When it comes to white perch fishing in South Louisiana, Slidell anglers Brian Baldwin and Steele Sessions rank the West Pearl River right up there with the best of best.
Sure, there are other waters with much more famous names, but what the West Pearl has to offer when the slabs start moving up to spawn is second to none.
I met up with Baldwin and Sessions at Crawford’s Landing a couple days ago so they could show off their stomping grounds. Check out a video from the trip here.
A quick run to the south ended at Doubloon Bayou, where Baldwin carefully navigated its shallow mouth until it dropped off on the other side.
“They’ve been moving up around the cypress trees and the bases of the trees,” Baldwin said as he began casting a blue horizon Matrix Mini rigged under a small cork. “About 3 or 4 feet is where you want to be fishing about a foot-and-a-half to 2 feet under your cork.”
Baldwin and Sessions worked their white perch baits much like speckled trout anglers fish popping corks. The idea was to create enough of a commotion with the cork to bring the white perch in closer for a look.
Over the last week or so Baldwin has been finding the white perch ganging up more and more.
“They’re scattered,” he said. “Earlier in the week I was catching one or two in a spot; now I find I’m catching four or five in a spot. So that’s telling me they’re starting to collect in spots as they move up and do their thing.”
Although the fish have mainly been hanging right on the edges of the cover, Baldwin said in the event a cold front blows through he would switch from the jig under a cork to a jig pole. That way, he could back off to drop his Matrix Mini straight down into any cover out away from spawning cover.
“The way they’ve been, you can’t beg them to bite, either,” Baldwin said. “If they’re not there, you’ve got to stick and move. They’re generally pretty willing biters; that’s the great thing about them. You don’t want to die in one place just because you caught them there yesterday.”
Baldwin and Sessions eventually gave up on the spot that had been giving up a lot of fish and started working their way deeper into Doubloon Bayou. The predominant cover was the bases of tupelo trees and the edges of small grass patches.
As the sun got on up in the sky, Baldwin started paying close attention to the shady sides of the trees, and that’s where he found the white perch.
Then Baldwin began to prove his claim that the West Pearl is the best white perch fishery in Southeast Louisiana.
“The Pearl is the best simply because it has the most water,” he said. “I think it gives you a lot more options that the other rivers around here. On any given day, if I had to catch, I’d fish here. If I was in North Louisiana, that would be a lot different.
“Maybe not the biggest crappie in the world, but you can always find a spot to fish away from the boats.”
Baldwin advised anglers to not waste their time if the river is 14 feet or above because the fish would have thousands of acres of new water to spread out in.
Rather, he likes to wait until after it crests — and tries to catch the drop from 12 to 10 feet.
“That’s some of the best fishing you’ll see out here,” he said. “Find where that black water is coming out of the woods and mixing with the muddy water and fish white/chartreuse, blue/chartreuse, black/chartreuse, blue/white, red/white, and red/chartreuse generally always with some kind of pink or orange head,” he said. “In the Matrix Mini line, the blue horizon and kryptonite colors work well out here.”
An added bonus of fishing Doubloon Bayou, Devil’s Elbow and the Oyster Factory is that largemouth, spotted bass and big shell crackers will eat the same baits you’re using for white perch.
There might be more popular places to fish white perch than the Pearl River, but you’d be hard pressed to find one that offers such a plentiful population of fish willing to bite such simple techniques so close to the boat ramp.