Louisiana’s state parks offer outstanding bass fishing in the spring and throughout the year. Here’s Louisiana Sportsman’s top-five picks, and tips on how to fill the livewell.
Spring is here, and with it comes the bass spawn.
That means anglers across the state are looking for places to catch sows holed up to lay eggs.
Many of those fishermen will head to Toledo Bend, but there are some other great lakes in the state that offer quality springtime bassing opportunities.
And for the traveling angler, there are some wonderful state parks from which to access this fishing.
Here are five of the best state-park lakes Louisiana has to offer, along with tips on how to rack up.
There’s no better place to be during the spawn than Lake D’Arbonne State Park, according to local fishing guide Ross Cagle (318-982-9326).
“Some of the best water on the lake is within paddling distance of that state park,” Cagle said. “I’m talking some of the finest fishing in the state of Louisiana, bar none, is within paddling distance of the state park.”
In fact, many of the locals were heartbroken when the park was formed.
“We’re proud of that state park, and think it’s a model for the rest of the state, but it’s in one of the old secret areas,” Cagle lamented. “You used to have to work to get in there.
“Now there are boat lanes and everything.”
What makes it so productive during the spawn — which kicks off in late February and run into the first few days of April — is the topography of the lake bottom along the banks of the park.
“It’s on a big flat,” Cagle explained. “Once that water temperature gets about 53 to 54 degrees, the big boys are going to start moving onto that flat.”
The fish will move up Edmonds Creek, which empties into the lake just south of the park.
“They’ll just move right up the creek (from the main channel) and dead into the state park,” he said.
And that means that big-bass fishing — and D’Arbonne produces numbers of fish topping 8 pounds each year — is easily accessible to park visitors.
“You ain’t got to go nowhere,” Cagle said. “You don’t have to have a big boat.
“Catching a 10-pounder while paddling around the trees at the park would not surprise me.”
In fact, he would be willing to bet that even none boaters could catch some hefty fish, if they work a little.
“There’s probably cypress trees within wading distance that you could catch all the bass and crappie you want,” he said.
Cagle recommended hitting cypress trees with big spinnerbaits, jigs and plastics like V&M Bayou Craws or V&M Bassin Eels as the water warms up.
Once the temperatures get in the 60s, though, he would add a Rogue to his arsenal.
“A silver/black-backed/orange-belly Rogue is deadly,” Cagle said.
Any of the cypress trees are likely to hold big bass, but Cagle said there are some overlooked sweet spots scattered about the area.
“There are some logs and tops in there, but you have to know where they are,” he said. “If you find one, by all means throw to them.”
As the spawn peters out in April, Cagle said the fish simply pull back into deeper water.
“There are a million sloughs between the channel and the bank, and the fish get in there,” he said.
Points also are productive.
“Any of the points,” he said. “Points on D’Arbonne are easy to find.”
The magic depth would fall between 12 and 15 feet, and the magic lure would be a Carolina-rigged watermelon seed/chartreuse lizard.
“You get on the sloughs and points, and you can catch a lot of fish with a Carolina rig,” Cagle said.
The summer heat-up sends fish running for even deeper water.
“You’re going to have to get on the channels,” Cagle said. “Our channels will be 5 to 6 feet deep, and then fall to 30 feet — just like a cliff,” he said.
Norman DD22s and Carolina rigs worked from the shallow water over the ledges dredge fish from these depths.
But fall sees bass move right back to the flats.
“Fish the cypress trees and the grass,” Cagle said.
The park offers 65 improved campsites, 18 cabins, two lodges and one group camping facility that sleeps 52.
For more information on the state park, call (888) 677-5200 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Numbers and quality mix to provide visitors to Chicot Lake State Park with very good fishing — especially during the spring.
“The bass start going on the beds in mid February, depending on the fronts,” local guide Mike Barzare (337-230-5014) said. “By March, they should be biting real good.”
Barzare said he will be taking clients to the south end of the lake during this time to find big spawners.
Predictably, he’ll be fishing the shallow coves, but he doesn’t concentrate on the trees.
“I focus on the points, mostly,” Barzare said. “There might be some cypress trees or gums, but I’m mostly looking for the points.”
These aren’t huge, deep-water points (the lake averages about 8 feet deep), but Barzare said it doesn’t take a lot of topographical change to provide spawning areas.
“If there’s any kind of change on those points, the fish are usually coming out to spawn,” he said.
He said he finds the points by watching the banks.
“You’ll see the bank come out to a point, and it extends out into the water,” he said.
In another break from convention, Barzare doesn’t throw jigs.
“I’m mostly on spinnerbaits and Brush Hogs,” he said.
Barzare said he works spinners around everything he finds on the points.
“You want to fish the submerged logs and points, just slow-rolling it,” he said.
Although he sometimes uses 3/8-ounce spinners, his favorite is a 1/2-ounce version.
“It has more vibration, it’s a bigger bait and it’s a slower bait,” he said. “And it can catch bigger fish.”
If he fails to catch anything on his spinnerbait, however, he moves to the plastic baits and works the point all over again.
Although there are plenty of coves all along the lake, Barzare said it will be the larger ones that hold the most fish.
That pattern will hold until the end of April.
By May, the fish have pulled out to the main lake, and Barzare said the best fishing moves to the central section of the reservoir.
“It’s sort of odd: The fish move back to the (main-lake) banks in May and June,” he said.
At that point, he begins to wear out the cypress trees and stumps littering the water with spinnerbaits and crankbaits.
“You can still catch some nice fish,” Barzare said.
But by the end of June, when the South Louisiana heat really begins, bass pull out to the main channel.
That’s when the spinnerbaits have to be put back in the box.
“You want to use crankbaits, and concentrate on the channel along spoil banks on the south end to the spillway,” Barzare said.
The channel runs 12 to 18 feet in depth, and he uses lures that run between 5 and 10 feet.
“The fish hold in that deeper water, and you’ve got to get down to them,” Barzare said.
By fall, bass have moved back into the shallower water, and Barzare goes back to his spinnerbait.
The great thing is that throughout the year, there is the possibility of catching numbers of fish with some really nice bass mixed in.
“To be honest, you can catch real good fish over the slot, and a lot of slot fish,” he said.
The slot limit requires all fish measuring between 14 and 17 inches to be immediately released, and Barzare said that’s what makes Chicot Lake so good.
“People want to have a good time, and they can catch a lot of slot fish,” he said.
Each angler can only possess eight bass, with no more than four exceeding 17 inches in length.
Chicot State Park features three landings surrounded by facilities ranging from a simple ramp and meeting area (East Landing) to cabin and campsites (North Landing) to cabins and group campsites (South Landing).
For more information, call (888) 677-2442 or e-mail email@example.com.
You’re not likely to catch a state record in this Mississippi oxbow, but if a great fishing trip is what your after, Lake Bruin will fill the ticket.
“It’s not a good lake — it’s a great lake,” Department of Wildlife & Fisheries biologist Mike Wood said.
The reason is that you’re almost guaranteed to catch numbers of fish that will really stretch your line.
“The number of 2- to 4-pounders is amazing,” Wood said. “It’s loaded with those things.”
That’s exactly why Baton Rouge angler Sammy Salvato bought a camp there.
“It’s been a long time since I caught a 5-pounder there, but you can catch a lot of fish with several 4-pounders mixed in,” Salvato said.
The techniques that work aren’t really big secrets, he said.
“It’s common-sense stuff,” Salvato said. “Anything that works on any other lake works here.”
That means the spawn calls for working the shallows with jigs and plastics.
“I like a lizard,” Salvato said. “It really works well up there.”
His favorite colors are pumpkinseed and watermelon.
“Add a little scent to it, if you’ve got it,” Salvato advised.
Anise or garlic will work, but Salvato actually prefers the former.
“A lot of people have switched to garlic, so I like to use the anise,” he said. “I find it’s like going back to a new taste for them.”
The targets will be cypress trees, stumps, shallow piers and anything else in the water.
Salvato said he generally likes to find clear water, but he doesn’t want it too clear.
“I don’t like it when I can see the fish,” he said.
But he doesn’t necessarily want the water to be heavily stained.
“I would rather have a ripple on the water,” Salvato said.
That prevents the fish from seeing him.
Salvato will often begin his fishing day on the western shoreline.
“When the water is cool, the sun coming up in the east will warm the trees on the west bank, and that transfers down the trees and into the water,” he said. “You’ll find a degree or so difference there.”
The flooded cypress on the flats on either end of the lake (strangely, there’s no north end because the lake forms a huge horseshoe, with both ends pointing south) also can be productive, although Salvato admits he tends to fish the waters along the main stretches of the lake near his camp — which happens to be located right next to the state park.
“I just think that if I pass by I’m passing up fish,” he said. “There’s fish there; you’ve just got to get them to bite.”
When bass desert their spawning beds, piers and the ledges along the main channel of the lake become prime.
“I like to fish those piers,” Salvato said.
A Texas-rigged worm is his main tool early in the season, but as the water heats up, he switches to a crankbait or spinnerbait.
“They hang in anything with shade,” Salvato said. “Anything that keeps the water a degree or two different.”
He said it’s amazing how fish can find isolated cool spots in the water column.
“You can go swimming and feel the cool spots, the thermal pockets,” he said. “Those fish will hang out in those thermal pockets under the piers.”
So he likes to work the piers meticulously.
“When I’m fishing by myself, it’ll take me an hour to fish three piers because I hit every column,” he said. “You never know where they are.”
But sometimes he finds that fish develop a distinct preference.
“If you catch them on a pier in 4 feet of water, you’ll catch them on the next one in 4 feet,” he said. “If you catch them on the corners on the outside, hit all the corners.
“If they’re on those steps, don’t miss a step.”
By fall, bass will move back into shallower water, and Salvato follows them into the flooded cypress trees and knees.
This is when he drops the crankbait and adds a buzz bait to his arsenal.
“I like a Lunker Lure and a spinnerbait,” Salvato said.
Lake Bruin State Park is one of the smaller facilities, with only 53 acres featuring 25 improved campsites and a number of unimproved campsites.
For more information, call (888) 677-2784 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This relatively small lake has provided some fantastic fishing since its establishment four years ago — and it’s also produced some very big bass.
“I know of one fish over 11 pounds that came out of that lake,” Delhi’s Terry Huff said. “We’ve had one over 8 (pounds) caught already this year.”
The reason for these big catches so soon after the lake was formed relates to where the water body sits.
“There were some ponds on the property, and they were stocked with Florida bass,” Huff explained. “So when the lake took all of (the ponds) in, we already had some good fish.”
But it’s a different lake than most anglers are used to: The lake is just wide open, offering no visible structure in the middle of the waterway.
“There are some submerged tree piles, but you have to know where they are,” Huff said.
That leaves only the rock-lined banks and the two northern corners, which are crowded with some flooded cypress trees, for anglers new to the lake.
And that’s really all that’s needed during the spring.
“Those bass will spawn on the big rocks along the banks,” Huff said.
He said tossing a jig or spinnerbait right to the edge of the water and bumping the lures down the rocks can result in arm-stretching bites.
In the northern corners, Huff recommended fishing as shallow as possible with the same lures.
As the weather heats up, the fish predictably move out to deeper water.
That’s when the uninitiated Poverty Point angler might struggle.
“They get in that submerged structure that you can’t see from the surface,” Huff said.
These structures were formed when the property was cleared for the lake.
“They just pushed all the trees into piles,” he said.
Local anglers can go straight to them, but Huff said state park visitors should be able to locate the tops with their electronics.
“Most of the structure is on the west bank, and it runs from the north side to the south side,” he said. “These are huge piles of stuff.”
He added that anglers should start next to the western shore and work out until their boats are in 12 to 15 feet of water. That’s where the old trees will be found.
Once a log pile has been located, Huff said the main producers will be crankbaits, worms and jigs.
“You can fish the edges of the structure with a crankbait,” he said.
But getting the fish that have buried in the tangle of wood will require a bait that can be worked through the piles.
“In the structure, you’re going to have to use a jig or plastic,” Huff said.
As fall fronts roll in and lower water temperatures, the bass again move into the shallower water.
Huff said anglers should simply follow them, working the rocks and flooded cypress trees.
Wintertime fishing, however, is tough.
“When it comes to catching them in the winter, who knows?” Huff laughed. “I haven’t figured that out yet.”
Although March and April provide the best opportunities to catch trophy bass, Huff said there is the potential to catch hefty fish throughout the year.
But he encouraged anglers to take advantage of a replica program, through which anglers get reimbursed for at least part of a fiberglass replica in return for releasing their catch.
“We’re trying to keep these big fish in the lake,” he said. “We’re trying to save some big fish.”
Anglers landing bass weighing 7 to 8 pounds have 50 percent of their replica paid through the program. Bass heavier than 8 pounds garner a 100-percent payment.
Huff said anglers should put fish falling into these categories in their livewells and find a park ranger, who will measure the bass, fill out the proper paperwork and release the bass back into the lake.
Park visitors also should know that Poverty Point Reservoir is regulated under a 15- to 19-inch slot limit, which requires the immediate release of all fish within the slot.
Anglers can keep eight fish daily, with only one bass exceeding 19 inches.
Poverty Point Reservoir State Park offers four two-room cabins (which sleep 10 people).
For more information, call (800) 474-0392 or e-mail email@example.com.
This area first hit the spotlight during a Bassmaster Top 150 (now the Tour) stop in October 1998.
Oklahoma pro Kenyon Hill won that event by running from the launch just southwest of New Orleans to Bayou Black south of Houma.
But when the pros returned in 1999 for the Bassmaster Classic, South Carolina’s Davy Hite showed that the waters near the launch could hold their own.
Hite won the event with a three-day total of 55 pounds, 10 ounces, setting a Classic record for the heaviest three-day total since competition moved to five-fish stringers.
The expansive system fell on hard times during the drought, but it’s on the way back up.
Anglers probably aren’t going to catch fish over 8 pounds, but Bass Assassin pro staffer Todd Schaubhut said there are numbers of quality fish in the system.
“There are a lot of 2 1/2- to 3-pound fish in there,” the Des Allemands tournament angler said.
So state park visitors can easily find some fantastic fishing opportunities.
“With the (Davis Pond) diversion, you’re getting a lot of grass beds in the Lake Cataouatche area, which is five minutes from the launch,” Schaubhut said.
Lake Cataouatche is just west of the park, and offers anglers the option of flipping the banks or working the massive grass flats for bedding fish.
“You can be as much as a half mile from the bank and still catch fish during the spring,” Schaubhut said. “There’s a real hard bottom in that lake, and you’re talking about water that’s 3 to 5 feet deep.”
Anglers also can find bedding fish in Salvador Wildlife Management Area, particularly around the Gulf Canal.
“If you get on some of the open ponds with grass around the Gulf Canal, you can catch some fish,” Schaubhut said.
Temple Bay on the southwest corner of Lake Salvador is another traditional spawning area. It’s about a 20-minute run from the launch across Lake Salvador.
“It’s not like it was six, seven, eight years ago, but it’s starting to come back,” Schaubhut said. “It really suffered during the drought, but it’s really turning around.”
The Des Allemands tournament angler recommended flipping junebug soft-plastic lizards or Hog Assassins into the grass.
“If you get on some bedding fish, I find soft plastics are your best bet,” Schaubhut said.
Anglers not accustomed to sightfishing can still nab some bass by working any of the breaks and edges with spinnerbaits and crankbaits.
“A crankbait is a lure you can catch fish on all year,” he said.
Summer fishing means moving back away from the banks.
“The fish in those main lakes are going to be back in that grass in a little deeper water,” Schaubhut said.
Of course, any of the canals within Salvador WMA will hold fish because of the deeper water.
But anglers don’t have to go that far to pick up some bites — the main bayou from the Bayou Segnette launch provides excellent fishing.
“There are a lot of stumps and timber in there,” Schaubhut said. “There are some good fish in there.”
He advised working crankbaits off the banks and around grass beds to pick up a few fish.
“Concentrate off the grass and points,” he said.
If that fails, soft plastics are great summer baits.
Schaubhut said he really likes throwing the Hog Assassins in watermelon/red flake or black sapphire, but worms in red shad/green flake, junebug and tequila sunrise are excellent choices.
“If you’re fishing grass, peg your weights,” he said. “If you’re not fishing grass, you might not want to peg the weight.”
By fall, bass will begin concentrating in the mouths of canals.
“They get on the points of those canals that are closer to deep water,” he said. “If you find a mouth of a canal where there’s grass and a ledge, you can’t go wrong.
So Schaubhut prefers to work these areas over with crankbaits.
“The fish are ganging up on these corners, and you can really hammer them on a crankbait,” he said.
Bayou Segnette State Park features 98 campsites complete with water/electrical hookups, ample tent-camping sites, 20 cabins and a group facility capable of sleeping 120.
For information, call (888) 677-2296 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.