The Mississippi River will surely be pumping mud into much of the marsh around its mouth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas that will produce plenty of fish. Here’s how to find clean water to keep the festivities rolling.
“No! “the women shrieked, while swiveling their heads from Doc to Artie. “Not another one!”
Doc was dumping yet another sack of crawfish into the purge bin, while Artie tapped another keg.
That made three sacks of crawfish and two kegs.
But it was 10:30 p.m., when some thought Doc’s infamous St. Paddy’s Day Paaaw-ty would be shutting — or at least slowing — down.
Hah! Doc was born and raised In “Da Irish Channel,” you see. His St. Patrick’s Day Paaawty outdoes even his Caaaw-nival festivities — not that he’s exactly a slouch with those, which had finally expired barely four weeks earlier.
As tradition dictated, after shutting down Friday night the paaawty would resume on Sunday with more crawfish (with cabbages added to the corn and potatoes in the boiling waaaw-dah!) plus the famous fish feast — fried and grilled, or so it usually went.
That’s what seemed to have the women worried.
“Thought y’all were getting up early tomorrow to fish?” Trisha asked while pointing her watch. “Won’t be too easy now. Should I go ahead and buy the bags of frozen tilapia and farm catfish?”
The room went suddenly silent as all heads turned to focus on Trisha, who slowly raised her hand to her now-gaping mouth.
Remember “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?” Remember Nurse Ratched’s evil scowl? Well, men can do it too.
The proof was on the faces of every male in Doc’s den — all were (mostly) meat fishermen — and all focused on Trisha, whose breach of decorum become instantly obvious and scandalous. She had verbally emasculated us all.
Trish was hitting way below the belt.
In fact, as usual this time of year, our fish larders were low. Our invading out-of-town family and friends during Maaawdi Gras had preyed heavily on our generosity, heading to the airport with coolers full of thick fillets, mostly “bay snapper” and reds.
“Sorry. SORRY!” Trisha finally gasped, recognizing the gravity of her gaffe. “Here! HERE! I’ll open another bottle of wine.”
And she scurried over to the kitchen, blushing.
“Of course we’re going fishing tomorrow!” Pelayo finally yelled, breaking the icy silence. “Who said we weren’t? But we’re probably leaving around 9 or 10 after a good night’s sleep. Right troopers? And, despite all these blustery southeast winds and high river waaaw-dah, we’re bringing back plenty enough fixings for the fish feast. Party’s ON!”
Many whooped, but a couple of newcomers looked skeptical, especially Artie’s new neighbor Vance (no relation to Vince.)
So Pelayo clapped his hands to get our attention, bent over into Morgus the Magnificent’s trademark crouch, and motioned us over to Doc’s big screen computer where he clicked on Google maps.
Then he looked around the room and made a pipe-grabbing motion under his chin like Sherlock Holmes.
“Elementary, my dear Waguespack (Artie’s last name),” Pelayo said as he pointed at the screen. “Usually everybody’s bellyaching this time-a-year because of the high Mississippi and Pearl rivers muddying and freshening our favorite Southeast Louisiana coastal fishing spots. Right, Chopsley?”
“Right!” we all answered, including the a newly smiling and wine-sipping Trisha.
“Well, check this out,” Pelayo said, pointing to the Buras area on the map. “Note how the river bends here. Note how Bays Pomme d’ Orr, Hospital and Yellow Cotton — up here — kinda hug the uppermost reaches of the marsh close to the western river levee. And note how all of the little spillways — from up here above Ostrica down to Baptiste Collete — are all located on the eastern side of the river. Sure, that area is mostly unfishable around now.
“But note how none of those spillways affect this western side of the Plaquemines Parish peninsula. Sure, that’s bad for the marsh in the long run. But in the very short run — as in this weekend — it provides us with a place to get the makings of our St. Paddy’s Day fish feast. The only river waaaw-dah that affects this area seeps through the Empire locks — up here. And through Red Pass — down here.
“We’ll be fishing almost exactly between these spigots for dirty river waaaw-dah. So we’ll be fishing a fairly protected area. Ya follow what I’m saying?”
“So what!” Artie blurted while looking around with a smart-aleck grin. “But the river waaaw-dah pours outta Red Pass, Tante-Phine and Tiger — then loops around with the southeast wind to cover that entire coast. The incoming tide fills that whole area of marsh with chocolate milk. Da bite shuts down! ”
“Sure, Artie!” Pelayo quickly countered. “But that’s on an incoming tide — exactly why we’re fishing mid-day tomorrow! The high tide’s at 10:35 a.m. at the Empire jetties tomorrow. So we plan to start fishing right around noon — after it has started falling.
“It’s the falling tide that creates pockets of semi-clear waaaw-dah in this area. The semi-clear water from those upper bays and the grass-filled ponds in what remains of the marsh in this area starts draining and forming those semi-clean pockets that concentrate the feeding fish. “Heck it simplifies matters!”
Pelayo banged his fist into his palm like Huey Long on the stump.
“Instead of running around all over the place like we might do in the fall when the whole area is clear, we simply concentrate on those drains where we know the waaaw-dah will be semi-clear!” he hooted. “Save time, save gas and catch fish — ya follow me!”
“Of course I follow ya!” Artie laughed. “I was just playing the bad cop for the benefit of our new friends here tonight — so they might learn a little from your genius, Professor Morgus-Holmes!”
“Don’t know about this,” Artie grumbled while pointing at the water as we headed down the feeble remnants of what used to be Dry Cypress Bayou late the next morning. “Water looks plenty dirty to me. We coulda gotten another hour of sleep!”
Artie had a point. As usual the strong southeast wind had delayed the dropping of the tide.
Delayed and slowed but not prevented.
The first stop was an eroded shoreline along a silted-up pipeline canal near the end of what old maps show as Dry Cypress Bayou, just west of what old maps show as Bay Jacques.
The depth finder showed about 2 “foota-waaawdah.” The waves were lapping gently over the flooded wire grass. The water was clear by the standards of this area (about 5-inch visibility) and moving, a little.
The place had redfish written all over it.
Pelayo made his first cast from the stern. I turned to watch his cork hit smack at the grass line. Two feet under it was a chartreuse beetle sweetened with “maaaw-ket” shrimp. Not exactly an exotic, newfangled rig.
One pop, two pops, a little bouncing, a swirl — WHAM!
“Hah!” Pelayo whooped and his drag started singing. “Da bite’s already ON!”
The fish put up a nice wake as it plowed through the flooded grass and turned for the open deeper water.
“Acting just like a griller!” Pelayo whooped again. “When you net him, let’s snap a shot and text it to Trisha as proof that the paaawty’s ON!”
I baited my white beetle with shrimp and cast right where Pelayo had been. The coolish water in this area in March still has most of those insufferable hardheads hiding out — so shrimp attracts mostly “box” fish.
In fact, given the generally murky water in this area (even when “clear”) sweetening the hook with “maaaw-ket” shrimp always works best for us.
“YEAH! ” I howled, rearing back and feeling that solid weight and lunge that set my reel screaming.
The first run zinged off 20 feet of line while my vintage Mitchell 300 sang its sweet music!
Trisha and Doc got the pics, and promptly texted back a thumbs-up.
All agreed that the paaawty was on.
We caught a few more reds, puppy drum and two sheepshead fishing similar current-washed points along the area’s eroded shorelines. Then we pulled up and headed over to the mouth of Bayou Jacques, a deep, oyster-studded channel that immediately let’s you know when the tide’s moving in this area.
Sure enough. Pelayo pointed at the current lines forming and creating the classic “inside rip,” as we call them, where the darker pond water mixes with the murky bay water.
Artie’s cork over a tandem shad-rig sailed toward the action — just as a tern smacked the water.
“We’re ON ’em! Yessir!” yelled Artie in short order.
Then the school speck on the end of his line broke the surface in a gill-rattling frenzy. Vance cast out right next to Artie’s cork and hauled in a 14-inch trout.
“Deze ain’t tripletail or chicken dolphin like I usually catch along those offshore rips,” Vance laughed as he plopped the speck into da box. “But he’ll DO!”
We nailed about 20 school specks in the process — far from a limit, but still a blast. Along with the 6 reds, 5 puppy drum and 2 sheepshead it meant one thing.
Da PAAAWTY was ON!
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.