Capt. Shawn Lanier (225-205-5353) said he pretty much swims against the flow this month.
“A bunch of the Venice area guides quit fishing in January and February so they can hunt,” Lanier said. “Me, I don’t hunt — at least not on land and not with a gun. I’ll do all my hunting from the boat with a rod and reel, and mostly downriver where I’ll target big redfish in the outside bays.
“You can catch slot reds anywhere in Southeast Louisiana all over the marshes. But if you want to catch bull reds, Venice is the best place in the world to do it.”
Lanier said he actually makes chasing Venice’s big reds his full-time occupation.
“I know that many of the local anglers like to target trout all year round,” he said. “I’ll chase trout, as well, when my clients want them, but mostly I focus my efforts on big reds — bulls in the 15- to 30-pound class. Even in January and February, the coldest months of the year, I typically point my bow downriver and fish the bays on the outside edges: bays with rozo cane.
“The passes downriver get most of the press, but I don’t fish the passes right now because the winter river water is very cold and I get better action off the passes in the bays.”
Lanier admits, however, the winter months pose a challenge.
“It’s cold, we battle constant fronts and winds, and when we do get a weather warm-up it causes fog,” he said. “The fog can be a real challenge to running the river because you’re sharing the same space with a constant stream of ships, and work boats and barges in the busiest section of river in the nation — and even though I have radar on my boat, I’ll still wait out dense fog until I consider it safe to run.”
But he said the reward is worth the effort.
“We fish in the downriver bays where we get some protection from the winds, the water temperature is a bit warmer and water clarity is generally much better,” Lanier said. “ (it’s s)till murky, but better, and down here we don’t let murky water discourage us.”
He said he fishes the canes with big soft-plastic baits on 12- to 18-inch-long 60-pound leaders and noisy corks.
“This is not the place for a clip-on cork or tight-line type fishing,” Lanier said. “You want a cork that’ll make some noise. I like the ones that have beads and rattles, whatever makes noise to attract the fish.
“We actually have better success with big plastic baits than market shrimp, if targeting bull reds. Some of the big baits we use are 8-inches long — cobia baits — but they definitely attract big hits from big reds.”