Bill McCarty cleans a lot of panfish for frying this time every year as he taps the bream, chinquapin and sac-a-lait population in the lower Spillway, better known as the Atchafalaya Basin.
The Morgan City outdoorsman often brings back 35 to 40 panfish before 10:30 in the morning — and probably will do that consistently (weather and water conditions permitting). In July, his go-to spots include Flat Lake, Bayou Jesse, Bear Bayou, Bayou Grosbec, Bayou Cane, Little Bayou Sorrel and Logan Canal.
“Anything from Duck Lake down will be really, really good” in July, McCarty said.
Earlier this summer, the Atchafalaya River was falling fast to a highly fishable level. He knows each drop brings fish, bass included, to the edge of the swamp where they are more accessible to the anglers.
“That’s when you can really catch them,” he said.
McCarty, who owns WHM Services LLC,, will go out with his trusty 5 ½-foot light action spincast rod with a Zebco Delta reel and 6-pound test monofilament line. Most of the time, the all-around outdoorsman said his first stop is Flat Lake, where he targets panfish around cypress trees and knees on the north side of the lake with a Luck-E-Strike tube jig on a 1/16-ounce Luck-E-Strike jighead about 2 feet deep under a small cork, depending on the water clarity. If he can see his bait, he’ll adjust and fish deeper, he said, until the tube jig is out of sight.
His first color of choice is brown/orange, adorned with a chartreuse Crappie Nibble. If that color doesn’t produce, he’ll switch to black/chartreuse.
He said he was concerned at the time he volunteered his site specific fishing report about the lack of underwater vegetation in Flat Lake.
His fish-catching route after that first stop usually takes him to nearby Bear Bayou, then Bayou Grosbec, Bayou Cane, Bayou Sorrell and Logan Canal, where he fishes around stumps, deadfalls and other structure along and away from the shoreline.
He also stressed that points can be hotspots for bream, chinquapin and sac-a-lait, such as wherever canals intersect with Bayou Sorrell. In addition to his Luck-E-Strikes, McCarty fishes points in the area with Beetle Spins, the white/black stripe or yellow/black stripe models that imitate the small fry and minnows panfish gorge on. Those Beetle Spins match the hatch “pretty well,” he said from experience.
Find grass, even scattered grass, and that’s what the fish relate to more than anything else in the summer, he said. Again, he was hopeful there would be some grass beds to fish in once the water settled for the summer after the drop, especially in Flat Lake.