This time of year, schools of bull reds begin making their annual move back to inshore waters to spawn, and on the east side of the Mississippi River one of their favorite gathering places is at the mouth of Baptiste Collette Bayou near Venice.
Not only is it in a prime geographic location for schools moving inshore from the east side of the river, but another factor makes the pass a great spot to do battle with drag-pulling bulls right now.
“The river water can’t flow north, so when it comes out of Baptise Collette, it goes south,” said Capt. Cody Obiol, with Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras. “When that southeast wind blows, it pushes that fresh river water out of that cove, so the shoreline of Baptiste Collette is clean.
“So all those fish get in the clean (salty) water and they’re eating what comes out of the river. A lot of the bait that is close gets pushed out, and all that bait that was in the freshwater slides into the saltwater so it groups everything up in clean water pockets. That’s why the bull reds are in there — eating all the pogies and mullet.”
Obiol was guiding anglers last week near Taylor Point during 2016's Buras Marsh Media Bash, an annual four-day event held for fishing industry media and vendors hosted by Capt. Ryan Lambert.
He said one way to locate bulls is to look for birds - particularly the state bird.
“At a distance, you’re looking for pelicans, not terns,” Obiol said. “Terns are the lying birds. Look for seagulls and pelicans diving. Pelicans go after pogies and mullet.”
Getting hooked up is a lot easier than actually reeling in the beasts. Bulls were feasting on artificial plastics all day long, including Z-Man’s Swimmin' TroutTrick and LiveTarget’s Rigged Shrimp suspended about 2-feet under a popping cork.
“The pop is what gets them there,” Obiol said. “They’re in this big school of bait, and they see everything, but when you pop that cork, now they’re hearing it.
"It’s louder than a fish, so they’re going to come see what that is.”
The bite was steady, despite a rise in the river recently that poured lots of freshwater onto the east side.
“The river was at 4.4 (feet) last weekend, then they had a bunch of rain up north, so it went to 8.5,” he said. “But within two days it was back down to 4.4 again. So the river had been clean and saltwater was getting pushed in, but when the river spiked, it just threw freshwater on top of the saltwater. That’s what covered up the east side.”
But just because the water might look like chocolate milk on the surface, Obiol said that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not suitable for fishing.
“Salt is heavier, so it sits beneath the fresh water,” he said. “ So check your prop wash. If it looks clean in the prop wash, it’s clean underneath.”