Waldon fishes several days a week, and from the stringers of fish he brings home, it doesn't appear that being boatless is a problem. Waldon is a bank fisherman who regularly visits his favorite fishing hole, a 25-acre lake located on the premises of beautiful Lincoln Parish Park just north of Ruston.
I walk the 1 ¼-mile hard-surfaced path around the perimeter of the lake regularly, and often see Waldon fishing from the lake's dam.
Before beginning my walk one morning recently, a friend alerted me to a big fish Waldon had on his stringer. Camera in hand, I stopped to see what he had caught. Waldon hoisted a big bass, one that was later confirmed to weigh 7 pounds.
"I hung a bigger one earlier this morning," Waldon noted, "and maybe I'll catch him tomorrow."
Waldon's prediction came true because the following morning as I walked by, he lifted an even bigger bass, one that tipped the scales at 9 pounds.
"As much as I like to fish for bass here, I'm waiting on the weather to get cool enough for the crappie to start biting," he said. "There are some good ones in here, and once hunting season starts, that's my signal to dip a shiner or a jig around the deep brushpiles that I can reach from the bank.
"I always say, 'When the guns start a-poppin', the white perch start a-hoppin'."
With Waldon's success fresh in my mind, I wondered what similar opportunities are available around Louisiana. After contacting fisheries biologists around the state, I'm convinced that anybody who wants to fish, even those living in urban settings, should be able to find some choice honeyholes within a walk or a short drive from where they live.
In several areas around the state, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is stocking small urban lakes and other similar impoundments, with non-boating anglers being the targeted group. Here is a look at regions around Louisiana where anglers can fish without the luxury of owning a boat.
Minden is headquarters for District One, which generally covers the northwest corner of Louisiana. James Seales is Inland Fisheries Biologist for the Minden district.
"There are several spots where fishermen without boats can try their luck in our part of the state," he said. "In Shreveport, there's Cross Lake, which is owned and operated by the city of Shreveport. This lake offers lots of bank-fishing opportunities, and in addition, there is a municipal fishing pier on the lake. While bream fishing is good in spring, one of the more popular species that anglers fish for are channel catfish, and this lake is full of them.
"Within the city limits of Minden is a small lake, Turner's Pond, that is a popular spot for bank fishermen.
"Just north of Minden are the twin Caney Lakes, where fishermen can sit on the bank and have a good chance at catching a variety of fish.
"There is a public fishing pier on Caddo Lake northwest of Shreveport that gets quite a bit of use. In addition, the Black Bayou/Cypress Lake complex north of Shreveport near Benton is a popular spot. There is a public park with a fishing pier there.
"On Lake Bistineau, we have converted an old bridge into a long fishing pier, and lots of folks fish from the banks at Lake Claiborne State Park."
Monroe is headquarters for the District Two LDWF office that generally covers Northeast Louisiana. Mike Wood is Inland Fisheries Supervisor for District Two.
"I guess it's a coincidence that you called today because we're going out tomorrow to distribute 74 tons of pea-gravel in the shallows along a stretch of Lake D'Arbonne to attract fish for those who fish from shore there," said Wood. "The area along Highway 33 is a very popular fishing spot for bank fishermen who catch some fine bream in spring. However, channel catfish bite off the banks here all year long.
"This is a joint effort between our agency and the D'Arbonne Lake Watershed District to improve what is already a quality fishing opportunity for folks in that area."
Wood added that the Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge, located just north of Monroe, is growing in popularity now that a fishing pier has been constructed. In addition, there is a public fishing pier on Cheniere Lake, located within the city limits of West Monroe.
"On Poverty Point Reservoir, located near Delhi, they have constructed a handicapped-accessible fishing pier that has become increasingly popular as people learn about what is available on this relatively new lake.
"Our effort to make it more attractive for our citizens to fish is very important to us. We need to get more people out and engaged in outdoor activities, especially the youngsters. There is so much competition for free time, and we want to make it easier for them to just go down to one of our lakes and fish without all the hassle. Once they experience the fun of fishing, it is our hope that they'll leave the computer games and TV cartoons, and spend more time in this exciting hands-on activity."
Located at Pineville, District Three is smack dab in the middle of the state, offering area citizens ample opportunities to catch fish from the bank or from public piers.
Ricky Moses is Inland Fisheries Biologist in the Pineville office, and he feels that Cenla anglers have quite a number of places they can go for good bank and pier fishing.
"Buhlow Lake is a 265-acre lake located right here in the city of Pineville," he said. "We have stocked the lake with channel catfish, but it is also known as a good spot to fish for bass and bream. The lake, owned and managed by the city of Pineville, has no public piers, but the banks are generally clean, and anglers regularly fish from the banks here.
"Twenty minutes north of Alexandria on Highway 8 off I-49 is 1,775-acre Cotile Lake. This lake has public fishing piers, and is an excellent place to fish for crappie. While Buhlow is closed for night fishing, anglers on Cotile can fish at night. We were by there doing some work last night, and you could see lanterns all around the lake where folks were fishing for crappie."
Moses mentioned that recently, a lady angler fishing for crappie on Cotile hooked and landed a 50-pound flathead catfish on a crappie hook and shiner.
"The lady was worn out and actually got in the water to bring the big catfish on shore," Moses said.
Headquartered in Ferriday, the District Four area is home to some rather unique bank fishing opportunities, according to fisheries biologist Karen Edwards.
"Located in our district are the Red River Barrow Pits, which are located within the Red River Wildlife Management Area," she said. "There are three pits, about 20 to 25 acres each in size, that offer plenty of good bank fishing for bream, crappie, catfish and bass. The middle pit is probably the best of the three with crappie being the preferred species."
In addition to the barrow pits, this district also features some quality lakes that provide bank and public pier fishing.
"Lake Bruin has a state park that includes a fishing pier that folks seem to really enjoy using.
"Lake Concordia is another lake in our district with some good fishing. There is no public pier here, but lots of anglers fish from the banks."
Bobby Reed is a fisheries biologist working out of the District Five headquarters in Lake Charles. Within this district, non-boating anglers have opportunities for both fresh and saltwater fish, according to Reed.
"Here in the Lake Charles area, anglers without boats can fish Lake Charles from piers, boat ramps, the bank or the beach," he said. "During summer, anglers can catch speckled trout, drum, redfish and flounder, while during winter, most of the fish caught are freshwater fish, such as crappie, bream, catfish and bass.
"There is a shallow-marsh lake, Alligator Lake, which is located just off I-10 near Lake Charles, that offers some good bank fishing for bass, catfish and bream.
"Over in Jennings is a small 8-acre lake operated by the City of Jennings that is a popular fishing spot for non-boaters. There is bank access, a side walk around the lake, bridges, piers and bathroom facilities. The piers and bathrooms are handicapped-accessible as well.
"Along the Calcasieu River around Lake Charles is Holbrook Park, which is operated by the parish. There also is Sam Houston Jones State Park, which has good river frontage and interior ponds that are handicapped-accessible. These ponds are stocked with bass and bream, and are popular sites for folks just wanting to fish."
Another site is in the process of development in the Lake Charles district that should open some time next year, according to Reed.
"This will be a public fishing area near Big Lake, and is about 15 miles south of Lake Charles. Hopefully, this project will be completed in 2007 or possibly 2008," he said.
LDWF District Six is headquartered in Opelousas, and there are several public fishing opportunities for non-boaters in the area, according to Inland Fisheries Biologist Manager Jody David.
"The city of Lafayette has ponds located in four parks owned by the city of Lafayette," he said. "The ponds at each park are two to three acres each, and have been stocked with channel catfish. Specifically, these are located at Moore Park, Veteran's Park, Girard Park and Beaver Park.
"Near Ville Platte is Chicot Lake, a popular area lake that has two public fishing piers, one on the south end of the lake and the other at the north end."
Located in Baton Rouge, District Seven covers the area in and around the capitol city. Gary Tilyou, newly appointed head of the LDWF Fisheries Division, said fishing opportunities abound for non-boaters in the area.
"Probably the best-known public fishing lake down here is University Lake located on the LSU campus," he said. "Lots of bass — some big ones — are caught here along with plenty of catfish.
"Of course, the Mississippi River is a popular spot for catching catfish, and there are some areas along the river available for public access and use.
"False River is another popular area, although most of it is on private property. There is an area on the north side next to the public boat launch in New Roads that bank fishermen can utilize.
"Bayou Plaquemine located near Plaquemine is another good spot that non-boaters often use. It's about 20 minutes south of Baton Rouge, there are some new public fishing piers there now and fishing for blue catfish, especially, is generally good.
"If anglers want to spend a little money on fish to bring home, fishermen trying the Holden Catfish Ponds at Holden are about guaranteed to catch plenty of catfish. It's a commercial operation, and anglers are charged for the fish they want to bring home."
Obviously, we have not mentioned all the fishing opportunities available for anglers without boats or those who prefer to fish from the bank, but this should give such fishermen around the state plenty of productive waters from which to choose.