The western portion of the Atchafalaya Basin may be full of bass-fishing hot spots in December — if the water isn’t too high
Carroll Delahoussaye, a veteran outdoorsman from St. Martinville, knows there’s a chance that December bass fishing could be fair to good in the nation’s last overflow swamp on the western side of the Atchafalaya Basin.
Delahoussay also knows, however, that as good as it is, many probably won’t take advantage of it, even IF the Atchafalaya Basin is at a fishable water level in December. That’s a big if, too, because if it’s anything like the past two Decembers, the water level has been too high for fishing, period.
The fishing pressure on bass will be nonexistent or very light this month, no matter how good the bite is, because so many outdoorsmen, like Delahoussaye, reserve most of their days for deer hunting and duck hunting. In fact, Delahoussaye plans to duck hunt every weekend with his long-time buddy, Danny Bulliard, also of St. Martinville. And on holidays and weekdays, he’ll be hunting deer, mostly in the Atchafalaya Basin and sometimes in Arkansas.
If the water level is low enough, between, say, 9.0 and 11.0 feet at Butte La Rose — which is the gauge most area outdoorsmen use for the region of the overflow swamp from Catahoula to Verdunville — Delahoussaye will wet a line for bass and/or sac-a-lait. He is an accomplished bass angler who knows the Basin like the back of his hand after learning at an early age from an uncle, Herman Louviere, and adding to his knowledge for four decades with Bulliard.
The first week of November, the outlook was bleak, mirroring last year. The river stage was at 12.12 after a steady rise from the 5-foot range through October.
“That’s what usually happens,” Delahoussaye said. “When it starts going up, it doesn’t stop. We get those fronts every week. When (weather) systems come through, a lot of them have rain. It don’t take a whole lot.”
But there is hope for diehard bassers.
In early November, NOAA’s 28-day forecast for the lower Ohio River/lower Mississippi River, which influences the Atchafalaya River, was encouraging, although it doesn’t take into account any heavy rain in the future. The Vicksburg, Miss., forecast showed a peak at 34.4 feet on Nov. 13, then a fall to 27.9 feet by Nov. 29. That dip would make it fishable in the spillway.
That would mean game-on for some familiar hotspots like Beau Bayou, Oak Ridge, Grevemberg, etc.
“I think at that time, you just go back to the original spots that are good,” said Delahoussaye, who retired this year as athletic director at St. Martinville Senior High after a 41-year career that included a 29-year stretch as the school’s head football coach, with Class AAA state championships in 1981 and 1984.
“You know what? You don’t have nearly the pressure. These people have been waiting for the hunting season the whole time, so there’s a lot less pressure,” he said.
And that’s good news.
“From what people tell me, this time of year, people catch bigger fish,” he added.
One of Delahoussaye’s favorites areas is scenic Beau Bayou/Oak Ridge, which can be reached from Bayou Benoit Boat Landing along the West Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee near Coteau Holmes.
“You have to start off on this end with the Beau Bayou area, with Oak Ridge and the pipelines. Coming back (south), maybe you can catch bass in the lakes in the Ceabon (Canal), Amerada,” Delahoussaye said. “Then there’s Grevemberg. Oh, yeah, that place has a lot of fish. You know what it is? The water needs to come out of Buffalo Cove.”
West Fork/Chicot Pass will had bass averaging 2½ pounds and sac-a-lait for several weeks during the recent rise, he said, and they could be ripe in December. One place he would scratch off is Prejean Canal, which is behind Mud Cove.
“I don’t know or understand. We haven’t caught fish in Prejean in so long. It went from everybody’s favorite place to not much of anything any more,” he said.
Even at an inflated river stage from 9.0 to 11.0 at Butte La Rose, fishing could be at least fair in Miller’s Chute. Delahoussaye prefers dead-end canals like that when the water temperature’s on the cold side because there’s no current.
There’s also Mama’s Pond.
“When the water goes down, you’ve got to look at that,” he said.
Charenton Lake, Crew Boat Chute and the Amoco Canals between Myette Point and Charenton are strong possibilities, too, said Delahoussaye, who likes to fish most of those areas with ½-ounce chartreuse/white or chartreuse/white/blue spinnerbaits and soft plastics, namely a long, red shad worm with a curly tail or a Sweet Beaver “with a little red in it.”
It was a disappointing year overall for bass fishing in the Atchafalaya Basin, chiefly because it was unfishably high from October 2018 to August 2019.
“I think we started catching fish in August this year. We usually catch in April. We all have our areas in the spring, summer and fall. This year our areas were just fall,” he said.