It was just another day at Leeville, at least according to guide Chad Billiot.

"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.

"You want to fish the corners of the drains, especially when the tide is at its lowest," he said. "You know they're going to be sitting on the sides of the points waiting for the opportunity to go back into the drains."

He wrestles fish off the points by casting all the way to the bank of the canal, letting the jighead settle to the bottom and bumping it down the drop-off.

The fish are normally waiting about 3 to 5 feet from the bank, and there can be huge concentrations of fish. Billiot said one particular point produced dozens of reds and drum for his clients during several days last winter.

"The redfish and drum will gang up on these points," Billiot said. "You can just go back to the same places until you fish them out."

Bayou Ferblanc, which runs north and south across Southwest Canal, is another productive stretch of water. Although Billiot fishes it the same as Southwest Canal, he said anglers can narrow down their search for fish-holding drains on this long, natural bayou.

"The north side (above Southwest Canal) gets shallow," Billiot said. "If you come on the south side of the pipeline, it gets deeper.

"That's where you want to fish."

William Canal is a little farther to the south, but it also can hold numbers of fish.

Again, concentrate on the points featuring shell bottoms when fishing either of these waterways.

"Any points you can see some oyster shells starting out 3 to 5 feet away from the bank will hold fish," he said.

The west side of Leeville also provides excellent fishing, with the technique being much the same.

One of the first stops on Billiot's list is in the portion of Southwest Canal that runs westerly from Leeville.

Although there are major cuts all along this stretch of canal, Billiot said the most-productive area is about 1 ½ miles from Bayou Lafourche.

"There are a set of wellheads on the edge of the canal, and they usually hold a lot of fish," he said.

Billiot said he works the wellheads thoroughly, and then heads farther west.

Grand Bayou Blue provides more productive runouts, and Billiot hits every one of them.

China Bayou, a winding, natural bayou reached by running across Little Lake, provides several prime fishing situations that are different from the main canals and bayous.

"The drains (in China Bayou) will be basically dried out in January," Billiot said. "So you're fishing the main points. It'll get down to 17, 18 feet of water on the main points."

Billiot said he simply drifts around each point, casting to the bank and pulling his minnow into the deeper water.

But China Bayou also contains some shallow shelves that will hold fish even in the winter, so Billiot throws as far back as possible and works his bait back into the bayou.

"The fish move up into the shallows to feed, especially when it warms up a little," Billiot said. "You can see them moving around."

For all of these bayous and canals, live minnows are guaranteed to tempt any reds, drum and flounder. Between runouts and shallows, dead shrimp can put sheepshead in the boat, with the added benefit of snagging any of the other species lurking about.

Billiot also recommended against sitting in one spot and waiting for fish to show up.

"If they're there, you'll know it pretty quickly," he said. "Give a drain a few minutes, and then move on to the next one."

Most of the water, with the exception of the points in China Bayou, is pretty shallow even off the drop-offs, so Billiot sticks with relatively light jigheads.

"The heaviest I'll go is a ¼-ounce jighead," he said. "We're not talking about Venice. We're not talking about 10 to 12 feet of water: We're fishing 2 to 3 feet of water, so that ¼-ounce (jig) is all you need to feel the bottom."

But even while working deeper China Bayou points, Billiot said he rarely has to go all the way to the bottom of the points to catch fish.

"The fish are usually in about 3 to 5 feet water," he said.

There are times when he goes to even lighter weights and moves from live bait back to plastics.

"Two to three days after a front, when that high (pressure) moves in, redfish and drum will be in the shallows in the bays looking for bait," Billiot said.

Billiot said the fishing on these flats can be frenetic.

"You can see schools with as many as 500 to 1,000 redfish in those shallows in late winter," he said. "Those fish won't go into the canals when it gets cold; they'll go out into the bay.

"As soon as they can, though, they'll move back into the shallow flats to feed on the oyster beds."

Despite the huge numbers of fish patrolling these feeding grounds, anglers can't just barge in and catch fish.

"They'll eat, but they get spooky," he said.

So he eases into position quietly, throwing plastics into the schools.

Before making his first cast, however, Billiot downsizes his jigheads.

"I'll lighten up to a 1/8-ounce jig when fishing the shallow flats," Billiot said.

That's because anything heavier is absolutely get hung in the shells carpeting the bottom of the flats.

His favorite plastic lures for this job are Bass Assassin eels.

"That eel just stands up, and is easy prey for fish," Billiot explained.

When plastics fail and he's forced to stick with live bait, he'll often abandon jigheads altogether.

"I'll use a splitshot and Kahle hook," he explained. "I use just enough weight to keep the minnow down."

This technique, which also works well with plastics like Bass Assassin Sea Shads, keeps the lure from hanging up on the oyster shells as much.

But Billiot said anglers should expect to lose baits.

"When you're fishing those oyster beds, you definitely need to bring a good supply of jigheads and baits," he said.

Most of Billiot's best flats are found on the west side of Leeville on the northeastern end of Bay Raccourci in minor bays such as Coal Tar and Jean Plaisance.

However, those who commit to fishing to the east can find similar shallows on the edges of Bay Rambo and Oakes Bay on the edge of Caminada Bay.

Those not wanting to go that far or run from point to point can find numbers of reds and drum, along with trout, near the Leeville bridge.

"That's some of the only really deep water in the area," Billiot said. "It gets down to 45 feet deep."

But he doesn't try to catch fish in the depths surrounding the bridges itself. Instead, he moves just south of the bridge and works the edges of Bayou Lafourche.

"I want to be in 15 to 17 feet of water," Billiot said. "I throw toward the bank and work it back to the boat."

What he catches depends upon the depth of water he fishes.

"Redfish and drum will be on the bottom, and the trout will be suspended," Billiot said. "You'll catch a bunch of drum and redfish there."

About the only other deep-water choice available is found at the boat graveyard, which is located to the west of the William Canal and directly south of Lake Jesse.

"It's a bust-out, where the canal breaks into the marsh," he explained. "There are some deep holes that come right out into the graveyard."

Here, Billiot simply casts into the shallow water, and drags his bait into the depths.

"You have a lot of current there, and the fish will be on those drop-offs," he said.


Capt. Chad Billiot can be reached at (985) 632-8156 or (985) 637-5058.