Urban ’yak fishing

Don’t pass up great fishing options

For many folks, even kayakers, a fishing trip usually involves packing up and driving an hour or more to popular fishing areas far away from the big city. The hustle and bustle of city life is seldom equated with good fishing.

However, you are likely passing up some great urban fishing opportunities right under your nose.

Good kayak fishing in Southeast Louisiana is almost limitless. The familiar haunts like Delacroix, Hopedale, Lake Pontchartrain and others all offer kayakers great fishing opportunities. However, you have to travel to get there, and you will be sharing those areas with the powerboat fishermen.

For undisturbed fishing mere minutes from downtown New Orleans, ’yakers should give Bayou St. John a try.

There’s no discounting the historical value this bayou is to the founding of New Orleans. It was a direct route from Lake Pontchartrain to what were the first settlements of New Orleans. While the bayou did not link to the Mississippi River, native Indians forged a short portage that easily connected the two. This highway of commerce played a deciding role in the original location of the city.

Although it connects to the lake, the free flow of water and fish had been blocked for the last 50 years by a dam near Robert E. Lee Boulevard. The area of the bayou south of the dam has been primarily fresh and, at times, somewhat stagnant. However, in December 2012 work began on a project to remove the dam and also dredge the silted-in areas of the bayou near the lake. This new flow of water is expected to bring additional fish species and submerged aquatic vegetation to the area.

Prior to the removal of the dam, the bayou held good populations of all the local freshwater species including largemouth bass, bream, catfish and gaspergou. Also, invasive Rio Grande cichlids found their way to the area and offer great light-tackle sport.

As part of a UNO research project and possibly also due to Katrina flooding, a healthy population of redfish now prowl the waters of Bayou St. John.

As the new water flow mixes and helps flush the system, the fishing is expected to only get better. In April 2013 there were several reports of speckled trout caught in the bayou.

Bayou St. John is a prime example of where to find amazing fishing in the heart of a major city.

Kayak fishing on Bayou St. John is a unique experience. There are cars and joggers going by. Folks along the bank are exercising, picnicking or mowing their yards. You hear honking horns, sirens blaring and people talking. Although these are not sounds usually heard while fishing, you quickly realize that you are immersed in the middle of daily city life.

You glide silently along, catching a variety of fish despite the surreal surroundings. You might even get a glimpse of the New Orleans skyline.

Powerboats are not allowed in the bayou, so kayakers have several miles of calm water that can be fished even in windy conditions. The eastern shore of the bayou has many residential neighborhoods with several homes along the banks. Much of the western shore is bordered by New Orleans’ City Park. While the park also has many miles of fish-filled lagoons, only bank fishing is allowed in the park.

The primary access to Bayou St. John is Wisner Boulevard that runs along the west bank. From Robert E. Lee heading south, there are several small bridges that cross the bayou. However, kayakers can pass under the bridges by laying their rods down and ducking as they go through.

While there are no designated launches, there are several areas to park and easily combat launch directly into the bayou.

The banks of the bayou offer a variety of mixed shoreline. Some areas are lightly tree-lined, while others have concrete rubble or a flat concrete pad that line the bank just above the water line. The western shore also has some houses with boat docks and bulkheads.

Averaging about 8 to 12 feet deep, the bottom is relatively flat. However, using a depth finder will reveal areas with drop-offs and some submerged structure like trees and concrete rubble.

Bass and redfish eat the same lures and bait, so you don’t have to specifically target either. If using lures, spinnerbaits, Texas-rigged worms and topwater plugs can’t be beat. Live minnows or shrimp are also equally likely to be inhaled by a red or bass. Dead shrimp, of course, is good for redfish, but you might also find yourself battling a giant freshwater cat.

For the smaller species, live worms and crickets will entice a variety of panfish and those bruiser Rio Grande cichlids. They can also be caught on micro jigs and small Beetle Spins; however, fly rods with small poppers work well throughout the summer.

Fly fishing is popular in the bayou because it’s wide enough to prevent getting snagged on your back cast. Since the banks are also relatively clear, you can fish a complete circle around segments of the bayou and never get hung up.

There are no big waves or powerboats, so it’s also a great place to take the kids kayaking. There’s an abundance of wildlife and watching all the surrounding city life will keep them entertained if it’s a slow fishing day.

If you don’t live in the metro New Orleans area, chances are there are small urban lakes or ponds near where you live. Most will be off limits to powerboats and are usually under-fished. Check with the landowner or municipality to see if kayak fishing is allowed. You may just find your own urban honey hole.

Urban fishing is great for those times when you can’t spend all day. You won’t find the solitude and quiet of your regular spots, but you’ll catch fish, and save some time and money. You’ll have a short drive, you won’t have to get up too early and you can be home before noon.

The next time someone asks you for coordinates to a good fishing spot, you can tell them “at the corner of Wisner Blvd. and Filmore Avenue.”


Redfish for research

The UNO study of redfish in Bayou St. John is still ongoing, and some of the fish have tags in them.

It would greatly aid the study if the reds are kept and turned in for examination. If you catch a redfish in Bayou St. John, please contact Patrick Smith at patricksmith111@gmail.com.

About Chris Holmes 242 Articles
Chris Holmes has kayak fished in the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and many places in between.

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