Overlooked lakes

In many Central Louisiana lakes, anglers can catch both bluegills (left) and redear sunfish, also called shellcrackers. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

Between the outstanding saltwater action along the coast and the great fishing lakes in northern Louisiana, many smaller lesser-known waterbodies in Central Louisiana might get overlooked, but they offer awesome fishing for various species.

Chicot Lake

Nestled amid 6,400 acres of rolling hills blanketed with forest, Chicot Lake spreads across 1,642 acres entirely within Chicot State Park about seven miles from Ville Platte in Evangeline Parish. The lake averages about seven feet deep, but some holes drop to about 15 feet deep.

Like many central Louisiana lakes, the impoundment looks more like a flooded cypress swamp than a lake with abundant thick grass mats, lily pads and fallen trees. Some cleared boat lanes run through the timber. Anywhere a bait falls looks like it should hold a giant bass. The lake delivers good numbers of 8- to 9-pound bass and many double-digit fish. In the past, the lake produced bass exceeding 13 pounds.

“Chicot Lake has some huge bass,” said Greg Hackney, a professional bass angler from Gonzales. “Anyone who fishes Chicot always has a chance to land a 10-pound bass, especially in late winter or early spring.”

The lake also holds sizeable populations of catfish, crappie, bluegill and redear sunfish, also called chinquapin or shellcrackers. Many people drop crickets near the trees for bream or shiners near fallen brush for crappie.

“Chicot Lake has trees everywhere,” said Chad Aucoin, a fisherman from Pine Prairie. “It’s kind of a tough lake to fish, but it has some big bass and good sac-a-lait (crappie) around those trees.”

People can launch at ramps in the park and find lodging there. Park visitors can fish off public piers. With all the trees blocking the wind, Chicot Lake offers an excellent place to fish from a kayak. For information, see www.lastateparks.com/parks-preserves/chicot-state-park. 

Hunter Dubroc of Deville (right) was fishing in a tournament on Cotile Lake with his buddy, Dawson McCann, when he caught an 11.4-pound bass. (Photo courtesy Hunter Dubroc)

Cotile Lake

Cotile Lake about 15 miles west of Alexandria near Boyce in Rapides Parish can also produce double-digit bass. At about 1,775 acres, the fertile lake offers excellent cover with considerable vegetation, flooded timber and stumps. An old road goes through the middle of it. The lake drops to about 24 feet deep in places.

Grand Bayou Reservoir can produce some big bass, crappie and other species. (Photo courtesy Wesley Miller)

“Cotile Lake has a really good bass fishery,” said Shelby Richard, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries biologist in Pineville. “We completed a drawdown in 2022. When the water comes back up, the fish population typically rebounds in a year or two. It’s really good in the third year. We’ve had multiple reports of people catching double-digit bass. In May 2023, a youth angler caught a 12-pounder. During our recent electrofishing, we caught a 10-pounder.”

The lake also produces good bluegill, redear sunfish and catfish action. It also holds some big crappie. Some crappie top three pounds.

The Cotile Lake Recreation Area offers boat launching, swimming, camping and other opportunities. See rppj.com/departments/cotile-lake-recreation.

Grand Bayou Reservoir

John K. Kelly Grand Bayou Reservoir, better known simply as Grand Bayou, spreads across 2,700 acres near Coushatta in Red River Parish. The old Grand Bayou channel runs through the lake. The lake averages about nine to 10 feet deep, but a few holes drop to 20 feet deep.

The small lake produced some huge bass with numerous fish in the 10- to 12-pound range and some heavier than 13 pounds. Anglers fish the channel edges, drop-offs, gravel beds and other contours on the clear-cut lake bottom. The lake also produces good catches of crappie, catfish and bream.

“Often, we’ll find fish around the creek channel,” said Wesley Miller with Big Sasquatch Outdoors (318-465-1668, Facebook) from Minden. “With electronics, we can find some crappie on the brush piles and points. Crappie average about 1- to 1.5 pounds, but we get some crappie in the 2-pound range. It also has some big catfish.”

Karson Bourgeois with a bass caught at Indian Creek.

For launching, lodging and other amenities, go to Grand Bayou Resort. See grandbayouresort.com.

Indian Creek Reservoir

Indian Creek Reservoir near Woodworth in Rapides Parish receives considerable help from a state hatchery on its shoreline. The 2,200-acre lake holds some double-digit largemouth. Some top 14 pounds.

“With the Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery next to the lake, we’ve had some incidental releases of Florida largemouth bass whenever they drain the pond and harvest the fish,” Richard said. “In our gill net sampling, we caught and released a 15-pound bass. Indian Creek has clear water with lots of hydrilla in it.”

The impoundment also produces good bream action. For lodging and facilities, visit the Indian Creek Recreation Area. See www.ldaf.la.gov/indian-creek-recreation-area.

Kincaid Lake

Lake Kincaid is spread across 2,600 acres of the Kisatchie National Forest in Rapides Parish west of Alexandria. The lake holds big bass, bream and crappie. It delivered some bass in the 13- to 14-pound range.

“Kincaid is a clear lake with a sandy bottom,” Richard said. “It has many stumps, but also some open areas. It’s really good for crappie and redear. I fished there with my two sons and dad in April 2023. We caught 32 nice redear. The bass and crappie are doing well. In a recent sampling, we caught two double-digit bass.”

Steve Richard and his grandsons, Jacob Richard (left) and Caleb Richard (right), show off a nice redear sunfish they caught while fishing Kincaid Lake. (Photo courtesy Shelby Richard)

The water plunges to 25 feet deep in places. In 2023, the state partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to deploy 42 artificial reefs in the lake. The USFS operates some boat ramps.

Little River

Little River begins about three miles northeast of Georgetown at the confluence of Dugdemona River and Castor Creek. It runs 96 miles through Central Louisiana, eventually hitting the Ouachita, or Black River, near Jonesville in Catahoula Parish. The state designated 53 miles of it a natural and scenic river.

“It’s more like a bigger creek than a river,” said Kevin Lasyone, a tournament bass angler from Dry Prong. “Catahoula Lake gets its water from the Little River. In July, the state opens the locks to drain the lake so grass can grow for duck food. When the state opens the locks, we get in the current breaks on Little River and smoke the bass.”

Miller’s Lake

Miller’s Lake, a private lake open to public fishing except during duck season, began as a flat swampy area near Pine Prairie in Evangeline Parish. Much of the leveed 3,200-acre impoundment still looks like a cypress swamp. The lake produced bass topping 15 pounds, crappie larger than three pounds, redear up to two pounds.

“Miller’s Lake is very heavily wooded with a lot of flooded timber in shallow water,” Aucoin said. “In the middle of the lake, it’s about four feet deep. Some parts are about six feet deep where they dug to make the levee. It has some 5- to 6-pound bass and bigger ones. It’s also a pretty good bream lake.”

People can cross the levee and access the lake on the south end.

Mississippi River Oxbows

Lake Concordia, an oxbow near Ferriday in Concordia Parish, produced some bass exceeding 13 pounds. About six miles long, narrow and relatively shallow, the 1,000-acre lake averages about 10 to 15 feet deep, but some holes drop to more than 55 feet deep. Grassy flats at either end attract big fish.

Many people come to Lake Concordia for its outstanding bream fishing, especially during late spring. The lake holds some giant bluegill and redear. People can launch and find facilities in Ferriday.

Yucatan Lake, a 2,421-acre oxbow near Newellton in Tensaw Parish, excels for crappie and white bass action. Since the lake still connects to the Mississippi River, the water fluctuates wildly. The best fishing normally occurs when water falls.

Also in Tensas Parish, Lake Bruin covers 2,342 acres near St. Joseph. One of the deepest lakes in that part of the state, the oxbow averages about 20 to 30 feet deep. Some holes drop to more than 55 feet deep. Lake St. John covers about 2,200 acres near Ferriday.

“Lake St. John is probably my favorite oxbow lake on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi, but they are all good,” Hackney said. “All of them are known for big bass, especially in the spring.”

Bass pro Greg Hackney loves to fish cypress trees like these that dominate the cover in many central Louisiana lakes. (Photo courtesy Greg Hackney)

Saline-Larto Complex

Few places in Louisiana produce more giant crappie than the Saline-Larto complex. Saline Lake covers 1,971 acres near Deville. Slightly deeper and more open, Lake Larto stretches to about 2,492 acres 25 miles south of Jonesville.

Saline Bayou connects the two lakes, creating an 8,000-acre wetland complex meandering through Catahoula, LaSalle, Avoyelles and Rapides Parishes. The complex regularly produces 2- to 2.5-pound fish and some bigger crappie.

“The Saline-Larto Complex is a world-class crappie fishery,” Hackney said. “It’s one of the better places to go in the entire state for crappie because of the sheer numbers of fish.

“Much of it is like a cypress swamp with lots of flooded timber.”

Many largemouth run in the 6- to 7-pound range with some hitting double digits. The area also produces good bream and catfish. Protected by numerous trees, the complex provides excellent kayak fishing.

“Saline-Larto holds really good for bass,” Hackney said. “In spring bass tournaments, anglers sometimes catch 8- or 9-pounders, but it’s really known for numbers with many 2- to 2.5-pounders.”

Several launches in the sprawling system provide access.

Numerous other systems also offer excellent fishing. Even in the smallest waters, any cast could produce a monster fish. 

About John N. Felsher 47 Articles
Originally from Louisiana, John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer, broadcaster, photographer and editor who now lives in Alabama. An avid sportsman, he’s written more than 3,600 articles for more than 173 different magazines on a wide variety of outdoors topics. He also hosts an outdoors tips show for WAVH FM Talk 106.5 radio station in Mobile, Ala. Contact him at j.felsher@hotmail.com or through Facebook.