It’s time for this Marsh Island redfish hotspot to pick up, but the action is a limited-time offer. Here’s when to be there, as well as how to catch them when the bite is on.
A few summers ago, while toiling away at work trying not to think of someplace else I’d rather be, I received a phone call from the late Elvis Jeanminette.
Unfortunately for me, Jeanminette was at that someplace else — coming in with another limit of redfish.
Naturally, I was immediately envious.
I don’t know about you, but I hate it sometimes when the tide, the weather, the water clarity, etc., is right and I have to work. Invariably, that’s just the way it is when it comes to real life and responsibility.
Moreover, those peak conditions always seems to coincide with the workweek and not the weekend — at least, where I’m concerned.
My envy quickly faded when Jeanminette, who sadly passed away in January, posed a question.
“When can you get off work, my man?” he asked. “The bite is on for redfish right now, and it ain’t going to last long. Me and Leon Minvielle were talking about you and said, ‘We gotta call John,’ so what are you doing Friday afternoon?”
My reply sounded stupid, even to me.
“Where at?” I asked, as if it really mattered.
The question was when could I go. The “where” part really had no bearing on the matter.
“The Worm, my baby — the Worm,” Jeanminette said in an affable manner honed from 32 years with the United States Postal Service dealing with customers in the town of Lydia.
Jeanminette simply wanted to share the wealth and excitement with anyone who loved fishing like him.
So he, Minvielle and I left the Ivanhoe Canal heading south toward Marsh Island that Friday in slick-calm waters.
Located in the extreme southern part of West Cote Blanche Bay on Marsh Island, the Worm is actually made up of the region consisting of Worm Cove, Worm Bayou and Lake Tom on the northeast end of Marsh Island.
What makes the Worm so good? Jeanminette said the simple reason is the Worm has some deep holes and some lakes — Lakes Michael, Tom and Blanc — that are full of bait.
Jeanminette told of a previous trip to the area to illustrate why he loved to make the run.
“We were fishing the Worm near Lake Tom, and my son was cast-netting for crabs,” he said. “I mean 100s of crabs were passing by our boat, (and) we used for bait. But you also have shrimp and everything else coming out of there. You’re talking about a 4- to 5-foot deep lake draining over what’s essentially a 20-foot hole when it’s going out with the tide, and the fish know it.
“They say, ‘Hey, here’s Burger King,’ and just gorge themselves.”
The thing about the Worm is it’s a very popular redfish area for Cypremort Point anglers when the bite is known to be on — especially tournament anglers like Jeanminette and Minvielle.
On more than one occasion, the teammates made sure their plans included winning at the Worm, where several 27-inch tournament fish could be caught.
“Last year, Elvis and I were fishing the Lydia Cancer Society Tournament during the second week of August. We caught 90 redfish, and 50 of them were between 20 and 24 inches,” Minvielle said. “We threw back 12 over 30 inches long. We were releasing redfish, trying to catch fish that were only in the slot of 26 or 27 inches.
“We won the tournament fishing a four-hour period in the Worm.”
But Jeanminette pointed out one unique thing about the bite in this region — it doesn’t last long.
Quite often, he said, the crazy redfish action usually dies out after only a month or two.
But July and August are the months to be there.
Jeanminette, who for years kept a diary, noted that on occasion it would sometimes last on into September as it did during the 2014 summer. But that’s not guaranteed.
As to why there is such a small window, Jeanminette didn’t really have an answer.
“It’s been a phenomenal pattern for the past 20 years that I’ve been fishing it,” he said. “But it never lasts. It’ll start toward the middle to end of July, and by the same time in August it’s just about over.”
Minvielle noted that between the tournaments going on and folks just wanting to get out on the water to catch some redfish, the Worm can get crowded on occasions during the bite.
So don’t expect to have it to yourself.
“Last year, one day we counted 30 boats, and at any given time when it turned on, five to 10 boats had a fish on,” he said. “It was unbelievable. You have to watch you don’t cast into someone’s boat or hook their anchor line. That happens often. You’ll also hook their fishing line; you think you’ve got a fish on and they think they’ve got a fish on. It just happens.
“But, I’ve never really ever seen any arguments as a result, because people go there and know what to expect. People who go there know you’re going to be in close proximity of other people catching fish.”
It’s also important to note that this isn’t an artificial-bait deal. No one is trolling or tossing artificial baits.
It’s pretty much a dead-bait affair, and there are two primary baits of choice: dead shrimp and cracked crab fished on the bottom.
But dead bait isn’t just dead bait, Jeanminette said.
“I want a fresh bait. When I toss a shrimp into the water, I don’t want the head flying off,” he explained.
He used a predictable rig, but was very specific about one aspect he said is vitally important.
“I use a No. 2/0 short-shank hook, Carolina-rigged to my line,” Jeanminette said. “I want a smaller hook so I can hide it with the bait. When you throw out there you’ve got to imagine all of the bait going over their head. With so much bait going out of the Worm, you want to hide the hook so it looks as natural as possible.
“There’s something about that spot, where they want it natural.”
When Jeanminette, Minvielle and I arrived at the Worm during our fishing excursion, the tide was pretty much slack, just beginning to move in the right direction.
The one thing Jeanminette insisted upon was catching some jumbo croakers to put on the grill when we got in later that evening.
With the slack tide, the redfish bite wouldn’t be in its normal Worm-like frenzy quite yet; so until that action picked up, catching croakers was the task at hand.
And we did didn’t have any problem. It seemed all of the croakers were big, chunky scrappers, and we kept only the ones that pushed 12 inches.
Just like the redfish in the Worm, croakers also tend to get big and fat with all of the bait that comes out of the surrounding lakes. And, though not high on most angler’s target fish list for a day on the water, croakers can make great sport for youngsters who tend to get bored quickly when there is a lack of action.
And they’re great table fare.
The approach — namely use of Carolina rigs — however doesn’t change, no matter whether reds or croakers are targeted.
What does change is the rig itself, depending on strength of the tide.
Jeanminette liked to match the weight on his Carolina rigs to suit the tide. On days the tide wasn’t falling hard, he used a ¼-ounce weight. When the tide ran out heavy, he switched to a ½-ounce weight.
In the Worm, anglers occasionally get snagged. Jeanminette and Minvielle say the Worm is basically a shell bowl, where eventually everybody loses some rigs.
However, Minvielle pointed out that a falling tide usually takes care of that problem.
“When the bite is on, before it gets to the bottom the reds have got it,” he joked.
And an outgoing tide really is that important to the action, Jeanminette said. Arrive too early, and you just have to gut it out until conditions change.
“The single reason people will come to the Worm is because they’ve heard it’s on fire,” he said. “When they get there, they don’t want to wait. Boat after boat after boat comes and goes.
“You have to be patient for the tide to fall and keep casting when it does. Then all of a sudden it turns on and you load your boat.”
Tide charts that show South Marsh Island for the most accurate predictor, he said.
Roughly three hours after launching from the Ivanhoe, Jeanminette, Minvielle and I were headed north to clean three limits of redfish and a basket full of jumbo croakers to grill.
And, although we weren’t tournament fishing, to me that was winning at the Worm.
Editor’s Note: Elvis Jeanminette, a long-time contributor to Louisiana Sportsman, died Jan. 11, 2015, while working on his boat.