Pass a Good Time

Grand Isle’s Caminada Pass bridge is the place to go for summertime crab and trout action — no boat necessary.

After spending a hot summer day searching for speckled trout in the surf, the cool sea breeze felt good as I strolled down the old wooden bridge among a crowd of people after dark.

Singles, couples and families were lined up side by side along the railing, and the smell of grilled food hung in the air as a country tune played on a distant boom box.

The bustle of people and sights and sounds reminded me of a parish fair midway. But these folks were not out for carnival rides: Lined up along the old Highway 1 bridge, they were after trout.

Fishing under the lights at Grand Isle’s Caminada Pass bridge is a family thing, and the action can be as hot as a blistering dog day of summer.

Highway 1 is the only way in or out of Grand Isle. Snaking through the marsh from Leeville to Fourchon, it crosses Caminada Pass to reach the island. Josie Cheramie of the Grand Isle Tourist Commission said the wooden Caminada bridge dates back many years.

“The first car rolled over the old bridge on Sept. 5, 1932,” Cheramie said.

According to Ray Santiny, Grand Isle’s town clerk, a modern concrete bridge was put in during the 1960s.

“They then tore down the middle span of the old wooden bridge to keep cars off it. It’s been a public fishing bridge ever since, and the city of Grand Isle maintains it,” Santiny said.

The bridge has suffered a lot in the past few years. Hurricane Katrina destroyed part of it in 2005, but officials repaired the damage and reopened the popular fishing spot three years later.

Then, on the night of Sept. 19, 2009, an electrical fire sparked a blaze that burned down much of the eastern side of the bridge.

The western portion was unaffected by the fire,however, and today the unburned section on the east side has been reopened to fishing — and plans are in the works to rebuild the part that was destroyed.

I discovered this fishing hotspot by accident while on my first trip to Grand Isle to fish for speckled trout. Arriving at Bridge Side Marina in early afternoon after a long drive, I checked into my room and decided to stretch my legs a bit. The old bridge sits adjacent to the marina, and seemed like a good place to take a walk.

I soon ran into Charlie and Lisa Theriot, who had also just arrived and were preparing for an afternoon of crabbing.

“For at least 20 years, we’ve been coming here in the summer and staying a week, sometimes two,” Charlie Theriot said. “We used to come with our kids, but it’s just us now. We always come in the latter part of July or August when the crabs are running.”

Being a North Louisiana boy, I have no experience in crabbing, so the Theriots gave me a quick lesson. Charlie explained that it isn’t a high-tech sport.

“We go to Walmart and buy a dozen nets for a couple dollars a piece,” Charlie Theriot said. “They’ll usually last a week’s worth of fishing.”

Theriot also keeps his bait expenses to a minimum.

“Any kind of chicken or turkey meat like legs, necks and thighs will work,” he said. “I use chicken thighs because that’s about the cheapest.”

Because the bridge is about 20 feet high, Theriot had to tie a long heavy cord to his nets to reach the water.

“I tie mine between the bridge pilings so they won’t get hung up,” he said. “When the crabs are running, it really doesn’t matter where you put them. Any place along the bridge is good and at any depth.”

The crabs seemed to be running well this particular afternoon. The Theriots had only been on the bridge for about 30 minutes but already had about a dozen in their bucket.

While we talked, Charlie Theriot stopped every couple of minutes to help wife Lisa when she pulled up a net.

Wearing heavy welder’s gloves, Theriot reached down and picked up one of the crabs to show me.

“These are running real nice-size,” he said. “We’ll catch one, maybe two at a time. Sometimes you might get three, but then one often will get out. If you stayed out here all night you could fill an ice chest.

“We used to keep a lot, but now it’s just the two of us so we might keep a couple dozen.”

Theriot went on to explain that, while crabs are found around the bridge in huge numbers, you can’t keep everything you catch.

“You can catch a bunch, but you have to throw back females with eggs on them,” he said. “Sometimes for every 10 you catch you have to throw back five.”

As I left, Theriot echoed a sentiment I was to hear repeated over and over.

“I’m glad to see them maintain the bridge,” he said. “Not everyone can afford a $30,000 boat, and it’s almost as good fishing here as in a boat.

“What I like about the bridge is that you can come out here at night and it’s cool, with a breeze. You can bring the wife and kids, the whole family.”

While crabbing is popular on the bridge during the day, things really crank up after dark.

Starting about sundown, groups of people head out to lay claim to one of the many large lights that shine down on the water. At night, these lights attract shrimp, crab, mullet and other bait, which in turn bring in an incredible number of speckled and white trout.

A summer night on the Caminada Pass bridge is something you have to see to believe. Families pack up all their fishing tackle, bait, lawn chairs and ice chests onto wagons, and drag it all out on the old roadbed.

There was a beautiful full moon playing peek-a-boo in the clouds this night, and a distant thunderstorm entertained us with impressive flashes of lightning.

Near the bridge, porpoises cruised along the outer fringe of light, blowing air and chasing baitfish. Some of the fishermen humored themselves by throwing out croakers or white trout and watching the porpoises scarf them down.

I happened to check things out not long after sundown on a Friday night, and found most of the spots beneath the lights were already occupied.

While walking among the bustling crowd, there was a squeal of excitement as a young lady standing in a group of people landed a trout. From the good-natured ribbing and laughter, you could tell this was a bunch that enjoyed their time on the bridge.

I found that Bert Stilley and W.C. Needham had been making annual summer trips to Grand Isle with family and friends since 2003. On this occasion, they had nine campers set up at Bridge Side Marina.

“We might catch 15 or 20 or 30 keepers on a good night,” Stilley said. “For the trout, we use small plastic grubs like a sparkle beetle or small Bass Assassin. It’s the very same kind you would use for crappie, and we put them on a tandem shad rig.”

The bridge is better known for the sheer number of fish caught rather than impressive size.

“Our biggest speckled trout on the bridge will run about 2 pounds,” Stilley said.

But there are larger fish to catch.

“We do catch some big reds sometimes,” Stilley said. “You can catch a lot of them off the bridge out in the middle of the channel.

“Late in the summer is better for the reds.”

Since anything caught has to be hauled up a long distance from the water to the bridge, I asked him how one lands a bull red without using very heavy tackle.

“We use a long pole with a hook on the end of it, and reach down and snatch them,” he said.

Farther down the bridge, I discovered another fisherman solved this problem by lowering a crab basket down into the water to serve as a landing net.

It was amazing to see the different varieties of tackle people used. Most had medium spinning and baitcasting equipment, including Zebco 33s, and one elderly couple had fly rods.

Some people were even armed with simple crappie-jigging poles and a long line tipped with a shrimp. When a trout sucked down the bait, the fisherman set the hook. After a brief fight, a mighty yank was given and the trout shot straight up out of the water, soared 10 feet overhead and landed with a smack on the pavement.

Bait ran from live shrimp to innumerable types of soft plastics. No matter what kind of tackle or bait was used, nearly everyone was dragging their offerings either along the surface of the water or just underneath.

I quickly realized why: Around some lights, the water literally boiled with fish.

The tide was going out, and a steady stream of shrimp and small crabs was on top of the water, riding the current. Speckled and white trout by the dozens zoomed out of the depths like sharks to gulp them down.

“Fishing is good as long as you have either an incoming or outgoing tide,” Needham said.

On this particular night water conditions were apparently perfect.

While many fishermen get to the bridge at sundown to claim a good spot, the bite usually doesn’t get hot until later.

“They tend to turn on about 11 p.m,” Needham said.

I had noticed that some families come prepared to spend the night by setting up pallets among their ice chests and lawn chairs so tired youngsters could be put down for naps.

Beneath one light, so many trout were boiling the surface that I stopped and tried to catch them on camera. After watching me for a moment, a man nearby asked, “What you trying to get?”

When I explained, he pointed to his right.

“Look down the bridge out in the middle of the current,” he said.

Glancing up, I saw the water along the bridge boiling like a crawfish pot.

Fish were literally hitting everywhere in an impressive feeding frenzy. Watching them for a moment, the veteran bridge fisherman admitted it was an unusual sight.

“I’ve never seen that many fish,” he said.

The next day, while leaving Grand Isle, I happened to see a half dozen people ganged up around an array of rods, chairs and ice chests on the western section of the bridge. Curious as to whether they were having any luck in the daytime, I walked out to chat.

I discovered that Joe Fincher and his friends had been on the bridge for about 24 hours. Although badly sunburned, they were obviously having a good time.

“We got here yesterday and stayed all night,” Fincher said. “We just sort of camped out, fishing for awhile and then sleeping in the cars for awhile.

“We’ve been out here all day today, and will stay tonight and go back home tomorrow.”

I asked Fincher if they were catching anything and he just sort of shrugged.

“A few,” he said.

After talking awhile, one of his friends caught a white trout, so I asked to see their catch as he put it in the large cooler.

“A few,” as it turned out, was quite a haul. The ice chest was full of trout.

“We probably have 150 to 200, and we must have thrown back several hundred,” Fincher said. “Most are white trout because there’s no limit on them; you can keep any number and any size.

“They bite best when it starts getting dark and through the night. At night, the water just boils with fish feeding on shrimp beneath the lights. You ever see a pot of grease with french fries? That’s what it looks like. They start boiling up by the hundreds.

“It’s mostly white trout, but you catch some specks. Then they’ll disappear for awhile, and later they’ll do it again.”

But Fincher said that they catch more than trout.

“We were here last week and caught two bull reds on cracked crab,” he said. “Both went 34 pounds each, and we had seven break off. We’ve also had quite a few break off today.”

As I left, Fincher gave some last-minute advice on fishing the Caminada Bridge.

“Just bring your lawn chairs and have a good time.”

 

DESTINATION INFORMATION

Grand Isle is located near the entrance of Barataria Bay on the Louisiana Gulf Coast, and is about a two-hour drive from New Orleans. From New Orleans take Highway 90 west toward Houma and turn south on Highway 308 or Highway 1 to Golden Meadow and Leeville. Note that the toll bridge at Leeville is now open and you have to obtain a Geaux Pass at one of the kiosks in Golden Meadow, Leeville or online at www.geauxpass.com. The public fishing bridge is on the right and parallel to the modern bridge as you cross Caminada Pass onto Grand Isle.

ACCOMMODATIONS: There are numerous motels and cabins in Grand Isle, but Bridge Side Marine is the most convenient for fishing the Caminada Pass bridge. The marina is located on the right of Highway 1 at the base of the bridge. Bridge Side has comfortable rooms to rent, RV spaces, live bait, tackle and excellent food. Reservations can be made at 985-787-2419.

For more information, call the Grand Isle Tourist Commission at 985-787-2997.

Terry L. Jones
About Terry L. Jones 92 Articles
A native of Winn Parish, Terry L. Jones has enjoyed hunting and fishing North Louisiana’s woods and water for 50 years. He lives in West Monroe with his wife, Carol.

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Pass a Good Time

Coastal passes are gold mines for trout during the heat of the summer, but there are tricks to catching limits. Here are three guides’ tips for putting fish in the boat.

The tide was slack when C.J. Rojas reached Barataria Bay, and the results of the first several hours of fishing were predictable.

Only a handful of trout were cooling in the chest, and those fish had been nabbed while barely nipping the live shrimp thrown out around the platforms.

But Rojas wasn’t worried.

“We’ll find some fish,” the Griffin Fishing Charters guide said. “When that tide turns around, they’ll start biting.”

After several moves, Rojas decided to run closer to a channel, and that’s when he noticed water pouring around the point of a small island.

Soon, he and his guest were pulling trout out of the water on a consistent basis.

And one more move filled the day’s limits.

That’s why Rojas likes fishing around passes — because that’s where the tide is exaggerated, as water rushes through the deeper opening.

So trout trips frequently take him from his Lafitte headquarters to destinations on the southern end of Barataria Bay, such as Four Bayous, Coup Abel, and Barataria and Caminada passes.

That’s not a surprise: Passes have long been recognized for their fish-producing qualities.

But how do guides consistently produce limits for their clients at the passes?

It’s all a matter of understanding how fish relate to the structure provided in a pass.

So we provided Rojas and two other guides with a map of a fictional pass to discover their attack strategies. Here’s what we learned:

 

Capt. C.J. Rojas

Ideally, Rojas would want to fish this pass on a rising tide.

“What happens is the current rolls along the coastline, and it filters through the pass,” said Rojas (800-741-1340). “The fish will do the same thing.”

Although the clean water should be hitting the outside beaches first, Rojas said he probably wouldn’t go straight through the pass.

“Considering I would be coming from up north, I would still check that island first, but I would fish the south side (of the island),” he said.

Rojas would target the south side because of his firm belief trout hold on the up-current side of islands.

“That’s where the current is hitting, and I think the trout set up there to ambush bait,” he explained.

Of course, exactly how long he fishes the island would be dictated by how clean the water was when he arrived.

“Water clarity overrules current,” Rojas said. “If the water wasn’t clean, I wouldn’t stay very long.”

Once he decided to leave that island, he would go ahead and run through the pass to the eastern beach.

“For some reason, I like the east side better than the west,” he said. “Most of the time in Coup Abel and Four Bayous, the current is running east to west,” Rojas said.

That should mean clean water sweeping in from the east, so focusing his efforts on that side of the pass should provide him with good fishing during the earliest part of the rising tide.

Rojas said he would stay to the outside of the sandbars, mainly because of the dangers of getting too close in his boat. although he would ease in far enough to work the waters between the large bar that borders the channel and the bars parelleling the coast.

After thoroughly working the outside sandbars on that side, Rojas said he would flip over and fish the outer edges of the sandbars on the west.

“I would work down the coast, away from the pass,” he said.

And he could even find cleaner water on that side.

“The thing about a pass, depending on how big it is, is that one side can be clean and the other side can be dirty,” Rojas said.

How far he works down the western beach would be determined by water clarity, how many fish he’s picking up and his overall confidence.

“I might work a ways down the coast,” he said.

His last options would be the three oyster reefs behind the pass, with no real preference for any particular one.

“I always check the reefs,” Rojas said. “I might not fish all three of them, but I would try one or two.

“Then I would make a decision based on what I found.”

His approach would be pretty basic — ease in from the up-current side and drift over the middle of the reef.

“Usually, if they’re not right on top of the reef, they’ll be on the outside edge,” Rojas said. “So I can work everything as I make my drift.”

On an outgoing tide, Rojas said he would still stop at the island first. But he would work the northern end.

“Maybe that cove on the northwest side might hold some fish,” he said.

But he would look for any breaks in the island or, if the island is large enough, any trenasses draining interior ponds.

“That’s the first place I would target,” Rojas said. “The fish like that current, with the water sweeping through those cuts.

“On a rising tide, I wouldn’t fish those cuts, but with the water pulling out of the island, those fish will be waiting for the baitfish to be washed out of the island.”

Next on his list would be the oyster reefs, probably starting with the one between the island and the channel because it is farthest north.

Again, he would simply make a drift right over the top of the reef to get a feel for what was holding there.

How long he spends on the reefs is again dictated by how many fish he catches on his first couple of passes.

Leaving the reefs would mean heading for the gut between the rocks and large sandbar on the eastern point of the pass.

“It’s going to make a funnel there, where the bait will be swept out of the pass,” he said.

And the fish will follow that bait.

The key, however, is just how much water is in that depression.

“If it’s real shallow, I wouldn’t be real excited, but if it had a lot of water, I would definitely check it out,” Rojas said.

If he still hadn’t filled out his limit, the veteran guide would skip across the pass to the western point.

But, in contrast to his approach on a falling tide, he would work as far into sandbars as possible.

“If there are a few fish on the outside, I would check inside the guts,” Rojas said. “Sometimes they hang on the outside, and sometimes they hang on the inside of the guts.”

The one caveat for fishing the actual pass, however, would be the strength of the tidal flow.

“What happens sometimes is the current is too fast,” Rojas said. “You can’t get a lure down.”

And it probably wouldn’t matter anyway.

“Most of the time when the current is so hard in there, those fish can’t stay in there,” he said. “They’re not going to fight that current.”

When that happens, he simply eases farther out of the pass.

“You just move down the coast,” Rojas said.

What he would rather, however, is to work the first and las hour or so of the tidal cycle.

“When the tide just starts moving, or when it slows down, you can really work the fish,” Rojas explained.

 

Capt. Jeff Fuscia

Jeff Fuscia (504-382-5488) said passes are vitally important to the area in which he makes his living.

“They feed bait into all the areas of Venice,” he said.

So Fuscia believes in working nearby these lifelines to catch mules.

And he, too, believes an incoming tide is best.

“Down in Venice, the best days for us are when we have an incoming tide,” Fuscia said. “You’ve got that good, clean water coming in.”

And that sparks some serious fishing opportunities.

“In the summertime, I think that incoming tide sets up the trout to spawn and brings in the bait, and sets up the fish to feed,” he said.

But he also likes to target the front and back ends of the tidal range.

“I like about an hour or so after it starts rising and when it starts slowing down when it’s getting ready to turn,” Fuscia said. “I like a light tide, as long as it’s moving.”

The first place he wants to be on a pass situation would be the beach.

“I mean actually throwing your bait right up on the beach or right at the water’s edge,” Fuscia said.

Therefore, he would position his boat on the western side of the pass, right over the sandbars.

He would then work his way out, probing the guts in search of big trout.

“For some reason, it seems that these fish will be in there tight early in the morning, and then move out as the sun comes up,” Fuscia said.

But he said the key to success in that shallow water is to make as little noise as possible.

“Shut down there on the outside, and ease in there with your trolling motor,” he said. “When you’re trying to catch big trout, if you make a lot of noise, those trout are going to be gone.”

After thoroughly working the western sandbars, Fuscia would then move back to the oyster reefs closest to the channel.

“There’s going to be more current there,” he explained.

His preference is always to fish the downcurrent side of structure.

“You have an eddy where the bait can get out of the current,” Fuscia said. “Wherever the current is, that’s where the fish will be.”

Therefore, he would ease toward the reefs from the north, throwing up onto the oyster beds and working his lures off the little drop.

Next would be the island to the northeast of the pass.

“They would possibly be in that cove on the backside,” he said.

But Fuscia said he would move to the western and eastern corners of the island after that.

“I wouldn’t forget about those points,” he said. “I like fishing the points, where the current is pushing across.”

The last of his choices would be the rocks behind the eastern point of the pass.

“You’d have the bait flushing through the center of the channel, and anywhere back behind there where you have the water going slack would be a good choice,” Fuscia said. “The baitfish will be looking for that slack water, and the trout will follow.”

The key would be seeing a lot of bait.

“I would look for mullets and pogies, and I would look for anything that’s moving them, busting them or making them nervous,” he said.

His strategy really wouldn’t change that much for a falling tide.

Fuscia would begin right on the beach to the west of the pass.

“You’re going to have that bait flushing through there, trying to get out of the flow of the current,” he explained.

And as the day progresses, and the sun heats up the water, Fuscia will simply follow the trout back into the second gut.

His third option would be back at the oyster reefs nearest the channel, again focusing on the downcurrent ends of the beds.

“I would set up where the oyster reef drops off,” Fuscia said.

After thoroughly working the small ledges there, he would head to the island.

But he wouldn’t necessarily focus his attention on the downcurrent side. Instead, he would target the points on the eastern and western ends.

“I like spots like that, where the tide’s moving across those points,” Fuscia explained.

If that failed, he would head back to the western side of the pass and give the marsh and look.

“On a falling tide, if you have a cut coming out of that marsh, I would think the fish will concentrate there or on a flat at the mouth of that cut,” he said.

 

 

Capt. Mike Guidry

Mike Guidry (985-637-4292) firmly believes that trout situate on the downcurrent side of any obstacle in the water, so he leaves the front beaches alone during an incoming tide.

Instead, his first choice would be between the rocks on the eastern point of the pass and the southernmost oyster reef.

“I know my water’s going to be better right there: That’s the first place that clean water’s going to get as it comes through the pass,” Guidry said.

And as this water pulls through the pass and around the point, baitfish will be swept in.

“A lot of times, you’ll see those mullet hanging right in that current line, and the trout will be in that slack water ready to come up and feed on them,” Guidry said.

He said if the water eddies and provides slack conditions against the rocks, he would tie on a topwater before using plastics.

Next, he would run to the two northernmost reefs, working the edges of the oyster shells.

“Those fish will be hanging off the reef, waiting to move up on them,” Guidry said. “If they’re not staging on top of the oyster reef, they’ll be staged on the edge, on that drop.”

And he would be certain to retrieve his baits with the current.

“They’re not going to attack something swimming by them: They’re going to attack something swimming toward them,” Guidry said.

The island would be his third choice, and his approach would be completely different than that on the reefs.

“I would basically fish where the water’s breaking on the island, and then if I don’t do anything there, I would fish around to the other side,” he said. “With the oyster reefs, you have all that water flowing completely over them, but with the island, it’s flowing around.

And the current break provided by the island produces eddies on the front and backside of the island.

“The fish will be right in that slack water,” Guidry said.

Guidry’s approach to an outgoing tide would be very simple — fish the beaches on either side of the pass.

His first choice would be the gut between the rocks and the sandbars on the front of the eastern point.

“That current will be pulling around the point, and a lot of baitfish will be pulled around that sandbar,” Guidry said. “You’ve got that calm water, where the fish will be sitting and waiting for that baitfish.”

If that fails, he’ll switch to the western side of the pass and fish the sandbars down the beach.

“Depending on the wave height, I would prefer to fish between that first sandbar and the beach,” he said.

In fact, Guidry said he often gets his boat into water wadefishermen pass up.

“We’ll be shallower than some of them,” he said. “A lot of people will fish between the first and second sandbars, but a lot of big trout will be hanging right up in that shallow water on the beach.”

But anglers should be very cautious when working these sandbars out of a boat.

“You don’t want to get in there and get in a bind, and not be able to get out,” Guidry said.

That’s a particular concern if there are rollers on the beach, when a boat could hit bottom and be swamped.

If the water is too shallow to get right up to the beach, Guidry would then work the second gut.

And if he did make it to the first gut, he would work the second ditch on his way out.

But when fishing either side of the pass, Guidry said he would stay away from the funnel of water.

“I want to be away from that main channel because there’s going to be just too much current there,” he explained.

The only other option he would explore during a falling tide would be centered around any nearby platforms on the outside of the pass.

“If they had any satellites around there, I would definitely fish that,” Guidry said.

But he would probably stay away from the inside reefs and islands because the water would likely be muddy.

“Once that tide really gets rolling, you’ll have a whole lot of dirty water,” he said.

Andy Crawford
About Andy Crawford 870 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.

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Pass a good time

Venice’s passes and the ponds between them hold more redfish this time of year than probably any other place on Earth.

As editor of BASSMASTER magazine, James Hall can send an e-mail, select a cover picture and edit a sentence all while on the phone assigning a story to a free-lance writer.

But he’s never had his hands full like he did on a recent trip to Venice.

Hall had cast a gold spoon to the edge of a grass line in a large pond north of Octave Pass when an unseen red darted from the cover, inhaled the spoon and turned to boogie back to its lair.

The veteran bass angler had other ideas, however. He set the hook hard, and the fish responded with a bulldog run along the edge of the grass, ripping line off Hall’s casting reel.

“This fish is SO strong,” the redfish rookie said.

Tired from the trip heading away from the boat, the fish turned and swam toward it.

Only it wasn’t alone. With Hall’s hooked red was a school of no fewer than 50 redfish. Their darting profiles and flashing sides could easily be seen in the transparent, tea-colored water.

They swam frenetically and haphazardly. Some charged at the spoon hanging from the hooked red’s mouth; others bolted to and fro looking for something — anything — to inhale.

Though new to the redfishing game, Hall did what any redfish veteran would — he grabbed another rod from a nearby rod holder, and dangled the bait in the water.

The first red that saw it shot over and inhaled the beetle-spinner, and like a schoolboy going a few rounds with Tyson, Hall had just a tad more than he could handle.

Capt. Ron Price was in the same boat — literally and figuratively. At the first glimpse of the school approaching, he cast into the fray and hooked up, and since opportunity was knocking, he opened the door by casting another bait into the school.

He and Hall now had four fish hooked on four rods held by their four hands. Try reeling with that scenario.

The first fish Hall hooked was now nearing the end of its fight, so Hall stuck that rod between his legs and battled the still-green bruiser with both hands. Against all odds, he was winning the war.

He wore down the first fish, and dragged it to the side of the boat. It was too big to hoist over the gunnel, so Hall, while holding one rod with his left hand and the other between his legs, grabbed the net and slipped it under the exhausted red. He pulled the fish into the boat, and dropped the net, rod and fish on the floor while he finished the battle with the fish on the other rod.

He landed this one with his hands, and looked up to share a laugh with Price, who was trying to land both of his fish without aid of a net.

“I could never live here,” Hall, an Alabama resident, said. “I’d spend all my time doing this. My wife would divorce me.”

Price knows the feeling. Though he’s a guide, and technically a day on the water for him is a day at the office, he just can’t get enough of the spectacular redfishing action that the Venice area offers.

It’s a world-class fishery that is good year-round, but there’s no better time to fish it than right now.

“September and October are prime time,” he said. “If you can fish here before the hard cold fronts blow all the water out, you won’t find any better redfishing anywhere.”

The main reason Venice is so productive in the fall is not difficult to figure out.

During most of the year, the Mississippi River captures massive quantities of run-off — and the sediment and nutrients it carries — from two-thirds of the U.S., and funnels it to the great river’s delta.

The nutrients are like an IV drip of pure vitamins to the entire ecosystem around Venice, with juvenile redfish benefitting from the abundance of bait that eat the zooplankton that feeds directly off of the nutrients. It is, in short, an ultra-rich environment.

In such conditions, however, the ponds and lakes near the river and its major passes are high and dirty. They may be full of redfish, but for anglers, getting the brutes to hit a bait they can’t see is a bit of a challenge.

But beginning in late summer, the river falls below that magical 5-foot number in New Orleans, and the nutrient and sediment loads lessen tremendously. The river, especially on the surface, cleans up, and the water in the ponds gets as clear as an aquarium in many areas.

That’s when reds easily can be seen by anglers, who can watch as the fish dart over to suck in lures. The fish, too, have no trouble seeing baits, and after months of zero pressure, they’re anything but shy.

“In September and October, limits (of redfish) are a foregone conclusion,” Price said. “Those are the gravy train months.”

In the ponds, Price likes to throw the least-expensive weedless spoons he can find.

“The fish will hit just about anything, so why risk losing an expensive bait?” he said.

He’ll blind-cast the spoon in water that’s marginal, but when he can see the bottom in a 10-foot radius from his boat, he’ll hold the lure and only cast at fish he sees.

He’ll frequently run across schools of very bold, aggressive fish that number in the hundreds.

“There isn’t anybody who doesn’t think that’s fun,” he said. “You look out and you see all those redfish running around, looking for something to eat. It almost makes you scared to fall in the water.”

The ponds are typically most productive this time of year during a tide that’s high and falling. Once the tide gets too low, the ponds muddy up a bit, and the water often gets too low for the fish to swim. They’re forced into the passes, where the concentrations of redfish get to be of Biblical proportions.

“There are always reds in the passes this time of year,” Price said. “Any time of day, any tidal condition, you’ll catch your limit of reds in the passes, but after the tide falls out, it just gets sick.”

Many anglers do well fishing the canes that line the passes, but Price shuns the roseau.

“You’ll catch redfish along the canes, but I find they’ve always got their noses right on the canes. If you cast a foot or two off the canes, you’re not going to catch them,” he said.

Instead, Price focuses on the bald stretches of bank that have sandy bottoms.

“You can turn on your trolling motor and work a bald stretch of bank, and catch fish you don’t see, but you’ll also run across a bunch of fish that you can see,” he said. “Usually they’ll be a good ways off the bank, just working that flat.”

Price employs this technique at the major passes like Main, South, Loutre, Tiger, Grand and Tante Phine, and also at the minor passes like Octave, Joe Brown, Flatboat and Dennis.

“You only want to fish a pass if it’s got clean, green water,” he said. “I look for some type of bait, usually rain minnows. The redfish will be ambushing them; you’ll see wakes moving along the flats and minnows spraying out of the water.”

Also in October, the storm minnows frequently are still present. These cocaho-sized baitfish live in marsh puddles during most of the year, but the high tides brought about by autumn’s storm tides release them from their earthen cages, and they group up in massive schools along the banks of the passes. Redfish gorge themselves on storm minnows whenever they’re around.

“That’s a brain-dead way of finding (redfish),” Price said. “If the storm minnows are around, all you need to do is get a bait in the water.”

Capt. Brent Ballay, who grew up fishing Venice’s passes, agrees.

“When the storm minnows are out, it’s really, really hard to come here and not catch a limit of reds,” he said. “And I’m not talking about fishing all day for a limit. I’m talking about a few minutes or a half-hour.”

Whether fishing in a school of storm minnows or not, Price throws “black/chartreuse Bayou Chubs 99 percent of the time,” he said.

He doesn’t like beetle-spinners for the passes, he said, because the currents are too swift, making it tough to work the baits properly.

“You can’t cover as much water (with spinners),” he said.

Ballay will sometimes harvest the storm minnows with a cast net, and use them for bait. But that really isn’t necessary, he said.

“(The redfish) will hit anything,” he said. “You can throw literally anything you have in your tackle box, and they’ll hit it.”

The action at the edges of the passes is top-notch until the air, and consequently the water, starts getting a consistent, noticeable chill. Then the fish move out away from the edges, and school up on the drop-offs, Price said.

“You’ll find them in 5- to 6-foot depths,” he said. “There’s a spot where Baptiste Collette meets the river that just gets nasty with them. The fish just get stupid. If it’s cold, you’ll catch 50 to 100 in an hour.”

That’s enough action to make anybody want to spend every waking hour on a boat fishing the Venice area.

So don’t tell Hall. His marriage is at stake.

 

Capt. Ron Price (985-785-0258) and Capt. Brent Ballay (985-534-9246) offer guided trips in the Venice area.

Todd Masson
About Todd Masson 443 Articles
Todd Masson has covered outdoors in Louisiana for a quarter century, and is host of the Marsh Man Masson channel on YouTube.

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