"The wind is always blowing down here," Billiot said. "The wind today at least allows me to use the trolling motor. If it gets windier than this, you're better off just anchoring up."
So there we were, casting live minnows around a marsh drain while trying to prevent massive spool overruns in the 20-m.p.h. south winds.
Billiot didn't seem to have much of a problem, evidence of hundreds of hours on the water. His casts sailed 30 yards directly into the wind. My experience was a little different: Although I managed to keep the line under control, my bait would make it no more than 15 yards. The winds, which had been blowing constantly for more than a week, had muddied the water, so Billiot had decided minnows were the way to go. "That's the one thing about fishing with a jig and a minnow: The fish are going to smell your bait, so muddy water isn't that big of an adversity," the owner of Marsh Rat Guide Service explained. "Muddy water is going to happen when you have this kind of wind, so you just have to adjust." The tide was slowly bottoming out despite the stiff opposition from the south, and a few tails sticking out of the water proved that there were hungry fish in the area. Billiot said he actually prefers when a strong north wind assails the area because it amplifies the effects of the falling tide he favors. "It helps drain the marsh," he said. "The fish have to come out of the ponds to the edges of the bayous and canals." A swirl in the back of a drain caught our attention, and two minnows streaked to the area. On his second cast, Billiot picked his jig off the bottom, and felt a tug. "There he is," he cackled, setting the hook. The black drum rolled and fought, and finally pulled off. But that was enough to add renewed spirit to our fishing. Soon, a redfish popped my offering as it was eased across a small point. Another red slammed my minnow farther down the canal. All the while, sheepshead worked the grassy edges of the water begging to have dead shrimp plopped in front of them. Billiot said flounder also were hiding in the mud, waiting for anything to fall into their striking range. Those species — redfish, drum, sheepshead, flounder — are available within minutes of Leeville, making the port city a prime target for winter anglers. A major key to wintertime success in Leeville is to stick with the area's main canals and bayous, Billiot explained. "There aren't many real deep holes around here, so you have to concentrate on the drains coming out of the marshes," he said. Such productive waters can be found along Southwest Canal, which is only a few minutes south of Bobby Lynn's Marina. "I'm looking for points with oyster shells," he said. "It helps keep bait where the reds and drum can find them. The crabs will be walking around on those shells." Southwest Canal is full of points that meet this requirement, but Billiot said it's important to concentrate on the larger bayous and canals that empty into Southwest Canal. "The smaller drains will be dry by January," he said. "You want to look for any of the drains that have 3 to 5 feet of water, where the fish can go back and forth into them. "In January, you can expect the tide to be a foot lower than in December because it's that late in the winter. The drains with 1 to 2 feet of water (in December) will dry up at low tide." Billiot said chances of success are further increased by knowing how to fish these large openings in the marshes. Click here to read the rest of this article, which first appeared in the January 2006 issue of Louisiana Sportsman.