O.K., maybe Mac Davis' song of vanity wasn't about fishing, but that's probably because he never chased redfish in the surrounding marshes near the "Humble" oilfield canal.
Though the area isn't known for huge bull reds, it is famous for limits of fish in the 16- to 27-inch class when the bite is on. What's more, when anglers are icing down their catches, one can't help but notice the rodomontade filling the air.
All I can figure is, the guy who named the canal "Humble" must not have been a redfish chaser.
Recently, I made the trip across the bay with Berwick local Chad Paradee. I couldn't help but notice this humble thing took on new meaning when his boat jumped on top as he pointed it northwest, out of Burns Point landing. I was twice his age. He was an LSU grad, and I graduated from UL-Lafayette (formerly USL). He wasn't wearing a cap, and I was.
But he added insult and injury to my vanity when he semi-shouted over the roar of the outboard: "I love the early time of the morning — just before the sun comes up — running across the bay. The wind is in your hair "
Yada-yada-yada! I wasn't wearing my cap for looks. Subconsciously, I just knew the hair thing was meant to get my attention. You'd think going to a place named "Humble" would have caused the youngster to be a little more sensitive to his elders.
Nonetheless, Paradee knows the area well from years of fishing it with his father.
"Humble Cut is an easy place to learn for guys wanting to catch redfish," he said. "There is not a lot of obstruction under the water where you're going to tear up your boat, and it's deep."
Those new to the area will know they are in the right place when they see the large number "1" sign, posted on a piling that guards the entrance to the Humble.
For many who frequent the canal, it's simply a matter of finding a spot and respectfully squeezing in amongst others fishing. On anchor, mid-summer boaters normally make a day of it drowning shrimp, while sunbathing and enjoying a favorite beverage in the cooler gulf breeze.
Typically, when fishing coastal marshes, a falling tide is best. The Humble is no different. As fish congregate in the cooler deep water around the mouth of the canal, they actively feed on the various bait drifting out with the effluent.
The rig I prefer to use when I'm in the shrimp-drowning mode, set on anchor, is a modified Carolina or Texas set up. I'll attach a 1/0 kahle Lazer Sharp Eagle Claw hook to about 30 inches of 20-pound-test line. The 20-pound-test is used to handle the rigors of bottom fishing and the aggressive strikes reds are known for.
On the opposite end between a split shot and the double swivel, I'll insert a bullet sinker. Unlike the Carolina and Texas rigs, where the weight is allowed to slip up and down a specific distance, I want it pretty much fixed.
One additional thing I do to make this rig more effective was a little trick I picked up from local guide Ivy St. Romain. When I attach my hook, I'll use a snell knot to secure it. The kahle hook and snell knot combination are most effective due to the way redfish feed and pick up bait off the bottom. More importantly, I get more jaw catches that make it easier to remove undersize rat-reds without harming them prior to release.
Paradee was quick to point out spots that shouldn't be overlooked, where he's had prior success.
"Just to the left of the canal's mouth is some sheet pile with pipe handrail structure where my Dad and I have caught fish until we were tired of catching," he said. "We've tied off on the handrail and cast toward the shell bank and done real well."
In the canal itself, there are a number of structural sheet pile weirs alongside of which anglers can make casts. These structures allow reds to get out of the main current to rest, but also act as quasi ambush locations for them to feed from.
While fishing one of the weirs, Paradee mentioned other species folks coming to the area could expect to catch.
"Out of the little cuts besides redfish, we'll catch black drum, channel cats and some croakers," he said. "One thing's for sure: I don't know if there's much better eating than a channel catfish."
Being the older, wiser fella that I am, with all humility, I'll point out he failed to mention sheepshead. Particularly, since he happened to land one.
Redfish anglers will want to check out the first little bayou on the left just inside the canal's entrance. The narrow bayou runs parallel with the coastline west of the Humble for a short distance and turns out into the bay. The bayou runs fairly deep compared to the outer coastline with several washouts into the bay. Fishermen who prefer to troll and throw lures can make this circle several times in an hour.
Another local who frequents the Humble is Ray Beadle. Beadle doesn't have a problem with folks who like to anchor; it's just not for him.
"You can have fun sitting on anchor and fish shrimp and catch fish, but me, I like to chase 'em — I like to find 'em," he said. "Fish are ambush creatures by nature. You don't have to be a good fisherman to anchor and catch fish. You can fish in all of those little bayous and canals that empty into the bay and fish with a shrimp and catch fish. I gotta move and chunk lures."
Paradee also likes to troll the coastline and toss lures. We trolled and anchored off in several places along the coastline, as we made our way toward a series of pilings that line up like sentinels toward shore, west of the canal.
Beadle recommends fishing each of the pilings, working a lure along both sides before moving to the next one.
Paradee landed two keepers and released one undersized rat red, using a Worth Red King gold spoon, while I fished with a silver/blue saltwater Rat-L-Trap.
Other effective artificial baits are Redfish Magic spinnerbaits and Johnson gold spoons, as well as St. Romain's redfish spinnerbaits. These custom jobs are specifically designed to withstand hard hits from aggressive bull reds.
Water depth is important to consider when fishing the area. Paradee mentioned he had seen the water 10 inches from the top of the guardrail above the sheet pile structure at the entrance of the Humble, making it nearly impossible to fish. By contrast, he says when the water is low, they'll be out a lot farther than you expect.
To the west-southwest of the Humble, toward the piling sentinels, there are no fewer than five trenasse-like openings that drain into the bay. To the east, which is more east-northeast from the Humble's entrance, lays grass beds along the coastline worth checking out.
You can't fish the Humble area without mentioning Point Chevreuil. Resting on opposite sides of the bay — Point Chevreuil on the east and the Humble to the west — they are a 10- to 15-minute boat ride apart.
Geographically, Point Chevreuil actually divides two bays. On the east side of the point is Atchafalaya Bay, and on the west side rests Cote Blanche. I prefer a stretch of Atchafalaya Bay coastline that runs west from Big Beach Bayou to the point.
Depending on the tide, there is approximately 8 to 9 feet of water just inside the mouth of Big Beach Bayou. I've caught redfish up the bayou approximately 100 yards, but no farther, on a falling tide. Also, though I've tried, I have never caught reds with artificial lures in the bayou itself.
It's on the bay side, at the mouth of Big Beach, where the redfish tend to congregate. By running your boat into the bay with the depth finder on, you'll notice the water depth goes from 8 or 9 feet deep to only a couple of feet instantly. As the water crashes the confused bait up and out into the bay, redfish are waiting in ambush.
Outside of Big Beach, toward the point, regardless of the direction the tide is moving, I've caught fish. When Paradee and I fished the point, we couldn't help but hear the commotion coming from one of several boats anchored along the shallow coastline.
"Get the net!" came the cry from a group of guys fishing with Morgan City local Roland Wilson — not once but again and again — followed by laughing exemplified by folks having a good time.
We managed to land a couple of keeper fish ourselves after culling through a few rat reds. But I had to go talk with these guys as it looked like they were putting a few more fish in the boat than we were.
"I used to fish (the area) a lot, but haven't in quite a while," Wilson said. "We tried crawfish early, but switched to using shrimp Carolina-style fishing on the bottom."
Obviously, the bait of choice for the vast majority of anglers fishing the area is dead shrimp. Moreover, whether fished Carolina style, drop-rig style or with a popping cork along the bank, dead shrimp are effective.
At one time, the bay ran deep, as many shrimp fishermen made one-hour drags in more than 8 feet of water along the coastline. However, for the past 20 years, on the Atchafalaya Bay side of Point Chevreuil, it has and continues to silt up, where shrimp fishermen no longer troll the bay.
When Paradee and I decided to call it a day, I couldn't help but notice that the young man had outfished me. With all humility, I had to remind myself, it isn't about the numbers or the biggest fish, it's about the experience and enjoyment of being on the water.