The Mississippi River was absolutely beautiful a month ago, signaling a great fall run of redfish and trout. And then torrential rainfall swamped the Midwest, sending the river sky high.
The anticipated crazy action in Venice was ruined — but all is not lost. You simply have to know where to go to find plenty of hungry redfish.
Honestly, I wasn't looking forward to testing out the waters when I turned my truck south and headed to the annual media event known as Marsh Madness, which pulls in outdoors communicators and manufacturers from all over the nation.
The company is always good, so I had that going for me. However, I expected the fishing to be awful.
But when I walked into my room last night at the Lighthouse Lodge, roomy Todd "Marsh Man" Masson said he absolutely trashed the reds early in the day fishing well north of Venice on the east side of the river.
"We caught about 50," Masson said, explaining they were fishing the waters out of Buras.
Bassmaster editor James Hall fished the same area and caught 35 or so. Front to Back Boat Service's Ken Sherman found similar success on the other side of the river between Yellow Cotton Bay and Empire.
Sure, many of the anglers struggled, but the fact that three boatloads of fishermen were able to land dozens of reds meant there was hope.
So I had a resurgence of hope when I hit the water Monday with Starkville, Miss., angler Joe Shurden and Vanishing Paradise's Erin Brown.
And we caught about a dozen redfish. Which was about a dozen more than I expected.
The key to success is pretty simple: Stay north of Venice.
"The farther north you go, the prettier the water gets," Front to Back Boat Service's Devin Sherman said.
We launched at the old Yellow Cotton Bay ramp, and started fishing the broken marsh in the bay. The water was acceptable, though not beautiful. We caught a couple of fish, but it was a tough slog.
Until Devin Sherman called and told me to head north toward Joshua's Landing.
The water turned beautiful, bleeding out of the rosseau canes and creating perfect conditions for success.
We caught most of our fish in the last hour of the falling tide, throwing a combination of popping corks, blades and Z-Man ChatterBaits.
The joke of the day on the boat was the need for market shrimp: Shurden and Brown thought stink crickets would turn the bite on, while I proclaimed my distaste for "cheating" and swore to stick with my ChatterBait.
Frankly, lure choice didn't seem to matter much. Although, I caught a few more than the other two on a ChatterBait.
What seemed to be the real factor was clean water and casting right up on the bank.
Devin Sherman said they were able to catch a few more fish by working the banks thoroughly.
"You definitely have to go really slow," he said.
So don't let the roiling mud of the Mississippi River keep you from heading down Highway 23 — just stop short and fish the waters on either side of the river in the Buras and Empire areas.