Lafitte’s spottail stocks just can’t seem to stop biting gold spoons and other artificial lures during the summer months.
The guy who coined the phrase, “The only two certainties in life are death and taxes,” never met Raymond Griffin.
A 12-year resident of the town of Lafitte, Griffin would add one other guarantee to the axiom: summertime redfishing in the central Barataria Basin.
“Don’t get me wrong — the fishing’s good in the springtime, but once the water temperature gets into the 80s, those fish just get so aggressive,” he said while his 4-stroke Yamaha pushed his Pathfinder bay boat over the silky smooth surface of Bayou Barataria.
A patchwork of cumulus clouds had collected low in the awakening sky, and a mild breeze blew salty air in from the southwest. An observer could have been dropped into this day from any point in time, and he would have known instantly it was springtime. The day just had that feel.
“We’ll catch fish today; there’s no doubt about that,” Griffin said. “But things just really crank up in June.”
Like a general drawing up battle plans, Griffin had sat down with a map the evening before to develop an attack strategy for the day.
“We’ll start in Bayou Perot,” he said. “The wind blew out of the west yesterday, so all the bait’s going to have collected on the western shore to get out of the wind. That shoreline will give us a little protection as well from this wind.”
He motored across the expanse of the top end of Bayou Rigoletts, and entered Bayou Perot.
“I’ve got a map from the 1870s that shows these two bayous. They were then truly bayous. You could have thrown a rock from one side of Bayou Perot to the other,” he said.
But unabated coastal erosion has taken its toll. Today, all that separates Perot and Rigoletts is a narrow strip of land. In all likelihood, they’ll soon be considered one big lake.
Even still, the fishing in these waterways — especially Perot — is outstanding.
Griffin motored to the southern end of the bayou, and eased back on the throttle.
“We’ll just work our way up the shoreline,” he said. “You want to try to get your bait as close to the shore as possible. Those fish will sit with their noses on that (marsh) grass.”
The water was dirty, and several casts proved fruitless, so Griffin called for lines to be brought in.
“You’ve got to stick and move in Lafitte,” he said. “You make a few casts, and if you don’t catch anything, you move.
“This area is so big, and there is so much water to fish that you don’t want to waste a lot of time fishing where there aren’t any fish.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean moving very far, Griffin explained.
“If you like the area you’re in — if the water’s pretty, you’re seeing bait and the tide’s moving — just move about 100 yards. You could be that close to feeding fish,” he said.
Griffin did just that, and began another northbound drift along the western shoreline of Perot. His first cast gave him encouragement as a school of several dozen glass minnows shot panic-stricken through the surface upon the impact of his soft-plastic bait.
“That’s what I expected to see,” he said. “I figured the bait would be on this shoreline today.”
Moments later, 30 yards up the bayou, another school of bait erupted.
“Baitfish don’t jump for joy here,” Griffin said. “They jump to save their lives. A big red hit those fish.”
But the dirty water apparently prevented that big red and others from seeing the baits thrown by Griffin, fellow Lafitte guide Carl Morey and Louisiana Sportsman account manager Otis Taylor. A flat tide also didn’t help.
Still, Griffin was optimistic.
“Bayou Perot is such a great area,” he said. “It’s close to the marina, so it’s easy to get to in any conditions, and it’s always productive on a south, southwest or west wind.”
But that’s provided that the water’s pretty, which it usually is, and moving. A rising tide is much better than no tide, but a falling tide is much better than a rising tide, Griffin said.
“A falling tide pulls bait and crabs out of the marsh,” he said. “There are lots of canals in this marsh (on the west side of Bayou Perot). The baitfish get pulled out of those canals, and they collect at the mouths and along the points. You can see the redfish feeding on them. It’s very obvious.”
But those weren’t the conditions Griffin was blessed with on that day. The bait was there, just as he had predicted, but the slack tide and putrid water made the area unproductive. True to his creed, the guide left Bayou Perot for greener — or redder — pastures.
His next stop was the south shore of Little Lake, along a strip of land that separates it from Bay L’Ours. This spot, which Griffin calls the “Windmill,” is one of his favorites for summertime redfish.
“There was a guy who had a camp on this shore, and he had a big windmill in front of it to generate power for his camp,” Griffin said.
The windmill is now gone, but the name has stuck, and it’s a name Griffin and the team of guides working for him utter often.
“This whole shoreline is nothing but solid oyster reefs,” he said. “All of Lafitte has a soft bottom, but this is a hard bottom, so the redfish really school up here.”
The shells can easily be seen along the bank of this productive area, which looks starkly unlike the rest of the marsh in Lafitte. Though most shores of Little Lake are covered with wiregrass that appears as tightly cropped as Sinead O’Connor’s hair, this shoreline is adorned with scrub oaks and seasoned, overgrown palmettos. The vision is more Florida-mangrove-flat than Louisiana-brackish-marsh.
But here, too, the lack of current had kept the fish from schooling.
“That’s one thing I’ve found that’s consistent about marsh fishing: If the tide ain’t movin’, the fish ain’t bitin’,” Griffin said.
There was no sign of a redfish anywhere, so Griffin set out to try one of his favorite techniques.
“The way we locate fish a lot of times is to idle down a shoreline, and if we bust four or five (redfish), we’ll back off, give them a minute to settle down, and then come back in to catch them,” he said. “Those fish stay in that area, and they don’t have long memories.”
But a quick pass proved fruitless. There were obviously few, if any, fish in the area.
“Well, we do know one thing,” Griffin said. “The fish are in the water. They can’t get out. We just have to find where they are.”
He started his outboard, made a quick pass around the shoreline, and pointed his bow to a series of rock enbankments on the southern shoreline of Bay L’Ours.
The jetties were put in place to protect the Barataria Land Bridge by impeding the wholesale erosion of Bay L’Ours, but they’re providing an even more tangible short-term gain to anglers.
“This winter, we had some clients who had a trip planned for a while,” Morey said. “We called them and told them not to come because the weather was so cold, and it was windy, and the fishing was horrible.
“They insisted on coming. They said, ‘We don’t care. We want to go fishing. We’re coming.’
“I took them here for the first stop of the day, and we caught our limits of reds and our limits of drum and we filled the boat up with sheepshead.
“They said, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t want us to come. You were holding out on us.’
“I told them, ‘No, that was the only place we could have caught fish.’”
The technique Morey and Griffin like to employ at the rocks is to anchor on either side of any of the several splits in the rocks, and cast fresh shrimp on the bay side of the cuts.
“You just let it sit on the bottom,” Griffin said. “You’ll know right away when a fish hits.”
Because the technique is so simple, Griffin said this is a great place to bring kids.
“It’s only going to get better in the summertime,” he said.
One thing Morey and Griffin have learned the hard way is not to throw into the cuts.
“The rocks are underwater, but they’re still there,” Morey said. “If you throw into a cut, you’re going to be retying soon.”
In addition to reds, drum and sheepshead, the area also produces flounder and trout, Griffin said. It’s most productive when the tide is pulling water from the marsh on the south side of the rocks into the bay.
But like other marsh areas, it’s not at all productive when there’s no tidal movement, so after soaking a couple of shrimp for 10 minutes, Griffin picked up his Power-Pole and aimed his bow to the northeast.
“If all else fails, you can always catch reds in the ponds off of Bayou Dupont,” he said.
A day like this would put that theory to the test, but after a 20-minute run, Griffin brought his boat to idle over water the color and clarity of a glass of Coke with melted ice in it. On every side as far as the eye could see were patches of hydrilla thick enough to hold reds but not too thick to render them unfishable.
This was indeed a redfish wonderland. Tide or no tide, it would be impossible to go home fishless after spending time casting baits in these ponds.
After only a few minutes, Griffin proved that the waters not only looked fishy, they were fishy.
He cast his gold spoon between two clumps of broken marsh, and the shallow water erupted like a mini Mount St. Helens.
With patience born of experience, Griffin waited until he felt the fish before yanking back on his custom-made rod.
The ice-breaking fish charged out from the marsh, and pulled hard toward the center of the pond. But the perfectly set drag on Griffin’s reel equated to an additional 6 pounds of weight that the fish had to pull along with it, and the hardy red soon tired.
Morey netted it, and put the first of what would be many redfish into the cooler.
The ponds are almost always productive, Griffin said, because that’s where the redfish want to be.
“If low tides didn’t force redfish out of the ponds, they’d spend all their time here,” he said.
The ponds are where baitfish go to feast on rich nutrients and avoid the attacks of most predators. Nature has ingrained this fact into the instincts of redfish, so they patrol the ponds like wolves in search of wayward lambs.
Since baitfish drive the whole cycle, reds will be thickest and most active when the ponds are full of their natural foods.
“We prefer to fish a falling tide (in the ponds) because for every 100 ponds you can get in there are another 100 you can’t get in,” Griffin said. “A falling tide will pull all those pogies, crabs, shrimp and mullet out of those inaccessible ponds and put them in the ponds you can fish.
“We call it the circle of life. The tide rises, the bait moves into the ponds and the redfish follow. Then the tide falls, the bait gets pulled out, and the reds wait for them.”
On falling tides, Griffin and his guides focus on drains, points and broken-marsh shorelines because these are places where baitfish congregate.
On rising tides, their tactics change altogether.
“When the tide is rising, you want to get as shallow as you can and fish hard shorelines. You want to avoid the broken marsh. The fish will be moving up and down the hard shorelines,” he said.
Slack tides make the fishing tough, but reds can be had by casting into the middles of the ponds.
“I don’t know why, but on a slack tide the fish don’t relate to the shorelines; they move out to the middle,” Griffin said. “If you go out to the middle and cast to the shoreline, you’re going to be running your boat over all the fish.”
Finding submergent vegetation is also important, a task that is very easily accomplished in the ponds adjacent to Bayou Dupont.
“Redfish love the grass,” Griffin said. “You can catch redfish in a pond with no grass, but you’ll catch a lot more around the grass.”
Lafitte’s aquatic vegetation is kept in check by southerly winds in the summer that bring high tides and salty water into the ponds.
Still, in areas where it mats, Griffin simply focuses on the edges.
“You fish the edge of that matted grass almost like it’s a marsh shoreline. That’s how the fish relate to it,” he said.
When surveying a pond on a day with any breeze, Griffin will look for flat areas to tell him where the grass is thickest.
“If the surface is calm in one spot and rippled in another, you know the calm spot has grass,” he said.
And like death and taxes, casting a gold spoon in such a spot offers certain guarantees.
In addition to fishing charters, Capt. Raymond Griffin offers all-inclusive packages including lodging and meals. He can be reached at (800) 741-1340.