There’s no need to run far this month to get into plenty of south-central Louisiana saltwater action.
There is a stark contrast between the launches that get you to Acadiana’s hottest speck, flounder and redfish action.
Freshwater City is a quiet, almost ghost town-like port with dark muddy water and a simple launch next to a dead processing plant. Crew boats and a sparse population of recreational fishing boats pull out of Freshwater Bayou, and rarely are there traffic jams to go offshore.
Cypremort Point, on the other hand, is booming, almost sprawling and teeming with life. Party barges decked out with bikini-clad 40-somethings, crabbing and oyster boats and awesome fishing rigs swarm that water.
Take your pick, but don’t let minor details like people population detract from the fact that both get the job done and place you close to the horn of Vermilion Parish and three honey holes — Hell Hole, Southwest Pass and Tee Butte. All three are unique, winning spots for exciting fishing.
The horn of Vermilion Parish juts off of the mainland like it is trying to reach out and grab Marsh Island. The exposed land is still trying to hang on to the last remnants of a mighty delta region, but time and nature are against it.
Around 6,000 years ago, the better part of a continental ice sheet started to reduce and subsequently cut the major waterway we know as the Mississippi. The first recognized delta was the Sale-Cypremort lobe, where for 1,200 years the river built a massive delta.
Times have changed since, and the delta’s vertical growth forced the Mississippi to bend toward Cocodrie and then farther east toward its current outflow point. Subsidence took over when the silt-feeding river turned from its old path, and the resulting bays of East and West Cote Blanche, Weeks and Vermilion formed and have turned into some fine fisheries when the conditions are just right.
This region is only a shell of what it must have been before man arrived on the continent, but still today it is a good and faithful friend to many in the area.
Hell Hole and the western side of Southwest Pass are imposing spots of water to say the least. If the name is any indication, Hell Hole is not just a term of endearment, but so lovingly named because of the many reefs in the area and general shallow conditions of water there.
Increased salinity in late summer and fall make this a redfish hotspot. Big reds prowl the Hell Hole Bayou outlet and pick off crabs, shrimp and mullet that bounce over the reefs. Johnson spoons, bottom bouncing soft plastics, buzz baits like the Nemire Spoon Buzzer and live or cut bait work great in this area.
The reds are in there. Getting safely into the bay is the trick.
“Wait for the low tide before going into Hell Hole,” advised Cypremort Point entrepreneur and fishing guru Richard Legnon.
Legnon and his son Devin run Cypremort Point Charter Service (337-789-3582) that guides the more cautious yet determined into the inland fishery for specks and redfish. Legnon strongly cautions inexperienced anglers to take their time and expect great results.
“Go in slow and look at it and form a picture in your mind,” he recommended. “Notice the landmarks, and wait for the tide to come back up. Once you form an image in your mind, you can go back there and catch redfish. If the water gets real salty, you’ll catch specks too, but it’s mostly redfish back there.”
What Hell Hole offers is a widespread area of shell pads and scattered trenches where bait and predator fish hold. Low tide can be dangerous if not respected, but it offers the student of fishing a chance to learn where fish will consistently hold.
This myriad of structure stretches from Hell Hole Bayou to Indian Point and Southwest Point.
“I’d say that 70 percent of the time it is cut mullet that works the best for redfish back there — cut mullet and shrimp and occasionally a Johnson lure with a shrimp teaser,” he said. “Artificial baits are tough to use because of the oysters, but they will work under a cork or if you’re fishing the trenches.”
Southwest Pass, like so many other passes along the Gulf Coast, has massive amounts of water that push through it. The horn’s pass has tremendous drops and rises off the main channel.
A good depth-finder and GPS unit will help you spot and mark the underwater geologic formations. A less high-tech method is to look for the PVC markers identifying the reefs along the western edge of the pass.
Caldwell Reef is one such spot. The reef there sits atop a precipice that, at low tide, is right at 6 feet in depth. Immediately before that, depths plummet to 100 feet or more. A strong outgoing tide pushes bait right into that wall, and bull reds and speckled trout wait to devour them.
John Dooley of Lafayette has, like many others, used friendly advice and trial and error to pick apart Southwest Pass.
“When the water’s going out, you can catch a lot of specks,” said Dooley. “The way you do the pass is to anchor in about 20 feet of water and drift back to 6 feet of water. Live bait is OK, but when the sea gulls and other birds are feeding in there, it makes no difference what you throw. Double rigs will catch two at a time. And those fish are bigger than regular school trout.”
Southwest Pass has a tendency to get muddy when south-central Louisiana gets heavy rains in the summer and fall. The chocolate murk that might cloud the pass will distract many anglers. Dooley will not let that stop him.
“Salt water is more dense than fresh, so it might be saltier and maybe even more clear down there. The old saying is ‘on dirty water, fish deep.’”
To the extreme west side of Southwest Pass lies more fishable area and some quality flounder holes. Dooley likes to catch big trout in the pass on a falling tide. In the interior mouth of the horn, he says to fish an incoming tide.
“There’s a lot of pads back there so be careful,” he cautioned. “There’s a dog-leg reef out there that you can walk on. It’s about 60 feet long and makes like an arm. You can put some bait on a small leadhead, and catch king-sized flounder off that reef.”
Talk to 10 different anglers, and you will get 10 different shell pads to fish off of in Southwest Pass. The common denominators are caution and to find deep trenches to find great fishing.
Tee Butte, or Little Hill, is a submerged hill just south of the Paul J. Rainey Preserve and just off the southern shore of the horn. It is covered with oyster reefs and has multiple depressions so that when the tide pushes across the reef, trout and redfish have many hiding areas to attack bait fish.
On pleasant weekends, you can almost walk across the boats because it will be thick with people. Off days are certainly much better. Most people work the hill with live or frozen shrimp under a popping cork. Soft plastics work, and so do topwater baits.
The reef on low tide breaches the water surface. Pelicans and gulls stroll along the rocky top and pick at crabs and smaller microorganisms. Once again, move in slow or else cringe at the sound of shell grinding props and hulls.
As the tide pushes in, bird activity increases as food for them emerges. Rat reds and trout move in to pick on their food, and then come the bigger fish. As the water pushes over the reef, calm spots on the opposite side give small fish and shrimp a place to get out of the wash. The predators move in, and a well-positioned angler catches them.
Pecan Island guide Billy Broussard watches the tides and weather to gauge fishing off of Tee Butte.
“Follow your tide chart,” he said. “Anytime you see a strong tide of a foot or better is typically when you’re going to try Tee Butte. You’ve got to have moving water to trigger a bite. A slack tide has never produced much for me when I’ve gone out there.
“This time of the year is the time for big fish. Typically the limits that I’ve seen at this time of year usually average in the 3- to 4-pound range. And that’s fishing with artificials.”
Broussard believes quality catches revolve around the type of bait offered. He is fond of artificial lures versus the traditional live bait preferred by most others who fish Tee Butte.
“A lot of people start fishing with live bait at this time of year,” he said. “In my opinion, they tend to catch a uniformly smaller size fish. You’ll catch the big ones on it, but I’ve seen more 1 1/2- to 2-pound fish come off of live bait than I do with artificials. With the topwaters, you talk about getting even bigger.”
Broussard keeps a hefty load of MirroLure Top Dogs on board, but will also use Zara Spooks and Creek Chub Knuckle-Heads. Broussard has made a name for himself pounding redfish schools with topwaters in the inland marshes near his Pecan Island home. He attacks speckled trout in the same intense fashion.
Broussard will also venture farther south off of the hill to hit the closest offshore platforms off of the Vermilion Parish coast. These rigs lie in shallow, aqua-green water, and hold great numbers of trout from summer through the late fall.
“I’ll typically fish the platforms between Rockefeller (Refuge) and Vermilion Bay,” he said. “Those closer-in platforms will turn on in mid to late summer.
“The year before last, we were going out three or four times a week, and we limited out 90 percent of the time. We never had a day under 35 fish, and a day meant coming in at 11 a.m.”
Aside from location, weather and the Atchafalaya River stage at Butte La Rose are factors that these three anglers watch the most. The Atchafalaya dumps water into Cote Blanche Bay, so a reduced flow from the river means less sediment choking the bays. The range all three like to see is a river stage between 7 and 10 feet. At that level, traditionally, fishing has been its best.
So proceed with caution and become a student. Watch the weather indicators, tide and river stages and latch on to some serious summer fishing action fun for the whole family.
All of the Vermilion horn is easily accessible to anglers. To reach Cypremort Point, head east out of Lafayette on Highway 90 and turn south on Highway 83. From 83, turn right on Highway 319 to Cypremort Point. Freshwater City can be accessed by taking Highway 82 from Abbeville towards Pecan Island and Freshwater City.
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