If you live in South Louisiana, you need no explanation as to what a levee is or what it’s for. They’re used to protect our homes and allow us to live in areas that otherwise would regularly flood.
The Mississippi River is encased in levees all along the inhabited areas of South Louisiana. While the levees protect us, they also block off the natural cycles that otherwise allow the river to flow into the marsh and deposit land-building silt along with marsh feeding nutrients.
There are, however, a few areas south of New Orleans where the river has burst through the man-made containment and freely spreads its waters throughout the nearby marsh.
One such area on the east bank of the river near Pointe a la Hache has been named Mardi Gras Pass due to its discovery by local scientists on Mardi Gras day a few years ago.
The river cuts through a small slot in the bank and, upon entering the area, you can immediately see the effects on the local flora and fauna. Lush green vegetation plays host to numerous birds and animals.
However, what isn’t apparent to the eye is the diversity of fish that also fill the area.
Healthy stands of submerged aquatic vegetation do their part to filter out the river’s silt and keep the water fairly clear.
On a recent kayak fishing trip to east Pointe a la Hache, which is north of the new pass, we put together a mixed bag of both saltwater and freshwater fish.
The area is easily accessed from Beshel’s boat launch in Plaquemine Parish. There are virtually unlimited areas to reach by kayak across the back levee canal. Marsh areas that for many decades have been impacted by erosion and saltwater intrusion are now becoming a lot fresher, and the variety of species available has increased.
“I grew up fishing the Pointe a la Hache area, and we caught only saltwater species like trout, reds and flounder,” kayak fishing guide Capt. Eric Muhoberac said. “Due to an influx of river water from this natural diversion, bass, bream and freshwater catfish are routinely caught in the same spots while fishing for trout and reds.”
Using a small variety of lures and bait, a recent trip saw a redfish on one cast, followed immediately by a largemouth bass on the next. Same lure, same location.
“Once anglers realize the variety of species available, they can adapt their lures and techniques to maximize their chances of catching all of them,” Muhoberac said.
On this day, the venerable Johnson Beetle Spin was the go-to lure. The classic black beetle with a chartreuse tail put four different species on Muhoberac’s stringer.
Bass, redfish and catfish were all caught working the Beetle Spin near the banks and grass lines, while speckled trout were holding in the middle of the deeper canals.
“The fun part is you never knowing what you might catch,” Muhoberac said. “The bass and reds will always gobble up that beetle, but don’t be surprised when one of those big cats grabs on too.”
The technique was pretty simple. Muhoberac kept his kayak parallel to the shore and worked the beetle down the bank. This keeps the lure in the strike zone much longer. A one-two count and then a slow, steady retrieve was all it took to get the gold blade spinning and the beetle vibrating along.
With several bass already on his stringer, the next large strike turned out to be a fat, 6-pound blue cat.
While catfish occasionally hit the retrieved lure, smelly baits like Gulp or dead shrimp are better for specifically targeting them.
It is generally more common to find bass, freshwater cats and redfish in the same areas, since reds are more tolerant of freshwater than speckled trout.
However, trout can often be found in nearby deeper water.
“Saltwater is heavier than fresh and, therefore, if mixed in the same area, the saltwater is below the freshwater,” Muhoberac said.
This proved true, as speckled trout were caught in the middle of the deeper canals by slow-trolling the Beetle Spin or small, diving crankbaits.
For more info, contact Muhoberac at 504-313-8292.