On a chilly 39-degree December morning, Big Lake’s Ray Christy had a smile on his face when he launched from the public landing at Riverside Park in Westlake.

“They’re stacked in there,” the 70-year-old angler said. “I left the fish biting yesterday.”

Christy was referring to redfish and hybrid stripers stacked up adjacent to the Calcasieu River Saltwater Barrier, located just a little north of the landing.

The barrier, located just south of Westlake, was authorized by Congress in 1962 and was designed to block saltwater intrusion into the Calcasieu River. 

Christy is a Vietnam War veteran and retired helicopter pilot. But even during winter’s coldest months, he will spend at least a couple of days a week fishing the Calcasieu Lake estuary.

He was well-prepared for the trip, bundled up and wearing layers, knowing that both the boat ride and the fishing would face the north and northeast — and cold winds were howling.

At the saltwater barrier, water was gushing over the weirs from the north, ending up in stained, sudsy rapids rushing south to the old river channel.

Putting the trolling motor down 30 yards away from the structure, Christy began a series of casts with an opening-night Egret Baits’ 3 ½-inch Wedgetail Mullet attached to a half-ounce jighead.

The angler’s lure would drop on the eddy side of the columns supporting the barrier, and he would work the Wedgetail by swimming it slowly once it reached depths of 20 feet or more.

It didn’t take long for Christy to begin battling both redfish and