The many Pearl rivers

The Pearl River where it separates Louisiana from Mississippi isn’t just the Pearl River: It’s a bunch of rivers.

Crossing the Pearl River basin from west to east on Highway 90, bridges span the West Pearl River, the Middle West Pearl River, the Middle Pearl River and the East Pearl River.

Confusing, huh?

The East Pearl River is the official boundary between Louisiana and Mississippi. Fishermen with Louisiana licenses may fish the east bank of the river, but cannot fish in any bayou, slough or canal that branches from the east bank of the East Pearl.

The other three rivers and all their tributaries and distributaries are fair game for folks carrying Louisiana licenses only. That’s a lot of swamp water to decipher.

The key to catching bass in the system is learning how it works.

Chance Morse called the West Pearl River the “lifeline” for the other three rivers.

“As the West Pearl rises with rains upstream in Mississippi, its waters feed the Middle West Pearl and Middle Pearl rivers, and even parts of the East Pearl River,” Morse said.

The waters don’t just feed from the West Pearl through major channels, but also move very actively through the small slough-like drains that pock the western shorelines of the Middle West Pearl and Middle Pearl rivers.

At first glance, the drains appear to simply peter out farther into the swamp. Closer inspection, however, reveals dingier water slowly streaming out of the drains into the rivers.

These waters come from the West Pearl.

Bass concentrate in the mouths of these drains or 35 or so yards upstream or downstream of them.

Fishy-looking cover, even points, are ignored by Morse and Jacob.

When asked why, Morse replied directly.

“Twenty-five years of fishing have told me they are a waste of time,” he said. “The pattern of fishing the drains stays the same year round.”

Only the baits change.

“We use jigs from January through April,” Morse said. “At other times of the year, we use topwater frogs and Humdinger spinner baits.”

About Jerald Horst 959 Articles
Jerald Horst is a retired Louisiana State University professor of fisheries. He is an active writer, book author and outdoorsman.