Fishermen who want to feel the brute force of a sizeable redfish on the business end of their fishing line in Vermilion Bay invariably point the bow of their boat to legendary Boxcar Reef.
Bull reds live there and many of them are hooked, played and boated each and every September. Fishing success can be fair to good in July, like it was for the 63rd annual Iberia Rod & Gun Club Saltwater Fishing Rodeo out of Cypremort Point — but it’s even better in September.
“September. October. Even August sometimes is pretty good,” Dusty Davis of Lydia said the first week of August.
The 30-year-old electrician goes to Boxcar Reef to catch the biggest, baddest redfish around, especially at fishing tournament or rodeo time, when it often takes 30- or 35-pound plus redfish to win. He’s equally adept at fishing “slot” redfish tournaments, as he and his family proved again this year when his father and skipper Milton Davis of Lydia, sister Brittany Davis and family friend Jonathan Rush won three of four regular-season Southcentral Fishing Association tournaments and closed out with a victory July 23 in the SFA Classic.
Dusty and his dad took two deer hunting buddies from Arkansas to Boxcar Reef during the IR&GC Saltwater Fishing Rodeo. The Razorback fans were impressed by their nocturnal adventure because they anchored about an hour after midnight on the hotspot.
“You see television shows and these guys catching redfish. To be there and actually do it … I never realized how powerful they are, going from largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie and channel catfish,” said Curt Rankin of Magnolia, Ark.
Rankin, 47, who was making his first-ever saltwater fishing trip that holiday fishing rodeo weekend, was down here with Teddy Reynolds, also of Magnolia. They own deer hunting property that Milton and Dusty frequent in November and December. Reynolds has visited and fished before in and around Vermilion Bay with the Davises.
“This is a whole new world, an incredible experience. The people, of course, are outstanding. I’ll be back. Hopefully, better boat aware and fish aware and team aware because it takes everybody,” Rankin said, as he walked in the middle of LSU Tiger country wearing his Razorbacks cap.
“He never caught bull reds in his life,” Milton Davis said with a chuckle. “He caught about 20 last night. His arm is worn out.”
Dusty Davis, gearing up for August fishing, said, “I’ve been fishing Boxcar at least 10 years. I fish there a good bit. They’ve got some fish there but it’s hard to get on the big ones. You’ve just got to sit there and pick them out.
“Right now you could catch 40 to 50 fish, but all 25 to 27 pounds. To catch the big ones, you’ve got to move around and fins where the big ones are sitting, the 35- to 37-pounders.”
Davis has less difficulty getting on the big ones than others might who go to the reef system on the western edge of Vermilion Bay near Southwest Pass. Generally, the depth is 7 to 8 feet, he said, “but they’ve got hills and ditches in there. Rocks go up and down. The crown’s only about 5 feet deep. Move around … Where five or six ditches meet up, that’s kind of where I like to fish.”
Wimpy fishing tackle won’t conquer the brutes roaming the bottom there. Davis rigs up a Carolina-rigged mullet or croaker with a 90-pound test metal leader tied to 100-pound test Power Pro braided line on a 300 Calcutta or 7000 Ambassadeur seated on a 6-foot Ugly Stik red snapper rod.
He impales a live or dead mullet or live croaker for bait on a 7/0 Kahle hook under a 3-ounce weight.
“You can fish with cracked crab but I’ve never really caught a lot on that. Gafftop like it and mullet. I know a lot of people swear by it, but I like mullet and croaker,” he said.
Davis said he doesn’t eat any big bull reds the boat brings back but usually gives them away. Those huge redfish have blood in the meat and sometimes tiny white worms, he said.
Boxcar Reef isn’t as popular in the fall months as it once was during the heyday of the old Acadiana Redfish Association when dozens of the best redfish fishermen across Acadiana competed, but it does get crowded at times — particularly during the fishing rodeos.