Four League Legions

The Swarms of redfish that call this bay home are a long way from anywhere, but the trip to them is well worth it.

For summer redfish action, locals from the St. Mary Parish Tri-City area head south, out the mouth of the Atchafalaya River and into Four League Bay. When Bayou Vista local Shane Wiggins and I made plans to take our wives redfishing, it was his knowledge of the area surrounding Oyster Bayou that made the location a no-brainer for me. I knew Christine and I were going along for the ride.

Wiggins’ father, Harry Lee, who is also captain of the Miss Carlie, spends much of his summers in “semi-retirement,” shrimping the area. It was the frequent trips dating back to his teenage years shuttling ice and shrimp back and forth for his dad that provided the younger Wiggins with an education one doesn’t receive from school books.

Moreover, the education wasn’t spent on shrimping either, but in pursuit of sport fishing.

The lower Atchafalaya River trip to Oyster Bayou might be considered an angler’s pilgrimage. You have to pass up lakes, bays, bayous and canals known for producing limits of bass, crappie and catfish along the way in order to get to saltwater action.

As I prepare for weekend trips, I often find myself in a quandary: Should I fish fresh water or salt? Bass or reds?

We take so much for granted in the Sportsman’s Paradise.

All total, the run from the landing in Berwick to Four League Bay takes approximately 35 to 45 minutes. It takes slightly longer to reach the mouth of Oyster Bayou, where it opens into the Gulf of Mexico, should that be your destination, as it was ours.

For Berwick local Harris Dehart Sr., long weekends periodically find him at the camp and chasing redfish on the north end of Four League Bay.

“I like to fish from Halter Island to Big Carencro Bayou,” Dehart said. “Using a piece of cracked crab or shrimp, we fish along the shoreline. Sometimes we even use the H&H black/yellow spinnerbait with a gold blade; it’s fun catching those big reds on artificial bait.

“Too bad they only let you keep one over 27 inches. We catch them and have to let them go, but it’s fun.”

Making a brief pit stop at the Miss Carlie, we were greeted by the sleepy-eyed older Wiggins. The two Wigginses exchanged notes as to where we might find fish, based on the older Wiggins’ local fish and game report, observing anglers during the week. It was determined that we should try Hell Hole Lake first.

Our tactics were as simple and as basic as you can get. We would fish the north end of the lake checking out the many little coves, drainages and points that shape the shoreline. We also would quietly anchor out approximately 40 yards or so in order to not spook the fish that potentially lurked the grassy shallows.

According to Wiggins, as the tide runs in or out, there is a sort of 6- to 8-foot zone extending away from the bank that the fish seem to feed in.

“The closer you can get to the grass, the better your chances are of catching fish,” he said. “That’s why I suggested tackle that lets you cast pretty far.”

Using a weighted cork with a No. 4/0 hook baited with a large shrimp, we attempted to cast into this zone with a long cast from our fixed location. Because the bottom of the lake is so full of shells, this method reduces the number of snags you so often get with weighted set-ups and allows the shrimp to drift in the slow-moving current. By giving a few short pops on the conical Styrofoam cork as you reel in, it provides some additional enticement to game fish.

It wasn’t long before our tactics began producing fish. We netted nearly a dozen large black drum, all between 16 and 27 inches, mixed in with a couple big sheepshead as we worked the edge of the lake.

Christine also fought a huge bull red before her line became chafed dragging along the sharp edges of the shell bottom.

There is nothing like a rod bent over and the distinct zinging sound of line peeling off to get your adrenaline running. For what seemed like an eternity, we all became expert coaches after reeling in our lines to give her plenty of room.

“Give it more line!”

“Let it tire itself out!”

“Reel him in!”

“Somebody get the net…”

Chris sort of went into a contorted posture as she tried to use her legs to help her hold the bent over rod while trying to reel in line at the same time. The shear power of big bull reds can be rough on small-statured folks. Chris is no exception.

When the line suddenly popped, we all in unison let out a sigh. Poor Chris’s posture went from contorted to someone who had lost her best friend.

Another Berwick local, Gerald Kapp, is very familiar with Hell Hole Lake and the surrounding area of Four League Bay.

“For redfish, I basically fish the shorelines and around structures,” he said. “In Hell Hole Lake, I’ll fish the north and east ends of the lake.

“I’m strictly an artificial-bait angler. I’ll use spinnerbaits, spoons or Brush Hogs. A lot of times, we stalk fish using the trolling motor on a falling tide.

“When you see fish, all you have to do is throw the bait out in front of him, and he’ll hit it. Almost any artificial bait you use for bass will work on redfish.

“Once you fish like this, you won’t go back. I personally like using a gold spoon and spinnerbait as long as it has a gold blade. For color, I’d use something with a chartreuse tail.”

On our trip, the tide wasn’t scheduled to fall until late in the afternoon, marginalizing some of our success on reds. Nonetheless, we made the most of it, as typical weekenders do.

Though we didn’t fish the entire lake, other places worth checking out in Hell Hole Lake are the weir blocking off the canal along the western side of the lake and the series of pilings several reaches up the little bayou located at the lake’s northwest corner. The little bayou leads to a long L-shaped canal in and out of the lake on the eastern side of Four League Bay at the north end of Big Oyster Bayou.

It was along these pilings that I attempted to use a freshwater tactic and cast past the pilings, letting a whole shrimp with no weight drift in the current as close to them as I could get it. This tactic allowed me to catch a couple of non-keeper rat reds.

I was sure that if we stayed longer, I would have eventually landed a few keepers, but there are so many other locations that produce fish, we decided to move to greener pastures.

According to Kapp, a falling tide is the best time to fish the area. In general, Kapp suggested fishing Mosquito Bay trying the right bank toward little Mosquito Bayou.

Other areas Kapp recommends include the north shore of South Point toward Pelligrin’s Cut and Blue Hammock Bayou.

“These areas are all good on a falling tide,” Kapp said, “Fish around damns, rocks and weirs.”

Typical summer weather along coastal Louisiana is not without its drawbacks. Offshore squalls come up suddenly during the day, and are prone to catch you off guard if you’re not paying attention.

Our day was shortened as a result of one of these events.

Riding out the weather on the Miss Carlie, we were joined by some other anglers seeking the refuge of her dry porch decks. Regrouping after a late lunch, we decided to fish Old Oyster Bayou as the tide was beginning to fall.

Just past the mouth, as you enter the bayou along the right bank, you’ll find several little tributaries that run out of the marsh that produce fish.

Employing the same tactics we used during the morning, it wasn’t long before Christine’s pole was bent over in a strain with line zinging. This time, there was no coaching as Chris was putting it on the big red with a vengeance. I just grabbed the net.

The bays, lakes and bayous surrounding Four League Bay produce fish consistently for sportsmen planning to make the trip out the mouth of the Atchafalaya River.