Delacroix.
OTHER OPTIONS: Largemouth bass in Rodemacher Lake can usually be found near the power plant, which releases warm water into the lake, providing a good environment for bass when it is colder. Cane River Lake, a 32-mile long former channel of the Red River, is home to a healthy channel catfish population.
Lake Bruin Largemouth Bass
Cooling water temperatures mean the bass bite will be slowing down, but Lake Bruin, an oxbow lake formerly acting as the main channel of the Mississippi River, still offers bass in healthy numbers around the numerous docks and pilings around the heavily developed shoreline.
During the fall and early winter months, anglers should focus on finding natural cover, especially thick grass in the areas between the docks. Stick with crankbaits and basic jigs to ensure fast action on warmer days, but remember that bass need less food when it is cold, as their metabolism has slowed down.
OTHER OPTIONS: At a little over 1,880 acres, Nantachie Lake provides a number of recreational opportunities to sportsmen and women, including a place to begin the crappie season by dropping worms and crickets to hungry fish. In the salt, the flounder bite may be cooling, but hungry doormats can be found feeding near known oyster reefs or near the mouths of tidal creeks.
There are other opportunities in the state, after all, it is called the Sportsman's Paradise, but these 36 will provide some neat trips.