Timing is everything, so they say. And when it comes to fishing on Yucatan Lake in Tensas Parish, truer words were never spoken.
And the time is right.
Yucatan is an active Mississippi River oxbow lake south of Tallulah and east of Newellton. It covers 2,421 acres at pool stage, but a lot more area when the backwater is slowly falling out of the flooded woods around the lake.
That slow fall began in August. When the river level at nearby Vicksburg hit 19 feet, the fishing was on, and it’s getting better every day. The main target here are slab white perch. Everybody else may call them crappie or sac-a-lait, but on Yucatan, they are still white perch, according to Juanita Lachney, who helps manage Yucatan Landing with her husband, Perry. The good fishing will keep going for white perch, bass and bream until the Yucatan reaches the 9-foot level and hits pool stage.
“Oh my goodness, you should see some of the slabs they are already catching right now,” she said. “The water is coming out of the woods, and the fishermen are catching big white perch right along the woods line where the water is a little bit cooler.”
Mop up in the trees, bushes
The prime spot to fish for white perch, she said, is around ironwood bushes and willow trees. Because the water is on a slow fall, fish will often move a little to find their comfort zone, but once you find them, Lachney said you can “mop up.”
“We are seeing some of the biggest ones we’ve ever seen this year, and they are big healthy fish,” she said. “A lot of places, fish aren’t that healthy in the late summer, but Yucatan is like no other oxbow.”
The best way to catch crappie is to fish with a hair jig; be ready to offer up different colors, because what they bit yesterday, they might not want today, she said. One day, it may be black/chartreuse. The next day, it may be pink with a red head. And if they don’t hit jigs, try a live shiner; if you don’t get them that way, there’s one sure-fire bait for Yucatan success: fish a jig with a shiner attached and “it will get them every time”, she said. A good depth to depend on for crappie is about 6 to 7 feet.
Another thing interesting about Yucatan this time of year is that you don’t have to get up early to catch fish. The best fishing is often between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. — the hottest time of the day. Lachney said she doesn’t know why, but that is how it is.
Moving water helps
One thing that makes Yucatan so productive is that the chute to the Mississippi River allows flow to and from the river all the way up into the fall. When the lake does hit pool stage, fishing is still good, but you have to move a little further into the wide oxbow to find fish. And the lake is full of baitfish.
White perch will stack up on old fallen in piers, stump lines and the many tops and fallen trees that go out into the deeper water, Lachney said.
“Those old, wrecked piers that have been there for years; those spots are some of the best fishing holes you will find anywhere,” she said. “They are a haven for fish.”
Later in September, when fish move out into the tops, fishermen will find them suspended anywhere from 5 to 10 feet deep. With today’s modern electronics, it’s usually easy to find the tops that are holding lots of fish and see what depth they are without a lot of experimenting.
“I just love this place,” Lachney said. “Perry and I just celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary, and we’ve loved this place our whole lives. It never gets old. In fact, we spent our honeymoon right here.”
Lachney doesn’t get to fish as much while minding the store, owned by her son, Eugene, who is on active duty with the U.S. Army. But when she does, she knows exactly what to do.
“We love fishing, and we love seeing all these other folks catch fish.