Austin Meche works as a dispatcher for Acadian Ambulance in Lafayette and it’s been quite hectic down in that part of the state after Hurricane Laura passed through, leaving a wake of devastation.
So the 28-year-old was glad to get a chance to get some time off and a chance to go fishing Wednesday, Sept. 9. But his favorite spots to fish were all negatively affected by the hurricane, so he loaded up his Pelican kayak and made the almost three hour drive from his home in Crowley over to Lake Pontchartrain. It was his first fishing trip to the 630 square mile lake between Mandeville and New Orleans.
There was another first, too. He caught a three-pound flounder that, as he simply put it, “really looked weird.” The fish was a regular greenish – brown camo pattern from the mouth to the gills, but from the gills to the tail, it was almost solid white with one or two little brown spots.
“It was something,” he said. “When I first reeled the fish up closer to the boat, I thought it was half wrapped up in a white plastic Walmart bag or something, but once I got my hands on it, I could see the crazy color. At first, I thought maybe it had an accident and the scales were missing, but they were all there. They were just white.”
Albino and piebald (leucistic) color flounder are rare, but they have been caught all up and down the southeast coast and in brackish inland waters like Lake Pontchartrain. The basic difference between albino and piebald coloration is that piebald has some of the regular coloring as well and isn’t totally without color. There are several possible causes of this pigmentation disorder, but a common one is an injury when the fish is young.
“The funny thing about this fish is that it was the regular off-color white on its bottom side, but the white on the top of the fish was a brighter, vibrant white,” he said.
Meche used technology to help select a good spot for his first trip to Lake Pontchartrain. He knew the big lake would be too rough for the kayak, so he looked online at Google Earth and found some spots where he could get off the main lake. He found a little canal that crossed under a bridge and entered the lake. It ended up being the London Avenue Canal and he fished the mouth of it with some pretty good success. The London Avenue Canal is a drainage canal used for pumping rain water into Lake Pontchartrain from the Gentilly area to the Lakefront.
Trying for a flounder
“At first, I had it all to myself, but then another fisherman came to the same spot. We were catching some speckled trout up under the bridge and after he left, I decided to try catching some flounder. I put on a chartreuse color Berkley Swimming Mullet lure and caught a few small ones,” he said. “The other fisherman that was there told me there were some deep trenches up between the pilings, so I fished the lure along the edges of the trenches. I was fishing it kind of like a bass worm. Pop it a couple of times, let it sink and then do it over again.”
It was about 3 p.m. and Austin was about ready to make the drive home when he decided on just a few more casts. That’s when he hooked the unusual flounder and he decided that was it and he called it a day. Back at the dock, several people were looking over the fish and none had ever seen one like it. Austin and his family fish all the time and it was a first for any of them as well. He put the fish in his freezer and plans on having it mounted.
“I may have to go back over there and fish some more,” he said. “It’s quite a drive, but after Laura, it will be a while before the fishing here gets back anywhere near normal. I remember after Hurricane Rita hit, it was over a year before the ecosystem got back to normal.”
His usual favorite spots are around the Lake Charles Area, where he puts in at Hackberry, he said.
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