The Mississippi River at New Orleans crested at more than 16.4 feet — just under minor flood stage — on May 31, and is finally forecast to steadily fall to about 11 feet by June 28 — which is just fine with Capt. Mike Frenette down in Venice.
The stubborn high river this spring and early summer has made consistently catching redfish a bit more challenging for Frenette, who owns the Redfish Lodge of Louisiana.
“The river has been very high so that has changed the patterns up,” the Venice guide said. “There are a lot of areas that would normally produce that just aren’t producing yet. I’ve had some tougher days this spring than I normally would have, but Venice is still Venice and it’s a great place to fish no matter what.
“It’s still good, but for the average angler because of the high river conditions, it could be more of a challenge right now.”
Frenette, who typically fishes with artificial lures, said to definitely bring along some dead shrimp and your favorite popping cork if you’re targeting reds — but don’t waste too much time trying to search out clean water.
“You’re going to have to find some semi-clean water, and it’s really hard to find any clean water at all. It can be just a subtle difference between chocolate milk and murky milk,” Frenette said with a chuckle. “We’ve had a lot of high tides and high water, so for the most part the keeper-size fish are up tight against the canes.
“They’re working themselves in and out of those canes and they’ll hear the cork or your bait plop down, or a spinnerbait plop down, and they’ll stick their nose out to see. But if you’re 4 or 5 feet away from the canes, you’re probably not going to get a bite. So you definitely want to be tight.”
The river, currently at 12.8 feet, is scheduled to drop almost another 2 feet in the next seven days, pending the effects of downpours from Tropical Storm Cindy.
“Eleven feet is still high for Venice, but the good news is if the river continues to drop it will start cleaning up, even though it’s at a high stage,” Frenette said. “As long as it’s dropping, the water will start cleaning up to the point you might be able to get some sight-casting in.
“Things will start popping pretty good when it gets down to about 7 feet, and once it gets down below 6 feet it’s on fire. But at this stage of the game, any help is good.”
But if you’re not familiar with Venice, Frenette said now is not the time to scout new redfish spots.
“You have to be really careful — it happens every year when the river gets as high up as it is,” Frenette said. “There are a lot of sandbars that start forming that maybe weren’t there the last time you came down. So the water is chocolate milk everywhere and you might see that shallow water line, but you can go from 10 feet of water to 10 inches of water in no time.
“The sheriff’s office has had to pull a few people off in the last week or so, so just be careful running around. My suggestion is to go with the regular routes you know, and fish the normal passes you would and fish tight up against the canes, whether you’re going out of Tiger Pass or Red Pass or Main Pass. Just get tight to the canes and unless you really know the honey holes, make sure you bring some shrimp with you.”