Folks have been trying to blow taps over the Pointe a la Hache area for years, ever since the Mardi Gras Cut breached a nearby levee and began inundating the area with cold, muddy Mississippi River water.
The continual flow of river water through that breach has had a devastating effect on the whole fishery, destroying miles of productive oyster reefs and displacing everything else, from shrimp to crabs to all the various fish that require salty water to survive. It’s a tale of woe familiar for everyone who fished the area.
Today, the oyster boats, shrimp boats and crab boats are gone, and the anglers who remain content themselves with chasing redfish and bass or running a little ways to find speckled trout.
Chris Danos (504-606-6223) operates Screaming Reels Fishing Charters out of Beshel’s Marina in Pointe a la Hache, and he isn’t ready to blow taps just yet. He’s confident enough to spring for a new 24-foot bay boat for his charters. He said things have been tough enough, especially after a colder-than-expected winter and some of the lowest tides he’s seen in years.
“We were finally getting the tides we needed to get the water up, and the weather conditions vastly improved, and then all the rains and melting snow in the midwest has the river up again, and we’re dealing with ugly water as a result,” said Danos. “The good news is, by the first week in April, the river is predicted to be back to about 6 feet, and I expect to see trout all over American Bay, Bay Gardene, Grand Point Bay — that whole area.”
Danos was on a consistent bite of nice-sized specks around Iron Banks just before the big freeze in late February, and now that conditions have dramatically improved, that action should be good again. But he cautions anglers unfamiliar with Iron Banks to be aware of numerous subsurface hazards there that have wrecked many a lower unit.
Bass, specks spawning
“This is spawning time for specks and bass, so they’ll be hungry,” Danos said. “I expect the trout to show up in good numbers and sizes this month in Lake Robin, Lake Campo, Bay Lafourche and Oak River Bay. Generally, I’ll fish live shrimp or soft-plastic baits under a 99-cent, clip-on cork, so I can easily adjust my depth to locate the fish.
“This time of year, the water temperatures are lower, so it’s important to vary the depth of your cork. If everyone is 2½ feet under a cork, you’ll miss fish hanging at the 4- or 5-foot depths in the ugly water. My motto: try a foot deeper.
“Live shrimp is always good insurance, but I’ll still throw some plastic as well. I like the Salt Water Assassins in the green moon color, and Matrix in Lemonhead or ahrimp creole, or the Vudu or H20 shrimp in the glow color.”
And the simple cast-and-retrieve method with swimbaits still produces, he said.
As for tactics, Danos will fish reefs, points, cuts, mouths of bayous, around marsh islands or anywhere he sees bait activity or good current flows.
“Naturally, I’ll look for clean water, but the fish will bite in ugly water if the tide is moving,” he said. “Sometimes, the better water is under the ugly water, closer to the bottom. You won’t catch trout in pure freshwater, but I’ve been catching some nice trout in water that looks too ugly to fish. And if you poke up into some of the canals where there’s grass, fish along those grasslines for reds and bass. I fish the same area with the same baits and catch reds, drum, bass, trout, croakers big enough to scale and fry whole, and even some flounder.”
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