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Port Sulphur's Sure Seven
These Port Sulphur spots are all you need to know for a successful trip this winter, even in the worst of conditions.

BY RUSTY TARDO

Doormat flounder are a nice bycatch for Capt. Eric Muhoberac.
Doormat flounder are a nice bycatch for Capt. Eric Muhoberac.

How were we going to catch fish, when there’s no water? We certainly couldn’t go outside into the big bays in 30-knot winds.

Two, it was the first day of a major front moving through. You know what that means — all the fish get lockjaw for at least 24 hours. The day before a front and the second day after a front are considered good for fishing, but today — “a waste of time,” I muttered again.

Three, Port Sulphur was hit pretty hard by the back-to-back hurricanes. What water we did find was certain to be so fouled up and nasty, the fish wouldn’t be able to find our baits.

Like I said, I had my excuses all organized and ready. The problem was, our guide for the day, Capt. Eric Muhoberac, wasn’t listening. I called him the night before and rehearsed all these well-thought-out and logical excuses with him.

He listened patiently and said, “We’ll find some fish. It’ll be tough, but I think we can find enough to have a good day What a waste of

time,” I muttered to myself as I loaded my gear into the back of my pickup. Not only was it several hours before sunrise, but the gale force winds predicted to sweep through and deliver us our first genuine cold front arrived on time. The weatherman said we’d have 25- to 30-knot winds, and for once, he was right.

I could think of plenty of excuses not to make this trip to Port Sulphur. One, there would be no water in the marsh. Most of us know what that kind of wind will do; it’s like, “abracadabra” and the water disappears on the water.”

Reminding myself of Muhoberac’s confidence the night before, I plunked the remainder of my gear in the bed of the truck, threw a jacket in the cab beside me, and pointed the Ford toward Port Sulphur.

An hour later, I pulled into the parking lot of the Hi Ridge Marina, and waited for Muhoberac to arrive. I’d made such good time driving over from my home in Chalmette that it was still an hour before daylight would try to peek through.

I was looking forward to fishing the Port Sulphur marsh again, and I was especially looking forward to meeting Howard Hammonds, owner of the Old Bayside Lure Company, who’d be fishing with us. Hammonds had been previously employed in various capacities in at least half-a-dozen lure companies, mostly developing new products, before founding his own company. He’d sent me down a few samples before his arrival and today we would be fishing the marsh with some of his newest products, and putting them to the test. And with the conditions we were facing, it’d certainly be a real test!

Once Muhoberac and Hammonds arrived and handshakes and introductions were exchanged all around, we stowed our gear in Muhoberac’s bay boat, and headed into the marsh. Hammonds had been successfully fishing his newest lures in Florida and Texas, and now we’d see how they’d perform in Louisiana’s coastal waters.

Muhoberac’s plan for the day was to slowly and steadily troll the shallow ponds off of Grand Bayou and off Secola Canal, while we either tightlined a variety of the Old Bayside lures or fished them under a popping cork.

I opted to fish the rear of the boat, and toss a purple/chartreuse Old Bayside shrimp under a Cajun Thunder cork, while they tightlined the new skeleton shad ribbontails from off the bow. While we meandered through the ponds, Muhoberac outlined his wintertime fishing tactics.

Muhoberac’s Top Port Sulphur Spots, and How to Fish Them

1. Bay Lanaux

Muhoberac says he likes to fish the whole length of Bay Lanaux, from the very top all the way down to Bay Adams.

“I concentrate on the deeper cuts — and by deeper I mean almost anything over 3 feet deep — the broken islands, and the oyster reefs. I’ll start off the morning tossing topwater baits along the shoreline, especially at points and cuts. I like the Top Dog Jrs. or the She Dogs in white/chartreuse or black with the chartreuse head.

“Then, by mid-morning, I’ll switch to my soft plastics in either black/chartreuse, chartreuse or pearl white, on a ¼-ounce jig about 18 inches under a popping cork, or just a little deeper if I’m drifting an oyster reef.

“There are plenty of oyster reefs in Bay Lanaux, and you can probably catch fish at all of them. The key is to keep moving, either drifting or trolling, while you toss your baits. I’ll put a lot of trout in the boat over these reefs this winter.”

Howard Hammonds, owner of Old Bayside lure company, fooled this Port Sulphur trout with a Skeleton Shad.
Howard Hammonds, owner of Old Bayside lure company, fooled this Port Sulphur trout with a Skeleton Shad.

2. Grand Bayou

“This is a great wintertime place to hunt redfish,” Muhoberac said. “Basically, you can fish the whole length of Grand Bayou, all the way to the bays. But you want to concentrate on the cuts. Anywhere along the length of the bayou where there is a drain, a cut or an intersection with a pipeline or pond, fish there.

“There’s two ways to do it. Either drift or troll around those points at the cuts, which is what I prefer to do, or you can stop and anchor. Both ways are effective.

“But here, you’ll want to cast live minnows or soft plastics under a cork, or gold spoons or beetle-spins. The reds are very aggressive, even in the cold weather, so you won’t have any trouble knowing when you have a bite. They’ll just yank your rod right out of your hand.”

3. The Freeport Sulphur Canal

“From Little Pass all the way to Rattlesnake, it’s a good place to find redfish,” Muhoberac said. “I fish it much the same way as I do Grand Bayou — concentrating on the cuts, tossing my bait right up close to the bank, trolling around the corners, or you can anchor.

“But when you have one of those typical, nasty winter days, when the fronts move through and the north winds blow and push all the water out of the marsh… you know the kind of miserable days I’m talking about? That’s when you want to fish the Freeport Sulphur Canal.

“When the water gets low, redfish like to hang along the mudflats as the canal drains. So that’s where you want to toss your gold spoons, beetle-spins, soft plastics under a cork or tightlined, or live minnows under a popping cork or on a plain jighead.”

4. Four Corners

Muhoberac says this is one of his favorite areas to fish in the winter, but you need conditions that are the opposite of what’s needed for fishing the Freeport Sulphur Canal.

“Four Corners is very shallow,” he said, “so you won’t always be able to get up in it. All it is is a hodge-podge of shallow ponds and meandering, no-name canals, but it’s a great place to catch specks and redfish.

Don’t attempt to come in here with a deep draft boat, however. A flat boat is best, or a bay boat will work if it doesn’t draw much water. And don’t just run up into the area with your outboard running because you might find out too late that there’s not enough water to float your rig in there. Besides, you’ll spook all the fish.

Cut the outboard and troll into the shallow ponds. If you start kicking up mud with your trolling motor, you can still get back out. But if there’s enough water to get in there, you’ll catch some fish. Just keep trolling as you fish along the shorelines in the ponds, especially at the cuts.

Remember, the fish will always tend to hang out at the cuts, points, corners and drains, so fish those areas thoroughly. If you just keep picking away at it, you will catch some fish.”

5. The whole north end of Lake Washington

“Actually, Lake Washington is good all year round,” Muhoberac said. “Anglers pull plenty of both speckled trout and redfish out of this lake all the time. But in the colder months, I like to fish the lee side, right along the bank, for specks and reds. The water averages about 2 to 3 feet deep along the shorelines, so you’ll want to troll within casting distance of the bank, and put your lure up close to the shoreline.

“Again, concentrate on the cuts, points and drains, because that’s where the fish will be. Toss the same lures — soft plastics under a popping cork or tightlined, gold spoons, spinnerbaits, topwaters or live minnows under a cork.”

The Four Corners area is shallow and often tough to access, but it’s very productive for specks and reds.
The Four Corners area is shallow and often tough to access, but it’s very productive for specks and reds.

6. Rattlesnake Bayou and the Mining area, at the mouth of the Freeport Sulphur Canal

“I love to fish this area,” Muhoberac said. “It’s like opening birthday presents — you never know what you’re going to get. This place is full of surprises. I’ll fish here one day and catch a boatload of trout. I bring a charter back the next day, and won’t find a single trout, but we’ll catch a boatload of redfish.

“Frequently, we catch bull reds here. I consider anything over 15 pounds a bull, and believe me, they’ll often be a 15-pound minimum.”

Muhoberac says the best tactic is simply to troll the various canals, tossing gold spoons, soft plastics under a popping cork or tightlined, beetle-spins, or live minnows under a cork.

7. Bay Sansbois

“A great wintertime destination, with lots of cuts and drains emptying into it on every side,” Muhoberac said. “While every side of Sansbois is productive, I like the western side of the bay, actually from Bayou Dulac all the way up to Secola.

“Troll or drift the shoreline, casting all the same baits I’ve been mentioning, and concentrating your efforts at the cuts. The shoreline will average somewhere around 2 to 4 feet deep, so it’s a great place to fish under a popping cork.

“And here’s another little tidbit your readers might find helpful: In spite of my preference for that western shoreline, I often find that the lee side of Sansbois is where the fish will gather,” he said.

As for tides, Muhoberac finds it doesn’t really matter if it’s rising or falling, as long as you have some movement. And in the winter, you don’t need a huge tidal range for it to be productive, he said.

 

We were steadily trolling through the shallow ponds and narrow, no-name canals, picking away at the shoreline. Hammonds was steadily putting speckled trout in the boat. He was tightlining a chartreuse skeleton shad, and even the redfish were finding it hard to resist.

Muhoberac switched baits and also began putting trout in the boat. None of these were huge fish, but almost all were well over keeper size, and they were hitting so aggressively they fooled us into thinking they were even larger.

I was still fishing a purple/chartreuse shrimp under a Cajun Thunder cork, and managed a few respectable catches of my own. But my best catch of the day was a 4 1/2-pound flounder that found my Old Bayside shrimp too irresistible to pass up.

Incredibly, we were heading back to the dock with a good mess of fish — specks, reds, and my doormat flounder. The conditions had been horrible — very low and very dirty water, strong winds that never subsided all day long, and rain. Oh yes, let me not fail to mention that. And, it was cold. But I wasn’t grumbling anymore. Somehow, you forget all about such miserable conditions when you’re catching fish.