Fall is a popular time along Natchitoches’ Cane River, as it attracts visitors from all over the world to quaint bed and breakfasts like the one featured in the movie “Steel Magnolias.”
The river also attracts people for another reason: bass.
“The Cane River is holding up as a fishery as well as any water in the state,” Bob McGraw said. “The largemouth bass fishing there is excellent, and October is one of the best months to fish.”
The 35-mile-long “river” was actually a part of the old Red River channel, but when the river changed course Cane River was left as an oxbow.
It was stabilized by building a man-made structure in the 1930s.
“It seems like there is one key ingredient to finding good numbers of bass, and that is grass,” McGraw said. “When you find the grass, you will find the bass.”
There is some controversy on the lake about killing grass to maintain the beauty of the river. That doesn’t help the fishing, though, he said.
“If we had grass from one end of this lake to the other, it would be so full of bass you couldn’t catch them all,” McGraw said.
The angler said that the northern end of the lake is the most popular area. That, in part, is because of the grass.
Other options for catching bass are the boat docks, piers and reeds that line the bank.
“Really, if you aren’t familiar with Cane River, the best thing to do is just get off the bank in about 12 feet of water and throw a worm up at the structure,” McGraw said. “Work it back, and when you catch one or two, develop a pattern from there.
“Junebug and watermelon red are good worm or craw colors.”
If you’re not a worm fisherman, there is another option, he said.
“Shad-colored crankbaits also work well this month and on through the fall,” McGraw explained.
And Cane River offers the opportunity to land quality fish.
“This is a good time to catch some bigger fish,” McGraw said. “We used to think a 4- or 5-pounder was a big fish, but with the introduction of Florida bass, we are catching them up in the 8- to 9-pound range now. “
Fishing for other species is not as consistent, McGraw said.
Crappie fishing is fantastic one year and might be a bust the next. It is very cyclical. The only way to find out is to go.
The lake used to have a huge population of hybrid striped bass, but they have dwindled over time.
Access to Cane River is fairly easy, although one of the three ramps (the one at the spillway) is often closed during high and low water. You can learn more at www.caneriverwaterway.com.
The Cane River Waterway Commission offers boating safety classes, required for anyone operating a powerboat on Cane River, throughout the year. You can also take that course on line at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating/courses.