There’s an area in the scenic, southern reaches of Acadiana that pleases the panfishing pleasures of countless fishermen every April.
A Morgan City angler knows all about it, the cork wobbling slightly, bobbing once or twice then sinking, the tug after tug after tug from bream, chinquapin and goggle-eye and the satisfaction of putting another panfish in the ice chest. A 30- to 50-fish catch is common or, as he put it, “as many as you want to clean.”
Bill McCarty enjoys the sport as well as the tasty panfish he catches regularly each year at this time in the Stephensville area. The owner of WHM Services LLC, an oilfield-related company, and St. Mary Parish School Board member loves to fish the deadend canals off Bayou Cheramie and Bayou Sherman and around the Union Oilfield.
“I think by the beginning of April when the fronts stop coming through and the water temperature stabilizes, they usually start up. Once it gets 73, 74 degrees, they start getting active.”
McCarty said the first week of March, warming up to one of his favorite subjects (others include bass fishing, saltwater fishing, bowhunting for deer and sports) on a chilly, windy morning the day after a cold front roared through the Sportsman’s Paradise.
The full moon in April should be a prime time for panfishing, he said, as the bream, chinquapin and goggle-eye start getting on their spawning beds in the warming waters across the Stephensville area. In the Bayou Cheramie area, usually the farther back you travel, the clearer deadends are, and sometimes that clear water bodes well for successful panfishing, sometimes it doesn’t, he said. Much of the time, the slightly stained waters in deadends closer to the main bayou harbor beau coup (plenty, plenty) panfish, according to McCarty.
For sure, don’t expect to be alone much in some of the hotspots in that area, he said. The boat traffic can be extensive but, as he said, there still are a lot of panfish to be caught as they move in to do their thing. (McCarty notes that bass know the routine, too, and follow the panfish up. He always has a Senko at the ready.)
Some fishermen prefer crickets or worms. McCarty favors artificials such as Poppa Chop Jigs, the 1/32-ounce hair jigs that consistently put bream, chinquapin and goggle-eye in the boat for him. He likes brown/orange, blue/white or black/chartreuse, basing his color selection on the clarity of the water. Poppa Chops are made by Paul “Chopper” Viator and his wife Angela at their home in Delcambre.
McCarty advises fishing 12 to 18 inches deep under a cork, mostly around the base of cypress trees, around deadfalls and in and around any vegetation you come across. He uses a 1 ½- to 2-inch slip cork with the stopper.
“I’m not a fan of clip-ons or big round corks,” he said.
His rod and reel of choice is Zebco Delta seated on a 5-foot, 6-inch light action rod.
Some anglers use 4-pound test monofilament line. He prefers 6-pound test monofilament line but knows fishermen who do just fine with a Zebco loaded with 10-pound test monofilament line.