Volume 33 Number 4 - April 2013

Features

A four-stroke is designed to provide hundreds of hours of service, but they do require some TLC. Here are some simple ways to get the most out of your outboard.

The advent of the four-stroke outboard has changed a lot about boating. No more oil-and-gas mixtures, less pollution, better economy overall and generally lower maintenance.

It might be a bit early for bream to turn on full force, but April is when chinquapin begin to gang up for the spawn. And there’s no better place to catch them than the Atchafalaya Basin’s Flat Lake.

It’s easy. It’s fun. It can be “flat-tastic!” Ask anyone in the tri-city area of Morgan City, Berwick and Patterson where is the best place to fish redear sunfish, fondly referred around these parts as chinquapins, and the first place they’ll tell you is Flat Lake. What’s more, the month of April is when it turns on.

The explosion in kayak fishing has put more anglers on the water. Here are some suggestions for your first paddle boat.

You’ve likely noticed that there is a surge in kayak fishing.

You see them being pulled or carried down the highway. You see them at the boat ramps. And you’ll likely see them in some of your favorite fishing spots — even offshore.

There are a lot of ways to put bass in the boat, but nothing beats a topwater bite. And Larto Lake is guaranteed to offer plenty of that action this month.

Slap-pow!

No matter how ready you think you are, a smashing attack on a topwater plug by an aggressive springtime largemouth bass will make your heart stop.

Guaranteed.

And it wasn’t even my chugger that the fish whacked.

Everything was perfect for a topwater bite. It was early April, and the warmth of spring was in the air. The sky was overcast, so the bass didn’t want to stay in the weeds to avoid the glare. And the water level was A-1 — about 8 inches over the dense beds of water plants in the small lakes and sloughs around Larto Lake.

Killing a gobbler as the season is winding down is all about understanding what makes them tick.

Veteran turkey hunter Randy Stafford remembers well one late-season hunt for a very wizened longbeard. “This old gobbler would not roost in the same place two days in a row,” the 65-year-old president of the Louisiana Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation said. “On the morning after the first hunt for that bird, we heard him gobbling far away from us.” Stafford and his hunting partner saw the bird in a field with two other gobblers later in the afternoon.

Sometimes returning to old stomping grounds — and old fishing tactics — can be just the ticket to liven up your day. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge’s panfishing is the perfect example.

Artie blew up at the very mention of the place.

“Man don’t even say the word!” he snarled. “Brings back too many memories! Now it’s all gone!”

Actually, all the memories were sweet.

Tournament redfishing in Louisiana has grown in popularity in recent years. Here’s how you can key in on tournament-winning reds — or simply increase your chances of success every time you hit the water.

Kaplan’s Skip Floyd and his wife Tanya had traveled east by boat all the way from Bridge City, Texas, to the Lambert weir on southern Lake Calcasieu. The husband-and-wife team were fishing a Gulf Coast redfish tournament, and they made the long run to boat two slot redfish to haul back to the weigh-in.

“Tanya and I pulled up behind the weirs and began easing along while sight-fishing for redfish,” the 47-year-old Skip Floyd said. “We were fortunate to eventually see a group of birds hovering in one of the ponds, and there was a school of redfish beneath them.

Skip was throwing a pearl white, 6- inch Al Gag Whip-It Eel, while Tanya chunked a pink version of the lure.

With snapper season already open in state waters, it’s time for a primer on tactics — old and new — to load up the freezer with fish.

It’s been years since we’ve been able to head out to the rigs in the spring and bring home red snapper, but that all changes this year.

Yep, the season in Louisiana waters kicked off March 24 — and the definition of what constitutes Louisiana waters has been broadened by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to mean all waters within three marine leagues (10.357 miles) off the coast.

This Hopedale lake comes alive with hefty speckled trout every April.

Hard late-April cold fronts are about as common as honest politicians.

But that was the exact scenario facing Capt. Charlie Thomason last April. He had been on a really strong big-trout bite in Lake of Two Trees during the first half of the month, but then Jack Frost, in a fit of rage during his death throes, blew some of the season’s chilliest weather down to South Louisiana.

Nighttime highs fell into the 40s, and water temperatures plummeted from 80 degrees to 60 degrees.

The Lake Pontchartrain Trestle is a challenge to learn to fish, but there’s no better time to try than now, when stout speckled trout are just about jumping in the boat.

Many of the Trestles trout that ended their day in an icy coffin had a bat ray to thank.

Capt. Jonathan Allen, like most of the successful anglers on Lake Pontchartrain’s bridges, is a compulsive hook-setter. If so much as a single blade of hydrilla brushes the tail of his bait, Allen sets the hook.

As a result, he catches a ton of fish that other anglers would miss, but he also snags the bottom more than a jetty anchor.

Plenty of trout will be pulled from Big Lake this month, but if you want to catch some really big fish you need to get out of the boat.

I could tell wade-fishing turns Guy Stansel on by the way he jumped into the water. While his buddy Mark Jeanes quietly stepped down the transom ladder into Calcasieu Lake, Stansel leapt in with reckless abandon. The only thing more disturbing to the tranquil environment than the thunderous splash was the resulting cannonball-sized waves that rolled across Joe’s Cove.

Timbalier Island is where big trout live this month, but sometimes the weather is too ugly to fish it. Don’t stay home — instead head to Catfish Lake.

Lots of folks launch at the Oak Ridge Park boat ramp in Golden Meadow during April. A great percentage of them aspire to fish East Timbalier. And why not? April means transition trout, and East Timbalier is the end of the line.

Big stringers of trout await this month across the Louisiana coast, while freshwater options abound for inland anglers.