Man of the swamp

Johnny Broussard’s great passion is fishing for goujon with a rod and reel.

“Around here,” he explained, “not many people fish for catfish with a rod and reel. They fish hoop nets or bush lines. I like to fish with a pole — it’s a lot more fun, although I run bush lines, too.

“I don’t like fishing for sac-a-lait. It’s crazy out here when they are biting. People come from everywhere to fish for them; I like to fish when the swamp is quiet.”

Another of his great loves is crawfishing. He fishes 100 “cages,” as he calls them. During his long work hours in the spring, he jams in runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

During the fall and winter, his work slows down and Broussard devotes every moment of time he can to hunting, starting in October with bow season for deer and squirrel season in the Atchafalaya Basin.

By late October and November, gun seasons for deer begin opening up and he travels “way up north,” as he puts it, to hunt in Louisiana’s Kisatche National Forest, and Clear Creek and Jackson Bienville wildlife management areas.

Then he comes back to his home swamps to gun-hunt deer in the Atchafalaya Basin’s public lands, and Sherburne and Attakapas WMAs.

His specialty is stalking deer and catching them when they are moving.

“I don’t like sitting in a stand. It ain’t hunting,” he said with his eyes ablaze. “You have to have wood skills. When you move in the woods you see things.

“If you are quiet enough, you see a lot of stuff.”

He even extends his love of stalking to bow hunting, and has killed two deer with a bow while stalking — not an easy feat.

Frogging is a big deal for him in spring. It’s something he can do at night after work, like his catfishing.

He estimates that he makes about 30 frogging trips in the Atchafalay Basin per year, but he said he’s “not a die-hard like some around here. They have some real woodsmen here.”

Broussard fishes for goujon from May through August. The benchmark he watches is the Atchafalaya River gauge at Butte Larose; goujon fishing the way he does it is best when the river is between 8 and 13 feet on the gauge.

When the river is above 13 feet, the baitfish he needs are scattered in the flooded woods. Below 8 feet, current speed slows dramatically.

“It takes forever for the fish to come to the bait,” he complained. “I sincerely believe that the faster the current speed is the faster the action of the bait is that attracts the fish.

“They claim that catfish can taste through their skins. I don’t know about that, but ….”

Another problem with the slower current speeds of late summer is that garfish will hit his baits.

“I don’t like feeding garfish,” Broussard snorted.

He targets the Atchafalaya Basin’s larger bayous because they all have good water currents. These include Jake’s Bayou, Bayou Sorrell, Devil’s Chute, Bayou Crook Chene and Bloody Bayou.

If he makes the full run from his camp on Lake Long Cut (aka the GA Cut), he will cover about 20 miles. From the camp, it will be up the GA Cut, through Bayou Crook Chene, up the main channel of the Atchafalaya River, down Jake’s Bayou into the New Cut of Bayou Sorrell and then back again to the Atchafalaya River channel.

His base of operations for much of his hunting, fishing, frogging and crawfishing is his and his brother-in-law Mike Russo’s comfortable three-room camp. Set in the middle of a green jungle, it is equipped with air conditioning and a propane refrigerator.

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.