Washed Out

If you want to catch a hodgepodge of fish without burning a lot of fuel, head for this Lake Hermitage-area water body.

We had worked half the bay methodically, but with little success. Al Dusang landed one 16-inch redfish, and we had seen several others waking along the shoreline.

But none of the submarines seemed interested in his dead shrimp or my spinner.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with them,” Dusang lamented. “Usually when you see active fish, they’ll take a bait.”

There really was no reason that the fish wouldn’t bite. The water was beautiful, bait was active and there was current galore.

But the owner of Lake Hermitage Marina took the snubs in stride, simply tossing out his stinky bait again and working it back to the boat.

“That’s how it is out here — you can fish all day and not catch anything, and then you catch a bunch of them,” Dusang said.

Throughout the morning, he never doubted there were some hungry fish somewhere in the bay.

“That’s why I like coming out here; I have confidence,” Dusang said.

“Here” was a small bay known locally as The Washout, and it’s located only minutes from his marina.

“There used to be a bunch of canals running through here,” he explained. “It reminded me of the Wagon Wheel (in Venice).

“But that’s all washed away now, and it’s just open water.”

At least it’s apparently open water.

“There are land stumps all out here,” Dusang said, pointing to an area filled with white PVC pipes. “You better know where you’re going.”

The locals have marked the channel running through these shallow reefs on the northwest corner of the area by putting red and green tape on the poles, following the old “red, right, return” axiom.

Although the loss of that land, which was still visible only a few years ago, exemplifies the rapid erosion in the area, Dusang said it is just such erosion that makes the area so productive.

“There are oyster reefs all over The Washout,” he said.

It was just such a reef to which Dusang headed earlier that morning.

The reef stretches the length of The Washout’s southern shoreline, and offers redfish and trout plenty of feeding opportunities.

“It’s a big reef,” Dusang said. “It extends out 60 feet from the shoreline.”

The reef is located at roughly 29o31.9214’ N, 89o53.8784’ W using NAD 27 datum.

He said a line of crab traps usually marks the outer edge of the reef.

On the western end of the reef is a 50- to 60-foot hole where Wilkinson Bayou turns northward.

“That’s a great winter hole,” Dusang said.

And when winter gives way to summer, the fish simply move out into The Washout, and this reef is one of the first areas on which they can find food.

“The bait just moves right up that canal,” he said.

On this day, the current was ripping up the bayou, forming a hard rip at the edge of the hole.

Dusang anchored about two casts from the bayou, and began tossing out his favorite offering — a dead shrimp under a cork.

“I sit still out here and let the fish come to me,” he explained. “I’ll catch reds, flounder and trout.”

Reds and flounder prowl the shallows looking for bait, while the trout stay on the edge of the reef.

“The reef drops off to about 5 feet out there,” Dusang said. “That’s what the trout like: that 5-foot drop.”

The angler simply positions himself so that he can reach both areas with his shrimp.

Redfish could be seen waking along the bank, scattering bait.

One big fish swirled about 20 feet from the boat, its back coming completely out of the water.

My spinnerbait streaked out, landing about 10 feet past the fish.

When my bait reached the spot where I had last seen the fish, a huge wake appeared. The fish followed the lure for a few feet, swirled and ran down the shoreline.

In the process, it ignored Dusang’s dead shrimp, which had been placed in its path.

Two more fish were waking down the bank.

Dusang just chuckled and continued to work his bait.

He finally swung back toward the Wilkinson Bayou, plopped his shrimp in the water and popped the cork a couple of times.

The cork bobbled once before shooting toward the bottom.

Dusang sank the hook, and began fighting the fish to the boat.

A trout that would go a pound or so was soon cooling in the ice chest, and the angler was working his shrimp over the same area again.

He picked up one more trout and a sheepshead (which he said is a local delicacy) before he snatched his anchor pole off the bottom and fired up his trolling motor.

The waking redfish were killing him.

We worked the shoreline reef hard, but every redfish would, at best, swirl on our baits before turning their noses.

Dusang finally said it was time to move on.

“We’ll find some active fish somewhere,” he said.

We moved to the tip of an island (29o32.1967’ N, 89o53.4654’ W) on the eastern side of the bay, and within minutes, I had my first redfish of the day.

The fish was tight to the bank, apparently waiting in ambush in a small cut between the main island and a small tuft of marsh grass.

The red wasn’t a monster, but it perfect for eating.

Dusang said the fish favor the tip of the island for much the same reason that the reef on the southern shoreline holds fish.

“There’s a dug canal right here,” he said. “The island used to come out all the way to the canal, but it’s washed away.

“There’s just a shell reef between the island and canal now.”

Moments later, Dusang’s cork plunged beneath the water, and a second redfish was yanked to the boat.

We got several more bumps, and Dusang landed a beautiful sheepshead before everything quit.

Dusang again called for a move, and we headed for a submerged tangle of wood (roughly at 29o32.3064’ N, 89o53.4488’ W) just northeast of the island.

All that could be seen of the fish-attracting jumble were the tops of two poles.

“This used to be a Freeport-McMoran shed,” he said. “This is an area that absolutely must be fished with a cork.

“You can’t throw a spinnerbait around it because there’s bad structure under there.”

The cork holds the bait above the bottom structure, and lures the fish out. When one strikes, it’s just a matter of getting the fish to the boat before breaking off or getting hooked in the morass of structure.

The old, fallen-down shed is at a perfect location — at the mouth of three canals.

“This is great for anything,” Dusang said. “Those canals come out right here, and the fish will just gang up around that structure.”

Although redfish and trout will hold there, Dusang said anglers shouldn’t be surprised to catch numbers of sheepshead.

“We came out here one time, and you talk about sheepshead,” he said.

The northeastern shoreline also is prime fishing.

“There are several cuts that funnel out, and the fish will come out of there,” he said.

There are some prime waters back in those cuts, but Dusang said those waters are pretty much unfishable until later in the summer.

“There’s too much grass,” he said.

The banks already were lined with stringy algae in May, and Dusang said it would only get worse before it gets better.

“We’re so close to the (Myrtle Grove) freshwater diversion that the grass just grows up in the shallow cuts and ponds,” he explained.

The Washout, however, remains grass-free because of the amount of current that flows through it.

“The Washout is about the limit of the grass,” Dusang said. “Below that, the water is salty enough to prevent that grass from growing.”

We worked from the old shed to the northeast shoreline, and it wasn’t long before Dusang stabbed his anchor.

We were trolling up the bank, and a fish pounded my bait. It came off, but there was bait flicking about.

That was all Dusang needed.

He stabbed the anchor, and the boat swung around.

On my first cast to a small cut, a redfish pounced. My line sang as it cut through the water.

I wrestled the fish into the boat, and before I could get the hook out, Dusang was fighting another red.

“I told you we would find them,” he said.

We caught one more fish there, and then had to move on.

Dusang said that’s just the nature of redfishing in The Washout.

“The reds don’t gang up like trout,” he said. “They’re more territorial.”

The last stop of the day was a washout on the northern tip of the bay, where an old dead-end canal has broken through the marsh (29o32.7556’ N, 89o53.6471’ W).

“It’ll get deeper right there where the canal has come through,” he said.

Sure enough, the depths quickly dropped from about 2 feet to as much as 6 feet, and the current absolutely flew through the trenasse.

“That’s a good fishing spot,” he said. “The redfish don’t like all that current, but you can catch some trout there.”

Reds will hold in the eddies and dead spots in the cut.

Unfortunately, there was too much grass for us to work our baits, but the swirls gave testimony to the cut’s potential.

Although we called it a day, Dusang said there are other productive locations.

Fish can almost always be caught around the poles marking the submerged canal system on the northwestern side of the bay.

“You have to be very careful, though. There’s reefs and pipes out there,” Dusang cautioned.

He said he would never try to run the area, preferring instead to slowly troll around and anchor before fishing.

There also are reefs scattered about the middle of The Washout that can be productive at times.

But Dusang again cautioned anglers to navigate with care.

“There can be pipes anywhere out there,” he said.

And with a bay that’s no deeper than 5 feet, and more often than not even shallower than that, the odds of knocking off a lower unit by running across the bay are pretty high.

Another exceptional area is located near a tank battery visible just outside the southeast corner of the bay.

“The fish will get right were the canal comes out,” he said.

This spot can be reached by running out of the main portion of The Washout into a small arm, but Dusang said he takes a different route.

“I run the canal behind the tank battery and approach it that way so I don’t spook the fish,” he said.

One of the great aspects of The Washout is that all of these spots can produce regardless of tidal direction.

“I don’t think it makes any difference,” Dusang said. “As long as the tide’s moving.”

And as the summer ages and saltwater moves into the marshes, the options open even more.

“As soon as a low depression pushes that saltwater in, that (algae) dies,” Dusang said.

That makes all the ponds and dead-ends surrounding The Washout perfect targets for redfishermen.

Dusang recommended those between The Washout and Lake Hermitage.

“There are some beautiful ponds in there,” he said. “People work the shallows and then get back into those ponds as the grass disappears.”

Those south of Lake Hermitage can be especially productive.

“You can come through the Jefferson Lake Canal from The Washout, and work all the ponds back into Lake Hermitage,” Dusang explained.

And the best part is that all of these waters are extremely close to Dusang’s marina.

“This is perfect for small boats,” he said. “You can leave the marina and be fishing within minutes.”


Al Dusang can be reached at (504) 656-2020.


About Andy Crawford 863 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.