May 2012 - Volume 32, Number 5


Avid angler Ray Ohler’s choice of prey belies his social rung.

The Place

Following my GPS, I tentatively nosed my truck through the fortress-like gates of Mariners Cove in Slidell. When the man invited me to hunt alligator gar in the canal behind his house, I had just kind of assumed that the trail would lead me to a rural backwater retreat in the salt marshes between Slidell and Lake Pontchartrain. And Ray Ohler would come out to greet me wearing bib overalls held up by one gallus.

Pack up some night crawlers or river shrimp and head to the coast for some hot catfishing action.

Whether it’s blue catfish or channel catfish, Central Louisiana’s coastal bays in the springtime are teeming with both. Toss in the occasional flathead, and what you have is the skinning pliers Ictalurus Trifecta of North America.

From the Atchafalaya River to East Cote Blanche Bay, nearly every bayou, canal or unnamed tributary that empties freshwater is a potential location to drop anchor and tightline for catfish in this region.

This Basin hotspot has an abundance of eager bream that are fat and happy this time of year.

The anchor hadn’t settled on the bottom good before my wife made her first cast toward the trees along a stretch of Bear Bayou we regularly fish. As normal, she wasn’t playing around. And before I even had a worm on my hook, she was setting hers into the lips of a chinquapin.

The bluish-green colored fish streaked just beneath the surface, touching off my adrenaline button that caused me to get a little more worm juice on my fingers than I had planned.

Louisiana Sportsman columnist shares best fly-fishing tactics for frenzied panfish trips.

The sounds are unmistakable. SSSLURP! POP! SMACK!

When bluegill rise to grab surface meals, they know they’re vulnerable to bass, ospreys, herons and other predators. Therefore, they have to be sure of a worthwhile payoff, and nature provides plenty in the way of aquatic insects and other bugs that fall to the water’s surface.

Even those meals perched on lily pads or hovering too close to the strike zone are subject to attack from these feisty panfish.

There’s a reason why the venerable baitfish is this Grand Isle guide’s favorite.

“I fish live bait — live croakers,” the 68-year-old says with conviction, as if looking for a challenge. “Using plastic can be a good way to find the fish,” he adds, seeming for a moment to soften a bit, “but when I find them, I throw croakers to catch more. The reason I don’t stay with plastic is to catch bigger fish. You gotta remember that I like bigger fish.”

Carol “Zutie” Auenson can afford to ooz self-confidence. The box beneath him is thumping with speckled trout showing their displeasure with being introduced to ice. Not a cloud mars the sky as the boat rocks easily in the gentle beach swell near Grand Isle, summertime headquarters for the veteran fishing guide. The break of the small waves on the beach sounds like the crinkling of crepe paper. The water is “trout green.”

Follow this guide’s strategy to put Lake Pontratrain trout - and drum - on the grill.

Let’s see: You are a charter guide and your clients just cancelled at the last minute because of an emergency.
The wife and daughter are out of town for the weekend. You have your nearly 17-year-old son still kicking around the house, though.

So what do you do?

This long-time Atchafalaya Basin angler has found a new home on the fish-rich stretches of water between Bayou Corne and Lake Verret.

The craggy man at the bow controls of the boat turned off the boat’s engine. He lit a cigarette and scanned the points formed by the intersection of the Texaco Canal and Grand Bayou.

“I hung a big one here a couple of weeks ago,” he said matter-of-factly, in a twang that still showed some of his Arkansas roots.

Now you can save on fuel costs AND fill the boat with a variety of fish.

May loomed, and Eddie assumed our traditional summer fishing schedule also loomed.

“Guess we’re driving down to the mouth of the river next week,” he frowned. “What a haul! Then motoring downriver to fish the canes along Redfish Bay, Blind Bay, Customhouse, etc. — another HAUL!”

Pelayo looked at Eddie, then around to the rest of us on Doc’s gazebo.

Head to Venice’s outer bays this month for hot trout action.

This is it: You don’t have to wait any longer.

The month we long for with impatient anticipation throughout the entire year has finally arrived in all its spring glory.

Now the weather begins to cooperate; winds lessen and blow good seawater in, tides straighten out, the bays begin to teem with bait and the speckled trout start feeding like piranhas smelling blood.

It’s May in Southeast Louisiana, and the fishing just doesn’t get any better than this.

Lake Cataouatche’s east side gets none of the glory, but it’s absolutely loaded with big summertime bluegill.

When I first moved to New Orleans as a (very) young man in the mid-1960s, I just knew that I was a fishing hot dog. I thought I knew all there was to know about catching bass, bream, white perch and catfish — and that’s where the fishing world ended.

While I was expounding on the virtues of these freshwater fish during a break in a sales meeting, I noticed a kind-hearted co-worker, Grant “Popsy” Rodriguez, watching me in bemusement. Over lunch after the meeting, he pulled me down to earth and explained the fishing facts of life, a la New Orleans, to me.

Don’t put up your rods when the crappie spawn is over — Head to D’Arbonne’s stump fields to load the boat with white perch.

Every year during March and April, fishermen hammer Lake D’Arbonne’s shallow cypress trees and banks for spawning white perch (aka crappie or sac-a-lait). It’s a mad rush because you only have a few weeks to take advantage of the relatively easy bite.

When the spawn is over, jig poles are put up and the long wait begins for next year’s season.

Crowds don’t have to limit your success at Calcasieu Lake.

This is my son’s first year of playing kid-pitch baseball.

After looking like an all-star in the batting cages during his first practice, he stood on deck and watched the batter before him take a hardball to the lower back in his team’s first attempt to hit off of an inconsistent 9-year-old pitcher.

Wide-eyed, he took his turn at the plate and bailed out on the first pitch. His second swing was more of a step-out-slap-swing defensive maneuver even though the ball was a strike right over the plate.

Speckled trout fishing is heating up across the coast, but there's no shortage of freshwater action.