Lead Pipe Cinch

Try these nine sure-fire, can’t-miss hotspots for guaranteed speckled trout and redfish, on those cold, uncertain winter days.

Everybody likes to bet a sure thing. But a true “sure thing” is about as rare as a 10-pound speck.

Most of us haven’t retired with unlimited sources of time and income, so we have to try to use our days off to the best advantage. If we have the luxury of choosing our fishing days, we search the tide charts to calculate the best days and the peak times to ply the waters in pursuit of our favorite prey — speckled trout and redfish.

When we do get one of those rare days off, we don’t want to try a winter long-shot with only a wispy hope of success. We want one of those “sure things,” like those located just a few miles downriver.

From Port Sulphur to Venice, we asked the guys who are at the docks every day, guys who have their fingers on the pulse of the marsh, for their wintertime, can’t-miss, sure-fire hotspots. Here’s what the experts had to say:

 

Port Sulphur

We asked David Davis, over at the Hi-Ridge Marina in Port Sulphur (985-564-2232), what two places would he say met our criteria for “can’t-miss” winter hotspots.

He replied without hesitation: “Secola Canal and the Seven-Foot Canal.”

The Secola Canal runs from Grand Bayou all the way to Bay Sans Bois, and maintains a deep and consistent depth. The bottom is heavily bedded with oysters, and the canal is surrounded by thousands of acres of marsh.

That surrounding marsh is peppered with ponds both large and small, all of which teem with an assortment of minnows, small crabs, shrimp and baitfish.

Naturally, the bronze-backed and silver-speckled predators that prey on them throughout most of the year constantly forage throughout those ponds themselves; that is, up until now.

In the heart of winter, when winds blow cold from the north, water levels fall dramatically and those ponds empty, draining their contents into the deeper nearby canals.

Secola, being the nearest and deepest, gets thick with fish of all kinds and sizes. Trout, redfish, sheepshead, drum and flounder all head to the bottom and hang along the ledges of these deeper waterways.

The Seven-Foot Canal is an oil-field produced route that runs from Grand Bayou to Lake Washington, about a two-mile journey. Its bottom is muddy, but its deeper depths and warmer water act as a vacuum, sucking in the fish fleeing from the rapidly draining shallow marsh. Predatory fish hang out in the deep canals at the drains from the marsh, ready to pounce on whatever morsel flushes through.

“It’s a great place to cast your line,” Davis said. “In fact, you can run the length of either canal and fish at any of the cuts and marsh drains. You’re protected from the north winds, you’re just minutes from the dock, and all you need is a moving tide, whether falling or rising.

“I like to pull my boat up close to the bank and then fish toward the middle of the canal. I put a live minnow on a hook, and use only a light split-shot for a weight about 6 inches above the hook, just enough to get the minnow down to the bottom. Believe me, you’ll catch some fish.

“If you want to catch sheepshead, fish the same areas the very same way, but instead of minnows, use market shrimp. And I guarantee you’ll fill an ice chest.”

Davis says both Secola and the Seven-Foot Canal are great places for first-time anglers, those who are unfamiliar with the area and kids.

“It’s so easy to get to,” he said. “Secola is a five-minute run from the dock — you don’t have to cross any shallow water to get to it, so it’s safe to run even in the dead of winter — and the Seven-Foot Canal is just three miles farther. If you want to bring some guests out or kids out to catch fish, these are perfect spots because you don’t have to run far in the winter cold, and they will catch fish,” he said.

If nature serves up some south winds and unusually warm weather, the fish will fan out over the flats, filter into the ponds as the water rises, and move over the oyster reefs in nearby Bay Lanoux, Davis said.

“I like to bounce a purple/chartreuse soft plastic bait on a ¼-ounce jig off the bottom around the reefs,” he said. “The trout and redfish both find it irresistible.”

 

Empire

Sonny Martinez, over at the Delta Marina (985-657-9726), says Empire anglers mostly focus on redfish during the cold winter months.

When we asked him for two “sure-fire” hotspots, he replied, “I’ll do you one better. I’ll give you three sure-fire, can’t-miss spots for January and February: Bayou Vacherie, Bayou Cook and Grand Bayou. They’ll produce limits of redfish all winter, guaranteed.

“Fish the deep holes in Bayou Vacherie and Grand Bayou, fish the cuts and the drains, anyplace you see some water moving around a point, or a decent flow coming out of the marsh. Park the boat and fish there.

“The only thing that could mess you up and keep you off the water is if the tides become extremely low.”

Martinez says that does sometimes occur after winds blow long and hard from any northern quadrant.

Otherwise, all you need is some moving current, some live minnows, market shrimp, gold spoons or soft plastics in purple/white, purple/chartreuse, avocado or black/chartreuse, or best of all, small crabs.

“The redfish love those crabs,” he said.

 

Buras

Next I made a call to Joshua’s Marina (985-657-7632), over in Buras, to speak to Mark Franicevich. I wanted his opinion on what two spots he would classify as wintertime “sure things.”

He answered immediately: “Yellow Cotton Bay and the Buras Canal.”

Both are within eyesight of the marina, and both are well known for holding winter trout.

But it was Capt. John L. Taylor (985-657-9739), who suggested the best ways to fish them.

“Yellow Cotton Bay is so easy to fish, even a pilgrim can do good in the winter,” Taylor said. “We don’t usually get real cold down here, and even when we get a cold blast, it doesn’t last long.

“So the fish never really go all that deep. They’ll hang along the ledges in Yellow Cotton, where the channel goes through. You can find it on your depth sounder.

“On cold days, just drift or troll along the drop-offs, and on moderate days, fish the flats adjacent to the channels.

“I use a popping cork with a Bayou Chub on a ¼-ounce jig in purple/chartreuse.

“Drift along an area, and if you do well in a particular spot, go back and drift it again.”

As for optimum conditions, Taylor says a light east, south or southeast wind is preferable, and a west or northwest wind is the worst. He prefers to fish a falling tide rather than a rising one, but as long as the water is moving, and the range is 1 1/2 feet or below, you ought to catch some fish, he said.

“Actually, I’d rather fish an almost slack tide than a tide with a huge, 2-foot range,” he said. “It’s harder to catch fish on a day with too much tide than it is on a slack tide.”

Then, when winter finally sets in and the weather becomes genuinely cold, Taylor says it’s time to fish the Buras Canal.

“There are some pretty deep holes in the canal, some 25 to 30 feet deep, but the fish tend to hang in 8 to 12 feet of water even in cold weather, but they’ll be plumb on the bottom.

“So the key to success is to get your bait all the way down. Use enough weight to compensate for the tide, and give it enough time to get to the bottom.

“Then, work it slow. I like to “dead-stick” a Bayou Chub minnow in purple/chartreuse, on a ¼-ounce jig. I let it sink all the way down, and leave it there. When you do work it, just bump it in slow. I like to drift or troll the canal, and cast my bait behind me. You can start at the first bulkhead behind Joshua’s Marina and just drift or troll on down from there.

“I also like to drift just past the Grand Laird Canal intersection. The tide tends to be a bit slack there, but I usually manage to pick up some nice fish in that section.

“It might help to use tandem jigs, either Chubs or sparkle beetles or a combination of both when you need additional weight to get to the bottom,” he said.

 

Venice

Last but not least, I called my old friend Mike Ballay, over at the Cypress Cove Marina (985-534-9289), in Venice.

“How about it, Mike? Can you give me two sure-thing hotspots for Venice fishermen this winter?” I asked.

“Sure thing,” he replied. “First, I’d have to say Southwest Pass, which will produce consistently, unless it becomes extremely cold.

“It’s a pretty good run, about 26 miles from here at the marina, but you’re almost guaranteed fish, and big fish at that.”

Ballay says most anglers anchor their boat along the jetties in a position that allows them to cast toward the rocks. Live minnows, dead shrimp, cut bait and crab are the baits of choice, fished either under a Carolina rig or on a plain jighead, using 3/8-, ½- or even a ¾-ounce weight as needed, he said.

But Charter Guide Bobby Dugas (985-564-2170), who fishes out of Cypress Cove, says he prefers the opposite technique.

“I get on the calmer side of the jetties, anchor up close to the rocks, and cast toward the Gulf,” he said.

Dugas uses the same baits, and says the redfish he’s been catching average between 14 to 25 pounds, and the drum between 17 to 20 pounds.

“The rocks always hold some real bulls, so you have to use a stout rod, and string up with some good line, preferably braided line, or you’re going to lose a lot of tackle,” he said.

“The good thing about fishing Southwest Pass is that if you strike out, you can always fish the wing dams, which often hold some very nice fish, and then you can give the First and Second Spillways a shot. Of course, success there will depend on how high the river is.”

Ballay’s second sure-thing, can’t-miss hotspot is the South Pass Mud Lumps.

“The Mud Lumps cover quite a bit of bottom, just inside of South Pass. The bottom is very irregular, or lumpy, and fish like to huddle in the depths. Most people just anchor and fish live minnows under a Carolina rig, or they fish the cement wall,” he said.

Dugas echoed Ballay’s comments, and added his own favorite technique.

“I like to get on the backside of the Mud Lumps, the north side back toward Port Eads, and using my depth sounder, I anchor in about 8 feet of water, and then cast live minnows under a Carolina rig toward the shallows. We catch some nice fish back there like that.”

So why bet a long shot? These sure-fire, can’t-miss hotspots are just downriver, and guaranteed to deliver.

About Rusty Tardo 371 Articles
Rusty Tardo grew up in St. Bernard fishing the waters of Delacroix, Hopedale and Shell Beach. He and his wife, Diane, have been married over 40 years and live in Kenner.