Bayou, lake, pond, inshore, offshore, river — when you couple ample public access with dozens of species of freshwater and saltwater fish, it’s no wonder that Louisiana fisheries are world-renowned. From January through December, let’s take a look at some the Bayou State’s best offerings for this year.
Images by Vic Dunaway
BARATARIA BASIN | WAHOO
The cooling waters of the Gulf bring out the best wahoo fishing of the year. Wahoo travel alone or in small schools from just under the surface to depths of 500 feet. Wahoo can be found in the blue water offshore, so high-speed trolling near oil platforms is the best way to find them. Be ready to fight as this fast fish known for its strong head shakes and up and down yanking will tire even the strongest biceps. If you are on a do-it-yourself trip for wahoo, find your way to the oil platforms offshore southwest of Venice. The lack of a commercial market makes this an unregulated species, and there is no limit on them. If you think the task is too big to tackle on your own, you can find a number of charter services operating in the Barataria Basin.
OTHER OPTIONS: At Bogue Chitto most of the weeds are gone so access to bluegill has been made a bit easier. You can catch plenty of them in the stocked ponds in Bogue Chitto State Park. Winter catfish harvested from Lac des Allemands are the perfect addition to your next pot of court-bouillon.
POVERTY POINT | CRAPPIE
Poverty Point Reservoir near Delhi represents one of the finest crappie fisheries around and has been producing 2-pound crappie for several years now. The state record black crappie, which weighed in at 3.8 pounds and the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 white crappie were hauled from Poverty Point. Fishing deeper water is the key early in the month while the water temperature remains cold, but as February warms and March approaches it is important to ease towards the shallower waters. Males will find their way to the banks first, and females will come in later. Play around with 1/16- to 1/4-ounce jigheads with different color bodies until you find a working combo. The lake is the centerpiece of a state park with a marina, multi-lane boat launch, and a fish-cleaning station.
OTHER OPTIONS: Rainbow trout are stocked in several public ponds across the state. Visit the LDWF website and search for the Get Out and Fish! program to find a trout pond near you. Crawfish in roadside ditches can make a great meal; anyone with a fishing license can harvest up to 150 pounds of crawfish per day.
TOLEDO BEND RESERVOIR | LARGEMOUTH BASS
Toledo Bend has been ranked the No. 1 bass fishery in the country by B.A.S.S. multiple times. The Toledo Bend Lake Association keeps a record of hefty bass taken from the lake. In March 2018, 12 bass reaching the double digits were registered, and in the same month in 2017, 15 big bass were registered. Since the lake is so large, what works one day in one spot may not work the next day or one cove over. March bass are searching for places to spawn. Stay flexible, as changes in weather and water conditions influence feeding and breeding patterns. Lunker bass are caught with jigs, tailed with crawfish or fish-look-alike plastics, but Rapalas, spinner baits, and Rat-L-Traps work too. Licenced anglers from Louisiana can fish the Texas side of the lake and vice versa.
OTHER OPTIONS: D’Arbonne crappie are still biting and fat slabs love jigs here. Black drum near Dulac are great on the table and can be caught at the same time as reds using the same tackle.
DULAC AREA | REDFISH
Though cold fronts have lost a lot of their punch by the time April rolls around, they can still affect the redfish in the bays and marshes. Typically, reds are going to hold in the coves and points that feature some moving water. Reds will hug tight on the banks and baited lines should be laid out as close as possible to cuts and other changes in the bank edge. Popping corks are very common redfish tackle and mullett is good bait to start with. Tying on the biggest baits in your bucket will help to ensure that only the biggest fish take notice. The marshes and canals around Dulac are a veritable maze of fish-producing habitat, so be sure to use a GPS unit.
OTHER OPTIONS: BREC operates Greenwood Community Park, where fishing opportunities include pier-caught bream and catfish. Toledo Bend yellow bass: all other state waters have a 50-bass limit, but not at Toledo Bend — here there is no limit on yellow bass.
VENICE SPECKLED | TROUT
As ambush predators, these hard-fighting fish are common around structures like bridges, points, grass beds, or man-made structures like docks and weirs. Cuts and channels leading to deeper water may hold trout as well. Spawning occurs through April and May and many big females can be fooled into biting a hook laden with live shrimp. Other baits commonly used for speckled trout include split-tailed or curly tailed grubs that mimic shrimp, or hard baits that mimic baitfish like mullet or menhaden. The marshes in and around Venice are easily accessible to public inshore anglers. A number of guide service also offer inshore trips that feature speckled trout.
OTHER OPTIONS: redfish: New Orleans favorite inshore fish — redfish — are in Lake Pontchartrain this month. Target reds during a moving tide near the Rigolet. Turkey Creek Reservoir largemouth can be caught in the plentiful natural cover in the north end of the lake.
RED RIVER | CHANNEL CATS
Anglers new to fishing the Red should target areas near each of the five locks and dams along the reach between Shreveport and Marksville. These dams help control water flow and divide the river into five large “pools” that resemble long, slender lakes. Channels cats are likely to hug bottom near structures and most cats fall to cut bait or night crawlers. In addition to working around the dams, fish the wood cover along the river bank. Multiple boat launches are available along the river including ramps in Shreveport, Bossier City, Natchitoches, Alexandria, and Marksville. There are also several bank fishing options including Coushatta Recreation Area in Red River Parish, St. Maurice Recreation Area in Winn Parish, Red River Lock & Dam #5.
OTHER OPTIONS: Take a kid fishing now that school is out — simply find bream from the bank of the nearest publicly accessible bank or pier. Cross Lake near Shreveport is holding pole-bending bass near the plethora of manmade cover along the bank.
GRAND ISLE | TARPON
Among anglers, Grand Isle is known as the location for an annual Tarpon rodeo recognized across the Gulf Coast. Anglers catching tarpon will remember the hooked fish’s incredible leaps and intense power during the retrieve. Tarpon are spawning in late July and hungry fish will bite many types of bait. Live baits are most common and include crabs and mullet. Favorite artificial lures vary considerably but include spoons, top water baits, and plastics among others. There are several public boat launches on Grand Isle.
Other options: For Bayou Bonee Idee cats, Yoyo’s and trot lines are popular ways of filling a cooler with fish quickly. Sheepshead in Pontchartrain will eat just about anything, including crabs. Target jetties and piers around the lake.
BILOXI MARSH | REDFISH
Anglers targeting reds should focus on finding moving water. Just about anything will work from shrimp under a popping cork, mullett, or pogies. Get off the main bayous and into the smaller cuts. If there are pogies in the here, redfish will be nearby. Bring plenty of tackle, since reefs have plenty of snags. Artificial lures may trick a red into biting as well. Try topwater baits, tight-lined plastics and Carolina rigs. Reds are ready to eat in preparation for their trek to their spawning waters as fall approaches. Most do-it-yourselfers launch boats at one of several marinas scattered across the parish. A number of guide services operate in the area as well.
Other Options: In offshore waters there are mahi-mahi waiting for you. They spawn during the summer months. Mahi-mahi love to spend time around floating debris and because of this tend to be easy to locate. Flathead catfish are in debris piles in the Ouachita River. Toss a live bream near the mess at dusk and be ready for a fight.
COCODRIE | COBIA
While they tend to be nomadic, cobia are often encountered while targeting other species of fish. Chumming the water near oil rigs, buoys, and gas platforms brings in small fish which in turn attract snapper, grouper, and others and can bring cobia from the depths. Cobia will prowl the congregating bait fish from below, and anglers watching the action unfold may see dark shapes resembling sharks form small schools. Live bait works best and can include squid, pogies, and mullet. The most effective tactic is to toss your bait directly in front of one of the dark shapes and let the bait work. Jigs, including large curled tails trailers or in a variety of colors, work well if you must pull fish off the bottom. Have a stout rod with strong line and be ready for a battle. These fish are can easily exceed 100 pounds, but smaller 30- to 70-pound fish are more common. Cocodrie is a good place to start your adventure.
OTHER OPTIONS: Cross Lake has a good population of white bass. September waters begin to change with the passage of fronts and the fish react accordingly. Amberjack are common near rigs and put a fight when hooked. Dropping squid is one way to entice a bite.
CANEY LAKE | LARGEMOUTH
The current state record largemouth bass was taken from Caney Lake back in 1994. The bass tipped the scales at nearly 16 pounds. Caney still holds plenty of double digit bass, and the lake has aged rather gracefully. Fall patterns are a bit different than summer and spring patterns, but bass are still hungry and tend to follow the food. Anglers should match the baitfish that are being pursued and soft-plastic lures can imitate a shad pretty well. Jerkbaits are a good second choice, especially if bass cannot be enticed with a swimming lure. Rapalas tossed into the middle of a shoal may grab the attention of the predator that is causing the baitfish to flee.
OTHER OPTIONS: For catfish in Bundick Lake, rod-and-reel, yoyo’s, slat traps — they all work well. This is an easy lake to access and a quiet out-of-the way gem. To catch redfish in Delacroix use a kayak and sneak up on them in the marshes. Action should be heating up as the fish adjust to more moderate temperatures.
LAKE CALCASIEU | FLOUNDER
Southern Flounder are feeding when the tide is moving this time of year. A rising tide is best as bait fish are pushed in shore to the lurking flounder. Flounder are not long-distance swimmers and rarely chase down prey. Fisherman targeting flounder should use weighted baits near cover or the back of inlets or bays and drag or dribble the bait across bottom being careful not to pull the bait off the mud. Since they accumulate where their prey is, you can likely catch more than one in the same area. Light to medium tackle will be sufficient. Flounder will bite artificial lures including various jigs, but will bite natural bait including mullet, live shrimp, or mud minnows if presented. For land-based angers, access to flounder in and around Calcasieu is possible by utilizing several public banks and piers. Calcasieu Point Landing is freeand is open between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m.
OTHER OPTIONS: Maurepas catfish at the back of the lake are easy on hook, but also fall prey to traps and nets. Lake Bruin is an oxbow and the perch are heading into its relatively deep waters. Get after them before they go to deep or you’ll have to wait till February.
LAKE CLAIBORNE| HYBRID STRIPED BASS
Fisherman looking for the other bass in our state can land hybrid striped bass in Lake Claiborne. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has been releasing hatchery raised hybrids in a number of Louisiana waters, including Claiborne. Adult hybrid stripers are fish feeders and seem to favor gizzard shad and threadfin shad. They hunt in open water and rarely use cover. In the cold months, the fish congregate in deeper water and aren’t as active as they are in spring, but they can still be enticed to bite. Tossing shad-colored jigs along edges of deep water could entice them to bite.
OTHER OPTIONS: Gather some friends who want to catch some tuna and take a charter to try fishing the infamous “Midnight Lump” offshore near Venice. There may be a marlin in the mix. For Black Bayou Crappie, anglers should target fish holding in deep water around the numerous cypress trees.
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