Big summer bluegill, quality bass await
Neal Pace will go almost to Alabama for some of the best summer bream fishing in north Louisiana — the Alabama Landing area of the Ouachita River, that is.
That’s where the Finch and Harrell lakes complex lies deep in the Union Parish woods in the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge.
“You won’t stumble on this lake by accident,” the Farmerville diesel mechanic at Foster Farms said. “But you might be surprised just how great the fishing is in here.
“Bluegills weighing close to a pound are common in July.”
And the bream fishing is great throughout the summer months, Pace said.
He fishes shallow gravel roads or eases down flooded gas lines to find openings in the woods to locate bream beds.
But it’s hard to find any area of the lake that doesn’t have bream.
One tip Pace offered is to take a push pole with you: When the fish are shallow and the wind is calm, you can push off the bottom or nearby trees to move your boat, avoiding stirring up the water with a trolling motor.
“When the Ouachita is still backed up in here, you can get farther back in the woods, find openings among the hardwoods and find some good bream beds,” Pace said. “You want to avoid areas where there is current …. Find the still water.
“Then, when the river is all the way out of the lakes, your best bets are just fishing around the edges of the tupelo and cypress trees. The second-best spots are in the stump fields.”
No matter the river level, however, you want to fish shallow.
“The bream won’t be deep this month,” Pace says. “You can usually find them in 3 to 5 feet of water. Fish about 6 inches off the bottom.”
Crickets are the easiest bait to use, but red worms and cold worms are also effective, Pace said.
But if you can find them, catalpa worms work the best. Just take about a third of a catalpa worm and put it on your hook.
Bluegills aren’t the only offering in Finch and Harrell, a long chute off the eastern side of Finch: Crappie school in the deeper channels and can be caught in 10 to 15 feet of water fishing shiners or jigs about 5 to 6 feet deep.
Bass fishing also is excellent in the summer. Focus on grass beds with white spinnerbaits or topwaters, or fish flooded cypress trees with plastic worms to catch bass up to 6 pounds, Pace said.
There are two landings on Finch: one an unimproved landing on the north end off Public Landing Road (on the way to the Finch Bayou Landing on the Ouachita River).
The best area to launch is at the Finch Lake campground off Finch Lake Road (Highway PAR 2285). You can launch just about any size boat there, but aluminum fishing rigs give you more access in the thick wooded areas, Pace said.
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