Believe it or not, February can be a great month to kayak fish: Here are the Top 5 spots to target in your ‘yak
February may be the best kept secret in kayak fishing.
Yes, it can be bitter cold. Yes, it can be extremely windy. And yes, it can have low and/or dirty water.
But, if you pick the right days and conditions, the fishing can be absolutely fantastic.
The South Louisiana marsh in February can be a lonely place. Duck season is closed, shrimp season is closed,and many fair-weather recreational anglers have parked their boats waiting for warmer weather. But for the last of the trappers, a few commercial guides and a few diehard crabbers, the marsh will be relatively quiet.
Understand, it makes no sense to go out on miserable days in conjunction with the passage of strong cold fronts. However, if you time it right, you’ll find days with bearable conditions and lots of hungry fish. You can often find reds and trout stacked in deeper areas, and have a one- or two-stop trip.
One key piece of equipment recommended for successful winter ‘yak fishing is a depth finder. Even an inexpensive model will help locate holes, deep turns and ledges that are critical to locating concentrated winter fish.
We’ve selected five areas that regularly provide great February kayak action.
The deep bayous, oyster-filled lagoons, rock jetties and MRGO channel provide a unique variety of habitat and water depths that allow fish to adapt to virtually any winter fishing condition.
Within easy paddle reach of Hopedale Marina, kayakers can find water depths up to 40 feet. Just across from the launch is a spoil canal and adjacent marsh that have shallow lagoons and deep bayous with scoured-out bends. The fish transition between the varying depths in these areas depending on water and weather conditions.
The nearby MRGO has a huge rock dam where the tidal flow through the rocks concentrates baitfish. The rocks also warm in the sun and can provide a few-degree increase in water temps to help spur feeding activity.
The center of the channel is 40 feet, and provides a large area for the fish to concentrate when the water gets really cold. When fishing the MRGO, jig plastics up and down near, but not on the bottom, to avoid rocky snags. Launching further up the road at the old Pip’s Place provides easy access to Hopedale Lagoon, which is best known for trolling and drifting speckled trout back and forth across the oyster-filled bottom. Reds also pile up near the mouth of the many marsh canals and drains in the area.
Launch at Hopedale Marina for the MRGO and spoil marsh area; a specialty floating kayak dock makes launching a breeze. For the Hopedale Lagoon area, the old Pip’s Place on the right side of Hopedale Highway is a great spot. There is a concrete ramp there with an honor box. There is a $5 fee at both launches.
- Big Lake
If you are looking for big winter trout, check out West Cove. The area is not a secret, but still under-fished in February. It is popular for boat anglers that wear waders and hop out, but many areas are kayak-accessible. You can choose to wade or remain in the kayak, but stealth is the key. If it is windy and there is a lot of hull slap, it is best to park the ‘yak and slowly wade away from it. If there are other fishermen in the area, don’t get too close.
The area has lots of reefs, and the key is slowly fishing mullet and pogie imitation lures in and around the schools of bait. Broken-back Corky’s, MirrODines and Vudu Mullets will get the job done. If you’re fishing following a warm spell, don’t rule out walking your favorite topwater plug.
Launch: West Cove Recreation Unit on Highway 27 south of Hackberry. *Note that the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is closed until March 15, but you can use the launch and canal as passage into the lake only. Just don’t stop and fish any of the canals or marsh area in between. Launch is free.
- Pointe-Aux-Chenes (PAC)
PAC is comprised of mostly marsh, but is interspersed with numerous ponds, bayous and canals. This variation from shallow to relatively deep-water provides a good range of habitat for winter conditions. Launching from PAC Kayak Rentals and Marina, fishing can begin within minutes. They have a large, specially-designed kayak launch. A good place to start is at the intersection of nearby canals and pipelines that have ledges and drop-offs that hold fish on cold days. There are tons of sheltered bayous to get out of the wind.
Plastics and Gulp lures slowly worked under a popping cork are an area favorite. Also, slow trolling plastic tails in the straight canals rigged with a 1/16- to 1/8-ounce jighead are productive for trout. Suspending baits like a Rapala ShadowRap produce near ledges and deeper holes. On days when the water is a little dirty, don’t overlook using fresh shrimp to get that extra advantage.
Launch: PAC Kayak Rentals. Fee is $5 for a specially-designed multi-bay kayak launch that is simple to use. It’s located at 179 Paw Paw Court in Montegut.
- The Sulphur Mine
This perennial favorite is within reasonable reach for kayakers. The core of the mine area in about an hour paddle or less, but there are many other productive areas along the way. The mine is an old industrial site strewn with metal debris, deep holes and lots of fish-holding habitat.
The area is fishable in nearly any conditions, and good fishing is often found without ever reaching the mine. But like many wintertime spots, the good fishing is often concentrated in small areas. And being popular, the mine is usually crowded, and boats and kayakers will often be fishing the same spots. Tight-lined plastics or a jig and plastic tail under a popping cork are usually all that is necessary. However, a small bait bucket can easily carry enough live cocahoes for a day’s trip. The mine itself has lots of debris and snags on the bottom, so a sliding cork can be used to get your lure near, but not on, the bottom. Drifting the mine is a productive, but often overlooked technique. Use the wind to your advantage and fan cast as you slowly move across. If you locate a concentration of fish, quietly deploy a stake-out pole or anchor to thoroughly fish the area before continuing on. For those days when the wind makes kayaking in the open waters of the mine difficult, don’t abandon your trip. Turn your attention to the surrounding marsh where you can get out of the wind and comfortably fish. Look for the dead-end canals and areas where tall marsh and tree-lined ridges act as great wind blocks.
Launch: Gator Cove (formerly Bason’s Marina), 542 W. 107th St. in Galliano. Launch fee is $5.
- Geoghegan Canal
Close, deep and filled with fish is the best way to describe this long-time favorite of local kayakers. Located near the intersection of US Highway 90 and Highway 433 (Old Spanish Trail) in eastern St. Tammany Parish, kayakers can launch and be fishing in mere minutes.
The canal is deep and is known for stacking trout during the winter months. Although not very long, the canal has a variety of deep holes and ledges that hold fish almost anywhere along the way. Bounce and jig tight-lined plastics out from the bank towards the drops and ledges. If it’s not too crowded, trolling the canal is a great tactic that often goes overlooked. Nearby bayous and lagoons also produce great winter fishing. On warmer days, the fish may disperse along the shoreline of nearby Rigolets Pass.
Launch: Rigolets Bait and Seafood (Marina), 52250 Highway 90 in Slidell. $6 to launch one kayak, $8 for two (one vehicle).
Top five February ‘yak lures
For either trout or reds, this winter mix will get the job done:
- Gulp Swimming Mullet
Whether under a popping cork, tight-lined or slow trolled, the Swimming Mullet provides great tail-curling action at even the slightest movement. And the fish-attracting Gulp scent gives that extra advantage that may be necessary to induce lethargic fish. There are no shrimp in the marsh, and this bait mimics a variety of small baitfish the fish are feeding on.
- Rapala Shadow Rap
This stick style jerkbait has a slow suspending/falling action that perfectly reproduces the motions of a struggling minnow. Cast and allow it to slowly sink while imparting short twitches that make the bait spring back to life. It can be fished almost stationary, and just hangs in their face – triggering a strike.
- MirrOdine Skin Series
The lure is wrapped with a life-like skin that perfectly replicates a small shad. The slow suspending action can be fished with a variety of twitches and retrieves. The bites almost always come when the lure is stopped, so hang on tight and be ready.
- Broken-back Corky
If you want big winter trout, this is the go-to lure across the Gulf Coast. The stocky, soft body has a hinged tail to impart just a little flash and movement to entice a lethargic fish to strike. The lure takes patience to learn and fish, as it is best worked with an ultra-slow, do-little action. The lure hangs in the water ,and the object is to keep it in front of a fish for as long as it takes to entice a strike. It is almost impossible to fish it too slow if the water is cold.
- Berkley Choppo 90
Always have a topwater lure available, no matter the time of the year. During a February warm spell, you’ll be amazed at the fish you can catch on top. This medium-sized topwater combines rattles with a unique cupped prop near the tail. It can cause quite a commotion either straight retrieved, walked or twitched in place. The gurgling tail sound combined with the low-pitched rattles may just be the ticket to entice a strike.
Kayak launch and travel lane in Hopedale
Several months ago, Hopedale Marina opened a specialty floating kayak launch. Dock mounted rollers, ant-slip decking and the constant level of two floating launch bays make putting in and picking up safe and easy. A large rocked area provides easy vehicle and trailer access, and secure parking is just across the street. Also, a new “kayak lane” has been established in Bayou la Loutre across from the launch. Several large PVC poles with reflective signs and tape designate the area along the east shoreline of the bayou from the spoil canal out to the MRGO for kayak travel only. The combination of the launch and travel lane helps separate paddle craft from the powerboats, and alleviates congestion for both parties. The folks at Hopedale Marina are dedicated to making the area a kayak fishing destination by providing friendly service and great amenities. Hopedale Marina is located at 7600 Hopedale Highway in St. Bernard. (504) 676-3474. $5 launch fee.