"We had enough of going to Chicot Lake, just tired of fishing the same place," Vidrine said. "I had fished bass at Cocodrie Lake some years back, and I knew my way around Bennett Bay and Blue Lake so I thought we could find a few fish there."
Approximately two weeks prior to the thunderstorms that passed through the area in mid-July, Vidrine and Manuel got on the fish.
"We caught 25 or so, and kept 18," Vidrine said. "And the ones we kept ranged from ¾ to a pound."
Now, then, ¾ to one- pound "lil" slabs in the summer are nothing to turn your nose at, as their fillets are certainly succulent for the batter and fry.
It was Manuel's first trip to the Cocodrie Lake Complex, and the 74-year-old angler was impressed.
"It's a beautiful lake, and they have some fish — and some good ones," Manuel said. "And there's not a lot of fishing pressure compared to Chicot."
The anglers started their day at Bennett Lake, where they kept five fish. They then motored through a maze of swamp routes and open bays to finally reach Blue Lake.
"That's where we caught the rest of them," said Manuel.
The Cocodrie Lake complex in northern Evangeline Parish flies under the radar of most anglers, save the nearby residents and their relatives.
The system is 6,000 acres of a gorgeous cypress/tupelo swamp, with bays and small lakes to be found by motoring through skinny swamp routes. The trick to get to the lakes is to know these routes. The lake, bordered by Rapides Parish to the north, is located just northwest of the town of Turkey Creek.
Duck-shooting houses proliferate throughout the lake, and one can readily take note that fishing during the duck season may not be among the best of ideas.
Vidrine and Manuel launched into the system via Clark's Landing – where an age-old honor system of placing a $5 bill in a locked metal container allows access.
The anglers, along with Savoy's Glynn Lavergne, decided to return during a break in the thunderstorms on Monday (July 16). Watermarks on the cypresses told the story of a rainy influx unleashed into the system.
Although not the very best conditions to fish in, the anglers kept just two fewer than the 18 on their first trip.
On both occasions, pumpkinseed/chartreuse and black/chartreuse tube jigs on 1/16-ounce jigheads rigged on ultralight spinning equipment worked well. The fish were in 4 to 5 feet of water and wrapped tight to submerged vegetation that looked like water cabbage.
To get to Clark Landing from Interstate 49 about 37 miles north of Opelousas, take the US 167 South exit (Exit 61) toward Turkey Creek. Turn right onto Onyx Road, which becomes the Turkey Creek/Glenmora Road. Turn right onto Clark's Landing Road after 1 ½ miles.
Click here for a map of the area.
Fair warning, however: There are no phone numbers, newspaper coverage or Internet social communications regarding fishing success at Cocodrie Lake, so you're on your own.
But that adds even more mystique to a wonderfully kept secret in Sportsman's paradise.