Anglers are losing their fishing grounds in Lafourche Parish, but many are discovering the gem that exists in the public waters of Pointe aux Chenes WMA.
Capt. Mike Guidry stepped from his truck and slid a crisp five-dollar bill into the slot of the honor box at Bason’s Marina. Seventy-five-year old Lurey Terrebonne, who operates this quaint launch, waved us on from his front porch. The sun peeked above the marsh as Guidry eased his 24-foot Bay Stealth down the concrete launch of Bason’s which is located near the pumping station just off of Highway 1 in Cut Off. It is a gateway to the vast Pointe aux Chenes Wildlife Management Area, which encompasses almost 35,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat. This fishing and hunting mecca is one of the few remaining public fishing areas in Lafourche Parish that have not been gobbled up and gated by private interests.
A brisk northeast wind rippled the canal, and the woodsy smell of lantana, a small yellow and orange flower that lined the canal banks, permeated the air. Guidry pointed out the Exxon canals to the left and the vast open marsh to the right, all of which were littered with Styrofoam crab floats, ice chests and other remnants of two recent near-miss hurricanes.
“We got lucky with those two storms,” said Guidry, who was born and raised in Larose.
After a short distance, Guidry shut down the big Mercury and lowered the trolling motor.
“We’re here,” he announced as he cast a Bayou Buck ZZ Spot Spinner toward the broken islands that dotted the area.
As he scanned the water for signs of bait or activity, Guidry pointed out a pair of mink scampering along the shoreline that were double-teaming a marsh hen. We watched them chase the frantic bird until a large V-wake just off the bow gained our attention.
Guidry made a quick cast slightly ahead of the cruising redfish with his in-line spinnerbait. The shiny gold blade of the lure danced across the grass bed and intersected the wake.
Just as the marsh hen made good on its escape into the bayou, a redfish exploded on the spinnerbait. Guidry set the hook and lowered a hydraulic-powered anchor attached to the transom of his boat as the speedy fish streaked across the shallow flat.
“On a windy day like today, this Power Pole really comes in handy,” said Guidry as he fought the fish.
Guidry applied maximum pressure on the redfish to lead it out of the thick grass and to the side of the boat.
“Now that’s a pretty fish!” he exclaimed as he lifted the shimmering 8-pound red from the landing net.
Before releasing it, Guidry gently worked the bronze fish back in forth in the shallow water to revive the brute.
He stowed the landing net with the handle facing the rear in a homemade device consisting of a two-inch PVC pipe strapped to his starboard grab rail. Guidry pointed out that this set-up is ideal as the pressure of the wind forces the net to stay in the pipe when the boat is on plane.
“My net is always handy, it’s outside the boat so it doesn’t get tangled up and no one is tripping over it,” he explained.
As we headed for our second spot of the day, we passed through the east side of the famed Sulphur Mine, which is speckled trout heaven in the colder months.
“This area is very challenging to most anglers. The trout here are, as we Cajuns say, ‘effarouche’ — which translates to ‘really spooky,’” Guidry explained.
He got back on the trolling motor and started working the area with a gold spoon cast deep into each indention of the eroded shoreline.
“On a day like today when we have a northeast wind rippling the surface, I like to blind cast all of the points and pockets,” he said. “Fishing is my game. Some guys like to play golf or baseball or other team sports, but I spend all of my time fishing.”
In addition to his full-time charter business, Rippin’ Lip Guide Service, the 42-year-old captain’s insatiable interest in fishing encompasses the majority of his free time as well. In between charters, the Mercury-sponsored redfish pro will compete in numerous IFA and FLW events throughout Louisiana.
Lake Bully Camp
Guidry cranked up the motor and headed west toward Lake Bully Camp. As he slowed the boat, he pointed out several submerged hazards that are certain to result in a lost lower unit or bent shaft if a boater is careless.
“You have to watch out in this area as there are some old wells under the water,” he cautioned as he slowly maneuvered the boat around the north side of the lake.
Setting up to drift and fish one of the ponds in the gusting wind, Guidry deployed a drift sock.
“I bought it to use mainly on my charters to slow the boat down and give my customers more time to sight cast to reds lying in the grass,” he said. “It works so well that I have started using it in tournaments as it really slows the boat down when the wind is howling.”
Another piece of equipment Guidry swears by is his 36-volt trolling motor.
“You really need the power when you are fishing in the wind or trolling through heavy grass,” he said.
As a result of the hurricanes that brushed the area last summer, the depth has also changed in Lake Bully Camp.
“This area has gotten 2 to 3 feet deeper, so in addition to redfish, there have been plenty of trout holding in Lake Bully Camp too,” he said.
His rod arched again, and Guidry was hooked up, but this time it was a much smaller fish. Guidry easily swung the 2-pound red into the boat and cradled it as he unhooked the gold spoon.
“Clear like the pond is, I saw him sitting on that point,” he said.
Besides gold Rainbow spoons, on which he insists on removing the weed guard, Guidry recommends switching to topwater lures to cover the open water. One tip he offers anglers is to paint the throat area on She Dogs and Top Dogs with orange fluorescent paint.
“I just hang a row of them on the inside of my garage door and hit them with the orange spray paint,” he explained. “You can’t imagine what a difference that little spot of paint makes in the number of strikes you’ll get. It makes those trout and reds go insane.”
A “puddler’s” dream
The distance one must travel down the main canal from the launch to start fishing is very short. With gasoline soaring to nearly $3 per gallon, this area is attractive not only to boaters with outboard motors, but also to those who refer to themselves as “puddlers.” These human-powered watercraft can float in mere inches of water, and are easily transported on top of a vehicle or in the back of a pickup truck.
“I’ve seen a few kayaks and canoes along the right side here, and they’ve always been catching fish,” said Guidry, pointing to a large set of ponds just inside the reserve.
Although the ponds are situated just outside the boundaries of the WMA, they are not patroled by whoever owns them. There is however, an area directly to the north beyond them that is heavily patroled.
“Stay out of that area,” Guidry warned.
The average water depth of the small ponds off the main canal is 1 1/2 to 2 feet most of the time; however, summer brings even more sparkly water.
“June is really a great month to fish the reserve as there is plenty of clean water, which makes the fishing even better,” said Guidry.
Case of the blues
In addition to plentiful redfish and speckled trout, the Pointe aux Chenes WMA holds an abundance of blue crabs. During our fishing day, we noticed crabs at every stop we made.
Back at Bason’s, two locals pulled up to the dock in a small flatboat and struck up a conversation with me. When I asked about the fishing, one of the men flung open the lid on one of two 48-quart ice chests in his boat.
“Them crabs were climbing all over the place, even up the side of our boat,” one of the men said.
Both ice chests were brimming with live crabs, and good-sized ones to boot.
“We made a hand line with mono from our reels and sacrificed one of the fish we caught as bait,” he added.
Crabbing was so good, the duo stopped fishing and instead concentrated on scooping up crabs.
According to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries regulations, crabs may be taken on the Pointe aux Chenes WMA through the use of hand lines or nets. Fishermen must tend their nets, and none are to remain set overnight. There is a maximum limit of twelve dozen crabs per boat per day and all must be for personal use and consumption.
Before heading home, we stopped to visit with Lurey Terrebonne, who was busy working on his beautifully manicured yard.
Sitting on the porch swing talking with Terrebonne brought back memories of simpler times. His raised home is situated next to a farm containing numerous concrete tanks that house 97,000 alligators. We watched as several large gators, possibly escapees from the farm, sank silently into the green algae of a nearby drainage canal.
“My 12 grandchildren love to come down here — it’s like a vacation for them,” he said. “I let them check the box and keep the money when they’re here, and they think they’re rich.”
Terrebonne became momentarily distracted from our conversation as a vehicle with a boat in tow stopped at the honor box and pretended to drop bills into the slot.
“There are some folks who can’t afford the $5 fee right now, so I let them go and they might bring me a dozen crabs one day,” said Terrebonne.
He reflected on some tough times in the 1980s when he trawled for shrimp.
“If you work hard at anything you can succeed,” he said.
Hard work has certainly paid off for Terrebonne. His launch is well maintained and continues to be successful after 22 years of ownership.
Capt. Mike Guidry can be reached at 985-632-5846 or 985-637-4292. Bason’s Marina can be reached at 985-632-5512.
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