Atchafalaya, Lake Verret water levels are finally falling, and bream are biting
A timeline drawn to show fishing from spring to late summer in the Atchafalaya Spillway and the Lake Verret system near Pierre Part, it would reflect significant fluctuations in water levels.
According to Chris Black, owner of Bayside Tackle in Pierre Part, those variations have affected the bream fishing, which has been on and off this summer. Essentially, flood water from the Atchafalaya River and significant rain water from Hurricane Barry have been the two biggest challenges fishermen have faced.
The sinking of a barge in Bayou Chene at the end of May to prevent backwater flooding in the region led to a 2-foot drop in water level on the Lake Verret (east) side of LA 70, where good catches of bream occurred in June and early July. By contrast, the Atchafalaya Basin (west) side of LA 70 remained well above the 5-foot flood stage, at 8.3-feet in Morgan City.
Hurricane Barry made landfall the second weekend in July, and heavy rains pushed the water level up again in the Lake Verrett system. It wasn’t until late July that water levels returned to normal, Black said. Once the water receded, things began to pick up.
“A guy came in at the end of July, and he had just caught a ton of chinquapins, which I hadn’t heard of anybody catching a lot of this year,” Black said. “He said he caught a lot of them on crickets and worms in the lake. And the guys who are catching them now say they are the biggest bream they have caught on this side in 20 years. They say you can’t hardly put your hand around a lot of them.”
Black said two years of high water might be one of the reasons for the good catches of larger fish.
“The water has been high in the spillway and the Verret side the last two years, when the spawn was going on, and you couldn’t really fish,” he said. “The spillway side should be on fire once the water recedes.”
High water that overflows the banks spreads fish out so there is less competition for beds and less predation. Though anglers struggled this year, high water often means bumper catches in subsequent years.
By the first week in August, flood stage in Morgan City stood at around 6 feet and falling, and the Atchafalaya River continues to fall. As the water gets closer to the 5-foot range, bream fishing should only get better in Flat Lake, Bear Bayou, Big Jessie Bayou and the Shell Oil canals out of Adams Landing near Belle River.
Manuel Rodrigue of Pierre Part hasn’t let the high water bother him. A retired angler who fishes without a depth finder said, “When the water is high, sometimes you just have to fish deeper. The structure is still there. The fish are still there. You just have to adjust and fish deeper — ain’t no doubt about it. I’ve been fishing Bayou Corne and Lake Verret. It’s been really good for me, and I haven’t gone anyplace else. The fish are biting right now, and it’ll get better on into September.”
Besides crickets and worms, Black said one of the hot baits for bream over the past couple of years has been a Triple Tip Grub in popsicle color. When tipped with a Berkeley Crappie Nibble, the combination has been extremely effective.